You might have missed this piece of good news that broke last night, after days and days of bad: Marie Newman, a progressive insurgent challenger to one of the most conservative sitting House Democrats, won her race. Yes, she actually won! Take this tiny sliver of triumph and hold on to it, because Newman’s victory is something that will make a difference in the House once she likely takes office.
Newman’s win in the Chicago suburbs is a huge upset for Lipinski, who is part of a family dynasty that has held the seat in Illinois’s Third Congressional District for 40 years. Lipinski’s father had it for 23 years before his son was elected in 2005. Newman, a marketing consultant who started an anti-bullying nonprofit, first ran against him in the pink wave of 2018 and lost by only two points; this time, she beat Lipinski by that margin.
Lipinski’s ouster is a huge deal for progressive Democrats, who have fought to push out conservative lawmakers in the party, who consistently vote with the GOP. Lipinski’s policy positions are in many ways indistinguishable from those of many Republicans: He voted against the Affordable Care Act, declined to endorse former president Barack Obama in 2012, openly opposed same-sex marriage, has voted against the Dream Act, voted to approve the Keystone XL pipeline, and attacked Newman for supporting the Green New Deal.
But by far, some of his most vocal criticism comes from reproductive-rights groups; according to NARAL, which gave Lipinski a 0% voting record on abortion rights in 2018, he has sponsored 54 measures restricting reproductive freedom, and he signed on to an amicus brief in January that asked the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn Roe v. Wade. NARAL gave Newman a huge organizing push, as did climate change group Sunrise Movement and Justice Democrats, along with Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s newly organized PAC Courage to Change.
Newman’s win is a boon to grassroots progressives in Congress, many of whom won their own long-odds, insurgent races against moderate incumbents in 2018 and have pledged to make this kind of outcome the norm, not a fluke. Especially given that the coronavirus suddenly made Illinois’s primary voting enormously challenging in the last two weeks, with organizers having to switch to a nearly all-digital outreach, her win will rock the parts of the Democratic party that are holding back change. That’s a very good thing.