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Progressive Marie Newman Beats Incumbent Dan Lipinski

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Marie Newman

Photo courtesy of campaign, Graphic by Paula Friedrich/WBEZ

Updated at 3:04 p.m. March 18

After losing narrowly only two years ago, progressive business woman Marie Newman unseated veteran Democratic Congressman Dan Lipsinski Tuesday, ending another of the party’s South Side dynasties in one of the most closely watched U.S. House primaries in the country.

The Associated Press called the race for Newman shortly after 11 p.m., with Newman leading by more than 3,400 votes and with 96% of the precincts reporting.

After trailing earlier in the evening, Newman had 47% to Lipinski’s 44%. Two other candidates trailed far behind.

“I’m just bursting with pride and gratitude for the amazing coalition who helped bring this much needed change to our district,” Newman said in a conference call with reporters Tuesday night. “We’re going to work together to lower healthcare costs, fight climate change and an economy that works for everyone.”

Lipinski addressed reporters Wednesday after refusing to concede Tuesday night when the Associated Press called the race. On Wednesday, he said his concession is contingent on all votes being counted, but “if the current numbers do hold, I wanted to congratulate Marie Newman on her victory.”

As in 2018, the battle in the 3rd Illinois Congressional District pitted arguably the most conservative Democrat in the House against an opponent who enjoyed the support of more left-leaning party members from across the country.

Lipinski, 53, has represented the district for 16 years, succeeding his father, William Lipinski, who was a powerful congressman for 22 years.

In the 2018 primary, Newman came within 2 percentage points of unseating Lipinski.

Newman, a 55-year-old businesswoman, had the support of some of the most high-profile progressives in the country, including presidential candidate Bernie Sanders and U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York. She also has enjoyed support from progressive groups Planned Parenthood and Emily’s List, and Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot endorsed Newman.

Lipinski has long had the backing of Illinois House Speaker and state Democratic Party boss Michael Madigan.

But Lipinski has a record of bucking the party’s policies on anything from gay marriage to healthcare. He’s been criticized for his vote for the Defense of Marriage Act, his anti-abortion views and his initial vote against Obamacare.

That situation has allowed Newman to attempt to paint Lipinski as both the epitome of Chicago machine politics and out of step with the changing district, which includes the Southwest Side of Chicago and much of the southwest suburbs.

On Wednesday, Lipinski said he believes his loss is due in part to being outspent in the race by progressive groups who threw their support behind Newman and pushed his conservative views – including his opposition to abortion – to the forefront of the race.

“I was shunned by many of my colleagues and other Dem party members,” he said, adding his opposition to abortion won’t waiver. “I can never give up protecting the most vulnerable human beings in the world, simply to win an election.”

The 3rd District has changed drastically since Lipinski took office, and particularly since his father became congressman in 1983. Once predominantly made up of Poles and other white ethnic voters, the district is now 30 percent Latino and home to the largest Palestinian community of any congressional district in the country.

Newman has painted herself as a pro-immigrant candidate and also called out Lipinski for initially voting against the DREAM Act, which protects undocumented children from deportation.

Lipinski, who has a degree in engineering and doctorate in political science, has touted his record working on the House Transportation Committee and his vocal advocacy for CREATE, a public-private partnership that’s meant to improve Chicago’s rail lines, among other things.

Lipinski had the backing of Chicago’s police and fire unions as well as other big union organizations this campaign and in 2018.

Two other Democratic candidates, Rush Darwish and Charles Hughes, have struggled to gain traction amid the heated rematch between Newman and Lipinski.

The winner of the Democratic primary will face one of three candidates for the GOP nomination.

Mike Fricilone, a commissioner on the Will County board, led with 57% of the vote. He’s been praised by the state Republican Party for lowering taxes and trimming his county’s budget.

Catherine O’Shea was in second place with 33%.

Running third with 10% was Art Jones, a former member of the American Nazi party who has said “race mixing is against the laws of nature.” He has run for the district’s seat in Congress for decades but made it to the general election for the first time in 2018.

That’s when the state Republican Party failed to find someone to run against him, and he got nearly 60,000 votes in the general election in November 2018.

Mariah Woelfel is a reporter at WBEZ. You can follow her on Twitter @MariahWoelfel.

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