Illinois Rep. Daniel Lipinski, a Blue Dog Democrat opposed to abortion rights, lost his bid for a ninth term Tuesday to challenger Marie Newman in a primary where voters were rattled by the coronavirus pandemic.
With 95 percent of precincts reporting, Newman was leading Lipinski, 48 percent to 44 percent, when The Associated Press called the race for the 3rd District.
The primary was a rematch of 2018 when Lipinski eked out a 2-point victory. This time, outside groups spent more money and got into the race earlier in the heavily Democratic district in suburban Chicago.
Lipinski, who has broken with his party on abortion as well as the 2010 health care overhaul, voted with his Democratic colleagues 95.9 percent of the time on votes that split the parties in 2019, according to CQ Vote Studies.
First elected in 2004 to fill the seat previously held by his father, Lipinski has a conservative voting record on abortion and on some defense matters, including in 2016 when he was one of only a dozen Democrats to vote for a bill prohibiting the transfer of any detainee at the Guantanamo prison in Cuba.
Newman, a former advertising agency executive and consultant, founded the nonprofit organization “Team Up To Stop Bullying.” During her campaign, she endorsed “Medicare for All” and has pledged to reject campaign donations from corporate PACs.
In 2004, Lipinski’s father, William, all but assured that his son would be his successor; the elder Lipinski filed to run for reelection that year, was unopposed in the Democratic primary, and then announced during the August recess that he would retire.
The younger Lipinski’s defeat this year came during an election filled with increasing fear over COVID-19, potentially limiting turnout for in-person voting. However, political insiders had predicted that strong turnout would boost Newman.
Matt Dietrich, a spokesman for the Illinois State Board of Elections, said it was not yet clear how much the coronavirus may have affected turnout Tuesday.
He said that going back to presidential primaries since 2000, the average of voter turnout has been about 33 percent. It was an unusually high 47 percent in 2016.
“It would surprise me if we even come close to making that 33 percent average,” he told CQ Roll Call on Tuesday about two hours before polls closed. Early voting and vote-by-mail rates were up this year, though, he said, noting that those numbers when tabulated “may help offset whatever drop-off we see on Election Day.”
Problems at polls
Concerns about the new coronavirus created problems at the polls, Jay Young, the executive director of Common Cause Illinois, said on a conference call with reporters. Some election judges failed to show up, he said.
“It’s been a hectic and trying day,” Young said. “We immediately began seeing problems.”
But despite the issues at the polls, Sylvia Albert, the director of voting and elections at Common Cause, said Tuesday’s elections were legitimate.
“This is not an ideal situation. I think everybody can agree on that,” she said. “But the people who were able to vote did vote.”
Outside money was a major factor in the Lipinski-Newman race, long before coronavirus dominated the primary.
Women Vote, a super PAC connected with Emily’s List, put about $1 million into the race. All told, outside groups, including abortion rights groups NARAL and Planned Parenthood, spent about $1.5 million.
Newman raised nearly $1.7 million to Lipinski’s $1.2 million. Another candidate, activist Rush Darwish, raised less than $1 million.
Newman secured the endorsement of Justice Democrats, a group that has spearheaded primary challenges to mainstream Democrats, such as New York’s Joseph Crowley, who was chairman of the House Democratic Caucus when he was upset in a 2018 primary by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Earlier this month, Jessica Cisneros, the group’s pick to oust Texas Rep. Henry Cuellar, was unsuccessful.
“This is a critical victory for the progressive movement in showing that voters are ready for a new generation of progressive leadership in the Democratic Party,” Alexandra Rojas, executive director of Justice Democrats, said in a statement.
In the state’s Senate race, former Lake County Sheriff Mark Curran won the GOP primary to face four-term Democratic incumbent Richard J. Durbin. Inside Elections with Nathan L. Gonzales rates the race Solid Democratic.
In the Chicago-area 1st District, 14-term Rep. Rep. Bobby L. Rush easily fended off a Democratic primary challenges from four candidates, including anti-gun violence activist Robert Emmons.
In the 15th District in Southern Illinois, Mary Miller, a social conservative who runs a family farm with her husband, won the Republican nomination for the seat of retiring GOP Rep. John Shimkus. She will be the heavy favorite in November against Erika Weaver, a local school board member who won a four-way Democratic primary. Inside Elections rates the general election Solid Republican.
In the 14th District in the Chicago suburbs and exurbs, Jim Oberweis declared victory in the Republican primary after finishing ahead of fellow state Sen. Sue Rezin and former Trump administration official Catalina Lauf, with 100 percent of precincts reporting. The AP had not yet called the race at press time. The winner will face freshman Democrat Lauren Underwood, who ran unopposed in her primary. Inside Elections rates the general election a Toss-up.
The coronavirus crisis also made for unusual personal voting circumstances for one candidate: Democrat Betsy Dirksen Londrigan, who is set for a rematch with four-term Republican incumbent Rodney Davis in the 13th District in Central Illinois.
Dirksen Londrigan announced Sunday that she was under a self-quarantine after her exposure to someone who tested positive for COVID-19. Election officials arranged for a ballot to be brought to her home and then delivered by a proxy to the county clerk’s office.
“Exercising one’s right to vote is of the utmost importance and that’s why I am so grateful to the Sangamon County Clerk’s office for making arrangements for those under self-quarantine to still exercise that right,” Dirksen Londrigan said in a statement.
Dirksen Londrigan defeated activist Stefanie Smith, 76 percent to 24 percent, in Tuesday’s Democratic primary. Davis, who defeated Dirksen Londrigan by less than 1 point in 2018, was unopposed on the GOP side. Inside Elections rates the general election a Toss-up.
Bridget Bowman contributed to this report.