One of the most closely-watched contests in Illinois' primary election on March 17 is the Democratic race in the 3rd District - a rematch between Rep. Dan Lipinski and challenger Marie Newman, now joined by two other candidates on the ballot.
Lipinski is now an eight-term lawmaker after taking over the seat in 2005 from his father, who held the office for more than 20 years. Lipinski is often described as one of the most conservative Congressional Democrats and is one of the last remaining anti-abortion Democrats in the House - a stance he said is at the center of the campaigns against him.
"Over $2 million is being spent against me on the abortion issue," Lipinski told reporters after a candidate forum on Friday, adding that while he didn't think abortion was the most important issue to the district overall, he believed it to be the focus of his challengers' campaigns.
When asked if the race comes down to the specific issue of abortion rights, Lipinski said, "I don't think it does, but that's what people who are trying to defeat me, that's what they're focusing on," adding that he believed health care to be the most important issue overall.
Newman is a marketing consultant and anti-bullying advocate who nearly unseated Lipinski in the 2018 Democratic primary, losing by just 2,145 votes. She's challenging him from the left and supports abortion rights but said her campaign is about more than that - in agreement with Lipinski that health care was at the top of the list.
"It is an important issue, I don't think it's the number one issue," she said Friday. "Health care comes first usually, then it's immigration."
Newman said another big issue in the district is transportation, and that one of her priorities in office would be securing a seat on the House Transportation Committee.
"We have bridges that are falling apart, and we have lots of transportation deserts. If we close up those deserts and extend things like the Orange Line, we'll create job opportunities, but workers can get to work on time," she said.
"The issue is the CTA has such a backlog of state of repair, the CTA is having such a difficult time keeping its current lines running and safe," Lipinski said on the issue, which he also agreed it important to the district.
Also on the ballot are first-time candidates Rush Darwish and Charles Hughes.
Hughes told the Sun-Times that he is a mechanic for Nicor Gas who previously worked in the political operation of former Rep. Bill Lipinski, his now-opponent’s father. Hughes echoed the other candidates with his belief that health care is the main focus of the race.
"I go door to door, I have direct mailers, most of all I meet the middle class, and you know what they tell me is abortion is not the big issue, health care is," Hughes said.
Darwish is a former television news anchor and sports reporter who now owns a multimedia production company in Chicago.
"I come from a disenfranchised community in the southwest suburbs, as an Arab-American," he said Friday. "I understand how important it is to take this step to represent people who are not part of the process."
Between the start of 2019 through the end of February, Lipinski's campaign has spent more than $1.3 million to Newman's $1.2 million - not including money spent by outside groups. Darwish has spent nearly $700,000 since April and Hughes has spent just under $22,000.
Of the four candidates, when it comes to the presidential race, only Hughes would say he endorses former Vice President Joe Biden over Sen. Bernie Sanders and Rep. Tulsi Gabbard.
Darwish said he's leaning toward Sanders but remained non-committal, while Newman and Lipinski both said they're undecided - likely trying not to alienate any voters still making up their mind.