Illinois’ Marie Newman & grassroots supporters take the fight to incumbent Rep. Dan Lipinski in this Blue-Trending District.
Ordinarily, I’m one of those Democrats bothered by primary challengers to sitting Democratic members of the U.S. House and Senate. Most of the time, I’d prefer we spend our time, money and political energy electing additional Democrats instead of fighting over the ones we’ve already sent to Congress.
But when a strong Democratic candidate like Marie Newman challenges a “Democrat” like Illinois’ incumbent U.S. Rep. Dan Lipinski, my “don’t primary a party member” philosophy falls by the wayside.
Because Lipinski’s views don’t exactly square with what I think a Democrat should be about.
The eight-term Congressman, who represents IL3 – a district that runs from the southern edge of Chicago into northern Will County – was first elected when the district was predominantly white, Catholic and relatively conservative. At that time, his views were seen as moderate in a right-leaning environment.
But that environment has changed in the 15 years since Lipinski first headed to Washington, D.C. Today, Newman said, “His idea of ‘moderation’ is outdated.”
And he’s hardly “moderate.” That is, unless you think someone who votes against choice, against gender equality, against immigrant rights, against affordable health care, against Social Security and for Donald Trump’s wall is moderate.
Even on something as uncontroversial as infrastructure, Newman said, her primary opponent has been MIA. “He’s been on the House Transportation Committee for 15 years, yet we still have crumbling bridges…and commuter problems” that Lipinski has failed to address.
Latinx citizens now make up 30 percent of IL3 voters. Between 14 and 15 percent are Polish-American, and another 14 to 15 percent are Irish-American. Arab- and Muslim-American voters represent 9.5 percent, and 5 percent are African-American. “And the rest,” Newman said, “is a melting pot.”
“The district has been moving more progressive for 15 years now,” she declared. “Bernie won the district by 8 points in the 2016 primary, and Hillary won it by 6 in the general election. One way to put it is that Dan’s running against the district.”
Which is precisely why she’s running against him.
Second time’s a charm
Newman first challenged Lipinski in 2018, and came within 2,145 votes – or 2.2 percent – of knocking him out of the general election. She thinks the odds are on her side this time around.
“Last time, I started out with zero name recognition. This time, I’m starting at 49 percent – my base is the vote I got in 2018. And it’s a presidential primary year, so the electorate shifts. I did very well with people under 50 in 2018. Dan did very poorly.”
Her endorsements are coming in more quickly, too. By early May 2019, Newman had already received support from Emily’s List, NARAL Pro-Choice America, Planned Parenthood, MoveOn and the Progressive Campaign Committee, as well as Gov. Howard Dean’s Democracy for America.
Conversations with voters who’ve attended the campaign’s nearly 70 meet-and-greets since January convince Newman that her views align closely with those of district residents. “On health care, they want Medicare for all. On the income divide…people are putting together a patchwork of jobs to make ends meet. On the Green New Deal – they know it’s not a full-blown plan yet, but they want to push Congress toward a plan. Gun violence protection is important to them.”
And they seem unhappy with what Lipinski has delivered: votes to overturn Roe v. Wade and to deny women access to birth control. Reluctant, last minute support for a $15/hour minimum wage, after realizing his planned “no” vote would put him on the wrong side of public opinion and economic reality. Ditto for the House’s mid-May vote on the Equality Act, to which he’d previously expressed opposition.
Newman seems to have rattled the incumbent’s cage. “He did wake up a bit and he’s been more active in the district. But I think it’s too little, too late. He’s been way too ineffective for too many years.”
However, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee isn’t staying on the sidelines and allowing this and other primary challenges to play out.
Early this year, the DCCC announced that it wouldn’t hire pollsters, advertising companies or other campaign consultants if they’re working with a candidate who’s trying to defeat a sitting Democrat in a primary.
That decision, Newman said, actually helped her campaign, by driving “a huge volunteer uptick…Volunteers saw it as the DCCC putting a thumb on the scale.”
Choice becomes an issue
Then, in early May, DCCC Chair Cheri Bustos (who represents Illinois’ 17th district in the House) said she’d be hosting a June 6 fundraiser for Lipinski in Chicago. That aroused the ire of grassroots Democrats across the country who already were protesting the passage of draconian abortion bans in Alabama and Georgia.
As writer Downstate Democrat opined in Daily Kos on May 15, “Lipinski is not pro-choice by anyone’s imagination…[he] has participated in the March for Life…repeatedly opposed pro-choice legislation…and repeatedly supported anti-abortion legislation.”
To Newman – who is strongly pro-choice and opposes abortion bans like the one passed in Alabama – the election isn’t specifically about abortion. It’s about “everybody’s everyday.”
“Your civil rights are part of your everyday.” So, she says, are “pay disparity, paid leave, a $15 minimum wage, good-paying jobs, repeal of the GOP tax scam, Medicare for all, the Green New Deal.”
“That’s what I’m running for: for everybody’s everyday.”
Still, public pressure from pro-choice advocates drove Bustos to announce on May 23 that she is pulling out of the Lipinski fundraiser.
While Newman’s supporters remain unhappy with the DCCC’s overall position on primary challengers, the candidate is more circumspect. “It’s their job to elect more Democrats. It’s my job to win the primary.”
“I understand the idea that you don’t primary an incumbent just to primary. But when it’s someone like this – I think voters deserve a choice,” Newman declared.
“If Dan voted most of the time with us, I wouldn’t primary him. But he’s against everything Democratic voters are for.”
Hear From Marie
Listen to this recent episode from DemWritePress partner podcast Two Broads Talking Politics, where Kelly interviews Newman about her second run for IL-03:
To contribute to Marie Newman’s campaign, visit:
To volunteer for Marie Newman’s campaign, visit:
Blogger Marcy Miroff Rothenberg writes most often on politics and women’s issues. Her new book – Ms. Nice Guy Lost – Here’s How Women Can Win– offers a comprehensive summary of the attacks waged on American women’s rights and opportunities by Trump and the GOP since 2016 – and a to-do list for fighting back. It’s available from store.bookbaby.com and at Amazon.com, Barnesandnoble.com, and Goodreads.com.