Liberal comedian Chelsea Handler waded into the Democratic primary for Illinois' 3rd Congressional District on Friday by suggesting the incumbent, Rep. Dan Lipinski, is unwilling to "say no" to President Donald Trump and Russia.
Handler took to Twitter to issue an endorsement of Marie Newman, a political newcomer, who is running a spirited challenge to Lipinski, one of the lone pro-life Democrats still in Congress. In her endorsement of Newman, Handler lambasted the incumbent as a "crook" who would fail to stand up to "Russia" and to "Trump."
"This is another race on Tuesday in Illinois. Marie is running against a crook with a terrible record," Handler commented, retweeting a tweet from Newman. "Let’s make Tuesday another day we elect candidates that say no to Russia and no to Trump. Be part of the blue wave!!!"
This is another race on Tuesday in Illinois. Marie is running against a crook with a terrible record. Let’s make Tuesday another day we elect candidates that say no to Russia and no to Trump. Be part of the blue wave!!! https://t.co/6vc8XXh6mB
— Chelsea Handler (@chelseahandler) March 16, 2018
Handler's specific line of attack is perplexing since Lipinski has been a vocal supporter of increasing sanctions on Russia. Not only has Lipinski advocated for expanding sanctions, he has also gone to the added effort of introducing legislation to adequately study rumors of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.
The origins of Handler's "crook" attack are equally mysterious. In the original tweet from Newman, the candidate called for volunteers, saying she otherwise couldn't "combat" the incumbent's–notably legal–resources.
It is also unclear if the comedian was aware Newman is running a primary challenge to an incumbent Democrat. Handler's encouragement for voters to "be part of the blue wave" suggests Handler is under the impression that Newman is attempting to unseat a Republican.
The comedian's attacks come as the primary battle between Lipinski and Newman has taken a higher profile in recent weeks. The campaign has become ground zero in the struggle for control of the Democratic Party with Lipinksi, an unabashed member of the Blue Dog Coalition, fighting off an insurgency challenge from the left. The veteran lawmaker's votes in favor of the Defense of Marriage Act and restricting abortion after 20 weeks post-conception have granted his opponent plenty of ammunition in what is expected to be a closely contested primary on March 20.
Newman has garnered the support of progressive stalwarts like Sen. Bernie Sanders (I., Vt.), Sen. Kiersten Gillibrand (D., N.Y.), and Rep. Louis Guittiarez (D., Ill.) amongst others. Sanders and Gillibrand have specifically cited Newman's support for LGBTQ equality, abortion rights, and rectifying economic inequality as impetus for their endorsements. The Democratic establishment, meanwhile, has been lukewarm on Lipinski. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee originally chose to withhold their endorsement from either candidate before reversing course and endorsing the incumbent earlier this month. The decision came after House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi confirmed her support for Lipinski's reelection.
The race stirred new controversy on Thursday when several members of the Obama administration, including David Axelrod, castigated Lipinski for using a photo of the former president in a campaign mailer. The mailer, sent out to the majority of Lipinski's Chicago suburbs-based district, attempts to hit Newman for misleading voters about her experience as a business owner.
Lipinski has long had a fraught relationship with Obama and members of the president's inner circle. In 2010, Lipinski was the sole Democrat from Illinois to vote against Obama's signature legislative accomplishment, the Affordable Care Act. Lipinski also refused to endorse the president for reelection in 2012.