Subscribe for 99¢

A Metro East-based Illinois legislator and long-time promoter of humanitarian efforts in Kenya is being touted by the state's Republican congressional delegation as a potential ambassador to that East African nation.

State Sen. Kyle McCarter, R-Lebanon, known for his outspoken Tea Party conservatism (and also for an unusual dust-up on the Illinois Senate floor with a Democratic colleague a few years back), “would be an exemplary choice for the United States Ambassador to Kenya,” says a letter last week to President Donald Trump signed by all seven of Illinois' Republican U.S. House members.

McCarter is a co-founder of “Each One Feed One,” a Christian organization that has worked with Kenyan orphans for three decades.

"(H)is experience on the ground in Kenya has provided him heightened insight into the governmental operations and other political, economic, and social realities of both Kenya and the larger region of East Africa," states the letter. ". . . Furthermore, he recognizes the strategic value of Kenya as a partner for American counter-intelligence as the country has close proximity to Somalia and Sudan . . . "

The letter also notes that McCarter and his wife Victoria are conversant in Swahili, the official language of Kenya.

Among the signatories of the letter is U.S. Rep. John Shimkus, R-Collinsville. McCarter unsuccessfully challenged Shimkus in last year's GOP primaries, alleging the incumbent was insufficiently conservative.

How convincing the letter will be for Trump is an open question. Unified support from a state's entire Republican delegation around one candidate is a strong statement, but maybe less so when that state is one as solidly Democratic as Illinois. The state has 11 Democratic House members to the GOP's seven.

In 2011, McCarter and fellow state Sen. Mike Jacobs, a Democrat from northwestern Illinois, got into a physical altercation on the state Senate floor in Springfield that made headlines for awhile. It began when McCarter confronted Jacobs about the fact that he was sponsoring electric rate-hike legislation while his father was a lobbyist for an electric utility. Jacobs bristled at having his integrity questioned, and pushing and chest-poking ensued before others senators broke it up. McCarter subsequently filed a criminal complaint alleging Jacobs had punched him, but the local state's attorney declined to prosecute.

Kevin McDermott is a member of the Post-Dispatch Editorial Board.

Breaking News e-newsletter

* I understand and agree that registration on or use of this site constitutes agreement to its user agreement and privacy policy.