Marie Newman has ended an era.
Since 1983, a Lipinski has represented Illinois’ 3rd Congressional District, a collection of southwest suburbs and Chicago’s Southwest Side. William Lipinski served in Congress until 2005, then engineered the appointment of his son, Dan, to take over the seat.
Two years after nearly ending the decades-long dynasty, the progressive Newman broke through Tuesday night, defeating the socially conservative incumbent and ending the reign of one of the Chicago area’s most recognizable political families. Newman’s victory was celebrated by progressive groups locally and nationally, with activists saying her win underscores the shifting priorities of Democratic voters.
Newman, a businesswoman from La Grange, had 48.2% of the vote to Lipinski’s 45.8% with all but a handful of precincts counted, according to unofficial returns. She will face Republican Mike Fricilone, a Will County Board member who campaigned as a fiscally conservative candidate opposed to abortion rights, in the autumn general election. But the district heavily skews toward Democrats, making Fricilone’s bid an uphill climb.
Newman did not hold any public events on Wednesday in order to practice social distancing to mitigate risk from the coronavirus.
The central themes of the second-straight primary clash between Newman and Lipinski were similar to the first: abortion, health care, immigration and climate change. Lipinski is one of the few remaining anti-abortion Democrats in the U.S. House, and he originally voted against the Affordable Care Act.
Among those reaching out to congratulate Newman via social media was Hillary Clinton.
“Congratulations to @Marie4Congress for her win in #IL03 yesterday. It’s a victory for reproductive rights, better health care, DREAMers, our climate, and an economy that works for everyone,” Clinton posted.
“Thank you so much,” Newman responded. “Can’t wait to get started!”
Newman had the backing of a number of national organizations, including the Justice Democrats and progressive New York U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.
“Marie has been a consistent fighter for working families throughout her entire career,” Alexandra Rojas, the executive director of Justice Democrats, said in a phone interview Wednesday. “I think this is a huge victory for the progressive movement and a huge strike against machine politics. I think this shows there is a hunger for a new type of progressive leadership.”
Rojas pointed to Lipinski’s positions on the Affordable Care Act, abortion, the Green New Deal and the immigrants known as Dreamers as further reasons why Newman’s positions resonated with more voters than the incumbent during the primary. Many voters, she said, are prioritizing a woman’s right to choose and universal health care, especially as the coronavirus crisis sweeps the country.
“We can’t keep kicking the can down the road, it does not work, and it is showing right now,” Rojas said, arguing that the coronavirus is exposing problems and holes with the American health care system.
Newman has endorsed a “Medicare for All” concept that would be phased in over an unspecified period, allowing for people who currently like their private insurance to keep it.
Newman also had the support of EMILY’s List, a national group that supports pro-abortion rights Democratic women.
“Congratulations @Marie4Congress (IL-03) on winning your primary!” the group tweeted. “It’s time for IL-03 to have a pro-choice Democratic woman in office!”
Another progressive group, Sunrise Movement, a movement of young people working to stop climate change, also backed Newman.
“We ran a good campaign against tremendous headwinds,” Lipinski said during a Wednesday afternoon news conference at his headquarters on 95th Street in Oak Lawn, adding there are still uncounted votes in the city. “But as the numbers stand right now, it appears that I will not prevail.”
Lipinski, of Western Springs, and his father are longtime cogs in Democratic Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan’s political organization. Madigan’s 13th Ward is part of the congressional district, and his ward organization backed Lipinski. It was support from city wards that helped Lipinski edge Newman in 2018. Lipinski held out hope late Tuesday that not-yet-counted votes in the city would be enough to make up the gap in the suburbs, but it did not appear to be enough.
Lipinski said he called Newman on Wednesday to congratulate her and said he will support her in the fall. Lipinski thanked his wife, Judy, his staff and his family, including his father, Bill, and his mother, Rose Marie, “for providing me with great guidance, love and support throughout this campaign and throughout my life.”
Lipinski said his position as anti-abortion “loomed large” in the campaign. But he said he was steadfast in his beliefs and was not willing to change his position to win an election.
“The pressure in the Democratic Party on the life issue has never been as great as it is now,” Lipinski said. “Over the years, I have watched many other politicians succumb to pressure and change their position on this issue. I’ve always said I’d never give up being pro-life and standing up for babies in the womb. Judy and I, and tens of millions of Catholics, hold firm to this belief. But it’s not just based on religious belief. It is based on science, which shows that a life begins at conception. Knowing this, I can never give up protecting the most vulnerable human beings in the world simply to win an election. My faith teaches, and the Democratic Party preaches, that we should serve everyone, especially the most vulnerable.”
Lipinski said he hopes to focus on an economic stimulus package and a transportation bill during his final nine months in office. When his term is complete, then he may begin to think about his family’s legacy.
“I’m very proud of the work that I’ve done and that my father did before me,” Lipinski said.
Newman’s path into politics was a winding one. She grew up in Beverly and Palos Park, graduating from Carl Sandburg High School. Newman then attended Marquette University, before graduating from the University of Wisconsin. After college, Newman worked in advertising and as a consultant before founding a national nonprofit program called “Team Up To Stop Bullying.” She started the effort after one of her children was bullied at school. She also formed her own consulting company.
Two years ago, Lipinski led on election night, and Newman refused to concede. She kept him waiting, saying she wished for “Mr. Lipinski to have a very painful evening.” She conceded the contest the following day.
The 3rd Congressional District includes parts of the Southwest Side, southwest suburban Cook County and northeastern Will County. The race, which drew national attention, was a rematch from 2018, when Lipinski had narrowly defeated Newman by 2.2%, or by 2,145 votes out of 95,205 cast.
Throughout the campaign, Lipinski tried to paint Newman as out of touch with the district on the issues of health care and abortion rights.
The veteran congressman also tried to downplay his signature on a letter also signed by conservative Republicans that urged the Supreme Court to consider a case that could lead to a reversal of Roe v. Wade.
In a candidate forum less than two weeks before the election, the two were at odds on a variety of issues, including whether Madigan should step down as state party chairman. Newman said he should, Lipinski said the move is up to party members.
During the campaign, Lipinski downplayed the effect of his opposition to abortion saying, “I’m in the U.S. House of Representatives. I’m not on the Supreme Court, so I don’t have any impact whatsoever on Roe v. Wade.”
In the moments after the race was called, Newman posted a message on Twitter, thanking her supporters and looking ahead to her goals.
“I am bursting with pride and gratitude for the amazing coalition that helped bring about much needed change in our district,” Newman posted. “We are going to work together to lower health care costs, to fight climate change, and to build an economy that works for everyone. #NewDayInIL03 #IL03.”
Newman said her campaign focused on working people, a better health care system and an economy that works for all.
“I am so proud of the work we have done and I look forward to working together to continue solving problems and fighting for better solutions,” Newman wrote.