Support Independent Journalism. Donate today!

For Illinois Democrat Marie Newman, Progressive Is ‘Practical’

Newman, who is running for a U.S. House seat, wants Medicare for all, green jobs, and a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants.

Photo by Marie Newman for Congress.

Like many women candidates, Marie Newman finally moved from volunteering for various political campaigns to running one of her own at the continued suggestion of others and after realizing that there was no reason to doubt her qualifications.

She scrubbed floors to get through college, lived without insurance for several years in her 20s, and ran her own small business. “It all started to merge into service and advocacy,” Newman said of the culmination of her experiences.

Newman is running to represent Illinois’s Third Congressional District, which encompasses the southwest side of Chicago and its southwest suburbs. She made her first run for the seat in 2018 but fell a few thousand votes short of Representative Dan Lipinski, a Reagan Democrat whose father held the seat before him.

Newman faced Lipinski again in this year’s Democratic primary race and focused on voter outreach, she told The Appeal. This time, she beat him, ending his decades in office.

“He was bad on immigration, very bad on all of civil rights and human rights. He voted against the [Affordable Care Act],” she said of Lipinski and his record in office. “It all pointed toward this policy of supporting inequity. That was the only umbrella that fits him.” 

A spokesperson for Lipinski responded, “If it is the case that Newman is looking backwards and continuing her Trump-like false and hateful rhetoric rather than focusing on the upcoming election, that may explain why her campaign is struggling against a vastly underfunded Republican.” 

A Cook County GOP poll conducted in early September puts Newman ahead of her opponent, Mike Fricilone, by 2.2 percentage points, and Vice President Joe Biden endorsed her for the seat last week.

Newman’s platform is a cornucopia of progressive policies that includes Medicare for All, a $15 federal minimum wage, green jobs, COVID-19 relief, protection for DACA recipients, and an “unambiguous” path to citizenship for immigrants.

As a white woman hoping to represent an increasingly diverse district, Newman is under no illusions. “I’m not a white savior. I’m the best ally you can have, and I keep learning how to be a better one,” she said. To accomplish this, she told The Appeal she relies on a diverse staff, advisory councils, and continual meet and greets with her constituents, from small business owners to fire fighters, EMTs, and police officers.

She’s chosen to focus her efforts on addressing what most Americans share in common: the struggle to get through the day while the rich get richer.

“Working families and the middle class are getting the short straw every time. This economy doesn’t work for everyone; it works for very, very few people,” Newman told The Appeal. “Unemployment and underemployment are huge issues in the nation, and they’ll keep growing and growing until we get serious about the super practical path. Progressive policy is the more practical path.”

For Newman, this means an intersectional, restorative justice approach to solving complex issues. For example, Newman sees the affordability of healthcare as closely tied to criminal justice reform. “Mental health and healthcare access are a problem. People don’t seek healthcare because they can’t afford it and many end up in the criminal justice system,” she says.

She advocates legalizing marijuana and wants to pass a comprehensive federal law that allows people in jails and released prisoners the right to vote, in line with Illinois’s law. She also supports passing the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, a bill that endeavors to radically reform policing on the federal level. However, the bill ignores more progressive calls from communities around the country to replace police departments with public safety organizations and redirect police funding across areas like education and housing.

When it comes to the pandemic, getting the country into “relief and recovery mode” is her primary goal. And to address economic inequality, Newman has her sights set on the unbanked and underbanked. 

“We should not only be using the post office for postal banking,” she says, but as a center for information on everything from jobs and affordable housing to paths towards citizenship for immigrants. “There should be a kiosk in every post office—they’re already in every zip code.”

Despite a platform full of positions that are at odds with the Republican-held Senate and the  “quite frightening” Supreme Court, as well as the chance that Nov. 3 could mean the continuation of the current administration’s policies, Newman remains hopeful. 

She expects the Senate to flip, but regardless, her philosophy involves “rolling up your sleeves and working really hard with colleagues—Republicans, independents, and Democrats—and [making] it clear that we’re running out of choices … Inaction is costly and deadly.”