By Jim EllisMay 8, 2019 — One of the previous election cycle’s most contested primaries was decided early, in March of 2018, when veteran Illinois Rep. Dan Lipinski (D-Western Springs/Oak Lawn) eked out a 51-49 percent victory over media consultant Marie Newman. The challenger, who ran a spirited campaign, did so with the backing of many national left-of-center organizations.
Soon after the primary ended, Newman indicated that she would return for a re-match in 2020 and a group of organization leaders yesterday jointly announced their support for her.
Representatives from EMILY’s List, MoveOn, NARAL Pro-Choice America, Planned Parenthood Action Fund, the Progressive Change Campaign Committee and Democracy for America are pledging to independently spend in order to help Newman unseat Rep. Lipinski. In the last campaign, these groups and others combined to provide over $1.6 million in outside expenditures to supplement Newman’s own campaign spending, which exceeded $1.475 million.
In defending his seat, Rep. Lipinski spent well over $1 million with an additional $1 million coming from outside organizations independently on his behalf. It is likely that he will have to spend a great deal more in this election, which will run concurrently with the Democratic presidential primary. This means we will likely see a considerably larger number voters than in the mid-term 2018 primary, which featured 95,205 individuals who cast a ballot in the Lipinski-Newman congressional campaign.
The 2020 Newman challenge is representative of what we could be seeing in several districts around the country, and particularly in New York, where the activist wing of the party will be supporting candidates against Democratic incumbents who tend to favor more centrist policies.
Particularly in the Lipinski race, it will be interesting to see how the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee responds. In the last campaign, the DCCC, then under the chairmanship of Rep. Ben Ray Lujan (D-NM), gave tacit support to Rep. Lipinski because he is the incumbent, but the organization did not expend resources to aide his re-election effort.
Now, however, the DCCC is under different leadership in the person of Illinois Rep. Cheri Bustos (D-Moline). She is pledging more aggressive support for incumbents facing primaries and says the DCCC political apparatus will blackball consultants who help candidates who challenge sitting Democratic House members. Considering that Rep. Lipinski is from Bustos’ home state, her new policy will be put to the test in this primary challenge race. Chances are good that Lipinski will get more active support from the current DCCC than he did in 2018.
The IL-3 primary campaign will clearly be an early race to watch and could be a harbinger for other intra-party contests. A Newman upset could set a tone for other ideological challengers. Or, with Rep. Lipinski winning again — and this time with enhanced support from the DCCC — we could see a boost for other incumbents facing similar primary opponents later in the year.