Correction: This story has been updated to accurately reflect Lipinski's time served in Congress.
Illinois Rep. Dan Lipinski is an endangered species.
Out of place in today’s Democratic Party and in his own diversifying district on a host of issues including abortion, the seven-term congressman is fighting for survival in Tuesday’s primary election.
His conservative stances have made him the target of progressive activists who are fighting to purge the party of what they see as views that are anathema to its energized base during an election cycle that features more women running for office than ever before.
These activists, including groups like Planned Parenthood, NARAL Pro-Choice America and EMILY’s List, are backing Marie Newman in a contest that has put a Democratic incumbent in serious jeopardy of being ousted by his own party for the first time since President Donald Trump took office.
It’s turned Tuesday’s contest into a both a purity test on the race’s central issue – abortion – and a gauge of whether “Blue Dogs” have a future in Democratic politics beyond upset victories in red districts.
Campaigning at a Metra train station in a suburb outside of Chicago Monday morning, Lipinski stopped to chat as he passed out literature and shook the hands of commuters.
“We have to be an inclusive, big-tent party,” Lipinski said.
In Lipinski’s view, Democrats lost their way in the Obama years. The party focused far too much on identity politics in the 2016 presidential election, he says, alienating dissenters on social issues and losing focus of the economy.
He pointed to Democrats’ loss of hundreds of state legislative seats during Obama’s presidency.
“We have a long way to go, and it’s certainly not the time to be pushing people out of the party, telling people they’re not welcome,” Lipinski said. “That was one of the problems – it’s why Donald Trump got elected in the first place, because Hillary Clinton was not being seen by some people in the Midwest as fighting for working-class men and women.”
But that’s exactly what has been happening here in Illinois’$2 3rd Congressional District.
The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, which typically protects incumbents, has sat his race out.
Former aides to President Barack Obama, still incensed that Lipinski voted against the Affordable Care Act due to its mandate that organizations offer health insurance that covers contraceptives, convened a press conference last week to settle the score.
Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders rallied his political organization to Newman’s cause, and two Illinois Democrats, Reps. Jan Schakowsky and Luis Gutierrez, took the rare step of endorsing a home-state incumbent’s primary opponent.
Democrats’ two biggest wins in Trump country, Doug Jones’ victory in the Alabama Senate special election in December and Lamb’s win in the Pennsylvania congressional race last week, saw candidates who staked out centrist positions that broke from the more progressive wings of the national party.
“I think the fact that Conor Lamb won does show that we need to have candidates that fit the district. It’s