U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez announced Tuesday her endorsement of Marie Newman, a progressive challenger taking a second shot at unseating Rep. Dan Lipinski in Illinois.
"Marie Newman is a textbook example of one of the ways that we could be better as a party — to come from a deep blue seat and to be championing all the issues we need to be championing," Ocasio-Cortez said in an interview with The New York Times.
"It’s going to take a bigger, stronger Democratic Party - one that’s returned to our FDR roots & fights for working people - to change our future in 2020," she later tweeted, adding, "We can’t afford deep blue seats fighting against healthcare & equal rights."
"I’ve watched my community grow and progress and my Congressman fall behind," Newman tweeted about the endorsement on Tuesday. "This is about electing someone who knows this district, who will fight for bold progressive policies that will make life more affordable for everyone."
Newman, a marketing consultant, challenged Lipinski for Illinois' 3rd District in the 2018 Democratic primary election and lost by 2,145 votes, a less than 2-point margin in a race that garnered national attention as a battle for the soul of the Democratic Party.
Lipinski is now an eight-term lawmaker who took over the seat from his father and is widely seen as one of the most conservative Congressional Democrats. He's positioned himself against abortion rights, voted against the Affordable Care Act, and has taken other more conservative stances on issues like immigration as well.
For her part, Newman has voiced support for Medicare for All, a government-run single-payer health care system, as well as initiatives like the Green New Deal, a proposed set of reforms to mitigate the effects of climate change and address income inequality.
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The 3rd District, encompassing Chicago's Southwest Side and its surrounding suburbs, is a Democratic stronghold, all but guaranteeing the March primary winner a victory next November.
"The fact that a deep blue seat is advocating for many parts of the Republican agenda is extremely problematic," Ocasio-Cortez told The New York Times. "We’re not talking about a swing state that is being forced to take tough votes."
Of the endorsement, Lipinski said Ocasio-Cortez's support of his opponent "makes crystal clear that Ms. Newman is an extreme candidate who is completely out of step with the voters of Illinois' Third District who do not want to be represented by a fifth member of the 'Squad,'" invoking the nickname of the group consisting of Ocasio-Cortez and three other female Democratic members of Congress.
Lipinski then criticized Newman's support of Medicare for All and the Green New Deal, saying that he has worked in particular to lower prescription drug prices and cut greenhouse gas emissions.
In 2018, two of Lipinski's fellow Illinois Democrats - then-Rep. Luis Gutierrez and Rep. Jan Schakowsky - threw their support behind Newman in a rare move rebuking their Congressional colleague.
While the Illinois delegation has yet to weigh in this time around, Newman has in recent months collected the endorsements of two Democratic presidential candidates: Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders, who also supported Newman in the previous cycle.
Tuesday's endorsement marked Ocasio-Cortez's first foray into the 2020 primary races. The New York Democrat, who ousted incumbent Rep. Joe Crowley in a stunning upset last year, has taken up the mantle as a leader of the party's left wing, in part using her social media savvy to reach supporters far beyond the boundaries of her district.
Ocasio-Cortez said in a livestream last year that she and Justice Democrats, a progressive political action committee that was formed in 2017 and supported her run the following year, would work together to challenge incumbent Democrats from the left.
But since that pronouncement, Ocasio-Cortez has stayed relatively quiet on primary challenges to other Democrats in what some see as an effort to toe the party line. Her endorsement of Newman is Ocasio-Cortez's first such challenge to a member of her own party this cycle.