One of the last remaining Democrats with an anti-LGBT record narrowly clung to his seat Tuesday night when the smoke cleared after a primary battle against an opponent backed by progressive groups.
Rep. Dan Lipinski (D-Ill.) was declared the winner early Wednesday morning against challenger Marie Newman, according to the election results from the Chicago Sun-Times,. With 483 of 500 precincts reporting, Lipinksi claimed 50.9 percent of the vote compared to the 49.1 percent won by Newman.
Lipinski hung on to his seat even though a coalition of progressive groups led by the Human Rights Campaign spent nearly more than $1.6 million in an independent expenditure campaign to unseat him. Joining HRC were NARAL Pro-Choice America, SEIU, MoveOn, Planned Parenthood Action Fund and EMILY’s List.
JoDee Winterhof, vice president for policy and political affairs, said in a statement even though Lipinski won the primary, his narrow victory should “be a wake up call.”
“A politician who has fought against the rights of LGBTQ people, women, and immigrants for more than a decade in Congress went from a 24-point lead to barely holding on to his job,” Winterhof said. “Now, our task is to continue holding him accountable. The people of Illinois want and deserve a representative in Congress who will stand up for their fundamental rights — not undermine them and rubber stamp the Trump-Pence agenda. If Dan Lipinski continues down the wrong path, he will not get a second chance the next time his constituents head into the voting booth.”
In contrast to progressive groups, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), however, backed Lipinski in the primary on the basis of his incumbent status.
Lipinski’s anti-LGBT goes back to his first term in Congress in 2006 when he voted “present” on a U.S. constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage came to the House floor. In the subsequent Congress after Democrats took control, Lipinski in 2007 voted against a version of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act.
In the previous Congress, Lipinski was also the only Democratic co-sponsor of the First Amendment Defense Act, which seeks to “protect” opponents of same-sex marriage from government action, but was seen to enable anti-LGBT discrimination in the name of “religious freedom.” Trump has pledged the sign the legislation if it reaches his desk.
The incident most revealing of Lipinski’s anti-LGBT views was a 2014 campaign mailer to his constituents organized by the anti-LGBT Illinois Family Institute. That flyer indicated Lipinski backed a U.S. constitutional amendment against same-sex marriage, supported a measure that would have prohibited the U.S. Justice Department from undermining the Defense of Marriage Act; and backed a conscience clause in major defense spending legislation seen to enable anti-LGBT harassment of service members.
Contrary to the position of many progressives, Lipinski has also expressed views against the Affordable Care Act, abortion rights and the DREAM Act, which aims to ensure young, undocumented immigrants can remain in the United States.
Despite his anti-LGBT actions, it should be noted Lipinski’s record isn’t entirely hostile. The lawmaker has voted in favor of federal hate crimes protection legislation for LGBT people and in favor of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repeal.
More recently, Lipinski voted with Democrats to uphold President Obama’s executive order barring anti-LGBT workplace discrimination among federal contractors and, just last year, to maintain payments for gender reassignment surgery as part of the U.S. military’s health care system.
Nathan Gonzalez, editor of the D.C.-based Inside Elections, said the progressive coalition that sought to unseat Lipinski had impressive results even the groups behind ultimately failed to unseat him.
“It’s extremely difficult to defeat incumbents in this country, particularly in a primary and particularly one without legal troubles,”Gonzalez said. “Even though the congressman’s critics fell short, I think it could embolden the progressive movement to challenge Lipinski again and reach into other races around the country.”
Lipinski is almost assured victory in the general election as he seeks re-election in Illinois’s progressive 3rd congressional district. His Republican opponent is Arthur Jones, a Holocaust denier and former member of the American Nazi Party who claimed the nomination after he ran uncontested in the Republican primary.