War: AOC endorses progressive primary challenge to centrist House Dem colleague

This was of mild interest until I saw the reaction from the Democrat whom she’s trying to oust.

Now it has my full attention.

Background: Democrat Dan Lipinski represents a safe-ish blue district in Illinois, having succeeded his father in office 15 years ago. He stands out in the House caucus as being a centrist among centrists. How centrist? He, uh, didn’t endorse Obama in 2012. He didn’t vote for ObamaCare in 2010 either. He’s pro-life. And he supported DOMA before the Supreme Court flushed it.


I mean, in fairness to AOC, if you’re looking for someone in Congress who meets the description of “DINO,” it’s Dan Lipinski.

In 2018, after running effectively unopposed for years, he faced the same sort of dangerous primary challenge from the left that Ocasio-Cortez herself successfully mounted against Joe Crowley in New York. Lipinski held on in his race, though, defeating progressive Marie Newman 51/49, a margin of about 2,000 votes. Newman’s running against him again in 2020 and trying to line up big-name left-wing support to push her over the top this time. And so AOC faced a dilemma. On the one hand, nothing would be more natural for her than to back a grassroots progressive “change the party” primary effort in Illinois like the one that swept her into Congress last year in Queens.

But on the other hand, some of her House Democratic colleagues resent her because they fear she’s lining up challengers to them in their districts. You may remember that that issue figured in complaints about her now former chief of staff, Saikat Chakrabarti. Chakrabarti was one of the co-founders of the far-left Justice Democrats PAC, the same group that supported AOC against Crowley and is now supporting Newman against Lipinski. His outspoken criticism of centrist Dems in the House and his relationship with the PAC made Democrats from blue districts nervous that he and AOC might try to get them primaried. Hence AOC’s other option here — renounce support for any primary challenges this year in the name of comity, which would improve her relationships with her House colleagues. But it would also piss off progressives who sent her to D.C. to try to remake the party in their image.


Play nice or support the revolution: That was her choice in deciding whether to stay out of Lipinski’s race or support Newman. She chose revolution.

“Marie Newman is a textbook example of one of the ways that we could be better as a party — to come from a deep blue seat and to be championing all the issues we need to be championing,” Ms. Ocasio-Cortez said in an interview.

Of Mr. Lipinski, she said: “The fact that a deep blue seat is advocating for many parts of the Republican agenda is extremely problematic. We’re not talking about a swing state that is being forced to take tough votes.”…

“This campaign is about putting someone in place that is in alignment directly with the district on issues like affordability for the middle class and working families, the Green New Deal,” Ms. Newman said in an interview on Monday, adding that she and Ms. Ocasio-Cortez “share some very similar values.”

Former RNC guy Doug Heye has seen this movie before on the right side of the political aisle:

Targeting Lipinski was the safest, most judicious way for Ocasio-Cortez to dip a toe into the process of primarying her own colleagues. He’s waaaay out on the right wing of the party, after all. And she’s not the first progressive Democrat in Congress to endorse Newman in this race: Rep. Ro Khanna has already done so, notes the Times, and the head of the DCCC had to cancel a fundraiser for Lipinski earlier this year when the left howled at her for trying to prop him up. (The Democratic leadership and the DCCC continue to support his reelection, however.) Lipinski’s also a white guy and some of the House Dems who have been most worried about AOC-backed primary challenges (e.g., Lacy Clay) are black, fearing that their very blue districts make them a prime target for a primary challenge by Justice Democrats. Focusing on Lipinski may be a signal from Ocasio-Cortez that she’ll avoid targeting minority lawmakers. It’s simply the least controversial primary challenge that AOC could possibly have supported.


To everyone, that is, except Dan Lipinski. Here’s that reaction I mentioned up top. Hoo boy.

Those first two paragraphs sound almost Republican, which I suppose is on-brand for Lipinski. But there’s a method to his madness, perhaps: Primary elections in Illinois are open, meaning that you don’t need to register as a member of a party beforehand to vote in its primary on Election Day. Lipinski’s apparently going to try to use AOC against Newman by highlighting her support, hoping that the district’s Republican minority will flood into the Democratic primary and hand him a victory to spite her. Between that, his incumbency, and his family legacy, there’s at least a chance that he’ll hold the seat despite her best efforts. Imagine if the Ocasio-Cortez endorsement ends up as the kiss of death in a blue district.

She didn’t care for Lipinski’s response, by the way:

One last note on this via Jon Ward. If AOC was hesitant to jump into Lipinski’s race, she may have felt obliged after she surprised a few people last week by endorsing Ed Markey for reelection to the Senate in Massachusetts. Left-wing revolutionaries aren’t supposed to back incumbents who are being challenged by young progressives, right? The difference with Markey is that he’s the sponsor in the Senate of her Green New Deal plan. She owed him one and she delivered. We’ll see if it helps him fend off a primary challenge from Joe Kennedy.


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David Strom 12:40 PM | July 24, 2024