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Democratic House Incumbent Ousted By Progressive Challenger In Illinois Primary

Marie Newman campaigns in the Archer Heights neighborhood of Chicago.
Charles Rex Arbogast
Marie Newman campaigns in the Archer Heights neighborhood of Chicago.

Rep. Dan Lipinski, a moderate eight-term Democratic congressman from Illinois, lost his primary on Tuesday to progressive challenger Marie Newman.

Newman, a business consultant and founder of an anti-bullying nonprofit, narrowly lost to Lipinski in a 2018 primary in a suburban Chicago district by about 2 points.

One of the last anti-abortion Democrats in Congress, Lipinski often bucked the mainstream of his party. He declined to endorse President Barack Obama in 2012, voted against the Affordable Care Act and opposed same-sex marriage until the U.S. Supreme Court ruled to make it legal in 2015.

"I am bursting with pride and gratitude for the amazing coalition that helped bring about much needed change in our district," Newman wrote on Twitter. "We are going to work together to lower health care costs, to fight climate change, and to build an economy that works for everyone."

Justice Democrats, the group that helped Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez beat a long-serving Democratic incumbent in the 2018 primary, backed Newman's bid.

"This sends a message to every Democratic incumbent that if you don't vote like a Democrat, you will be held accountable," Alexandra Rojas, the group's executive director, wrote on Twitter.

Lipinski has represented Illinois' 3rd Congressional District since 2005, when he took over from his father, Bill Lipinski, who first won the seat in 1982.

"I'm still a guy fighting for the little guy and gal in taking care of things in the communities," he told NPR's Kelsey Snell in 2018. "And I think that's what people still care about."

Lipinski's positions on major issues has increasingly raised questions among Democrats in recent years over what the party stands for. In 2018, Newman won endorsements from two members of the Illinois congressional delegation, including retiring Rep. Luis Gutierrez.

"He's just a dinosaur, shouldn't be there, should be a relic in some museum," he told NPR in 2018. "This was the Democratic Party, you know, 1980."

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has long insisted there should not be a litmus test on topics like abortion for Democratic candidates. In this cycle, while Pelosi visited the campaign offices of another centrist Democrat in a primary fight, Rep. Henry Cuellar of Texas, she did not lend the same assistance to Lipinski.

Last year, Illinois Rep. Cheri Bustos, chair of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, scrapped a fundraiser planned for Lipinski.

"I get some heat for saying that not everybody has to be [pro-abortion rights]," Pelosi said during a Georgetown University forum in 2018. "When the day comes when we can say we don't want any of our voters to be anti-choice, then I think we'd have a right to say that we don't want any of our candidates to be anti-choice."

Newman was also endorsed by Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot and Ocasio-Cortez.

Ocasio-Cortez and Justice Democrats plan to back more progressive challengers working to defeat centrist incumbents. So far this primary season, Lipinski is the only sitting member they have managed to oust.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Sam Gringlas is a journalist at NPR's All Things Considered. In 2020, he helped cover the presidential election with NPR's Washington Desk and has also reported for NPR's business desk covering the workforce. He's produced and reported with NPR from across the country, as well as China and Mexico, covering topics like politics, trade, the environment, immigration and breaking news. He started as an intern at All Things Considered after graduating with a public policy degree from the University of Michigan, where he was the managing news editor at The Michigan Daily. He's a native Michigander.
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