Voters in Illinois’ 3rd congressional district will have an alternative to incumbent Democrat Rep. Dan Lipinski and Republican nominee Arthur Jones, the former head of the American Nazi Party — and his name is Justin Hanson.
Hanson, a write-in Independent candidate, says on his website that the “campaign was formed to take a stand against an avowed member of the Nazi Party who seeks to capture this District’s seat in Congress.” But in addition to providing voters an additional alternative to a white supremacist, Hanson’s run also provides residents with a chance to elect to a candidate who wouldn’t vote to defund Planned Parenthood every chance he gets, as the anti-choice Lipinski has done.
But, although Hanson bills himself as pro-choice, the descriptor isn’t 100 percent accurate.
Hanson described abortion as a complex issue for him, having been raised Catholic. But, ultimately, he believes that “right belongs to women and that decision does not belong with the government,” he told MSNBC’s Kasie Hunt on Sunday. He added he’s encouraged by the declining abortion rate nationwide.
There are Congress members who don’t let their private views direct their vote. Hanson’s stated position resembles Sen. Tim Kaine’s (D-VA), who’s said he personally opposes abortion but doesn’t let his own beliefs dictate policy.
ThinkProgress reached out to the Hanson campaign to learn more about his position, and to see if he’d vote to defund Planned Parenthood or vote in favor of the 20-week abortion ban that recently passed the House, like his opponent Lipinski has. He said, if elected, he wouldn’t vote to defund Planned Parenthood but he didn’t take a position on the 20-week ban, saying he hasn’t done enough research on the latter.
“It’s important to understand that Planned Parenthood provides many important healthcare services to women, especially in communities with limited access to care,” he told ThinkProgress, in answers shared by his campaign manager over email. He added, “federal funds should only be used to fund abortion in rare cases, such as a threat to the mother’s life or in cases of rape and incest,” which, thanks to the Hyde Amendment, is the current set-up now.
With regard to the 20-week abortion ban, which Congress has voted on multiple times, he passed along this message from his campaign:
“Having a researched position on these issues is extremely important to Justin. We are a new campaign and we have an obligation to our voters to take informed and thoughtful positions. He believes it’s a mistake to think that every decision to terminate a pregnancy, and the circumstance surrounding it, is the same. Justin thinks that it has to be an extremely difficult decision at any point, but especially by 20 weeks. Our research shows that it is an extremely small number of procedures happening at this point. We need to keep researching this question so we can come to a position we can stand behind.”
Lipinski faced a tough primary for his anti-abortion views, but also for co-sponsoring anti-LGBTQ legislation and voting against the DREAM Act. For this, liberal groups like Planned Parenthood and EMILY’s LIST tried to replace the “Trump Democrat” by backing progressive challenger Marie Newman. Even with a roughly $1.6 million ad campaign from outside groups, Newman was narrowly defeated by Lipinski in March, 49 to 51 percent with 97 percent of precincts reporting.
The lesson learned was that it’s difficult to beat an incumbent, especially one who spent a lot of money to stave off Newman and who had help from the prominent anti-abortion advocacy group, Susan B. Anthony List. It’s unclear how Hanson could do better than Newman, who had plenty of national support.
Hanson just announced his campaign launch last week and the practicing attorney is still trying to garner name recognition. As the campaign described to ThinkProgress, “it’s a race against the clock.”
What has undoubtedly changed since March is the threat level around abortion rights, with Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy announcing his retirement in June. Two-thirds of voters don’t want the Supreme Court to overturn Roe v. Wade, according to a recent Kaiser Family Foundation poll. The March primary was about abortion access; it’s unclear if November will be, as well.
Democrats nationwide are trying to make the elections more broadly about health care, which includes abortion access. Hanson told ThinkProgress he wouldn’t vote to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act (ACA), and believes “Congress should work together through amendments or technical corrections that clarify regulations to address [ACA] shortfalls.” He is a fan of the ACA’s pre-existing condition protections.
Lipinski’s seat is considered a safe seat. But nevertheless Hanson, who worked for Sen. Roy Blunt (R-MO) and former Rep. Adam Putnam (R-FL) between 2006 to 2009, is trying. So far, he’s raised $16,355 on Crowdpac.
Hanson calls Lipinski “a nice man,” but says that “he hasn’t done as much for the district as he could have,” according to Politico. Lipinski’s campaign did not immediately return ThinkProgress’ request for comment.