QUINCY, Ill. — Days after she basked in the praise of former President Donald Trump — and had to explain her supposed gaffe that the Supreme Court's decision to overturn Roe v. Wade was a "victory for white life" — U.S. Rep. Mary Miller defeated fellow incumbent Rodney Davis on Tuesday, all but clinching a second term in Washington.
With 99% of the precincts reporting in Illinois' 15th Congressional District, Miller won with 58% in the two-way Republican primary fight.
"We took on the special interests from the swamp. And we WON!" Miller said Tuesday night. "We represent the forgotten men and women of Illinois. We represent the farmers, the small businesses, the veterans, and the parents that the DC elites like to forget a lot."
Earlier in the evening, Davis in a statement conceded to Miller, with a nod to her biggest backer.
"I'd like to congratulate Congresswoman Miller and President Trump on their victory tonight," Davis said in a statement. "This was a hard-fought campaign, and I wish her the best."
In the November general election, Miller will face Paul Lange, a Democrat who was unopposed in the heavily Republican district.
The table had been set for the contest in early January, a couple of months after Illinois lawmakers approved a new congressional map in the once-per-decade redistricting process.
Miller, from Oakland, received Trump's endorsement in January and decided to run outside of the congressional district where she lives — challenging Davis, of Taylorville, instead of Rep. Mike Bost, of Murphysboro.
"If you want to send a message to Liz Cheney, Adam Kinzinger, Crazy Nancy Pelosi and the fake news media, then this Tuesday you need to cast your vote for a truly wonderful person, Mary Miller," Trump told the crowd of thousands at Saturday's rally with Miller and Republican gubernatorial hopeful Darren Bailey near this city in western Illinois.
The new map puts Miller's Oakland farm in Bost's district, just outside the 15th, but candidates only have to reside in the state they want to represent — not necessarily the district.
Both Davis and Miller's campaigns ran a lot of attack ads on traditional radio and TV, streaming services and social media. As of June 15, more than $10 million funneled into the district from outside groups.
Some of Miller's attacks focused on Davis's support for the House Select Committee on the Jan. 6 attack of the U.S. Capitol. Miller has called the hearings a "witch hunt," and dinged Davis's past support for "red flag" laws to limit the ability of certain people from owning firearms. Miller has also criticized Davis's relationships with Reps. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo, and Adam Kinzinger, R-Channahon — also members of the Select Committee and people Miller derides as "RINOs," or Republicans in Name Only.
Davis, however, hit Miller for her "victory for white life" comment at Saturday's Trump rally near Quincy, saying in a statement it's "a disturbing pattern of behavior she's displayed since coming to Congress." Miller's campaign said she misread her speech, meaning to say "right to life" rather than "white life."
In January 2021, Democratic members of Congress from Illinois called on Miller to resign after she referenced Adolf Hitler and Nazi Germany's indoctrination of children in a speech shortly after she won her seat in Congress.
Davis also criticized Miller for living outside the district she seeks to represent, calling her a "carpetbagger," a perhaps sly nod to her husband, Illinois State Rep. Chris Miller, who in previous campaigns lambasted "carpetbagging" candidates for living outside the districts they seek to represent.
Davis also questioned why a convicted child sex offender was allowed to volunteer for U.S. Rep. Mary Miller's campaign and why she missed floor votes multiple times in June, asking, "Does she even want to be in Congress?"
But traditional policy debates were missing this cycle. Miller spent most of the campaign avoiding reporters who showed up to events and refusing to return emails or phone calls. The freshman congresswoman also refused to respond to invitations to debates.
Davis has represented a large portion of the area in Congress since winning election to the 13th District in 2012. He's established a conservative record of being pro-Second Amendment, anti-abortion rights and in support of making Trump-era tax cuts permanent.
While Davis voted in line with Trump's priorities 88% of the time during his presidency and served as Trump's Illinois campaign chairman in 2020, he did not object to that year's election results and voted to create the Jan. 6 Select Committee.
Alex Degman covers Illinois state government for WBEZ. Follow him @Alex_Degman.