Columns | Northwest Herald

Eye On Illinois: Is Dan Lipinski the best flag-bearer for independent movement?

Right message, wrong messenger?

That’s one possible assessment of Dan Lipinski, a 16-year U.S. House veteran who hinted at running as an independent in the Sixth Congressional District before opting out. That leaves the race between first-term incumbent Sean Casten and Republican Keith Pekau, the Orland Park mayor who got about 38% in a six-way primary.

In a recent essay, Lipinski blasted “an era in which extreme partisanship and polarization rule. … This trend is causing more extremity, more intransigence and more gridlock in Washington. Both parties are failing our country and hurting the American people.”

He pointed to incumbent U.S. Rep. Rodney Davis losing his Republican primary but didn’t name U.S. Rep. Mary Miller, who ran to the right of her more experienced opponent. Lipinski is a career Democrat, comfortably elected many times over and rarely facing primary opposition until encountering Marie Newman. Lipinski narrowly won the 2018 primary and fell short in 2020. After redistricting, Casten obliterated Newman in the new Sixth primary.

Lipinski said he rebuffed overtures to run in the primary – first as a Republican and then as a Democrat, although the latter group implied he could beat both Casten and Newman.

“The partisan gerrymandering of districts, the outsize influence of interest groups on elections and the concentrated power of congressional party leaders have created a situation in which most members of Congress no longer represent their approximately 800,000 constituents,” Lipinski wrote. “Instead, they represent the small, often ideologically extreme minority of voters who cast ballots in their party’s primary.”

An outsider’s approach is appealing, but insider credentials cling firmly. Dan’s father, U.S. Rep. Bill Lipinski, who started in Congress in 1983, won his 2004 primary, retired and got Dan on the ballot instead, although the younger Lipinski hadn’t lived in Illinois for 15 years and campaigned while teaching at the University of Tennessee.

A crude analysis might compare Lipinski to U.S. Rep. Adam Kinzinger, the Channahon Republican not seeking another term but consistently elevating his profile by actively challenging former President Donald Trump regarding the 2020 election. But that’s largely a single-issue dispute. Lipinski’s record includes opposition to abortion, same-sex marriage and the Affordable Care Act. He didn’t endorse Barack Obama’s presidential reelection bid.

Kinzinger wants to save his party, which is heretofore rejecting the offer. Lipinski mostly seems to be politically homeless.

But according to Lipinski, the men have discussed supporting the Independents Movement. That’s a promising development for those fed up with polarization because it’ll take more than a few former partisans to deliver meaningful change.

Establishment veterans do understand their parties’ inherent strengths, but voters craving alternatives are likely to prefer candidates truly lacking ties to the source of the perceived problems.

Scott T. Holland writes about state government issues for Shaw Media. Follow him on Twitter @sth749. He can be reached at sholland@shawmedia.com.

Scott Holland

Scott T. Holland

Scott T. Holland writes about state government issues for Shaw Media Illinois. Follow him on Twitter at @sth749. He can be reached at sholland@shawmedia.com.