Illinois gotta Illinois, it seems, but even this seems more Illinois-ish than usual. Last night’s primaries in the Land of Lincoln produced good news for progressives of the Bernie Sanders/Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez wing of the Democratic Party. Pro-lifers and Chicago police came out on the short end of the stick.
Let’s start with the police’s nightmare coming back to haunt them. Cook County state attorney Kim Foxx won her primary challenge last night, despite her scandalous attempt to bury the Jussie Smollett case. Foxx got a lot of help from celebrity endorsements, of course:
Kim Foxx, the Chicago area’s top prosecutor, won the Democratic nomination Tuesday against three challengers who zeroed in on her handling of the Jussie Smollett criminal case.
The primary race for Cook County state’s attorney was one of the most expensive of its kind, particularly with Navy veteran Bill Conway making his first run for public office with millions of dollars in family wealth. He had been running television ads for months questioning her office’s controversial decision to drop charges against the “Empire” actor.
The constant attention put Foxx on the defensive on the campaign trail, touting her record on progressive criminal justice reforms.
“There was an effort to make this election about one big case involving a celebrity,” Foxx said in her victory speech. “The voters have overwhelmingly put that fallacy to rest.”
The “one big case” just happened to be the one in which Foxx let a celebrity off the hook for hoaxing the city into a hate-crime response, however. That seems pretty relevant when it comes to the progressive agenda of equal justice for all, or rather it should have been relevant. Foxx benefited from a four-way split in the primary, but she also won by 15 points over her nearest challenger. That essentially means Foxx has won re-election, even while a special prosecutor cleans up her mess in the Smollett case.
In the other closely watched primary, eight-term pro-life Rep. Dan Lipinski narrowly lost his seat to progressive, AOC-backed Marie Newman. A Catholic Democrat, Lipiniski was one of the few pro-life voices left in the House Democratic caucus. Not surprisingly, NARAL was thrilled at the outcome:
The president of the National Abortion Rights Action League (NARAL), Ilyse Hogue, tweeted on Tuesday that Lipinski was “anti-choice, anti-immigrant, anti-LGBTQ,” and that the party should end “these oppressive views.”
While Newman herself tried to highlight her support for other policies during the primary, such as Medicare-for-All and the Green New Deal, she received substantial support from many national pro-abortion groups, including pro-abortion groups such as Planned Parenthood, the National Abortion Rights Action League (NARAL), and EMILY’s List.
Together, those groups and others formed a coalition that invested $1.4 million into the race in late February to buy digital and TV ads and send direct mail to voters in Newman’s favor.
NARAL said that the ad campaign would target Lipinski’s pro-life record, including his signing an amicus brief in favor of Louisiana’s safety regulations of abortion clinics at the Supreme Court, and his voting seven times to strip Planned Parenthood of federal funding.
Newman now has to defend the Democrats’ incumbency in IL-03, but that might not be as easy a task as Foxx has. The district has a Cook index of D+6, a solid advantage but not necessarily a hopeless fight for the GOP. However, Hillary Clinton won the district by 15 points in 2016, a wider margin than Barack Obama’s 56/43 win over Mitt Romney four years earlier. Republicans haven’t won in this district since 1972, so it’ll take a very big national tide and a concerted local effort to highlight Newman’s extremism to make Democrats pay a price for this flip.