Illinois primary results show angry bases in both parties demanding more purity
The Republican governor of Illinois, Bruce Rauner, held off a primary challenge Tuesday from a largely unknown state representative on his right by just three points. A seven-term Democratic congressman from the Chicago suburbs, Dan Lipinski, beat a first-time candidate challenging him from the left by less than two points, or about 1,500 votes. The powerful chairman of the Cook County Democratic Party went down, Bobby Kennedy's son lost in the Democratic gubernatorial primary and a slate of candidates endorsed by Bernie Sanders won.
The second primary night of the year, in the country's fifth most populous state, showcased how angry the electorate remains in this Age of Disruption. The political establishments in both parties face restive grass-roots activists who are demanding more fealty to orthodoxy, from abortion to immigration. Two years after Donald Trump slayed every avatar of the establishment on his path to the presidency, the machines continue to crumble, more dynasties are ending and each party is becoming increasingly tribal.
Rauner lost support from the religious right by expanding access to abortion for Medicaid recipients last September. The governor also angered the nativists who are ascendant in the GOP by signing a bill that prohibits cops from detaining people they suspect of being undocumented immigrants without a warrant. "He has betrayed, literally, the core values of the Republican platform," challenger Jeanne Ives said in her stump speech.
Lipinski earned the enmity of women's groups by refusing to budge from his staunchly anti-abortion views. He opposed Obamacare, supported a 20-week ban on abortions and voted for religious freedom bills that many liberals see as giving license for discrimination against the LGBT community. Challenger Marie Newman, who has a transgender daughter, referred to Lipinski as a "Trump Democrat." "I know what's in his heart, and it's called hate," she said.
NARAL Pro-Choice America and Emily's List went all in for Newman and a few of the incumbent's liberal House colleagues campaigned against him, including Rep. Jan Schakowsky from a nearby district. Lipinski was dragged across the finish line by a field program paid for by Susan B. Anthony List. The anti-abortion group waded into a Democratic primary for the first time in a decade and flooded the district with 70 canvassers for the final four days.
• Turnout statewide surged among Democrats but was lackluster on the Republican side. About twice as many Democrats voted as Republicans. It's another proof point of an enthusiasm gap that continues to benefit the left as the midterms approach.
• Rauner's close call is reminiscent of what happened in Virginia last June to Ed Gillespie. The former chairman of the Republican National Committee only beat firebrand Corey Stewart in the GOP primary by one point, despite a massive fundraising advantage and overwhelming institutional support. The unexpected vulnerability foreshadowed Gillespie's struggles to unite the right in the fall.
It's bigger than social issues. Illinois didn't have a budget for two years and its credit rating got downgraded to nearly junk status when Rauner was unable to cut a deal with the Democrats who control the state legislature. Just as national Republicans use Nancy Pelosi as a foil, the governor has tried to blame all his problems on Democratic House Speaker Mike Madigan.
It has not worked. Polls show Rauner is about as popular in his state as Trump, who lost the Land of Lincoln by 17 points in 2016. "Ives embraced Trump as part of her campaign, while Rauner said he and the president are not 'particularly close,'" The Post's Amber Phillips notes.
Seeing internal polls that showed him in trouble, Rauner last week decided to veto a gun-control compromise bill and announced it on conservative radio in the more rural and conservative downstate Illinois. He also tried to attack his opponent from the right on television, which didn't pass the laugh test and likely elevated her profile. National Review declared Tuesday that " Rauner Deserves to Lose."
"To those of you around the state who wanted to send me a message, let me be clear: I have heard you," Rauner said in a victory speech, which began hours later than planned on account of the photo finish.
• Like Ives against Rauner, Newman channeled the anger of the liberal base against Lipinski -- sometimes caustically. Even as the numbers moved against her Tuesday night, for instance, she declined to concede. She told her supporters that she "would like Mr. Lipinski to have a very painful evening, so we're going to wait."
The labor unions stuck with Lipinski because he's been an ally, and most of the business community backed him because he's brought home the bacon.
But make no mistake: The congressman's narrow win is not a vindication of his style of politics.It's a Pyrrhic victory that shows an era coming to an end. In the last round of reapportionment, the district was carefully drawn to include heavily Catholic suburbs so that Lipinski could hold the seat -- which he inherited from his father, Bill, who held it for 22 years until 2005. It's easy to see him retiring rather than face an even bigger onslaught from a stronger challenger in 2020.
Outside of ruby red states like West Virginia and North Dakota, the Blue Dogs have become an endangered species. Even then, Sen. Doug Jones, D-Ala., won the special election last December by promising to protect the Affordable Care Act and speaking out against a 20-week abortion ban.
