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Blue Dog Dem calls "BS" on Gillibrand's play for progressives

Kirsten Gillibrand’s surprising endorsement against a sitting Democratic lawmaker has provoked a harsh response from one of the New York senator’s old colleagues.

“It’s bullshit,” Rep. Kurt Schrader, a congressman from Oregon and member of the conservative Blue Dog coalition, said during an interview in his Capitol office Wednesday.

Schrader was referring to Gillibrand’s endorsement this month of Marie Newman, who is running against Democratic Rep. Dan Lipinski in a suburban Chicago Democratic primary. Lipinski, a seven-term incumbent, served with Gillibrand in the House.

But Lipinski — who opposes abortion rights and voted against the Affordable Care Act in 2010 — is one of the most conservative House Democratic lawmakers in Congress. And that created an opportunity for Gillibrand to impress progressives ahead of a possible 2020 presidential run, which she is widely believed to be considering.

To Schrader, the endorsement smacked of political opportunism — especially given that Gillibrand, while a representative of a moderate upstate New York district, was once a blue dog herself.

“She used to be a Blue Dog, and then miraculously turns around?” said Schrader. “C’mon, man.”

The Oregon congressman compared his reaction to a popular ESPN segment, in which the network’s football analysts would review embarrassing plays of that week’s games and mock players with their trademark “C’mon, man” catchphrase.

Schrader’s response reflects the tension between the Democratic Party’s moderate and progressive wings, which in the wake of last year’s electoral catastrophe, are competing to control the party’s future in 2018 and beyond

Lipiniski’s primary in Illinois’ 3rd Congressional District will be one of the major flashpoints of that conflict next year. This week, a fleet of liberal groups, including NARAL Pro-Choice America and MoveOn.org, endorsed Newman. Progressive leaders consider the primary a prime opportunity to take down a conservative Democrat in a solidly blue district, one the party has no fear of losing in November.

Alex Roarty: 202-383-6173, @Alex_Roarty

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