Conservative Democrat Dan Lipinski could be on the way out.
This Tuesday, Illinois voters will go to the polls in a primary, and while most of the attention will be on a gubernatorial contest where Democrats have no good options, the party will also have five notable congressional races. So here’s what to watch for, starting with a race that could unseat one of the most conservative Democrats in Congress:
Candidates: Representative Dan Lipinski, Marie Newman
The highest-profile primary is in the Third, where Dan Lipinski faces a challenge from the left in the form of ad exec Marie Newman. The district includes white ethnic portions of Chicago along with some southern and western suburbs. Newman supports pretty mainstream Democratic ideas that Lipinski doesn’t, like gay rights and providing access to healthcare, including abortion.
Lipinski and his allies have portrayed Newman as the vanguard of some sort of left-wing Tea Party enforcing ideological rigidity. But few Democratic incumbents are getting serious primary challenges for ideological reasons this cycle. Lipinski stands out not just because he opposed the Affordable Care Act and gay marriage, but because he was basically gifted his seat by his father, who held it before him. As I’ve noted before, his dad rigged the process for him back in 2004, sticking the residents of the Third with a right-wing political science professor from Tennessee instead of someone who’d actually served the community. If he’d had to win the seat on his own merits he wouldn’t be facing this challenge because he’d be forced to represent the Democratic base’s views, which are better reflected by Newman.
For all the handwringing lately about restoring norms, those old norms led to some pretty suspect behavior, including certain families treating congressional seats like inheritances. So screw restoring norms, let’s get some better ones. You can start by voting for Marie Newman.
What to Watch For
Lipinski will need to run up big margins in the city of Chicago—white ethnic enclaves are one of the few areas where he’ll likely do well. In a Democratic primary expect them to be outvoted by around 2-1 by the suburban portions of the Third. So if Newman can run well in the city, it’s hard to see how Lipinski recovers outside of it. I suspect Newman will win. The only public poll has showed the race a dead heat, but keep in mind this is Lipinski’s first-ever tough election. Considering he’s never had to win on his own merits before I wouldn’t bet on him delivering his first victory with headwinds going against him.
A win for Newman would also be a rejection of the gutter tactics that the Lipinski-supporting centrist group No Labels has engaged in against her: A volunteer with the supposedly high-minded, postpartisan group sent text messages to a voter saying that Newman is a Holocaust denier.