Liberals Win With Lipinski Loss in House As Sanders Stumbles

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Rep. Dan Lipinski‘s defeat in an Illinois primary yesterday is a setback for Democratic moderates and a victory for progressives seeking to exert a more leftward influence on the party.

Lipinski, a member of the Blue Dog Coalition of centrist Democrats, lost his bid for a ninth term by 47%-45% to Marie Newman, a liberal former advertising executive, in a rematch of a 2018 primary Lipinski barely won. He became the first House incumbent to lose re-election in the 2020 cycle.

Two lesser-known Democrats took the remainder of the vote in the Democratic-leaning 3rd District, which includes part of Chicago and its suburbs.

The southwest Chicago precincts that long buoyed Lipinski and his father and House predecessor, Democrat Bill Lipinski (1983-2005), couldn’t save the incumbent this time. His loss will also open up the top spot next year on the Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee on Railroads, Pipelines, and Hazardous Materials

Dan Lipinski carried the district’s share of Chicago by 50%-44%, down from his 56%-44% advantage in city precincts against Newman two years ago. Chicago cast 39% of the district’s Democratic vote on Tuesday, according to unofficial and nearly complete returns, down from 42% in the 2018 primary.

Newman led 48%-42% in suburban Cook County — the precincts near Chicago, which cast 52% of the total primary vote. In 2018, suburban Cook cast 51% of the primary vote and backed Newman by 52%-48%.

The district also includes smaller parts of suburban Will and DuPage counties, where Newman also won.

More than 102,000 voters participated in the Lipinski-Newman primary, up from about 95,000 in the 2018 primary. The coronavirus pandemic limited in-person voter participation Tuesday, though state officials previously asked voters to cast ballots before primary day.

The Democratic presidential primary between former Vice President Joe Biden and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), one of three wins yesterday for the former vice president, helped to boost turnout downballot.

KAMIL KRZACZYNSKI/AFP via Getty Images
Voters cast their ballots during the Illinois Democratic primary in Chicago on March 17.

Moderate Ranks Thinned

Lipinski’s loss will thin the House Democratic Caucus of one of its most moderate members and one of its rare opponents of abortion rights. In January, Lipinski and Rep. Collin Peterson (Minn.) were the only House Democrats who signed a Republican-led legal brief asking the Supreme Court to reconsider overturning Roe v. Wade, the 1973 decision that legalized abortion nationwide. A decade ago, Lipinski voted against the Affordable Care Act in part because he said it would continue federal funding for abortion.

Health care was the dominant issue in Tuesday’s primary, and Newman’s win is a shot in the arm for liberals demanding a government-run, “Medicare for All” system of providing universal health care. Lipinski’s TV ads attacked Newman for supporting Medicare for All and described it as an “extreme” measure that would raise taxes and eliminate private health insurance.

Lipinski said before the primary he was concerned the Democratic Party was becoming too liberal and developing a “Tea Party of the left,” a reference to internecine litmus-test Republican primaries of the early 2010s.

Also read: Anti-Abortion Democrat Again Tests Big Tent in House Primary

Newman’s victory was hailed by progressive groups including EMILY’s List, which supports Democratic women in Congress who support abortion rights. She’s favored to win the November general election in a district that voted for Hillary Clinton over President Donald Trump 55%-40% in 2016.

“Marie is a fierce advocate for women and families and a powerful force for change,” EMILY’s List President Stephanie Schriock said in a statement.

Newman’s win came two weeks after Texas Democrat Jessica Cisneros, a progressive immigration lawyer backed by some of the same liberal groups and officials who aided Newman, almost unseated Rep. Henry Cuellar, who’s also a Blue Dog Democrat with a history of working with Republicans. Cuellar’s campaign donated to Lipinski’s campaign in the final days of the Illinois primary.

Illinois Women on the Rise

The Illinois delegation next year probably will include Newman along with Republican Mary Miller, a farmer and educator who dominated a four-candidate primary in the downstate 15th District held by Rep. John Shimkus (R), who isn’t seeking re-election. That was the dispositive election in a district where Trump won 71% of the vote in 2016. Miller, who took 57% of the vote against three candidates, was the preferred candidate of the House Freedom Caucus, a group of some of the most strongly conservative Republicans.

Illinois’ House delegation presently has four Democratic women and no Republican women.

Of the four Democrats, first-term Rep. Lauren Underwood of the 14th Districtprobably has the most difficult re-election campaign. She represents a district of Chicago suburbs and exurbs that voted for Trump by 4 points in 2016. Her Republican opponent is Jim Oberweis, a state senator and wealthy dairy executive who previously lost six bids for House, Senate, and governor.

Oberweis had 26% of the vote in a seven-candidate primary and edged out two women — state Sen. Sue Rezin (23%) and Catalina Lauf (20%), a Latina who worked in the Trump administration’s Commerce Department. Rezin was the preferred candidate of Value in Electing Women PAC, which advocates for more Republican women in Congress, and the Republican Main Street Partnership PAC, which says it represents the “governing wing” of the party.

In the 13th District, which includes Champaign and most of Springfield, Democrat Betsy Dirksen Londrigan will face Rep. Rodney Davis(R) in a rematch of a 2018 contest that Davis won by less than 1 percentage point.

Republicans nominated businesswoman Esther Joy King to oppose Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairwoman Cheri Bustos in the 17th District, which includes Rock Island and most of Rockford and Peoria. The district voted for Trump by less than 1 percentage point in 2016, though Bustos was re-elected in 2018 with 62% — the best showing by any Democrat in a district that voted Republican for president.

In the 6th District, anchored in suburban DuPage County near Chicago, Republicans nominated Jeanne Ives, a former state legislator and military veteran, to oppose first-term Rep. Sean Casten (D). The district is upper-income and well-educated and historically Republican, though it resisted the GOP in 2016, when Trump lost the district by about 7 percentage points, and in 2018, when Casten unseated Rep. Peter Roskam (R). In 2018, Ives ran as a conservative primary challenger to then-Gov. Bruce Rauner and almost unseated him.

The other two women in the Illinois House delegation, Democratic Reps. Robin Kelly of the 2nd District and Jan Schakowskyof the 9th District, represent overwhelmingly Democratic constituencies in metropolitan Chicago and are strongly favored to win new terms in November.

To contact the reporter on this story: Greg Giroux in Washington at ggiroux@bgov.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Kyle Trygstad at ktrygstad@bgov.com; Loren Duggan at lduggan@bgov.com

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