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Key to Lipinski, Newman, Darwish primary battle in Illinois 3: turnout in city wards

Mayor Lori Lightfoot headlines a rally for Marie Newman on Saturday to get out the progressive Southwest Side vote.

From left, Daniel William Lipinski, 3rd Congressional District candidate and incumbent and his opponents Marie Newman and Rush Darwish met with the Sun-Times Editorial Board Wednesday, January 22, 2019. | Rich Hein/Sun-Times
From left: Rep. Dan Lipinski, D-Ill., and 3rd Congressional District primary rivals Marie Newman and Rush Darwish meet with the Sun-Times Editorial Board.
Rich Hein/Sun-Times

On Sunday, Rep. Dan Lipinski, facing a tough Illinois Democratic primary on March 17, knocked on doors with Ald. Silvana Tabares (23rd), appealing to voters on Southwest Side ancestral turf once ruled by his father, ex-Rep. Bill Lipinski.

Marie Newman, trying again to oust Lipinski, knows she barely lost the 2018 primary because of an outpouring of votes from a cluster of city precincts in Southwest Side wards. The 3rd Congressional District also sweeps in southwest suburbs in Cook County and a few in DuPage and Will.

To win in 2020, Newman needs to do much better in the city, a reason that on Saturday, in the final weekend of the campaign, Mayor Lori Lightfoot headlines a rally and canvass kick-off for her, targeting voters in the 13th and 23rd wards.

The political landscape in 2020 is different from 2018 for Lipinski, one of the few anti-abortion Democrats left in Congress. Energized by the Trump presidency, the progressive left in the Chicago area is much stronger than it was two years ago.

In 2018, it was a Lipinski/Newman one-on-one. Lipinski defeated Newman by only 2,145 votes. He would have lost if not for his lopsided victories in the 13th, 14th and 23rd wards.

Now the major rivals of Lipinski, from Western Springs, are Newman, from LaGrange, and Rush Darwish, from Palos Hills, who runs a radio and television production business.

There is a fourth candidate in the primary, Charles Hughes, a 23rd Ward resident who works in operations repairs for NICOR. He is running a shoestring campaign. He was a precinct captain for Bill Lipinski and has run for 23rd Ward alderman.

They all support abortion rights.

Lipinski is a social conservative with building trade union support. Newman has the backing of the major pro-choice groups and public service unions. She is the most progressive, supported by Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren.

In September, outspoken Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., — with 6.4 million Twitter followers — made Newman her first 2020 endorsement of a candidate challenging an incumbent Democrat.

The political base of Darwish, a Palestinian American, is the district’s Arab-American vote. As the election cycle has progressed, Darwish has tried to position himself as the man in the middle when it comes to domestic social issues while talking about Palestinian rights when it comes to Israel and the West Bank and Gaza.

The Illinois Democratic presidential primary is likely to boost turnout, even with the choices now down to two, Bernie Sanders and Joe Biden.

Though she was endorsed by Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, Newman is staying out of the presidential primary, as is Lipinski.

Newman gets a bump if there is overwhelming turnout in the Cook County parts of the 3rd District for Sanders and Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx, who also courts support from the progressive wing.

Lipinski is helped because with three rivals, his opposition vote could be divided.

Lightfoot jumped off the sidelines to work for Lipinski’s defeat over abortion. While health care is much discussed — Lipinski is bashing Newman’s support of “Medicare for all” —abortion is still an animating issue.

A key part of the Lipinski strategy is to focus on the Catholic vote.

Groups supporting and opposing abortion rights are running independent expenditure campaigns in the district.

In 2018, Lipinski’s victory was due in part to the grassroots, door-knocking efforts of 70 canvassers who showed up just before Election Day, in city precincts, organized by the influential national anti-abortion organization, Susan B. Anthony List.

On Friday, the Susan B. Anthony List’s Women Speak Out PAC announced its “five figure” independent efforts for Lipinski. The plan is relying mainly on digital ads and direct mail to turn out anti-abortion Democrats.

“We are not going door-to-door at this point. But we are using the same data, targeting the same subset of voters we reached out to in the last election cycle when we were going door-to-door,’ Mallory Quigley, the spokeswoman for Women Speak Out PAC told the Chicago Sun-Times.

At the end of February, the coalition of progressive groups backing Newman announced a $1.4 million independent expenditure drive. Those groups include: NARAL Pro-Choice America, SEIU, Emily’s List affiliated, WOMEN VOTE!, Indivisible, Planned Parenthood Votes and the Illinois Federation of Teachers.

This coalition deployed an organizer to the district and is running phone banks.

The drive also includes direct mail, digital and television ad buys — on cable, broadcast and other over-the-top media outlets, with spots running from Feb. 25 through Election Day.

The district is heavily Democrat; the primary winner is headed to Congress. Lipinski’s re-election — this would be his ninth term — could once again depend on the city vote.

FOOTNOTE: The 3rd Congressional District includes portions of what’s left of Chicago’s machine wards: 11th, 12th, 13th, 14th, 15th, 16th, 18th, 19th, 20th, 22nd and 23rd and then connects with a narrow thread of turf to southwestern suburbs in parts of Cook County and small portions of DuPage and Will counties. In Cook County, that includes the townships of Berwyn, Cicero, Lemont, Lyons, Orland, Palos, Riverside, Stickney and Worth and in Will County, the townships of DuPage, Homer, Joliet and Lockport.