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Dan Lipinski’s proposed primary strategy revealed in internal campaign document

A document for Rep. Lipinski’s Democratic primary pitched Republicans with his anti-Obamacare vote. Independents were to be reminded he opposed its repeal.

Rep. Dan Lipinski, D-Ill. Thursday, April 9, 2015 (Brian Jackson/For The Chicago Sun-Times)
Rep. Dan Lipinski, D-Ill.
Brian Jackson/For The Chicago Sun-Times

WASHINGTON — An internal document for Rep. Dan Lipinski’s Democratic primary campaign, obtained by the Chicago Sun-Times, proposed pitching Republicans by highlighting his vote against Obamacare while wooing independents by reminding them he opposed its repeal.

Other highlights from the strategy document suggesting messages to various voter demographics in the 3rd Congressional District:

•Hispanics were to be flagged about Lipinski’s “pro-Dreamer votes” while Republicans would be targeted with “pro border patrol” messaging.

•Lipinski is anti-abortion and that would be the emphasis for Republicans and Catholics, but not for outreach to other women, millennials, teachers, independents, union members and nurses.

•A drive to persuade Republicans to vote in the Democratic primary would include reaching out to GOP officeholders; getting letters from “GOP surrogates”; and through Facebook “ads targeting independents.”

Lipinski, from Western Springs, is in a three-way March contest against Marie Newman, from La Grange, who almost beat him in 2018, and Rush Darwish, from Palos Hills, who runs a radio and television production business. This is the biggest congressional Democratic primary in Illinois.

Details about Lipinski’s campaign strategy were contained in a Google document Lipinski’s political director Jerry Hurckes inadvertently sent to someone.

Screenshots of the Hurckes documents were shared with others, including Richard Rodriguez, a founding member of the Will County Progressives and a national board member of Our Revolution, spawned from Bernie Sanders’ 2016 presidential campaign.

Hurckes has long ties to Lipinski, first elected in 2004. He served as chief of staff to his father, Rep. Bill Lipinski, who represented the district for 22 years. Hurckes’ wife, MaryAnn, also works for the Lipinski campaign, according to federal campaign finance records.

Lipinski told the Sun-Times there are “serious ethical issues” for whoever circulated the Hurckes document.

“I have never seen this document until today,” Lipinski said last week, “...I am still not exactly sure who in my campaign may have put this together, but I had not, so this is not anything that I have approved.”

Lipinski said the strategies “are not necessarily my thoughts.”

ABOUT TARGETING REPUBLICANS

The district is heavily Democrat. Republican Will County Board Member Mike Fricilone, from Homer Glen, is making a bid, but he’s raised little money to run a viable campaign. He only had $775 cash on hand as of Sept. 30. There will likely be a pool of persuadable crossover Republicans.

Newman and Darwish are progressives; Lipinski is a social conservative.

Rodriguez, who backs Newman, told the Sun-Times the different messages in the document shows Lipinski “is willing to play two different acts to hold his seat. I believe he is talking out of both sides of his mouth.”

Rodriguez said the document makes it “very clear to me there is strategy to target Republican voters. And that is a problem to me, that the DCCC is going to support an incumbent that is relying on Republicans to vote in a Democratic primary in a strongly Democratic district.”

Rodriguez has been outspoken in his criticism of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee “blacklist.”

The DCCC, under chair Rep. Cheri Bustos, D-Ill., officially backs incumbents. Bustos ordered the DCCC not to do business with vendors who work for Democratic challengers. Newman lost several consultants as a result of that blacklist.

ON OBAMACARE, IMMIGRATION

It’s not unusual for candidates to evolve on issues or to seek crossover support. What is not common, however, is touting old and new positions at the same time, depending on the audience. Here’s some background.

In 2010, Lipinski voted against the Affordable Care Act, nicknamed Obamacare, because of his anti-abortion related concerns over some funding provisions in the bill. Since then, Lipinski has voted against Republican attempts to repeal the law.

In 2010, he also voted against the DREAM Act, to give legal protections to youths in the U.S. illegally through no fault of their own. Through the years he has joined other Democrats in backing the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program to protect “Dreamers,” nicknamed DACA.

TALKING POINTS

The Lipinski campaign document included talking points to describe Lipinski and Newman.

Newman: “self absorbed”; “opportunist” and “Socialist.”

Lipinski: “vote conscience”; “labor unions;” “doesn’t check the wind”; “already on committees” and “character.”

Said Lipinski, “I think it’s a good summary, probably, of how I see myself, and I am not going to comment about Marie Newman.”

NEWMAN, DARWISH REACT

Newman campaign manager Ben Hardin said, “I think what is truly opportunistic is Congressman Lipinski’s willingness to mislead his constituents.”

Darwish communications director Andrew Patinkin said, “Lipinski is a Democrat in name only,” who “has to rely on Republican voters” while Darwish “represents the values and beliefs” of district residents.