Voters Just Kicked One of the Last Anti-Abortion Democrats Out of Congress

March 18, 2020

Vice: Voters Just Kicked One of the Last Anti-Abortion Democrats Out of Congress
By Cameron Joseph

One of the last — and loudest — pro-life Democrats left in Congress lost his primary Tuesday nig'sht.

Rep. Dan Lipinski (D-Ill.) lost to former advertising executive Marie Newman, trailing by 48%-44% with 90% of precincts reporting.

Newman came just short of beating Lipinski two years ago, with the backing of a broad coalition of progressive groups. This time she jumped into the election early, and they lined up to boost her past Lipinski, as she outspent him by a wide margin. EMILYs List, which backs pro-choice Democratic women, backed Newman early on, as did a plethora of other groups including NARAL Pro-Choice America, Planned Parenthood Action Fund, MoveOn, Indivisible, The Sierra Club, Service Employees International Union, and Our Revolution.

Lipinski isn’t just pro-life; he had a long track record of breaking with Democrats on major issues. He voted against Obamacare, supported the war in Iraq, and for years opposed LGBTQ rights and immigration reform. He’d tacked left on most of those issues in recent years as a primary threat became more real, but he'd refused to budge on abortion, recently joining Republicans on an amicus brief urging the Supreme Court to overturn Roe v. Wade.

He’d largely avoided tough primaries in the solidly Democratic district because of strong support from the Chicago Democratic machine. Lipinski was handed his seat in Congress by his father, former Rep. Bill Lipinski (D-Ill.), and has a close relationship with Illinois House Speaker Mike Madigan (D), who runs the state party and the city’s machine.

But that machine has weakened in recent years, and Lipinski’s district has continued to grow more liberal and more heavily Hispanic. After barely surviving in 2018, it was too much for him this time around.

Abortion was the defining issue of Newman and Lipinski's first race. But in 2020, they focused heavily on healthcare issues in their ads and messaging. Lipinski sought to brand Newman as a radical, attacking her for supporting Medicare for All. Newman, in turn, hammered Lipinski for voting against Obamacare.

The race’s final days were thrown into disarray by the coronavirus, which forced both candidates to cancel numerous campaign events and caused Election Day chaos, with delays at numerous polling centers across Chicago and its suburbs as poll workers refused to show up in face of the health crisis. Turnout, unsurprisingly, was down across the state as well as in the district from the 2016 presidential primary.