In a race that drew national attention, and lots of outside money, Congressman Dan Lipinski has survived a strong primary challenge from Marie Newman, a former marketing executive from La Grange, who claimed that Lipinski was too conservative and out of touch with voters in the 3rd Congressional District.
The district stretches from the Bridgeport neighborhood of Chicago southwest to near Joliet and includes the southern portion of Brookfield.
The race was, by far, the closest of Lipinski’s political career, which up until now has consisted of easy victories since he was first elected to Congress in 2004.
On March 21, Newman conceded the race, but said her campaign had the effect of getting Lipinski to alter positions on key issues, from healthcare to immigration.
“After reviewing the results, we know that we lost by a thin margin,” Newman said in an emailed statement Wednesday morning. “Since we started our campaign, Dan Lipinski has moved his position on healthcare, a path to citizenship, and the need for a fair minimum wage. We put him on notice that we expect better for all of the people in our district.”
Newman spoke to her supporters at about 10:40 p.m. on March 20 at her election night party in Chicago and said, at that point, she was not quite ready to concede.
“We want Mr. Lipinski to have a painful night, so we’re going to wait,” Newman told her supporters.
But when the dust settled Monday morning with the final precinct totals straggling in, it was clear the Lipinski had survived. Unofficial totals showed that with all 500 precincts reporting, Lipinski had claimed 52 percent of the total vote.
“I plan on continuing to hold him accountable so that every person in our district has access, opportunity, and equal rights,” Newman said in conceding. “I hope the race we ran will make him a better representative for all of us in Congress.”
Lipinski (D-Western Springs) is one of a handful of anti-abortion Democrats in Congress. He was one of 34 Democratic members of the House of Representatives who voted against the Affordable Care Act in 2009.
Only four of those members are still in Congress, as moderate to conservative Democrats have become rare in an increasingly polarized electorate.
During the hard-fought campaign, Newman said Lipinski wasn’t a real Democrat and faulted him for being out of touch with his district. She claimed that Lipinski often agreed with President Donald Trump on immigration issues. Lipinski retorted that he has been working for bipartisan solutions.
Newman campaigned full time for more than a year. She held 146 meet and greet sessions with voters.
“I’ve been in every single community [in the district] at least seven times,” Newman said at a meet and greet Saturday in the Garfield Heights neighborhood of Chicago.
Newman built support from grassroots activists who have organized and mobilized since the election of Trump as president in 2016. She also had endorsements from two of Lipinski’s colleagues among the Illinois House delegation, Luis Gutierrez and Jan Schakowsky, as well as from a host of national progressive groups.
Lipinski, a seven-term congressman, was first elected in 2004 after his father, former Congressman William O. Lipinski, decided to retire after winning that year’s primary.
Democratic ward and township committeemen selected Dan Lipinski to replace his father as the Democratic candidate in the November election. At the time Dan Lipinski was a political science professor at the University of Tennessee.
Newman’s message struck home with Bob Robinson of Brookfield.
“I voted against Lipinski,” Robinson said after voting at the St. Barbara Parish Center on Tuesday afternoon. “I feel like it’s just a patronage position that he’s had. He’s really not representing me, representing my issues.”
But Father Dennis Pavichevich, a priest at Serbian Orthodox Church in Brookfield, said he voted in the Democratic primary just to vote for Lipinski, largely because of Lipinski’s anti-abortion views.
Outside groups on both sides each poured about $1 million into the race.
In his almost 14 years in Congress, Lipinski has kept a low profile, working mainly on transportation issues and working to promote manufacturing jobs. He is a co-chair of the Blue Dog Coalition in Congress, a group of moderate to conservative Democrats.
Lipinski’s name recognition helped him with some voters, such as Frank Rodriguez of Brookfield, who said that he voted for Lipinski because he was familiar with him.
“I voted for his dad and voted for him,” Rodriguez said. “He’s like a fixture. I see him at the functions locally.”