The Human Rights Campaign and other progressive groups are going all in for Illinois congressional candidate Marie Newman, who’s opposing U.S. Rep. Dan Lipinski in the Democratic primary next Tuesday.
Lipinski, who holds the Chicago-area Third Congressional District seat long occupied by his father, William, is conservative as Democrats go — he was the only Democrat to cosponsor the First Amendment Defense Act in the previous session of Congress (a new version was just introduced). The legislation, characterized by its proponents as a measure to protect religious freedom, would allow for widespread discrimination against LGBT people and others who offend the religious beliefs of a business owner or other individual providing a service. He has also said he is personally opposed to marriage equality, although he recognizes it is the law of the land, and he is against abortion rights. Newman is pro-LGBT and pro-choice.
The HRC has invested $50,000 in an effort targeting Spanish-speaking voters with radio and TV ads as well as canvassing, in partnership with local groups. As part of the effort, a TV ad that started airing Wednesday (watch below) highlights Lipinski’s opposition to the DREAM Act, aimed at helping undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S. as children stay in the country.
In a Chicago Sun-Times interview of both candidates in January, Lipinski said he voted against the original DREAM Act, proposed when Barack Obama was president, because “at the time, I thought we should not just deal with one group of immigrants.” He said that is not his position now, and he would support legislation to preserve the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which includes many aspects of the DREAM Act and was established by Obama via executive order. Donald Trump has threatened to end the program unless Congress acts to save it. In the same interview, Newman said she supports a “clean” bill to preserve DACA, without funding for Trump’s proposed border wall, although she realizes Democrats may have to compromise.
In that interview Lipinski said he supported the First Amendment Defense Act because he was worried about churches losing their tax-exempt status (an unlikely scenario), while Newman characterized the bill as state-sanctioned discrimination. Lipinski said he supports marriage equality “because it has been declared the law of the land,” but added, “Personally, I don’t support it, but that doesn’t matter in how I vote.” On the Supreme Court case involving a Colorado baker who refused to provide a wedding cake for a same-sex couple, he said the court faces a “very difficult question,” while Newman said it was clear the baker had committed “horrific” discrimination.
Lipinski explained another time he broke with most Democrats – voting against the Affordable Care Act, a.k.a. Obamacare — by saying he hadn’t believed it would work. He said he has not joined in Republican efforts to repeal the law, however. Newman said she supports universal health insurance, which would go further than Obamacare; Lipinski said he doesn’t.
The Third District encompasses part of Chicago’s southwest side and several suburbs; the area has traditionally been solidly Democratic but more socially conservative than other portions of the region. Lipinski has the endorsement of some labor unions and both of Chicago’s daily papers, the Sun-Times and the Tribune. Newman has said the district has become more liberal in recent years, and the congressional representative should reflect that. She has the support of some other unions, Planned Parenthood Action Fund, EMILY’s List, MoveOn, and NARAL as well as HRC.
HRC’s investment in the effort to get Spanish-speaking voters to the polls Tuesday comes on top of more than $1.6 million it and other progressive groups have spent in the race to highlight Lipinski’s record. “With a score of 56 on HRC’s Congressional Scorecard, Lipinski has the shameful distinction of being the worst-scoring Democrat in the U.S. House and Senate,” notes an HRC blog post. The post also cites his opposition to reproductive rights, Obamacare, the DREAM Act, and raising the minimum wage.
Because the district is predominantly Democratic, it has sometimes been hard to find a Republican to run there. This year, the only Republican candidate in the primary is Arthur Jones, a racist, anti-Semitic, anti-LGBT Holocaust denier who has been repudiated by the party. Over the weekend, a Washington, D.C.-based centrist political group called No Labels, which is supporting Lipinski, apparently confused Newman with Jones, sending a text message to a district resident saying she is a Holocaust denier, reports local news site Patch.
Newman was outraged, issuing the following statement: “Dan Lipinski is playing politics with a tragedy in human history that cost the lives of millions -- and which deeply affects those of Jewish heritage, including my husband and his family. I did not think Dan Lipinski could stoop any lower than the dishonest machine campaign he has been running, but this is a new level of moral bankruptcy. He should issue a public apology immediately.”
Lipinski’s staff told Patch he was traveling and not available for comment, but Ryan Clancy, a spokesman for No Labels, told the site, “A volunteer must have confused Marie Newman with Arthur Jones and that is really all there is to say here. Any suggestion by the Newman campaign or anyone else that this is an organized campaign to defame her is complete nonsense.”