Lipinski said on Wednesday that he “was pilloried in millions of dollars of TV ads and mailers” on the abortion issue. He had told CNA in January that he had not seen as much support from pro-life groups as he had hoped for.
The pro-life group Susan B. Anthony List told CNA on Thursday that they spent a total of $45,000 on the race, including a $5,000 direct contribution to the Lipinski campaign and independent expenditures for Lipinski and against Newman.
“The pro-life community doesn’t have as much money as the abortion lobby, for sure,” said Kirsten Day executive director of Democrats for Life in America. Ads from pro-abortion groups also targeted Lipinski for opposing health care, immigration, and the minimum wage, even where he had voted reliably Democrat on an issue. “There was no counter to that,” Day said.
Lipinski’s seat was a symbolical for the abortion industry, Mercer said, and groups like NARAL understood that.
“It’s very few times when abortion legislation in the House would rise or fall on one vote. The abortion industry understood how frustrating it was to their cause to have someone who was a very reliable Democrat say ‘no, I’m pro-life,’” Mercer said.
“They saw him as undermining their cause, and they saw the value in spending millions of dollars to defeat him.”
Some progressive Democratic members of Congress, including freshman Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.) and presidential candidate Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), officially endorsed Newman.
Rep. Cheri Bustos (D-Ill.), chairwoman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) made headlines in 2019 for backing out of a DCCC fundraiser to support Lipinski after she endured backlash from abortion supporters in the party. On Wednesday, she congratulated Newman on her victory and thanked Lipinski for his service.
Lipinski on Wednesday said that he “was shunned by many of my colleagues and other Democratic Party members and operators. I was shunned because of my pro-life stance.”
“The pressure in the Democratic Party on the life issue has never been as great as it is now,” he said.
Democratic leadership in the House and senators from Illinois “did very little” to back the eight-term incumbent, even as other Democratic members were endorsing Newman, said Day.
(Story continues below)
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Lipinski voted often with his party, so “to receive this kind of treatment over his support for human life, it just is a bad direction for the party,” she said.
Some party leaders, such as House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), have said that there is still room in the party for pro-life Democrats like Lipinski. Endorsements of his colleagues in Congress, however, never materialized as they did for Newman.
“They want the votes of Catholic voters,” Mercer said of Democratic Party leaders. “They don’t want the voices.”
In the wake of Lipinski’s defeat, political commentators said that the Democratic Party’s abortion extremism will come back to haunt them in the general election. Presidential candidates have endorsed abortion-on-demand even until birth, and all the candidates support taxpayer-funded abortions.
Day said that pro-life Democrats need to turn their attention to the general election and the party’s platform, which will be adopted at the 2020 convention in Milwaukee later this summer.
The 2016 DNC platform called for taxpayer funding of abortions in the U.S. and overseas, a significant shift on the issue. Day said that the platform contributed to the party’s extremist shift in favor of abortion, including efforts to unseat Lipinski.