Rep. Dan Lipinski is one of the rarest species of Democrat in Congress. He is a pro-life, anti-Obamacare, pro-Israel politician whose 3rd Illinois District may finally be prepared to retire him.
That district was represented for 22 years by his father, legendary Chicago Alderman Bill Lipinski. The elder Lipinski was a reliable vote for the Cook County machine — an organization that could shake the money tree in Washington because of the powerful politicians they sent there to do their bidding.
The power of the machine may have waned over the years, but the Lipinski dynasty has endured. The 3rd District, once a bastion of Chicago working-class Reagan Democrats, has changed over the years to where it is now a more liberal, more affluent, mostly suburban enclave. The demographic change — including a huge increase in Hispanic voters — may spell the doom of one of the last “conservative” Democrats in Congress.
Lipinski is out of touch with the far-left liberal establishment and is being attacked by radicals intent on kicking him out of Congress. Whoever wins the Democratic primary on March 20 is certain to be the winner in the general election, since the only GOP name on the ballot is going to be Art Jones, a proud neo-Nazi. Lipinski’s main primary challenger is Marie Newman, a liberal activist who claims kinship with NARAL, Planned Parenthood, and the Service Workers International Union (SEIU).
Then came the “resistance.” Newman, a former advertising executive who became an anti-bullying and pro-gun safety advocate, had been approached to run for lower offices; after the 2016 election, she took “a deep data dive” into the district and came out convinced she could win. Hillary Clinton won here by 15 points. Bernie Sanders had carried the district in the primary, and Newman had supported him.
“We have the Lipinski dynasty, supported by the Chicago machine, so it’s like pushing a boulder up a hill,” she said. “But when people learn how he’s voted, his unfavorables are in the 70s.”
For months, Democrats looked at Newman and saw yet another candidate who would probably come up short. Lipinski ended 2017 with $1.7 million to spend; Newman ended it with $237,000. The Democrats who run nearly every office in the district endorsed Lipinski, as did the AFL-CIO. The bitterly contested primary for governor promised that rank-and-file Democrats, familiar with the Lipinski brand, would be turning out on March 20.
That changed last month, after local Democrats saw polling that found Newman gaining on the incumbent. On Jan. 17, two of Lipinski’s liberal colleagues, Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.) and Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.), endorsed Newman at a news conference in Washington. Gutierrez ripped into Lipinski for opposing the Dream Act, which would provide protections for immigrants brought illegally to the United States as children; Schakowsky asked why Chicago’s blue suburbs still had an antiabortion congressman.
“I assure you that this district is overwhelmingly pro-choice,” Schakowsky said.
“The nation has moved forward,” said Gutierrez. “He would be all right in Congress in 1996.”
Guitierrez is a hero to many Hispanics for his illegal alien advocacy and support for DREAMers. That endorsement may mean curtains for Lipinski, whose district is now more than 30 percent Hispanic.
But these liberal activists fail to note that the district is also nearly 75 percent white (some Hispanics are also counted as white by the census). It contains the last remnants of Reagan Democrats in Bridgeport (Mayor Daley’s old stomping grounds) and some working-class suburbs that have clung to conservative values.
Lipinski will not go down without a fight. But his troubles reflect a larger problem for Democrats, as the congressman notes:
Lipinski, too, has warned that a defeat for him would weaken his party. “It’s terrible for the Democratic Party,” he said. “We’re down more than a thousand elected officials around the country since 2010. Democrats need to have a big tent; when we’re so far down, we can’t be kicking people out of the party. We can’t rely on voters being upset with Donald Trump to put us back into power.”
Democrats, who have already dug a huge hole for themselves, know only how to dig deeper.