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3 big takeaways from the Illinois primary

Marie Newman and Rep. Dan Lipinski, D-Ill. | File photos

A major secretive financial backer of Rep. Dan Lipinski came out of the closet on Wednesday to brag about his Democratic primary victory, razor thin as it was over political newcomer Marie Newman.

Lipinski survived with 51 percent of the vote to Newman’s 49 percent in the city/suburban 3rd Congressional District.

About 2,000 votes made the difference.


Lipinski’s district includes a cluster of Southwest Side Chicago wards and they provided his margin of victory. In the Chicago precincts Lipinski beat Newman 56.47 percent to 43.53 percent — or 21,846 votes to 16,839 votes.

Both Newman and Lipinski received major financial help from outside federal super PACS, with the names of the super PACS organizations not making it obvious who the ringleaders were in organizing the fundraising for the independent expenditures.

The pro-Lipinski super PAC was United for Progress Inc., and if the name meant nothing to voters, well, that’s what the folks behind it wanted.

My March 12 column revealed United for Progress Inc. was a front for No Labels, the organization in Washington D.C. that advocates bipartisanship in Congress.

No Labels spent about $1 million to elect Lipinski.

Before the Tuesday Illinois primary, No Labels refused to discuss the network of super PACS they created to influence elections. That kind of secrecy when it comes to fully identifying the interest groups behind political money — it came from a so-called “good government” group. Very disappointing.

That was before the win.

Money flowed into 3rd district primary race

No Labels came out of the shadows on Wednesday. “Lipinski would not and could have prevailed without the seven-figure investment made by No Labels,” the No Labels group said in a statement.

I asked No Labels spokesman Ryan Clancy on Wednesday why all the secrecy, since just a few days ago they refused to acknowledge they were players.

There was “really no advantage for us” to be public, Clancy told me.

The pro-Newman Campaign for a Better Illinois spent about $1.6 million. They were public about how NARAL Pro-Choice America put together the coalition and named the groups involved. Candor counts when it comes to who is injecting money into our politics.

Newman and her progressive allies are not going anywhere.

This was a battle for the soul of the Democratic party. The longer term outcome: still to be determined.

We know this: The vote shows that Lipinski, one of the most right-of-center anti-abortion Democrats in Congress, got the biggest challenge of his political career.

Lipinski moved on immigration and the minimum wage under pressure from Newman. Newman and her progressive allies have put Lipinski on notice.

The irony: Lipinski may not be in as much of a bipartisan mood after this close call. Those city wards are changing, and not in Lipinski’s favor.

GOP on the spot in the 3rd

Lipinski’s primary win means he will get another term in November since the district is so Democratic. However, Republicans have a Holocaust denier, white supremacist, anti-Semite as their nominee since Arthur Jones was the only Republican on the ballot.

Arthur Jones is a Republican candidate on the primary ballot for the 3rd Congressional District. | Marcus DiPaola/Sun-Times
Arthur Jones is the Republican running the 3rd Congressional District. | Marcus DiPaola/Sun-Times

Will the state Republican Party come up with a write-in contender or muster an independent?

Republican Jewish Coalition National Chairman Norm Coleman said in a statement Wednesday: “It is a disgrace that he has won the Republican nomination in IL-03. Like the RNC and the Illinois GOP, the RJC has flat out rejected Arthur Jones. Jones does not represent Republican values, and he doesn’t deserve to have an “R” after his name on the ballot. The GOP didn’t invite Jones into the party, the only mistake was not running a candidate in an uncompetitive, safe-Democrat district.”

An alternative to Madigan

Rep. Robin Kelly won two victories in the primary from Democratic voters in the 2nd Congressional District.

U.S. Rep. Robin Kelly, incumbent in the 2nd Congressional District. | Rich Hein/Sun-Times
U.S. Rep. Robin Kelly, incumbent in the 2nd Congressional District. | Rich Hein/Sun-Times

She was nominated for another term in Congress — that’s a clinch for November on this Democratic turf — and she won her race to become one of 36 members in charge of the Democratic Party of Illinois. They pick the chairman.

The party chair is state House Speaker Michael Madigan, who has been slammed for his handling of sexual harassment allegations — serious hits in this “MeToo” era. GOP Gov. Bruce Rauner plans to continue to make Madigan a centerpiece of his re-election campaign.

Madigan will be up for re-election as state party chair. With Kelly on the committee, there is, for the first time in ages, a viable alternative to Madigan.