A solid blue district in Illinois is facing an identity crisis as Democrats could purge one of their own with a political newcomer on Tuesday.
Progressive liberal Marie Newman is challenging Rep. Dan Lipinski, a blue-dog, anti-abortion Democrat who has represented Illinois’ 3rd District for more than a decade.
Newman’s rise ahead of the primary comes during a tumultuous and polarized time following President Donald Trump’s 2016 victory which led to the mobilization and a call to action for many – especially women.
The day after Trump’s inauguration, massive crowds took to the streets to partake in women’s marches to protest. Newman said that day “was really the first time I realized nobody is coming to save us.”
Newman recalled stepping off the train and seeing the streets lined with women and people coming together.
“I felt powerful and I felt everyone around me was powerful,” she said, describing it as a “congealing moment.”
Since announcing her campaign, Newman has received endorsements from liberal powerhouses, like Sens. Bernie Sanders and Kirsten Gillibrand. Newman also got the backing of sitting Illinois Reps. Jan Schakowsky and Luis Gutierrez, who broke the tradition of endorsing the incumbent.
Newman has garnered the support of several activist organizations that have formed a coalition to support her campaign, including NARAL Pro-Choice America, Planned Parenthood Action Fund, Human Rights Campaign, SEIU, MoveOn, and EMILY’s List. The groups have been working in the district since February and will have spent $1.6 million on broadcast & cable TV, mail, and digital ads by Election Day on March 20, according to Planned Parenthood Action Fund.
Their mission, they say, is to educate voters on Lipinski’s record, claiming it doesn’t align with the opinions of the district despite the fact he has held the seat since 2005. This includes his votes on abortion access, health care and immigration.
“These are really votes that cut to the heart of equality and people having opportunity,” said Kevin Griffis, vice president for communications for Planned Parenthood Federation of America.
Griffis described Lipinski’s votes as a “rubber stamp” for the Trump administration, which has taken several actions its first year to support the anti-abortion movement, including attempts to defund Planned Parenthood.
“We do not have to compromise on protecting women’s health to win back the House or Senate,” New York Sen. Gillibrand said in a statement.
“I am working hard to help recruit, support and mentor pro-choice women candidates all across the country. Marie Newman is an extraordinary fighter and she will be another vote for health care, for women, and for our LGBTQ friends and family. I am proud to support her so we can beat one of the most anti-LGBT members of the Democratic Party left in the House. And as a parent of a trans teen, she will never stop fighting for equality,” she continued.
Lipinski’s view on abortion strays from the Democratic National Committee platform.
“To guarantee that taxpayers are never forced to pay for abortions and the innocent unborn are protected, we must make the longstanding ban on federal funding for abortion permanent and government-wide,” Lipinski told CBS in 2010 when he co-sponsored legislation that was aimed at banning tax-payer funded abortions
Some Democrats, like Conor Lamb who claimed victory in the Pennsylvania special election last Tuesday, have been on the record personally opposed to abortion, but have said that doesn’t affect their policies.
In May 2017, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi broke with Democratic Party official Tom Perez, and told The Washington Post abortion should not be a deciding factor for Democratic candidates.
“Most of those people – my family, extended family – are not pro-choice. You think I’m kicking them out of the Democratic Party?” Pelosi said.
Pelosi said she was supporting Lipinski’s reelection in the primary when addressing reporters at her weekly briefing earlier this month.
Lipinski has also gained support from the anti-abortion group, Susan B. Anthony List, who tweeted support for the Democratic candidate and said they were canvassing for him.
“Our team of 70 canvassers is gathering for a morning briefing before we load up into vans and head out for our 3rd day visiting homes in #IL03 to urge Democrats to get out and vote for #ProLife Dan Lipinski in his primary!!” the group posted on Twitter on Saturday morning.
The Lipinski campaign did not respond to CNN’s interview request.
Mallory Quigley, the communications director for Susan B. Anthony List, was in the district on Saturday campaigning for Lipinski.
“The reason why we’re here is because he’s specifically being singled out by the party,” Quigley said.
“I think they’re still in the middle of an internal debate over the role that Planned Parenthood and abortion advocates ought to play,” Quigley later added.