After a high-profile rematch in this year’s Democratic primary, Illinois’ 3rd District will soon, for the first time in nearly three decades, be represented by someone whose last name isn’t Lipinski.
Democrat Marie Newman is likely to cruise to victory over Republican Mike Fricilone in the district, which includes Chicago’s Southwest Side and surrounding suburbs, after Newman defeated eight-term incumbent Rep. Dan Lipinski in the March primary.
That primary fight was a rematch of their 2018 battle in which Lipinski staved off Newman’s challenge by 2 points, a total of 2,145 votes separating the two. Both the 2018 primary and the 2020 rematch garnered national attention, pitting centrist and progressive voters against one another in what some saw as a fight for the soul of the Democratic Party.
In their second election cycle, Lipinski and Newman’s campaigns each spent well over $1 million leading up to the 2020 primary, not including money spent by outside groups. Ultimately, Newman earned roughly 2,800 more votes than Lipinski in the primary, with two other candidates in the race.
Lipinski took the seat over in 2005 in a sort of political musical chairs when his father – who had a vote in the local party leaders’ choice for his replacement – stepped down after winning the 2004 Democratic primary, allowing his son to sidestep that electoral fight to get on the ballot. Lipinski had long been one of the most conservative Congressional Democrats, who voted against the Affordable Care Act and was one of the last remaining anti-abortion Democrats in the House.
Newman is a marketing consultant and anti-bullying advocate who challenged Lipinski from the left by centering her campaign on policies like Medicare For All, a wealth tax, universal child care and more – earning endorsements in the primary from progressive Democrats like Sens. Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, as well as Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, among others.
Now, she’s all but guaranteed a victory in the Democratic stronghold over Fricilone, who is the executive sales director of an office furniture dealer and a member of the Will County Board since 2012.
Fricilone defeated Holocaust denier Art Jones in the Republican primary, denying the white supremacist a chance to again appear on the November ballot as he did in 2018 for the same office, which he’d run for six times before without making it to the general election.
Fricilone touts his fiscal conservatism and in the run-up to the general election has focused his message on painting Newman as a “socialist” whose policy proposals “don’t reflect the mainstream” views of the district. He praises Lipinski but often aligns Newman with figures like Sanders and Ocasio-Cortez, tweeting that her agenda is “stolen from the most extreme members of the progressive left.”
Lipinski was a conservative Democrat with high name recognition who was backed by powerful labor unions and was one of the few remaining products of the so-called Chicago “machine,” while Newman is part of a wave of progressive candidates challenging incumbents across the country.
So will she ride the seemingly likely Democratic wave to improve on Lipinski’s margins of victory, or run behind him in a district that is accustomed to sending a conservative Democrat back to Washington? Lipinski beat Jones by 47 points in a blowout in 2018 – though nearly 60,000 people still cast their ballots for the former leader of the American Nazi Party – but will Fricilone’s attacks and seemingly more traditional Republican platform draw in more support to make a dent in that margin of victory?
It will be revealing to see if she runs ahead or behind Joe Biden, the Democratic presidential nominee who won a bruising primary over several more left-leaning candidates, and avoids even mentioning the Green New Deal or Medicare for All, both progressive proposals that Newman supports.
And if Newman wins as expected, will she continue to back those proposals or move closer to the center? Will she raise her profile in the progressive wing of the party like Ocasio-Cortez, or be more content with sidestepping the national spotlight? What she does could impact her chances of drawing a primary challenge in the next cycle – and may be instructive in understanding how the Democratic Party wrestles with itself moving forward.