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By Bob Skolnik
Congressman Dan Lipinski (D-Western Springs), one of only a handful of pro-life Democrats in the House of Representatives, is facing what could be his toughest electoral challenge yet.
Marie Newman, a 53-year-old marketing consultant from LaGrange is challenging Lipinski in the March 20, 2018, Democratic primary race in the 3rd Congressional District, which stretches from the Bridgeport neighborhood of Chicago to the edge of Joliet and includes all of Brookfield south of Southview Avenue.
Newman has been working full time since January on her challenge to Lipinski. She is hoping to take advantage of the anger and energy among progressives, especially female progressives, since the election of President Donald Trump last year.
She has attracted the attention and support of some national progressive groups and has been vigorously fundraising.
Last week, at a press conference in Bridgeport, Newman was endorsed by NARAL (National Abortion Rights Action League), Moveon.org, the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, Democracy for America and the Human Rights Campaign.
"Congressman Lipinski is way out of step with his constituents and with Democratic Party principles when it comes to women's rights, LGBT equality, and the basic freedoms Americans hold dear," said Ilyse Hogue, the president of NARAL Pro-Choice America.
Lipinski last faced a serious and well-funded primary challenge in 2008 when Mark Pera, then the president of the Lyons Township High School Board of Education, challenged him, but Lipinski easily won that race with nearly 54 percent of the vote. Pera amassed just 25 percent in a four-person field.
Since that race the boundaries of the 3rd District have changed and moved a bit south and west taking all but one precinct of Riverside and all of North Riverside out of the district.
Newman grew up in Palos Park and became a partner at the large J. Walter Thompson advertising agency at age 31. She later founded her own marketing consulting firm, Marie Newman & Associates, which she shut down at the end of last year to concentrate on running for Congress. This is her first try for elective office, although she has volunteered on Democratic campaigns for the last decade or more.
In addition to charging that Lipinski is too conservative for the district, Newman claims that Lipinski has been an ineffective congressman, calling his legislative accomplishments "a whole lot of nothing."
"The only bill that he has sponsored and passed and got through committee is to name a building and redesign a small portion of a highway," Newman said. "That's not leadership and that's not acceptable."
Lipinski was first elected to Congress in 2004. He succeeded his father, the powerful William O. Lipinski, who decided not to seek another term after winning the 2004 primary.
The timing of that decision allowed party leaders to pick the substitute candidate and they chose Dan Lipinski, who at the time was a political science professor at the University of Tennessee.
"I was not given a job like he was," Newman said. "He inherited this job."
Newman says that Lipinski is anti-immigrant and allows his personal views to determine how he votes instead of acting in the best interest of his constituents.
"People now know his record," Newman said. "They know he is anti-DACA, they know he does not believe in birth control for anyone. They know that he is pro-life to the extent that he is willing to shut down and defund Planned Parenthood when it provides general healthcare to tens of thousands of his constituents."
Lipinski was the only Illinois Democrat to vote against the Affordable Care Act in 2010, though he has not supported its repeal and instead has worked to fix the law, Lipinski spokesman Isaac Sancken said.
Newman, only the second female primary opponent Lipinski has faced, said that men as well as women are fed up with Lipinski.
"I think that people are mad at Mr. Lipinski for far more reasons than the women's movement," Newman said.
Newman says that she has raised about $460,000 as of last week, although she had raised only 271,000 as of Sept. 30. The Newman campaign has five paid staffers working out a campaign office on the southwest side of Chicago.
As of Sept. 30, Lipinski, who, like his father before him sits on the House Transportation Committee, had just over $1.5 million in his campaign fund.
Lipinski, 51, says he is not overly concerned about Newman and that he will continue to do his job focusing on rebuilding American manufacturing.
"My re-election record, I think, demonstrates that my constituents have been happy with what I've been able to do over the years," Lipinski said. "I've really built up a record of being a champion for the middle class, focusing a lot on jobs, working against bad trade agreements, working to promote American manufacturing."
Lipinski makes no apologies for his anti-abortion views.
"I've always said that I'm pro-life, I vote pro-life," Lipinski said. "I believe that the science shows that the DNA for a new human being is there at conception, and that's why I believe that life begins at conception. And I want to do all I can to help new mothers."
Lipinski denies that is he is anti-LGBT, saying he voted to add sexual orientation to the hate crimes law and voted to end "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" in the military.
"With the Supreme Court decision that legalized gay marriage in the country, I understand that's the law of the land now," Lipinski said. "I'm not working to change that."
Lipinski did vote against prohibiting job discrimination based on sexual orientation and has been a co-sponsor of the First Amendment Defense Act, which would prohibit the federal government from taking action against anyone opposing same sex marriage on the basis of religious or moral principles.
Lipinski said that he helped to pass the American Manufacturing Competitiveness Act, a bill that had numerous sponsors.
"For the first time since Alexander Hamilton, the U.S. is going to have to produce a manufacturing strategy because of a bill I got passed," Lipinski said.
Lipinski says that he is part of a bipartisan Congressional group working on immigration reform and that he would like to extend the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals immigrants (DACA) for at least two years and give it the force of law without building a border wall with Mexico.
"For the last three months we've been working on a bipartisan DACA fix, based on the outline that President Trump made with Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer," Lipinski said.
Lipinski said he doesn't know how strong a challenger Newman will be but he will be ready.
"I take every challenge seriously," Lipinski said. "I'm confident, but I'm always working very hard."