Marketing consultant Marie Newman formed an exploratory committee last month to scope out a potential primary challenge against Illinois Rep. Dan Lipinski, one of the most conservative Democrats in Congress, and she announced on Monday she would run. Newman, who has ties to anti-Trump groups like Indivisible, made it clear from the onset that she would challenge Lipinski from the left, noting that he was one of the few Democrats to vote against Obamacare in 2010. Illinois’ 3rd District, which includes part of Chicago and some of its southwestern suburbs, backed Barack Obama 56-43 and supported Hillary Clinton 55-40.
Newman has plenty of other things to attack Lipinski on. As recently as 2014, Lipinski responded to a candidate questionnaire by saying that he would support an amendment in the constitution to ban same-sex marriage. Lipinski hasn't gotten any better in the age of Trump: This year alone, Lipinski was one of just three Democrats who voted in favor of a GOP bill to ban federal funding for abortion services. Lipinski has also voted to overturn an Obama-era Health and Human Services rule that prevented states from withholding funds to Planned Parenthood and other healthcare groups that also provide abortions.
And it turns out, Lipinski found a way earlier this month to be even worse than we already thought. Last week, prominent local and state Democrats made a serious move to oust Republican Roger Claar, the longtime mayor of the village of Bolingbrook. Claar attracted progressive scorn when he hosted a fundraiser for none other than Donald Trump during the presidential campaign, and Sen. Dick Durbin and several labor groups lined up behind Democrat Jackie Traynere. However, Claar appears to have won re-election by only about 100 votes. And according to the local tipsheet Capitol Fax, Lipinski sent some of his precinct workers to help Claar, a move that could have made all the difference in this tight race.
But as we’ve noted before, beating Lipinksi won’t be easy. Back in 2008, Lipinski faced a well-funded primary challenge from Mark Pera, but Lipinski defeated him 54-25. Lipinski has been an ally of Chicago's powerful Democratic machine, and he's also close to local labor groups. Lipinski and his father Bill Lipinski have represented this area for a combined 18 terms, and plenty of voters are still loyal to the family. There are also still many local Democratic primary voters who share Lipinski's views on abortion and won't see them as a liability at all.
It’s also possible that more Democrats will run and split the anti-Lipinski vote enough to let the incumbent win with just a plurality. Still, at a time when progressives are fired up against the Trump administration and looking to oppose Democrats who cooperate with it, primary voters may be a lot less interested in ignoring Lipinski’s apostasies than they have been in the past.