• A Pew Research Study, which coincidentally was published Tuesday, highlights the degree to which the two parties continue a seismic, long-term sorting out: "The share of Democratic voters describing their political views as liberal has increased steadily since 2000. Currently, nearly half of Democratic and Democratic-leaning registered voters (46%) say they are liberal, while 37% identify as moderates and 15% say they are conservatives. A decade ago, more Democrats described their views as moderate (44%) than liberal (28%), while 23% said they were conservative ... Conservatives have long constituted the majority among Republican and Republican-leaning registered voters. Roughly two-thirds of Republicans (68%) characterize their views as conservative, while 27% are moderates and 4% are liberals. While there has been little change in Republicans' self-described ideology in recent years, the share calling themselves conservatives rose from 58% in 2000 to 65% eight years later."
College graduates, women, minorities and millennials continue moving toward Democrats while Republicans consolidate gains among less-educated whites, especially men. Pew, with a survey sample of 10,000 Americans, found that 56 percent of women identify with the Democrats, up four points from 2015; 58 percent of college graduates affiliate with Democrats, the highest number recorded since 1992; and 59 percent of millennials lean Democratic, compared with 48 percent of both Generation Xers and baby boomers.
• Lipinski is now virtually assured reelection because the only Republican who ran is a Holocaust denier who has been involved in anti-Semitic and racist groups since the 1970s. The Illinois GOP and the National Republican Congressional Committee both disavowed their nominee, Arthur Jones, and said he will get no support.
There were five other results in Illinois that ought to scare entrenched establishmentarians in both parties:
1.) Voters reject machine-style politics
It won't get much coverage outside the Windy City, but voters resoundingly rejected Chicago-style machine politics. The chairman of the Cook County Democratic Party, who has long been one of the most powerful figures in the state, lost reelection to another term as county assessor. To give you a sense of what a huge deal this is, the Chicago Tribune is treating Joe Berrios's downfall as the biggest story of the night. It's the banner headline across the top of Tuesday morning's front page.
The party boss got a dismal 34 percent of the vote: "The momentum for [Fritz] Kaegi, a mutual fund asset manager from Oak Park, was built on his pledge to make the property tax assessment system fairer," Hal Dardick, Ray Long and Joe Mahr report. "That theme was bolstered by 'The Tax Divide,' a series by the Chicago Tribune and ProPublica Illinois that found assessments under Berrios shifted an outsize portion of the property tax burden from the wealthy to the poor, with minority communities being hit particularly hard. Kaegi also railed against the 'Democratic Machine' ... pointing to Berrios' history of taking campaign contributions from property tax appeal attorneys who seek reductions in assessments from both his office and the Board of Review where he was previously a commissioner. He also pointed to Berrios' hiring of relatives and friends."
The Daley machine that Milton Rakove so vividly chronicled in his 1976 classic book "Don't Make No Waves" is no more. "The old machine style is no match for a campaign powered by the people of Cook County," Kaegi said in a triumphant victory speech Tuesday night.
2.) Tuesday was a good day for self-funders
J.B. Pritzker, a billionaire heir to the Hyatt hotel fortune, spent $70 million to win the Democratic primary for governor. Rauner, a longtime private equity executive, has already pumped $50 million of his own money into getting reelected. Their combined wealth guarantees that the general will be one of the most expensive races of 2018, if not ever. The Daily Herald frames it as a "CASH OF THE TITANS" on Tuesday morning's front page: "Multimillionaire will face multibillionaire in November's election."
3. But it was a bad day for political dynasties
Pritzker was the front-runner to win the six-way Democratic primary, but his 20-point margin of victory was unexpectedly huge. Chicago developer Chris Kennedy, the son of the martyred Robert F. Kennedy, entered the contest to great fanfare and waged an aggressive campaign, but he only managed to garner 24 percent. His failure comes two years after the son of a president and the wife of a president went down in flames to Trump.
4. Another humiliation for Pat Quinn
The former Democratic governor lost to Rauner in 2014. He made a comeback bid by running for attorney general. But he lost in the primary to state Sen. Kwame Raoul. Some guys just don't know when to hang it up. Quinn was a particularly ineffective governor, and his loss is another data point to underscore the hostility toward the powers that be.
5. Bernie is getting another ally in Congress
Jesus "Chuy" Garcia, a hard-left liberal who almost toppled Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel in 2015, easily won the primary to succeed retiring Rep. Luis Gutiérrez in a heavily Hispanic district. Garcia supported Sanders's 2016 campaign, and the Vermont senator returned the favor by flying in to stump with him. Garcia pulled 66 percent in a three-way primary. "What has made Chuy's campaign so powerful is that he's not just working hard to win an election, he's building a grass-roots movement to support a slate of exciting new candidates who are taking on the political establishment," Sanders said in a statement.
The senator noted that Garcia ran on a slate with several other candidates who also won, including 28-year-old Alma Anaya, who ran to replace him on the Cook County Board of Supervisors; Beatriz Frausto-Sandoval, an immigration attorney running to serve as a Cook County circuit court judge; and 26-year-old high school counselor Aaron Ortiz, who won a state House primary. Sanders, mulling another run for president, met with all of them in Chicago a few weeks ago. "No one person can take on the political elite on their own. We must stand together," he said. "That is exactly what Chuy and his slate of candidates did today."