For the first time in 35 years, there is a competitive primary in Congressman Dan Lipinski’s district, and the race is attracting national attention.
Lipinski is facing a strong challenge from activist Marie Newman, who is calling attention to the troubles facing Illinois House Speaker Mike Madigan, a long-time supporter of the congressman.
“I’m pushing that boulder of the monarchy and the machine up (the hill) everyday,” she said.
Rep. Lipinski defended Madigan on Capitol Hill this week, saying that he is taking important steps in addressing issues in the legislature.
“The Speaker has taken some important steps in combating sexual harassment in Springfield and in the Democratic party of Illinois, and I think he needs to continue to move forward,” he said.
The candidates have also sparred over the Affordable Care Act. Lipinski was the only Illinois Democrat to vote against the measure when it passed in 2010.
“I didn’t vote for the ACA because it had a lot of flaws in it, and we’ve seen with 37 percent increases in premiums some of the problems with the bill,” he said.
“He voted against the ACA and several proposals since then, and now all of the sudden he’s part of the problem-solvers group that has done nothing to solve the problem,” Newman countered.
The candidates have split the support of organized labor, with Lipinski claiming the endorsement of the AFL-CIO and Newman collecting the support of SEIU.
Abortion is another issue that shows a wide gulf between the candidates.
“Marie Newman is extreme on abortion,” Lipinski said. “(She’s) out of line not only with the district, but with the Democratic voters of the district.”
Newman defended her abortion stance, saying that she supports a woman’s “right to choose her own healthcare.”
“I trust women and families to make their own healthcare decisions. Period,” she said. “Government should not be involved in such things.”
Lipinski has also positioned himself more conservatively on issues like immigration and LGBT rights, opposing marriage equality and supporting legislation allowing businesses to refuse to serve members of the LGBT community.
Recent polls have pinned the race as a toss-up, but a new endorsement could be coming down the pipe for Newman, as reports show that Senator Bernie Sanders is leaning toward endorsing her in the race.