In a major win for the Democratic Party’s progressive wing, Marie Newman defeated Democratic Rep. Dan Lipinski in Tuesday’s primary in Illinois, according to The Associated Press, toppling one of the last remaining opponents of abortion rights among House Democrats.
It was Newman’s second race against Lipinski in Illinois’ 3rd Congressional District; she fell about 2,100 votes short of beating him in the 2018 primary. Lipinski then went on to easily win an eighth term that November.
This year, aided by a wave of high-profile endorsements that included Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) and several progressive House members, Newman prevailed over Lipinski in the rematch by about 2,400 votes.
She’s well-positioned to win the general election, given the strong Democratic tilt of the district that comprises several suburbs to the south and southwest of Chicago.
A local businesswoman who went on to start a national anti-bullying non-profit, Newman, 55, has endorsed much of the Sanders-Warren agenda — from a $15 federal minimum wage to Medicare For All, a Green New Deal and partial student debt cancellation.
She ousted one of the more conservative House Democrats on social issues, especially abortion. A devout Catholic, the 53-year-old Lipinski voted against the Affordable Care Act because of its mandate that employer insurance plans cover birth control. He has supported defunding Planned Parenthood and clinics that offer abortion services, and has sided with Republicans on bills that would ban abortions at 20 weeks into a woman’s pregnancy.
He also joined Republicans in signing a legal briefing urging the Supreme Court to revisit the landmark Roe v. Wade abortion rights case. He did close ranks with other Democrats to support the 2019 Equality Act that the House passed and which would protect LGBTQ people from discrimination in housing, the workplace, public accommodations and other settings.
Lipinski’s voting record used to have a solid home in his part of Illinois, a historically more conservative region than much of the rest of the Chicago area. He won his House seat in 2004, taking it over from his father, who had represented the district for 22 years.
But the district has changed. It’s younger (the median age is 38) and more diverse, with a roughly 30% Latino population — communities Newman focused on in her campaign. The district is also solidly middle class, with the median household income roughly $66,800, according to the latest census numbers.
Newman, who had never run for any office before 2018, made the case that she was the “real Democrat” in the race, painting Lipinski as out of touch with his own party. Abortion rights groups Emily’s List and NARAL backed her, as did Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot.
Lipinski sought to depict Newman as too radical for the district. He ran ads saying she wanted to repeal Obamacare and strip health care from constituents because of her support for “Medicare for All.”
Newman had to overcome barriers erected by part of her party’s establishment. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, the official campaign arm for House Democrats, last year said it wouldn’t do business with political vendors ― such as pollsters, consultants and direct-mail companies ― that did business with candidates challenging party’s House members.
As a result, Newman lost several political consultants and several direct mail firms. Despite that, Newman repeatedly out-fundraised Lipinski.
Tuesday’s primary was marked by lower turnout than initially expected because of the coronavirus outbreak that election officials said likely scared voters from going to the polls. In the last week, Newman’s campaign was forced to cancel its planned door-knocking and typical get-out-the-vote operation. Instead, the campaign focused on its phone-bank operation ing and social media efforts to get people to take advantage of early voting.
It was clearly enough.