What will be different in the Lipinski-Newman Democratic House primary rematch

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Democrat Marie Newman and U.S. Rep Dan Lipinski (3rd). | Sun-Times file photos

WASHINGTON — After a narrow defeat last November, Democrat Marie Newman on Tuesday launched a second bid to defeat Rep. Dan Lipinski, D-Ill., telling me in an interview she will work the Chicago wards in the district harder this time around.

The 2020 rematch will be the biggest Chicago-area primary. Newman, 55, from LaGrange, is jumping back in because Lipinski, 52, who lives in Western Springs, defeated her by only 2,145 votes, or 51.1 percent to 48.9 percent.

Lipinski, one of the most conservative Democrats in Congress, got a few breaks at the end of the 2018 contest. Newman, a progressive, was subjected to heavy negative attacks in the close of the primary, coming so late it was hard for her to effectively respond.

Lipinski survived also because of a heavy turnout for him in the old Chicago Democratic machine wards that are part of the 3rd Congressional District, which sweeps in parts of southwest and west suburban Cook and Will Counties.

“What we’ve done over the last year is we have really built out our ward structure much more significantly,” Newman told me.

“And it’s very evident when I go there now. I think that’s one of the things that we needed to do at the end (of the 2018 race.) It was clear that I needed to do more, be in the wards more.” Indeed, Newman worked for aldermanic candidates in the 2019 elections in the 14th, 15th and 22nd Wards.

“I have been a workhorse who has gotten the job done,” Lipinski said in a statement.

Lipinski’s political roots are in the Southwest Side, where his father, the former Rep. Bill Lipinski, D-Ill., was once the 23rd Ward powerhouse. The senior Lipinski maneuvered to hand his seat to his son, a sleight of hand that remains an issue for Newman. After winning the 2004 primary, Bill Lipinski announced his retirement, and he and his Democrat pals clouted Dan on the ballot.

The Brookings Institution conducted an exit poll as part of a study of the 2018 Illinois 3rd District primary. Brookings scholars Elaine Kamarck, Alexander Podkul and Nicholas Zeppos found Lipinski “enjoyed a great advantage among – and likely a victory because of – self-identified Trump voters.”

They concluded nearly one in five Lipinski voters also cast ballots for Trump.

A few 2020 factors:

•What may complicate the road ahead for Newman is the entry this week of another Democrat in the contest — a political unknown, Abe Matthew, who will compete with her for the progressive vote.

If Matthew, 32, a personal-injury lawyer who lives in Bridgeport, gets any kind of a campaign going — which he does not have now — it could guarantee a win for Lipinski.

I asked Matthew who was helping him because, well, putting up someone to drain votes from another candidate is a common ploy.

“There are not any power players behind me,” he said.

•In Newman’s favor, progressives have grown as a potent political force locally and nationally.

•Also in Newman’s favor: 2020 is a presidential year, likely to bring out Democrats who skipped 2018. These voters will trend younger and more female — a boost to Newman.

•Lipinski’s fundraising is weak. In the first quarter, Newman raised $209,962 to Lipinski’s $127,343. He has $424,733 cash-on-hand to her $181,170 balance. Newman is also carrying a $160,635 debt from 2018.

•What we don’t know: if the public unions will jump in heavily for Newman and if the No Labels organization — which hid behind front groups to bankroll a drive to bolster Lipinski — will again be involved.

•In 2018, progressive Rep. Jan Schakowsky, D-Ill., endorsed Newman, a rare move against a fellow incumbent. Schakowsky told me Tuesday she is “looking at the race and hasn’t made a decision yet.”

•Will Trump backers return to the 2020 Illinois 3rd District primary? It depends in part on whether the Republicans roll over like they did last time, failing to muster a candidate, leaving the field free for a self-proclaimed Nazi and Holocaust denier to win the GOP nomination by default.

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