Pro-life Democrat Dan Lipinski snatched a narrow victory on Tuesday over newcomer progressive Marie Newman in the Chicago-area House district he has held since 2004.
The incumbent candidate led by less than two percentage points with 97 percent of precincts reporting when the race was called by the Associate Press.
Newman, who argued that Lipinski’s views are out of date, garnered powerful professional allies, including Senator Bernie Sanders (I., Vt.), who is popular in the district. Planned Parenthood, NARAL Pro-Choice America, the Human Rights Campaign, EMILY’s List, MoveOn.org, and former Obama adviser David Axelrod also lent their support.
She conceded the race on Wednesday, but told her supporters Tuesday evening that she wanted Lipinski to have a “very painful evening,” and “there’s a good chance we wake up in recount mode.”
The race was seen as a test for Democrats for whether pro-life candidates are still welcome in the party. Lipinski is anti-abortion and also voted against same-sex marriage and Obamacare, moves that his opponent said make him not a “true Democrat.” He refused to endorse Barack Obama for re-election in 2012.
Many in his own party have blasted his views, calling him “one of the worst.” Even the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee did not endorse him in his primary contest.
“Dan Lipinski may have a D next to his name — but he doesn’t have true Democratic values,” said NARAL president Ilyse Hogue. “He’s consistently undermined the rights of women, immigrants, and the LGBTQ community.”
However, Lipinski is well-known in his district and supported by many labor groups, including the Illinois AFL-CIO.
“Compromise is essential to getting things done,” he said last week. “And the party and the country cannot afford a Tea Party of the left.”
“We have a long way to go, and it’s certainly not the time to be pushing people out of the party, telling people they’re not welcome,” Lipinski told CNN on Monday. “That was one of the problems — it’s why Donald Trump got elected in the first place, because Hillary Clinton was not being seen by some people in the Midwest as fighting for working-class men and women.”
“If it means that you have to support abortion to be a Democrat, a lot of people will walk away,” said Kristen Day, executive director of Democrats For Life.
Lipinski does not face much competition in the general election, as the candidate running on the Republican side of the ballot is the former head of the American Nazi Party and has been disowned by his own party.