Gillibrand and top liberal groups are throwing their weight behind an Illinois woman challenging a 'radically conservative' House Democrat

  • Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, a New York Democrat and 2020 frontrunner, waded into a congressional fight between two Democrats earlier this month.
  • Gillibrand’s endorsement of Marie Newman, who is challenging a “blue dog” incumbent in Illinois, was followed by endorsements from several prominent liberal groups this week .
  • The race is one of just a handful on the federal level in which a progressive candidate is challenging a more conservative Democratic incumbent.

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, a New York Democrat and 2020 frontrunner, and top Democratic groups waded into a congressional fight between two Democrats, endorsing a progressive woman challenging one of the most conservative Democrats in the House.

Using her women-focused political action committee, Off the Sidelines, Gillibrand threw her support behind Marie Newman, a former marketing consultant and founder of an anti-bullying nonprofit, in her race against Rep. Dan Lipinski, the 12-year incumbent in Illinois’ third congressional district.

In a statement, Gillibrand said that Newman will be “another vote for health care, for women, and for our LGBTQ friends and family” and highlighted Lipinski’s conservative stances on social issues.

Following the senator’s lead, a group of five prominent progressive organisations, including NARAL, an abortion rights group, and the Human Rights Campaign, an LGBTQ rights group, endorsed Newman on Monday.

“Illinois voters deserve a Democratic congressional delegation that is as unflinchingly committed to fighting for abortion rights and LGBT equality as they are to standing up to any other racial and economic injustice,” Charles Chamberlain, executive director of Democracy for America, said in a statement. “Congressman Dan Lipinski’s backward, right-wing ideology is profoundly out of step with a twenty-first century Democratic Party and we can’t wait to see him replaced by Marie Newman in the U.S. House.”

The national support for Newman’s candidacy is notable as the race is one of just a handful on the federal level in which an incumbent Democrat is facing a serious primary challenge.

Running on a platform of “working families, healthcare for all, and everybody’s rights,” Newman told Business Insider, the self-described “suburban mother” is part of a wave of first-time women candidates running for local and statewide office on the Democratic ticket in 2018.

‘Dump Dan’

Remarkably right-leaning for his Chicago-area district, which Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton won last November by 15 points, Lipinski has supported defunding Planned Parenthood, voted against Obamacare, and is opposed to gay marriage, despite its legalization.

During a recent town hall, the congressman, who describes himself as a “pragmatic Democrat” and supported Sen. Bernie Sanders in the 2016 primary, predicted that President Donald Trump will be “the champion of immigration reform.” But he seemed to recognise how out of sync his thinking is with that of his constituents, adding, “most people think I’m crazy when I say that.”

Newman is campaigning heavily against Lipinski’s record, introducing her candidacy with a video that features the slogans “Dump Dan,” “Ditch Dan,” and “Done with Dan” all within the first 12 seconds.

Daily Kos, a liberal online forum,endorsed Newman in June, citing “many, many terrible things” in Lipinski’s “long and miserable record” and calling Newman “exactly the progressive we’re looking for.”

Support from Gillibrand’s PAC and other powerful national groups will be key for Newman, who is up against the Illinois political establishment, which backs Lipinski. And while the congressman went unchallenged in the last two elections, he has successfully defeated a primary challenger before.

With her campaign’s help, Newman said that her district, which includes parts of Chicago, the city’s south and southwestern suburbs, and some rural communities, is “waking up to realising that this guy is beyond conservative.”

“He’s radically conservative,” she said. “He’s hidden all of his views.”

“Nobody has known his record because it’s largely indiscernible,” Newman said, adding that Lipinski’s constituents “literally have not had any voice for 12 years.”

Newman said that her focus is on bringing jobs to her district, expanding access to healthcare, and protecting individual rights.

“I believe that healthcare is a right and my opponent believes that it is a privilege,” she said, “and it’s as simple as that.”

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