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Lipinski edges out Newman in 3rd Congressional District nail-biter

Democratic primary challenger Marie Newman (left) and U.S. Rep Dan Lipinski (3rd). | Sun-Times file photos

In one of the more closely watched congressional races in Illinois – and the nation – U.S. Rep. Dan Lipinski squeaked out a victory Tuesday against so-called “anti-Machine” Democratic primary challenger Marie Newman.

Newman urged voters to “Dump Dan,” accusing him of being out of touch and too conservative for the Southwest Side and west suburban 3rd Congressional District.

The race had been too close to call all evening, with neither candidate conceding nor declaring victory.

But the Associated Press called it for Lipinski at 12:18 a.m. Wednesday.

Lipinski had 50.9 percent to Newman’s 49.1 percent, with 97 percent of precincts reporting.

Just 1,599 votes separated the two.

Lipinski late Tuesday night said in an interview “things are looking really good.” But he added he wasn’t ready to declare victory.

Newman refused to concede Tuesday night and scheduled a news conference for Wednesday morning.

Assuming Lipinski’s victory holds, he will face a controversial Republican nominee in November: Arthur Jones, who the Chicago Sun-Times has previously identified as a Holocaust denier, an anti-Semite and a white supremacist, and whom, the Illinois Republican Party has disavowed.

Jones ran unopposed in his primary, and despite the urging of GOP officials not to vote for him, he still secured more than 19,000 votes.

Jones’ background – and the Democratic leanings of the 3rd Congressional District, which includes parts of Chicago’s South and Southwest sides and the southwest and west suburbs – virtually guarantees the Democrat a win. For Lipinski, that’d be an eighth two-year term.

The state GOP is still trying to find someone to get on the ballot as an independent.

Newman gave Lipinski perhaps his biggest electoral scare since he was first elected in 2004.

In the 2016 primary, Lipinski was alone on the ballot.

Tuesday’s primary was no such cakewalk.

For a relative unknown, Newman, 53, was able to raise big money, with her campaign spending around $1.4 million and outside groups dedicating about the same. She hit the 51-year-old Lipinski hard in mailings, on TV and on the stump, zeroing in on his relatively conservative credentials and tying him to the old guard of the party.

That includes Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan, who doubles as the head of the Illinois Democratic Party and has been accused of not doing enough to deal with sexual misconduct in his political ranks.

Madigan is a Lipinski backer and was a close ally of Lipinski’s father, William Lipinski, a former congressman who helped his son replace him in Congress when he decided to retire.

During the current campaign, Newman, a former marketing consultant from La Grange, was among those to call on Madigan to resign as party chairman, which he has refused to do.

Lipinski, a former college professor from Western Springs, was also criticized in the campaign for his opposition to abortion – except when the life of the mother is at stake – as well as his votes against President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act and the pro-immigrant DREAM Act, even with his district about a third Latino.

In one mailer from Newman’s campaign, she urged voters to turn out “for the real Democrat,” and her campaign has suggested Lipinski is really more of a Republican with no business in the Democratic Party – especially in the Trump era.

She secured endorsements from liberal champions such as U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders.

Lipinski, whose campaign spent more than $800,000 on TV ads, portrayed himself as a champion of job creation, sticking up for the middle class populating his district. And he hit back at Newman, capitalizing on a Chicago Tribune story that showed Newman was once in the restaurant business with a convicted felon.