WASHINGTON — Anti-abortion rights Democratic Rep. Dan Lipinski was ousted Tuesday night by progressive challenger Marie Newman in a high-profile primary in Illinois, giving liberals a glimmer of hope in what otherwise has been a dispiriting election year for them.
Lipinski had successfully fought back numerous challenges on his left flank, including one from Newman in 2018. But he finally succumbed Tuesday when The Associated Press called the rematch for Newman, who garnered 47 percent of the vote to Lipinski's 45 percent, with two lesser-known candidates splitting the rest.
Lipinski, who in 2005 inherited his Chicago-area seat from his father, longtime former Rep. Bill Lipinski, has drawn the ire of a wide range of progressive groups for his votes and policy statements on abortion, health care and other issues.
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I am bursting with pride and gratitude for the amazing coalition that helped bring about much needed change in our district. We are going to work together to lower health care costs, to fight climate change, and to build an economy that works for everyone. #NewDayInIL03#IL03
That includes groups not known for rocking the boat too much in intraparty fights, such as the Sierra Club and Emily's List, which joined with left-wing activists like the Justice Democrats to help topple the lawmaker. That group recruited Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., in supporting Newman.
A long list of prominent lawmakers also backed Newman, including Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass.,and Rep. Jan Schakowsky, D-Ill. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, however, maintained its support for Lipinski.
Lipinski, who had for months treated the threat cavalierly in public statements, was not ready to concede the race late Tuesday night.
"As we close this evening, there are still votes to be counted in this race. It is very close. We may have to wait overnight or into the morning for the final vote count," he said in a statement to supporters provided by a spokesperson.
For the progressive movement, the outcome is a much-needed victory in what has otherwise been a disappointing election cycle so far.
The movement headed into 2020 with the wind at its back and thinking Sanders or Warren might capture the Democratic nomination and the White House. But Democratic voters' fear of Presidential Donald Trump and emphasis on electability put them in no mood to "dream big, fight hard," as Warren’s slogan demanded, and they instead appear to have rallied behind former Vice President Joe Biden, who easily carried Illinois on Tuesday.
"Marie Newman's primary win tonight is a tremendous victory for progressives and everyone who believes the Democratic Party should be unequivocal in its support for abortion rights, LGBTQ equality and the fight for economic justice," Yvette Simpson, CEO of the liberal group Democracy for America, said. "We can't wait to fight alongside her for "Medicare for All," a Green New Deal, and robust criminal justice reform through November and beyond."
Alex Seitz-Wald is senior digital politics reporter for NBC News.