Back in November, after Election Day, I shared on BMG a list of seven Democratic members of the U.S. House of Representatives that I hoped would get primary challengers in this 2019-2020 election cycle due to not being reflective of the progressive/left-of-center natures of their respective districts. The top two names on that list, Dan Lipinski of Illinois and Henry Cuellar of Texas, happen to be two of the three most anti-choice Democratic members of the House. And, since last November, there have been substantial developments regarding primary challengers for those two incumbents. So I wanted to update you accordingly.
In 2017, only three House Democrats voted for the national 20-week abortion ban, and the exact same three Democrats were the only three Democrats to vote to make permanent a ban on the use of federal funds for abortion-related services. One of the three is Collin Peterson of Minnesota’s 7th Congressional district. MN-07 is actually a relative conservative and more-rightward-moving district, and Peterson only won re-election last year by 4 points, his narrowest margin. Further, Peterson turns 75 years old later this month. As such, he is likely to exit Congress either by defeat or retirement in the not-too-distant future. The other two virulently anti-choice Democrats to take these votes were, of course, Lipinski (IL-03) and Cuellar (TX-28).
Lipinski inherited his seat from his dad (under dubious circumstances) and never faced a serious primary challenge until last year. In addition to the aforementioned anti-choice voting record, Lipinski also serves as co-chair of the House Pro-Life Caucus, and he was the only federal-level elected Democrat to speak at the recent March for Life (where he likened his anti-choice extremism to Martin Luther King’s civil rights work). Earlier this month, Lipinski attended the anti-choice Susan B. Anthony List gala. It make sense that Lipinski would attend the SBA List gala, as the SBA List served as his last-minute cavalry during his 2018 re-nomination effort. To fill in the picture, Lipinski has also been anti-DREAM Act and anti-Obamacare, and he even refused to endorse President Obama for re-election in 2012 against Mitt Romney. As I mentioned earlier, Lipinski never faced a serious primary challenge until last year, when progressive businesswoman Marie Newman, a first-time candidate, battled him to a very narrow 51-49 nail-biter, and she came up just short. In addition to her entrepreneurial work, Marie Newman is also the founder of a nationally-recognized anti-bullying non-profit (which she founded after the experience her family had with the bullying at school of her daughter, who is transgender) and a gun control activist with her local Moms Demand Action chapter. Fortunately, Marie Newman is running again this cycle, and she already enjoys the early endorsement support of organizations including NARAL, Planned Parenthood, and EMILY’s List. Marie has also garnered the support of Presidential primary candidates including Kirsten Gillibrand, Jay Inslee, and Bernie Sanders. And, with an existing grassroots base of support built up last year, she’s in very promising shape to finish the job.
Cuellar is so conservative that, in addition to his far-right anti-choice voting record, he has attracted the support of the NRA, the Club for Growth, and the Koch Brothers. Oh, and one of Cuellar’s top donor happens to be a company that runs immigration detention centers. In 2000, Cuellar endorsed George W. Bush over Al Gore – and that support for Republicans over Democrats continued through last year when he fundraised for vulnerable Republican Congressman John Carter in TX-31, who only narrowly defeated Democrat MJ Hegar, as all of us were working to take back the House. Cuellar voted with Trump 69% of the time in 2017-2018. And, speaking to Henry Cuellar’s personal integrity or lack thereof, while he is eager to ban abortions across America, there was at least one pregnancy that he didn’t support: Cuellar is currently being sued by his former acting Chief of Staff for (allegedly) firing her for being pregnant (and the firing was so traumatic to the former staffer that she suffered a stillbirth two weeks later). Cuellar hasn’t faced a serious primary challenge in more than a decade, and he has coasted to easy re-elections as a result. Fortunately, just last week, an impressive progressive candidate announced her entrance to the race. The daughter of immigrants, Jessica Cisneros was her high school’s valedictorian and eventually went on to law school. She currently works as an immigration and human rights attorney in south Texas. She’s advocating for a powerfully progressive agenda; and, fun fact, she is a former intern in Rep. Cuellar’s office, where she saw firsthand how he avoided the hard work of advocating for the public interest over special interests.
It is worth noting that both IL-03 and TX-28 are solidly Democratic districts; so, the Democratic primary effectively is the general election in both districts – the threat of a Republican upset in these two districts is non-existent. As such, the IL-03 primary and the TX-28 primary are, in my opinion, the two most important choice-focused elections in 2020. When Lipinski and Cuellar are defeated by pro-choice primary challengers (coupled with the eventual departure of Collin Peterson), it will put the House Democratic Caucus on the precipice of becoming a caucus that uniformly votes pro-choice for the first time in history, a watershed moment for pro-choice activism. Therefore, regardless of whether one lives in Illinois, Texas, Massachusetts, or anywhere else in America, supporting Marie Newman over Dan Lipinski and supporting Jessica Cisneros over Henry Cuellar should be high priorities for pro-choice activists everywhere across the country, especially with the current state of attacks on reproductive rights. Replacing Lipinski and Cuellar will make profound statements and have meaningful policy implications.
So, please, spread the word. Make contributions to Newman and Cisneros if you can, encourage your networks to do likewise, and encourage your networks to further spread the word to their networks. Let’s help these tremendous progressive women leaders unseat these two conservative, anti-choice, anti-woman incumbent men.
Please do what you can to make the House Democratic Caucus – and Congress as a whole – more pro-choice!