Lipinski reflects on campaign, primary loss
By Steve Metsch
After his close defeat in the Democratic primary, U.S. Rep. Dan Lipinski (3rd) reflected on 15 years in Congress and what lies ahead.
Lipinski narrowly lost the primary to Marie Newman, whom he had defeated in a close race in 2018. Lipinski had won seven terms in Congress before his defeat in the March 17 primary.
According to unofficial results, Newman received 47.1 percent of the votes and Lipinski had 44.7, with Newman winning by 2,476 votes.
Two years ago, Lipinski won by 2,145 votes.
“I’ve received so many calls and e-mails from people who are supporting me for sticking to my principles and never giving those up,” he said in a March 19 phone interview.
“I am very proud of what I accomplished during my 15-plus years in Congress, and I still have nine months to go … I worked harder on this than anything I’ve worked on in my life. I felt good about it. I felt I was going to win, although I knew it would likely be close. I have no regrets,” Lipinski, 53, of Western Springs said.
His loss ended a Lipinski stronghold on the Congressional seat. His father, former Chicago alderman Bill Lipinski, was first elected to Congress in 1982.
The elder Lipinski was in office from Jan. 1983 until Jan. 2005, when the younger was appointed to complete the elder’s term. Dan Lipinski won election seven times from 2006 through 2018.
He hasn’t fully analyzed why he lost, but said “turnout in the city was down.” Chicago has long been solid base for him and for his father.
A lower city turnout may have played a role, he said, along with a stronger suburban turnout was up from 2018 when he narrowly defeated Newman.
Lipinski has congratulated Newman on her victory.
“As I said during the primary, I will support the winner of the primary,” Lipinski said in a news conference at his Oak Lawn headquarters on March 18. “We ran a campaign we can all be proud of.”
During that news conference, he defended his pro-life stance, one that he said sometimes resulted is his being “shunned” by fellow Democrats. Newman is pro-choice.
A Roman Catholic, he never wavered on his stance and said opposition to him “in the past year, got especially bad.”
“(On March 18) when I spoke I said I had been shunned by many of my colleagues, by other members of my party. You know, people didn’t want to be seen supporting me based on that issue. And, there was probably, my guess, $3 million spent on that issue alone against me. All I’ll say is the suggestions of what I, as a member of Congress, wanted to do and was able to do, I’ll just say, was exaggerated in much of this.”
Science, he said, shows “life begins at conception. Knowing this, I could never give up protecting the most vulnerable human beings in the world simply to win an election.”
“There is nothing more important than protecting life. That’s what I believe,” he said.
He added the “importance of standing up for principle, and not just believing that you do whatever it takes in order to get, to reach a goal.
Asked about accomplishments, he said there was time to discuss those later.
But he did note infrastructure and transportation improvements. One is the coming grade separation at 65th Street and Harlem. An underpass was built a few years ago on 71st Street west of Harlem in Bridgeview.
He declined to offer Newman any advice.
“I’m going to wait until the end of the year,” he said. “That’s a dangerous question because I’d hate for anyone to feel I’m telling Marie what to do.”
With nine months in his term, much of his time in Congress will likely be spent addressing the coronavirus which “people need to take very seriously.”
“I’m especially concerned for people who are older … I think shutting things down as much as we can is probably the best thing we can do right now. The economic consequences of that is going to be huge,” he said.
He questions the wisdom and safety of calling Congress back to Washington, D.C. to vote, given potential exposure to the coronavirus in their travels.
“There’s talk about for the first time ever allowing members to vote without being present, but there are a lot of complications,” he said.
There is a concern whether a vote being cast is actually cast by the elected official and not someone else. And party leaders, he said, are reluctant to give up their in-person influence.
It’s possible, he said, for elected officials to vote if they are given PIN numbers. “There’s no fail-safe way to do it,” he added.
A former college professor, he is not sure what his next job may be.
“What I do next is not based on what makes me the most money, but where I think I can continue to be of service to others,” he said. “I still have nine more months on this term.”