West Elsdon, Ill. — In a little neighborhood near Midway airport — with “Proud Union Home” signs scattered across tiny front yards — canvassers spread out to talk to voters about Dan Lipinski, a pro-life, Democratic congressman running in a close primary against progressive challenger Marie Newman.
The race, which will be settled at the ballot box on Tuesday, has captured the attention of the nation largely because Newman’s campaign has been fueled primarily by prominent abortion-rights groups such as NARAL and Planned Parenthood, both of which have long opposed Lipinski for his consistently pro-life voting record. Newman, in contrast, supports taxpayer funding for abortion and opposes placing any restrictions on abortion procedures.
In the final push to turn out voters, Lipinski has gained somewhat unexpected allies: volunteers from the Susan B. Anthony List, a pro-life organization that played a crucial role in turning out swing-state voters for Donald Trump in the 2016 presidential election. Lipinski’s race is the first time that SBA List has canvassed for a Democratic candidate, though the group has supported pro-life Democrats in the past.
Seventy canvassers — nearly all of whom are undergraduate students from the University of Notre Dame, Franciscan University in Steubenville, and Cedarville University — have knocked on about 23,000 doors in the district since Thursday, and they hope to reach another 5,000 before the weekend’s over.
These canvassers don’t discriminate based on political party. Several of the Notre Dame students in the district this weekend are members of College Republicans, and one even serves as the club’s representative for the entire freshman class. Even so, they sacrificed the latter half of their spring break to get out the vote for Lipinski, because they’re determined to maintain the possibility that pro-life beliefs can exist within the Democratic party.
Working off of SBA List models, the canvassers have reached out to moderate Democrats across the entire district — which spans much of Chicago’s southwest suburbs — targeting voters who have turned out in Democratic primaries and who are predicted to oppose taxpayer-funded abortion.
At one house in the West Elsdon neighborhood — which had long been a Polish neighborhood but which is slowly transitioning into an area with many Hispanic-immigrant residents — an older woman opened the door and was unable to answer the survey questions in English. Seamlessly, the young Notre Dame freshman slipped into Spanish and finished the conversation, eventually finding out that the woman was indeed pro-life.
Another student said she had spoken with a mother of five adopted kids, one of whom had almost been aborted before being given up for adoption. Though the mother said she was very pro-life, she was unaware of the huge difference between Lipinski and Newman’s positions on the issue. After speaking with the student, she decided to vote for Lipinski based on his pro-life position.
Mallory Quigley, communications director for SBA List, describes this primary race as “a battle for the heart and soul of the Democratic party.” Though Lipinski is a Blue Dog Democrat and hews closer to the center on issues other than abortion as well, his stalwart pro-life views are the foremost reason that he attracted such a progressive primary challenger.
“Marie Newman made this race about abortion,” Quigley adds. “NARAL and Planned Parenthood have a death grip on the Democratic party, and it’s getting stronger.”
To make that death grip complete, abortion-rights groups and their political allies must oust any Democrat who doesn’t fall in with their agenda, and Dan Lipinski is at the top of their list. But, as SBA List canvassers have discovered this weekend when talking to moderate voters, many Democrats don’t share Newman’s support for liberal abortion laws.
If those voters turn out for Lipinski on Tuesday, it will be a huge win for the pro-life movement, which is premised in large part on the fundamental notion that protecting innocent life in the womb need not be matter of partisan politics.