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Anti-LGBT Democratic Congressman Bests Progressive Challenger in Illinois

Marie Newman and Dan Lipinski
Marie Newman and Dan Lipinski

Dan Lipinski was declared winner of the Democratic primary in the Third Congressional District shortly after midnight.


Conservative Democrat Dan Lipinski, who has taken many anti-LGBT positions, narrowly won his primary against progressive challenger Marie Newman, assuring him of another term in a heavily Democratic Chicago-area district.

The Associated Press called the Illinois Third Congressional District race for Lipinski shortly after midnight Wednesday. With 97 percent of precincts reporting, Lipinski led Newman by just 1,599 votes, 50.9 percent to 49.1 percent, the Chicago Sun-Times reports.

At the time, there were no victory or concession statements from the candidates. Tuesday evening, Newman said she "would like Mr. Lipinski to have a very painful evening," according to the Chicago Tribune, and Lipinski said the situation looked good for him, but he told supporters he wouldn't yet declare victory because he was being "careful." Newman also sent an email to supporters saying they may wake up in "recount mode," the AP reports, but Illinois election rules make it hard to get a recount.

Wednesday morning, Newman did issue a concession statement. "After reviewing the results, we know that we lost by a thin margin," she said, according to Reuters. She added, "I plan on continuing to hold [Lipinski] accountable so that every person in our district has access, opportunity, and equal rights."

The race drew national attention, with groups such as the Human Rights Campaign and Planned Parenthood Action Fund strongly supporting Newman, who has been active in antibullying work and takes a progressive stance on LGBT issues and reproductive rights, in stark contrast to Lipinski, one of the most conservative members of his party. He voted against the Affordable Care Act and the DREAM Act, opposes abortion rights and marriage equality, and in the last session of Congress was the only Democrat to cosponsor the First Amendment Defense Act, which 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. (A new version of the act was just introduced.)

HRC released a statement Wednesday morning calling the election a "wake-up call" for Lipinski. "This should be a wake-up call to Dan Lipinski," said JoDee Winterhof, HRC senior vice president for policy and political affairs. "A politician who has fought against the rights of LGBTQ people, women, and immigrants for more than a decade in Congress went from a 24-point lead to barely holding on to his job. Now, our task is to continue holding him accountable. The people of Illinois want and deserve a representative in Congress who will stand up for their fundamental rights -- not undermine them and rubber-stamp the Trump-Pence agenda. If Dan Lipinski continues down the wrong path, he will not get a second chance the next time his constituents head into the voting booth."

The Third District includes much of the southwest side of Chicago and neighboring suburbs, an area that is solidly Democratic but has historically been more socially conservative than other parts of the region. Lipinski, a former political science professor, has held the seat for seven terms, succeeding his father, William. The district is so Democratic, it has sometimes been hard to find a Republican to run there. This year, the only candidate in the Republican primary was Arthur Jones, a racist, anti-Semitic, anti-LGBT Holocaust denier who has been repudiated by the party. Lipinski is expected to defeat him handily in November's general election.

In Tuesday's Illinois primary, there were several other races of interest to LGBT people. Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner, who has sparred with Democratic legislators over budget issues, won his primary over challenger Jeanne Ives, a far-right state representative who sought to portray Rauner as insufficiently conservative. Ives's campaign included the airing of a virulently transphobic, racist, and sexist television ad, painting transgender people as restroom predators. J.B. Pritzker, a businessman and philanthropist whose family is known for the Hyatt hotel chain, will be the Democratic candidate against Rauner in November. Pritzker's main competitors in the primary were another businessman, Chris Kennedy (a son of Robert F. Kennedy), and state Sen. Daniel Biss.

Erika Harold, who reportedly once said it would be better to place foster children with child abusers than with gay people, easily won the Republican nomination for Illinois attorney general over Gary Grasso. A Chicago TV station reported that Harold made the comment when answering questions during the Miss Illinois pageant in 2000, but a spokesman for her campaign said she "does not recall the alleged exchange" and that her current position is gay-supportive. She will face Democrat Kwame Raoul in November.

Lamont Robinson, who is gay and African-American, won the Democratic nomination for state representative from the Fifth District, which includes parts of downtown Chicago and the city's south side. He bested three other candidates and has no Republican opponent in the general election, positioning him to become the first out person of color in the Illinois legislature. Cecelia Horan, a lesbian who was appointed to a judgeship last year in Cook County, which includes Chicago, to fill a vacancy, won the Democratic nomination for a six-year judicial term over challenger Keith L. Spence. She also has no Republican opponent in the general election. Both Robinson and Horan were endorsed by Victory Fund.

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