Marie Newman is a Democratic candidate for Congress in Illinois’s Third Congressional District, where she is challenging incumbent Representative Dan Lipinski (D). Rep. Lipinski has held the office since 2004, when the prior incumbent, his father, retired after eleven terms. Mrs. Newman is challenging Rep. Lipinski, a member of the more conservative Blue Dog caucus, from his left. A local businesswoman and executive of the national non-profit “Team Up to Stop Bullying,” Mrs. Newman is a proponent of Healthcare-for-All and has been endorsed by Senator Bernie Sanders’ organization, Our Revolution, as well as Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, EMILY’s List, and Rep. Jan Schakowsky.
The Gate: Rep. Dan Lipinski has been in office since 2004. Why did you choose this cycle to launch a progressive campaign against him?
Marie Newman: The district has been displeased with him, probably, from the outset. He started his congressional career in a very shady way: he inherited the seat. He did not have to campaign, and he came in at the last minute and inherited the seat in in a very poor, disrespectful, and shady way. He started out on a bad note with the district, and I certainly have been watching his votes and career, and it’s always been alarming, but I’ve had kids to raise and lots to do, as did everybody.
This district is a working families district that is very busy working one, two, three jobs, not making enough money, but he doesn’t care about it. But nobody has the time to stop their job, or to shut down their business, and take on an entrenched congressman that is heavily supported by the Chicago machine. When you ask, “Why now?”, it’s because we’re all fed up. We’re all fed up. We’re done. We’re done with the machine and with the Lipinski monarchy. It’s over.
When I started my exploratory committee a year and a quarter ago, not only did the data in the district show us that Rep. Lipinski’s unfavorable ratings were extremely high, but that he was wrong on every issue, and that he’s done nothing. He’s been a very inactive congressman. So, when my path––people had asked me some time over the years to run, and I just couldn’t, because I was busy with my kids, et cetera––now, as we looked at November of 2016, the day after Trump, I realized that we’ve got to save us. Nobody was coming to save us, so we, the people of the Third District, had to save us. That’s when I started running with the District. I’ll often say in meet-and-greets, of which I’ve had a hundred and thirty, “We’re doing this together because we’re running in alignment. The district is running in alignment with me and we are together running for Congress. Mr. Lipinski is running against us.” We have to save ourselves, and we have to get this problem solved.
When I decided to run, it was because I knew I was in alignment with the district, and it was desperately needed. Rep. Lipinski has very dangerous views: he is against healthcare for all, he voted against the Affordable Care Act, he votes against immigrants at every turn, he is anti-DREAM Act, anti-path to citizenship, and anti-refugee. We are a country filled with immigrants and refugees. We were all immigrants once, so the fact that he is against all of us is sad.
He is against fifteen dollars an hour, which is despicable. I turned to him in the Sun-Times interview––he believes that “Twelve dollars an hour is enough”––and said to him, “Let’s do that budget. You’re going to feed your family on that. You’re going to have a roof over your head. You’re going to get to and from work, take your kids to and from school. You’re going to clothe them, and, if they have any level of activities, you’re going to take care of that.” You can’t really live on those items with twelve dollars an hour, and then you need to get healthcare. That’s impossible. He didn’t know what to say, sat there agog. He has no idea how much things cost, he is completely out of touch. He doesn’t understand healthcare, he doesn’t understand immigration policy, and he has done nothing for working families or the middle class. There’s nothing there that works for us, for the district.
Gate: What specific issue to you is the most important?
Newman: The needs of and support for working families. We need to make sure we get fifteen dollars an hour with cost-of-living increases as law, provide paid leave and benefits, and provide affordable healthcare. The reason people need to work two or three jobs in my district is because they’re paying for healthcare, and that’s the antithesis of what we want. We want folks to have a fulfilling job so that when they go home and pick their kids up from childcare, they don’t have to pay for that childcare. That’s very important to me.
Gate: Should you win the Democratic nomination against Rep. Lipinski, you will face Arthur Jones on the Republican line. What do you have to say to Jones?
Newman: His views are disgusting, and it reflects very poorly on the Republican Party that they allowed that to be their standard-bearer in the Third Congressional District.
Gate: Illinois voters face several decisions between more establishment and more progressive candidates in the upcoming primary, in your race, the Cook County Assessor’s race, and the Governor’s race, to name a few. Could you speak a little on the progressive wave in Illinois that is forming within the nationwide Democratic wave, and do you think that the interest that you are generating in the Third District will affect the other races?
Newman: Fritz Kaegi [Democratic candidate for Cook County Assessor] and I have the same problem: we’re running against the machine. It’s very hard to run against the machine. They have these old, entrenched, playbook views: all machine politicians have bad records, so they lie about their records. They try to besmirch and smear their opponent, then they use the machine apparatus to try and do dirty tricks. They hate progressive values, because they mean that we have to move forward. The machine likes living in the 1950’s, in the ‘60s; that worked well for them. When we talk about progressive values, those are mine, those are Fritz’s, those are everybody who is running against the machine’s right now.
I think that whether it’s the Bernie or Hillary Wing, the Democratic Party has been this mosaic of independent thinking. That’s what makes us fabulous: we all think independently, and we come together around core values of the middle class, working families issues, healthcare, and social issues. Democratic values are progressive values: helping working families have a strong quality of life and building out the middle class.
Gate: For students trying to get involved in the political process, what advice would you give?
Newman: Find those candidates who line up with your values. My website is very robust and filled with all of my positions. Anyone can go there and figure out whether or not they like me, whether I’m hardworking. I recommend to students: find someone who represents your values and is a hard worker and wants to put the time and energy in, and support them vigorously. Canvas, phone bank, distribute literature, talk about them, join on social media. Hop on that. Be a part of that, get engaged. That generation is the future, and they need to grab a hold of it and move forward.