Bernie Sanders won the Democratic primary for President in the 3rd Congressional District against Hillary Clinton by eight percentage points. Nationally, Clinton won but Sanders supporters coined the phrase “Feel the Bern” as the movement spread through the country and energized young voters and progressives.
Friday, incumbent third district Congressman Dan Lipinski may have felt a burn as Sanders joined a growing list of progressive Democrats supporting unknown newcomer Marie Newman while Lipinski resorted to slinging mud and attempting to attack Newman through guilt by association.
The long rumored endorsement was earned by Newman after Sanders personally met her in February, while campaigning for various candidates running in Illinois and surrounding states. Bernie Sanders is an Independent Senator from Vermont.
Despite serving in the Senate since 2006, and looking grandfatherly, Sanders has been the darling of the progressive anti-establishment wing of the Democratic party but is especially popular among young college age voters. Newman has already earned the backing of the powerful SEIU union, NARAL Pro-Choice America, Moveon, the National Nurses United and some of Lipinski’s fellow Democratic congressman in Illinois.
Despite being very popular in the party, Bernie Sanders is actually the the longest serving independent member of Congress in American history.
In a statement endorsing Newman, Sanders stated, “Marie Newman has made it clear that she will be a champion for working families in Illinois, which is why I am proud to support her campaign,” said Senator Sanders. “In Congress, Marie will fight for Medicare for All, a $15 an hour minimum wage, and providing workers with benefits such as paid sick leave, while protecting Medicare and Social Security. She will defend women’s rights, LGBT rights and ensure immigrants have a safe path to citizenship. I am proud to stand with Marie and look forward to continuing to fight alongside her on these and other critical issues once she’s elected to Congress.”
“I will be the unabashedly progressive champion that women and families across this district and beyond deserve, never compromising on the values they work hard every single day to achieve,” said Newman in a statement.
The race is a dead heat according to the latest poll, which is a complete reversal of an earlier poll showing Lipinski winning easily. Newman has contended since entering the race that Lipinski is out of touch with the solidly Democratic district, which elected Barack Obama with 56 percent of the vote in 2012 and voted 55 to 45 percent for Hillary Clinton in 2016.
While Newman was glowing from the support of Sanders, Lipinski’s allies were allegedly planting a story in media outlets trying to smear Newman and her husband for investing in a restaurant business with a convicted felon. Newman stood her ground during the attack and took responsibility for the business deal that she and her husband terminated when the former partner’s mortgage fraud conviction was discovered. She could have blamed her husband but she didn’t and instead explained that when the couple discovered the background, they terminated the relationship.
Lipinski, whose home base 23rd Ward has had its share of convicted felons supporting the congressman, left no doubt that he was willing to smear Newman. When the Washington Post asked Lipinski’s spokesman for a comment on the Sanders endorsement, the spokesman emailed a copy of the newspaper story involving Newman’s investment. according to the Post.
Lipinski may have reason to worry as progressive Democrats in Texas celebrated this week as several candidates unexpectedly won or forced runoffs despite the establishment attempting to vilify those candidates.
Democrat vote totals doubled in Texas from 2014 and the two solidly Democratic districts were won by women. Progressive candidates, in the mold of Newman, are taking credit for the surge in voters. While Lipinski is counting on low turnout and control from party bosses, Newman is appealing to the Bernie Sanders type voters and new voters aligned with her message.