Congressman Dan Lipinski and challenger Marie Newman trade barbs in sole debate for 3rd District Democratic Primary.
PALOS HILLS, IL — More than 500 people packed a meeting room at Moraine Valley Community College to watch Congressman Dan Lipinski and challenger Marie Newman go toe-to-toe in a candidate’s forum hosted by the LaGrange-area chapter of the League of Women’s Voters. The primary race for the Democratic nomination in Illinois’s 3rd Congressional District is receiving national attention, as traditional and progressive Democrats sort things out.
Lipinski received mild applause when he was introduced to the audience, compared to Newman’s raucous reception. Lipinski is leader of the Blue Dog Coalition, a congressional caucus of fiscally conservative Democrats. Newman is running on a progressive platform. Throughout the night, Newman chided Lipinski for really being a Republican; Lipinski cautioned against a budding “Left Wing Tea Party” in Congress made up of progressive Democrats.
Both candidates fielded questions that constituents emailed to the League in advance of the candidate forum. Volunteers also circulated the room collecting questions from audience members. In his opening statement, the Southwest Side congressman touted his role on the House of Representatives’ transportation committee, creating local jobs, and “challenging the status quo” in Washington, D.C.
“More work needs to be done and I’ll fight both extremes to get that done,” Lipinski said.
Newman remarked that Wednesday’s forum was her 134th meet-and-greet since she decided to run in the 3rd District a year ago. She told the audience that she supported a $15-an-hour minimum wage, affordable childcare and paid leave. Healthcare, she said, was a right for all.
While the both candidates have named expanding the middle class, helping small businesses succeed and creating local jobs as their top priorities, Newman and Lipinski differ sharply on the issue of abortion.
“I trust women (to make their own decisions),” Newman said.
She added that men, women and children have all benefited from Planned Parenthood, which “Mr. Lipinski has tried to defund seven times and has voted over 50 times in Congress against a woman’s right to choose.”
Lipinski, known for his anti-abortion views, retorted that there is “much more we can do to help women so that they don’t feel (abortion) is a necessity.”
The candidates were asked their views on “gerrymandering” legislative district maps based on U.S. Census Bureau population data. In gerrymandered states the party in power in the has control over redrawing district maps following the decennial census. In 2016, the Associated Press criticized the gerrymandered Illinois legislative maps for minimizing minority representation. The U.S. Supreme Court has taken up the case of whether extreme partisan gerrymandering of legislative districts is unconstitutional.
Lipinski said he was waiting to see what the U.S. Supreme Court will decide, stating it was important to “fight gerrymandering so it isn’t helping one person or one party.”
“That’s fascinating,” Newman said. “This gentleman worked with [Illinois House Speaker] Mike Madigan to cut out parts of an existing congressional district because he didn’t want it.”
Newman added that she supporting redistricting being done by a non-partisan group comprised of people from both parties.
Asked if marijuana should be legalized in Illinois, Lipinski said he supported leaving it up to individual states to decide, stating that he was more interested in “bread and butter issues.”
Newman supports legalization of marijuana because it “helps people in pain” and cited studies supporting marijuana’s “medicinal purposes.”
The candidates were also posed questions on LGBTQ rights and marriage equality.
“Well, it’s a law now so I support it,” Lipinski said.
“On Jan. 24 during the Sun-Times endorsement sessions he claimed he didn’t support LGBT marriage equality and LGBTQ,” Newman shot back.
Lipinski also said more laws were needed to protect freedom of religious.
“We have freedom of religion,” Newman said. “It’s in the Constitution. We don’t need any more laws.”
Later, still bristling, Lipinski said religious freedom was under attack.
“When the Little Sisters of the Poor have to provide contraceptives, that’s a problem.”
Newman said she supported ratifying the Equal Rights Amendment in Illinois. Lipinski wouldn’t give a definitive yes or no answer, except to say he supported women’s rights.