WASHINGTON — Sen. Bernie Sanders told me Tuesday he wants to make sure progressives like Jesus “Chuy” Garcia get elected to Congress; is open to backing Marie Newman over Rep. Dan Lipinski, and is “thinking about” a 2020 presidential run.
I interviewed Sanders, the Vermont Independent, in advance of a four-state swing he is making, starting Thursday in Chicago, where he will stump for Garcia and meet with leaders of more than a dozen unions.
Here are the highlights of my phone conversation with Sanders about the March 20 Illinois primary and beyond.
ON GARCIA: Sanders and Garcia, a Cook County Commissioner, are close political allies. With Garcia’s help, Sanders only narrowly lost to Hillary Clinton in the 2016 Illinois presidential primary. Garcia went on to become a national surrogate for Sanders presidential campaign.
Sanders will headline a rally for Garcia on Thursday at Apollos 2000, 2875 W. Cermak Rd. Doors open at 2 p.m. and Sanders speaks at 4 p.m.
“What I do know is that we desperately need people like Chuy Garcia in the Congress to stand up for working families who are prepared to take on the billionaire class. . . . He is somebody I look forward very much to working with,” Sanders said.
Garcia is running for the 4th Congressional District seat left open with the retirement of Rep. Luis Gutierrez, D-Ill., against Sol Flores, a member of the City of Chicago Zoning Board of Appeals and Richard Gonzalez, a Sergeant in Chicago Police Department.
Sanders said he has two goals in his swing through Illinois, Wisconsin, Michigan and Iowa this week: holding meetings to get more people involved in the political process — his “revolution” — and “to do everything I can to elect progressive members to Congress.”
NEWMAN VS LIPINSKI: Since Sanders wants to elect progressives to Congress, I asked him if he will back the progressive Newman in the 3rd Congressional District primary.
“I have not spoken to Marie, and that is something I very much want to do. And that is a phone call I intend to make,” Sanders said.
Sanders beat Clinton in the 3rd CD in the 2016 Illinois Democratic primary, so if he decided to stump for Newman it could have a positive impact — especially in bringing out suburban Democrats who tend to stay home in the midterms.
Is the door open? “Absolutely,” Sanders said.
My take: Sanders will help Newman, since the 3rd CD primary is a test of progressive voting power.
SANDERS ON 2020: Asked about running again for president, Sanders told me, “I would not be honest with you if I didn’t say, ‘Am I thinking about it? Yes I am. Have I made a decision? Absolutely not.’”
SANDERS UNION MEETINGS: A source — not Sanders — told me the unions he will be meeting with include the Amalgamated Transit Union; National Nurses United; CWA; American Postal Workers Union; Chicago Teachers Union; IEA; United Steelworkers of America; UAW; UFCW; AFGE; International Association of Machinists; IBEW; United Electrical Workers; Teamsters Local 705, and three labor organizations that are part of the Chicago Sun-Times ownership group — the Chicago Federation of Labor; Service Employees International Union, Healthcare Illinois-Indiana and Service Employees International Union, Local No. 1.