Finally, some good news—on Tuesday night, progressive challenger Marie Newman won her primary against longtime Illinois incumbent Representative Dan Lipinski, a staunch anti-abortion advocate and one of the most conservative members of Congress. Bye bye, Dan!
Their race, like that of insurgent candidate Jessica Cisneros against Henry Cuellar in south Texas, was widely seen as a test of whether a powerful standing member of Congress could be challenged from the left. Newman, a former ad executive who founded an anti-bullying nonprofit and was inspired to run for office after Trump’s victory in 2016, ran on a solidly progressive platform—support for Medicare for All, raising the minimum wage, and the Green New Deal. She ran against Lipinski in 2018 and narrowly lost. Like in 2018, this time around she had the backing of a host of groups on the progressive left, including Justice Democrats, the group that helped propel Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez to victory in 2018 and has vowed to challenge Democratic incumbents whose politics are out of step with their constituents, not to mention the times we live in. “This sends a message to every Democratic incumbent that if you don’t vote like a Democrat, you will be held accountable,” wrote Justice Democrats’ executive director Alexandra Rojas after Newman’s victory on Tuesday night.
The fact that Lipinski lasted so long is, quite frankly, a disgrace. It’s fair to call Lipinski a Democrat in name only, especially when it comes to abortion rights. In January, Lipinski was just one of two Democrats to sign onto an amicus brief asking the Supreme Court to “reconsider” Roe v. Wade. He has voted repeatedly throughout his time in office to defund Planned Parenthood and is a staunch supporter of the Hyde Amendment. In 2010, Lipinski was the only Illinois Democrat to vote against the Affordable Care Act because he believed it “would allow federal funding for abortion,” and also criticized the contraception mandate included in the ACA. “A health care bill that provides federal funds for abortion is not right,” he said in a statement at the time.
It’s not just reproductive health care where Lipinski was often more in line with his Republican colleagues—he voted against the DREAM Act in 2010 (though later changed his tune), has waffled on raising the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour, and has a terrible record on LGBTQ rights.
But his strident anti-abortion views played a large role in finally bringing him down, with a host of groups like NARAL Pro-Choice America and the Planned Parenthood Action Fund donating and campaigning heavily in support of Newman. “Tonight’s outcome is just the latest proof that voters are motivated to support candidates with bold plans to protect and expand health care access, including reproductive health care,” wrote Planned Parenthood Votes’ executive director Jenny Lawson in a statement.” She added, “There is undeniable momentum at our backs—and anti-abortion politicians should know that their days in public office are numbered.”