Pro-Life Democrat: 'It Would Be a Disaster' for Party to Expel People Like Me

Dan Lipinski / Facebook
March 16, 2018

Rep. Dan Lipinski (D., Ill.) said in a recent phone interview that "it would be a disaster" if the Democratic Party tried to expel lawmakers like himself because of their pro-life stance on abortion.

Lipinski, who is among more than a dozen congressional Democrats facing credible primary challengers, is facing an uphill battle against a half dozen national groups advancing progressive agendas as he prepares for his district's March 20 Democratic primary, Reuters reports.

Democrats need to pick up 24 seats from Republicans to take control of the U.S. House of Representatives. But first, they must contend with an energized left wing trying to define the party through the candidates on its ticket.

Lipinski’s Chicago-area seat is considered a safe win for Democrats in the fall. The incumbent’s fate in the March 20 primary will gauge enthusiasm among Democratic voters for the party’s moderates and few remaining conservatives.

"We are willing to hold our own people accountable, as well as our more consistent enemies," said Sasha Bruce, senior vice president of campaigns and strategies at NARAL Pro-Choice America, which advocates for abortion and reproductive rights.

Groups such as NARAL, the Human Rights Campaign, which promotes gay rights, and Indivisible, a nationwide network which formed last year to resist Republican President Donald Trump, say Lipinski’s socially conservative views are out of touch with the district that first elected him in 2004.

Democratic candidate Marie Newman is running to unseat Lipinski in the Illinois 3rd Congressional District because she believes her values better align with the district. Lipinski, a seven-term incumbent in the race, is the co-chair of the moderate Blue Dog Coalition in the House.

Liberal activists, including former Obama aides, have mobilized against Lipinski and encouraged other Democrats to challenge the incumbent, in part, because of his views on abortion and decision to vote against the Affordable Care Act. Earlier this month, Newman garnered the endorsement of Sen. Bernie Sanders (I., Vt.).

"Marie will fight for Medicare for All, a $15 an hour minimum wage, and providing workers with benefits such as paid sick leave, while protecting Medicare and Social Security. She will defend women’s rights, LGBT rights and ensure immigrants have a safe path to citizenship," Sanders said in a statement upon endorsing the candidate.

Lipinski has received influential backing from the Illinois AFL-CIO labor union federation and despite the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee initially withholding their endorsement, the group reversed its decision earlier this month and declared its support for the incumbent.

The congressman, who took over representing the heavily Polish and Irish district from his father, former Democratic Rep. Bill Lipinski, said in a phone interview with Reuters that Democrats will pay a political price in the future if they push away members who don't share the the party's most liberal views.

"It would be a disaster," Lipinski, 51, said. "We need to make sure that we are a big-tent party."