Bernie Weighs In on Tough Illinois Race, Backs Progressive Against Incumbent Democrat

Progressive candidate Marie Newman will look to unseat anti-abortion, conservative Democratic incumbent Rep. Dan Lipinski in Illinois’ 3rd district.

Win McNamee/Getty

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) has weighed in on a contentious Democratic primary contest in Illinois’ 3rd district, in which a progressive will attempt to unseat incumbent Democrat Rep. Dan Lipinski (D-IL).

Marie Newman, the intra-party challenger to Lipinski, released a statement this morning announcing Sanders’ full endorsement.

“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” Sanders said. “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.”

Newman has already earned plaudits from liberal groups including NARAL Pro-Choice America and EMILY’s List. And Sanders is not the first sitting member of Congress to back her over the Democratic incumbent.

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) has also tossed her support behind Newman, as have Illinois Democrats Rep. Jan Schakowsky and Luis Gutierrez.

Meanwhile, many national Democrats have avoided outright endorsing incumbent Lipinski. He is a member of the Blue Dog Coalition. What's more is that Lipinski is known as a conservative, anti-abortion Democrat who voted against the Affordable Care Act and the DREAM Act, and co-sponsored the First Amendment Defense Act, which would prohibit the government from taking discriminatory action against people who refuse to provide services for same-sex couples.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), however, only briefly said she supported him last week.

As the March 20 primary draws near, Newman is gaining traction and it’s showing in the polls. One survey, commissioned by NARAL, found Newman within two points of the incumbent opponent.

Despite such a contentious Democratic primary, party leaders are not worried about the fight leading to an insurgent Republican taking advantage of any split in the vote.

The 3rd district is a safe seat for Democrats, especially given the fact that either candidate would be facing off against an avowed neo-Nazi.