Conservative Democrat narrowly beats back progressive challenger in a bitter Illinois primary battle with national implications

Chip Somodevilla/Getty ImagesRep. Dan Lipinski
  • Democratic Rep. Dan Lipinski narrowly managed to beat back his progressive challenger in Illinois’ 3rd Congressional District on Tuesday with 50.9% of the vote.
  • Marie Newman, a first-time candidate, campaigned against Lipinski’s conservative social views and opposition to Obamacare, positions she argued were out of step with those of his constituents.
  • Lipinski’s win virtually guarantees him an eighth term in Congress.

Democratic Rep. Dan Lipinski managed to beat back his progressive challenger in Illinois’ 3rd Congressional District on Tuesday with 50.9% of the vote, virtually guaranteeing the conservative Lipinski an eighth term in Congress. The Associated Press called the primary for Lipinski with 97% of precincts reporting early Wednesday morning.

The competitive contest between Lipinski and Marie Newman, a first-time candidate who won 49.1% of the primary voters, became a flashpoint for simmering tensions between the national Democratic Party’s centrist and liberal wings, drawing months of national attention.

Lipinski, one of the most conservative Democrats in the House, is anti-abortion, voted against Obamacare, and is opposed to same-sex marriage, despite its legalization.

Newman, who had the backing of an array of national abortion-rights groups and two members of Illinois’ congressional delegation, campaigned heavily against her opponent’s voting record and promoted herself as a champion of “working families, healthcare for all, and everybody’s rights,” she told Business Insider last year.

“He’s radically conservative,” Newman said of Lipinski, who has voted with Trump 35% of the time.

The suburban Chicago district is solidly blue – Hillary Clinton won it by 15 points in the 2016 general election – and both Lipinski and Newman supported Bernie Sanders in the 2016 presidential primary.

And Newman argued that Lipinski’s positions on a host of issues put him at odds with the majority of his constituents.

But Lipinski, who hadn’t faced a serious challenge since he took his House seat over from his father in 2005, warned that candidates like Newman are creating a “Tea Party of the left” that is driving Democrats away from kitchen-table issues and uniting economic values.

“We need to have a big-tent party,” he said during a local radio interview this month. “We need to rally around those issues that can bring all Democrats together.”

Lipinski’s win is a blow to the anti-Trump resistance, which has been fuelled by energy from the party’s base, and it’s a relief for the dwindling Blue Dog Coalition of conservative House Democrats, which hopes to make a comeback this year.

Meanwhile, a Holocaust denier who the GOP has denounced as a Nazi won the Republican primary after running unopposed. And while Arthur Jones has no chance to win the general in the heavily Democratic district, he attracted outsize national media attention for his success in right-wing politics despite his radical views.

The Illinois Republican Party encouraged voters to skip over Jones’ name on their ballots on Tuesday.

“Arthur Jones is not a real Republican – he is a Nazi whose disgusting, bigoted views have no place in our nation’s discourse,” Tim Schneider, the state party chairman, said in a statement, adding that the party would put “real campaign dollars” into an independent candidate to challenge Jones in the general election.

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