A coalition of liberal-leaning organizations is banding together to defeat a conservative Democrat in a Chicago-area U.S. House district who has amassed a long, and often times hostile, record when it comes to LGBTQ, labor, and abortion rights, as well as other progressive priorities.
The coalition, known as Citizens for a Better Illinois, which includes NARAL Pro-Choice America, the Human Rights Campaign, SEIU, MoveOn, Planned Parenthood Action Fund, and EMILY’s List, will launch an unprecedented joint independent expenditure campaign against Congressman Dan Lipinski (D-Ill.).
Lipinski was first elected in 2004 when his father, former Congressman Bill Lipinski, retired just after winning the Democratic nomination. Due to the elder Lipinski’s status as a former Democratic Committeeman for Chicago’s 23rd Ward, he was able to convince the state Democratic Party to name his son — a University of Tennessee professor who had not lived in the state since 1989 — as his replacement on the ballot.
Like his father, Lipinski is socially conservative, opposing abortion rights and often voting against LGBTQ-related bills. Lipinski voted against a 2007 version of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act which specifically did not include protections for transgender people. He voted to defend the Defense of Marriage Act, supported a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage, and even co-sponsored the First Amendment Defense Act, which would allow people to claim religious justification for refusing to provide goods or services to LGBTQ people, as well as others.
Lipinski did vote to repeal the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy barring gays, lesbians and bisexuals from serving, and add protections for LGBTQ people in federal hate crime laws.
On non-LGBTQ issues, Lipinski is equally infuriating to liberal and progressive interest groups, voting to defund Planned Parenthood, voting to severely restrict abortion access, opposing raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour.
Perhaps Lipinski’s most egregious action in Congress was his decision to work with other pro-life Democrats to hold up passage of the Affordable Care Act until Democratic leaders agreed to approve an amendment that prohibited any low-income woman receiving subsidies from purchasing an insurance plan that would cover abortion-related costs.
The health care reform bill was on life support, and Democratic leaders in the House and Senate eventually agreed to a compromise amendment in the Senate bill that would bar federal funds from being used for abortions. Even after receiving such assurances, Lipinski voted against the health care reform bill anyway.
Dissatisfied with Lipinski’s conservative bent, despite his district’s Democratic lean, the liberal coalition intends to spend more than $1 million in direct mail, digital persuasion ads, peer-to-peer texting, and television ads to educate voters about Lipinski’s record and promote his primary opponent, Marie Newman. They face a particularly tough battle ahead, as Lipinski’s father retains strong ties to the 23rd Ward’s Regular Democratic Organization, including its Chairman, Ald. Michael R. Zalewski, and old-school Chicago Democratic Machine alliances remain strong — and highly influential — in this district comprised largely of white working-class voters.
“Dan Lipinski is nothing but a rubber stamp for Donald Trump’s agenda when it comes to immigration, choice and LGBTQ rights,” Matt Blizek, MoveOn’s Election Mobilization Director, said in a statement. “His record is way out of step with his district. Illinois needs a strong representative who will stand up to Trump and stand with their constituents. We’re confident the more voters learn about Lipinski’s record, the more they’ll want to vote him out of office.”
The coalition has already released two TV ads that are airing this week: “Defund,” which speaks to Lipinski’s anti-abortion antics in Congress, and “Equality,” which exposes Lipinski’s votes on anti-LGBTQ legislation. Both commercials compare Lipinski’s stances on those issues to those espouses by President Trump.
“You can’t fight Trump when you agree with him,” the ads’ narrator intones. “It’s time for Dan Lipinski to go.”
“Dan Lipinski has an abysmal record on LGBTQ equality and the shameful distinction of being the worst-scoring Democrat on the Human Rights Campaign’s Congressional Scorecard,” Chris Sgro, HRC’s communications director, said in a statement. “The people of Illinois’ 3rd District deserve a champion of equality fighting for each and every one of them in Congress. The Trump-Pence administration is attacking and undermining American values every day, and we need a leader who will stand up to their dangerous and hateful agenda — not enable them.”
Watch the coalition’s “Equality” video below:
John Riley is the local news reporter for Metro Weekly. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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