Can AOC take down one of the few pro-life House Dems in the Illinois primary?

So far, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’ efforts to remake the Democratic Party into a socialist vanguard through primary challenges to incumbents have come a cropper. However, AOC is making her mark even in defeat, and her losing streak might not last forever. Her latest attempt to unseat Texas’ Henry Cuellar fell short by less than four points, a loss Ocasio-Cortez pinned on “Koch brother money & incumbency.” Cuellar, one of the few pro-life Democrats left in the House (as well as a gun-rights advocate), may have to look over his shoulder the next two years.

Dan Lipinski knows how that feels. The pro-life Illinois congressman narrowly survived a 2018 primary challenge that hit directly on his opposition to abortion. At that time, Marie Newman didn’t have Ocasio-Cortez to rally national support for her fight, but this time around Lipinski might be in real trouble. It’s one of the races to follow tonight, as Lipinski tries to hold onto an otherwise safe seat.

Chicago’s NBC affiliate reported on the race last night:

If the Democratic primary in Illinois’ 3rd District seems familiar – that’s because it is. The race is a rematch between incumbent Rep. Dan Lipinski and progressive challenger Marie Newman, joined this time by two new challengers: Rush Darwish and Charles M. Hughes.

Lipinski and Newman faced off in the Democratic primary in 2018, which Lipinski won by 2 points – a total of 2,145 votes separating him and Newman. The race garnered national attention pitting centrist and progressive voters against one another in what some saw as a fight for the soul of the Democratic Party.

Politico’s Ally Mutnick notes that progressive disarray over the collapse of the Bernie Sanders campaign might end up rescuing Lipinski, however:

For the second time in two years, Rep. Dan Lipinski — one of the last members of a dwindling breed of conservative House Democrats who oppose abortion rights — is at risk of losing his seat in a primary.

The Illinois lawmaker faces a rematch Tuesday against Marie Newman, a progressive upstart who nearly unseated him in 2018. But what should have been the left’s clearest shot yet at the incumbent is mired in uncertainty, with high-profile progressives distracted by Sen. Bernie Sanders’s floundering presidential campaign and the election itself enveloped by the coronavirus crisis. …

Lipinski is liberals’ highest-profile 2020 primary target. Lining up behind Newman are Sanders, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), and the Justice Democrats.

Ousting him would be a much-needed victory for these progressives who have struggled to recapture the magic of 2018, including Ocasio-Cortez’s defeat of a leading House Democrat, amid a series of roadblocks throughout the primary season.

The fade of Sanders over the last two weeks could end up depressing progressive turnout. That, plus a split among two other candidates in the primary, might help rescue Lipinski. Make no mistake about it, though; this will be a battle every election cycle now in a party that has grown openly hostile to pro-life voters, let alone officeholders. Lipinski might prevail this time, but he’ll face the same fight in two years — and two years after that, and so on.

That’s too bad, especially for the pro-life movement. Lipinski is the kind of Democrat who tries to work across the aisle while holding fast to his own values. I interviewed him last week for Relevant Radio, which can be heard at this link. His interview comes in the second half of this podcast:

As a Catholic politician in IL, he faces the battle of being a pro-life Democrat in a very liberal state, but he speaks truth well there. He shares his story of how he felt the calling to serve in politics, and talks about how he sees faith and politics working together in the modern era. He reminds us that we must be Catholics first, and allow our faith to determine our political stances. The beauty of our faith is that reasonable Catholics can disagree on many issues like gun control and immigration; we must always seek the common good and maintain respectful dialogue with those people in the pew who might disagree with what we say. We must always champion life first and foremost and work to bring about the end to abortion, whether we are Democrat, Republican, or independent.

There won’t be much drama tonight from Illinois, but this race is worth watching. Lipinski might well be a canary in the abortion coal mine, a metric that could spell the end of whatever influence pro-lifers and Catholics hope to have in the Democratic party. And, perhaps, a start for Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez as a kingmaker in the party.

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