WASHINGTON — In an election marked by low turnout and lack of basic voting supplies because of coronavirus concerns, Marie Newman, a progressive, pro-abortion rights challenger to incumbent Democratic Rep. Dan Lipinski has won the Democratic primary in Illinois’s 3rd Congressional District.
It’s a major victory for the progressive movement, and an especially welcome one after a disappointing loss in Texas earlier this month, where Jessica Cisneros fell short in her primary challenge against incumbent Democratic Rep. Henry Cuellar, another anti-abortion moderate Democrat.
Decision Desk HQ called the race for Newman Tuesday night just after 10 p.m.; she led Lipinski, 47% to 44%, with 68% of precincts reporting.
Last week, ahead of the election, Illinois officials told BuzzFeed News they planned to go forward with voting without any adjustments or changes.
Later, they joined with officials from Arizona, Ohio, and Florida — all of which had primaries scheduled for Tuesday — to release a statement saying that they were “working closely with our state health officials to ensure that our poll workers and voters can be confident that voting is safe.”
"Unlike concerts, sporting events or other mass gatherings where large groups of people travel long distances to congregate in a confined space for an extended period of time, polling locations see people from a nearby community coming into and out of the building for a short duration," the release said. (Ohio’s governor later decided to close the polls Tuesday due to the coronavirus.)
But voting Tuesday in Illinois was nothing short of disastrous. Voters and poll workers in the state told BuzzFeed News that many polling places didn’t have any hand sanitizer, or that if they did, it was only because poll workers brought bottles in themselves.
One worker said she had to turn away dozens of people because she hadn’t received voting supplies from the state, and another voter, Matt Lindner, reported having been turned away when he went to vote.
“A functioning democracy should not have this,” Lindner said.
Newman ran in 2018 as well and lost by just two points. This cycle, she was backed by Planned Parenthood, NARAL, Emily’s List, and Justice Democrats, the progressive group that helped Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez beat former Rep. Joe Crowley in 2018. Newman also secured endorsements from Sen. Bernie Sanders and Ocasio-Cortez herself.
Lipinski is one of the most conservative Democrats left in the House and is known nationally for his staunch anti-abortion beliefs. He has a failing grade of just 25% from Planned Parenthood and, in January, signed on to an amicus brief pushing the Supreme Court to overturn Roe v. Wade.
Newman’s campaign was buoyed by the swath of anti-abortion legislation signed into law in states across the country last summer that led to protests nationwide and donations to her campaign. In an interview with BuzzFeed News last May, she called Lipinski anti-worker, anti-woman, and anti–middle class.
“He is no better than many of the Republicans out there,” she said. “He is so one-issue focused [on anti-abortion issues], it affects all of his decision-making. He’s preoccupied night and day by it.”
Lipinski was supported by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, the party’s official House campaign arm. The DCCC also blacklisted all organizations working with primary challengers last year, which Newman said resulted in her campaign losing several consultants.
The race became the subject of national attention last spring as well, when Rep. Cheri Bustos, the head of the DCCC, scheduled and then canceled a fundraiser for Lipsinki after activist outcry. “Every dollar spent trying to defeat one of our Democratic incumbents is a dollar that we cannot spend defeating Republicans,” Bustos said in a statement when she canceled the event.