Rep. Dan Lipinski, D-Ill., narrowly fended off a well-funded primary challenge this week that tested the pulse of pro-life Democrats.
First-time candidate Marie Newman took in millions of dollars of outside money and won major endorsements from liberal icons like Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., in the attempt to oust one of the Democratic Party’s most conservative lawmakers.
With nearly 90,000 ballots counted, Lipinski clung to a 1,600-vote lead, prompting Newman to concede defeat a day after the election.
Lipinski easily won reelection each term since joining Congress in 2005. Newman stepped into this year’s race as a 24-point underdog but nearly erased that deficit by Election Day.
As the Democratic Party continues to veer left on many issues, including abortion, the Illinois primary drew the national spotlight as a test of pro-life Democrats’ chances for survival in 2018.
The brunt of the push against Lipinski came from pro-abortion and LGBT advocacy groups such as NARAL Pro-Choice America, the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), the Planned Parenthood Action Fund, and EMILY’s List.
“This should be a wake-up call to Dan Lipinski,” HRC senior vice president JoDee Winterhof warned in a statement. “If Dan Lipinski continues down the wrong path, he will not get a second chance the next time his constituents head into the voting booth.”
The HRC and other outside groups spent more than $1.6 million in anti-Lipinski ads and dispatched volunteers to knock on doors and make calls urging voters to abandon him.
But pro-life groups rushed to Lipinski’s side to help counter the onslaught.
The Susan B. Anthony List fielded a 70-person team to visit 17,000 homes in Illinois ahead of the primary, spending more than $100,000 to boost Lipinski.
“We are thrilled with Congressman Lipinski’s victory over Marie Newman and the abortion industry which is increasingly pushing the Democratic Party left on abortion,” SBA List president Marjorie Dannenfelser said in a statement. “This is a win not only for Rep. Lipinski and the pro-life movement but for the majority of Americans who support common ground pro-life policies.” —E.W.