U.S. Rep. Dan Lipinski was put on the defensive again by Democratic primary challenger Marie Newman at a Wednesday night forum, with Newman throwing barbs at Lipinski over campaign financing and his ties to Illinois House Speaker Mike Madigan.
It was the first time the incumbent and challenger met on a public stage, and Newman packed the crowd of more than 400 with boisterous supporters at a League of Women Voters event hosted at Moraine Valley Community College, the heart of the hotly contested 3rd Congressional District that covers most of Chicago’s Southwest Side and the southwest suburbs.
The race has drawn national attention as a possible test of voter mood in the wake of President Donald Trump’s election, with Lipinski — a Democrat seen as right of center — facing a potential backlash in favor of the progressive Newman.
Newman says Lipinski, 51, has fallen out of step with voters after 14 years in charge of the heavily Democratic district, attacking the incumbent for his anti-abortion stance as well as his views on gay rights and immigration.
The La Grange businesswoman zeroed in on those topics as she did during a Chicago Sun-Times Editorial Board meeting last month. This time, though, she went after Lipinski because his campaign got a boost from about $37,000 in spending from a North Carolina super PAC
“That is dark money, straight up,” Newman said.
But Newman’s campaign recently has been bolstered by more than $400,000 in super PAC funding, Lipinski noted.
“I have no idea what she’s talking about,” Lipinski said. “And she has a Washington-based super PAC which is pouring in at least a million to her campaign. So I’m not really sure where she comes across making that claim.”
Lipinski’s campaign war chest dwarfs that of Newman, who had $236,612 cash-on-hand at the end of 2017 compared to Lipinski’s $1,648,912, federal Election Commission records show. But her performance on Wednesday earned her $1 million in political advertising from progressive groups led by NARAL Pro-Choice America, the group announced after the forum.
Newman attacked Lipinski for his connections to Madigan when the congressman suggested nonpartisan groups should be implemented to combat gerrymandering.
“Fascinating, this from the gentleman that worked closely with Mike Madigan and his groups to cut out whole parts of an existing congressional district because he didn’t seem to think he wanted them,” she said.
The congressman touted his efforts of bringing $375 million to the district for infrastructure projects, as well as his efforts to work on bipartisan immigration legislation. He cautioned against a move to the left, saying it would only add to “bickering and gridlock” in Washington.
“Having a Tea Party of the Left, that makes promises about all these things that can happen magically — it’s not going to work,” he said. “They’re fantasies. We need to be willing to sit down and work together.”
No other debates or forums have been scheduled ahead of the March 20 primary.