Newman wins early endorsements of progressive groups in bid against Lipinski

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WASHINGTON — Democrat Marie Newman, in a second primary bid to oust Rep. Dan Lipinski, D-Ill., is being endorsed by six leading progressive organizations, with the groups jumping in the race months earlier than they did for her in 2018.

The Monday joint endorsement of Newman from EMILY’s List, MoveOn, NARAL Pro-Choice America, Planned Parenthood Action Fund, the Progressive Change Campaign Committee and Democracy for America sends a strong signal to progressives in the 3rd Congressional District.

Democracy for America earlier announced its support for Newman.

“Just getting started earlier is the big thing because that just expands the universe of voters that we can have ongoing conversations with,” Ilyse Hogue, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America, told the Chicago Sun-Times.

In the March 2018 primary, Lipinski, from Western Springs, defeated Newman, who lives in LaGrange, by only 2,145 votes, or 51.1 percent to 48.9 percent, according to the Illinois State Board of Elections. The district includes parts of Southwest Side Chicago and takes in south and western suburban turf.

Newman may be denied a one-on-one rematch in the March 2020 Illinois primary. Abe Matthew, an attorney and political newcomer who lives in Bridgeport, is also running as a progressive.

Two progressives on the ballot could split the vote and guarantee the nomination for Lipinski, one of the most right-of-center Democrats in Congress. Since the district is heavily Democratic, the primary winner is almost certain of victory in the November general election.

Matthew told the Sun-Times, “I congratulate Marie on receiving their endorsement and our focus remains reaching every Democrat in the district.”

In the rematch, “I think we will have smarter, sharper contrasting messages with greater frequency to a broader universe of voters,” Hogue said.

Newman made her support of abortion and gay rights a cornerstone of her 2018 campaign. Lipinski is a leader in the anti-abortion movement and is the only House Democrat who did not co-sponsor the Equality Act, introduced in March, LGBTQ civil rights legislation.

The progressive groups in 2018 waited until a few months before the March primary to get significantly active. On Feb. 13, 2018, these six groups, plus the SEIU and the Human Rights Campaign created a Super PAC named Citizens For A Better Illinois. The Super PAC spent $1.6 million in cable and television spots; mail; digital advertising; and Latino outreach.

The Citizens For A Better Illinois proved to be a crucial counter to the more than $1 million spent to support Lipinski by front groups hiding their connections to No Labels, an organization based in Washington advocating bipartisanship with major GOP donors.

It’s too soon to say if the progressive Newman coalition will be running a Super PAC for her again or if the SEIU and HRC jump back in the Illinois 3 primary. It’s also not yet known if No Labels will be a player.

Lipinski said in a statement, “These endorsements make clear that Marie Newman is again running a “tea party of the left” campaign at the behest of national interest groups rather than focusing on taking care of the everyday concerns of people in the district as I have a track record of doing.  …  I continue to be focused on working with my Democratic colleagues in the House to deliver relief for middle class families with better job opportunities, improved infrastructure, more affordable health care and college education, safer gun laws, and lower taxes.”

Newman is starting the 2020 cycle in a favorable political climate with the progressive wing of the Democratic party — the strongest it’s been in years, both nationally and in the Chicago area.

Jen Burton, Newman’s media consultant said, “the combination of this early support from these progressive groups with a big expected boost to Democratic turnout puts Marie in a great position to win and put a real Democrat in this seat.”

A major difference between 2018 and 2020 is that the House Democrats are now in the majority and Democratic leaders want to keep it by focusing resources on swing districts.

The House Democratic political operation, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, led by Rep. Cheri Bustos, D-Ill., has formally pledged to defend incumbents. That was the more informal policy in 2018, but the DCCC didn’t put anything into the Lipinski race.

Bustos, in hardening the policy, has told political vendors if they work for Democratic primary challengers, they would be banned from getting DCCC contracts.

Said Hogue, “I think people are aware that now is not a time to actually place incumbency above the core values of the party.”