Sen. Bernie Sanders endorsed Marie Newman in her battle to defeat Rep. Dan Lipinski, D-Ill., an expected boost that could help turn out the Democratic progressives she needs in the March 20 primary.

The Newman/Lipinski contest for the 3rd Congressional District will be a test of the political power of newly energized progressive Democrats on city/southwest suburban political turf anchored by a cluster of old-style remnants of Democratic machine wards on Chicago’s Southwest Side.

Sanders, a Vermont Independent, beat Clinton in this district in the 2016 Illinois Democratic presidential primary. Sanders backing for Newman means a lot — if it translates to turnout.

The Sanders boost comes as early voting has already started in Illinois. It’s not known yet if he will visit the district to rally voters, cut commercials for her, help her fundraise or do robo calls.


When I talked to Sanders last month he signaled his backing of Newman was on the way. He told me the door was “absolutely” open to an endorsement. He told me his 2018 goal is “to do everything I can to elect progressive members to Congress” as he is also considering a 2020 second bid for the White House.

The Sanders related Illinois political organization “Our Revolution,” has already endorsed Newman. Sanders was in Chicago last month to stump for Cook County Board Member Jesus “Chuy” Garcia, running in the Democratic primary for the seat vacated by retiring Rep. Luis Gutierrez, D-Ill.

While Sanders and Garcia have a relationship, Sanders told me he wanted to talk to Newman first before endorsing her.

The 3rd Congressional District takes in a geographically big swath of southwest suburbs where the rivals live — Newman in La Grange and Lipinski in Western Springs.

Lipinski’s political staying power comes from his base in the city: most of the 23rd Ward, where his father, former Rep. Bill Lipinski D-Ill., once ruled over the ward operation and parts of 11, 19, 14, 13, 20, 16, 12, 18, 15 and 22. The 13th Ward is run by House Speaker Mike Madigan, D-Ill., who is also the chair of the Democratic Party of Illinois.

The campaigns estimate that at least a third of the vote will come from the city wards. Highlighting the importance of the city vote: the headquarters for both the Lipinski and Newman campaigns are a few blocks apart on Archer Avenue on the Southwest Side.

Sanders political team called his endorsement “game changing” as Sanders said in a statement, “Marie Newman has made it clear that she will be a champion for working families in Illinois, which is why I am proud to support her campaign” said Sen. Bernie Sanders. “In Congress, Marie will fight for Medicare for All, a $15 an hour minimum wage, and providing workers with benefits such as paid sick leave, while protecting Medicare and Social Security. She will defend women’s rights, LGBT rights and ensure immigrants have a safe path to citizenship. I am proud to stand with Marie and look forward to continuing to fight alongside her on these and other critical issues once she’s elected to Congress.”

Newman said in statement, “The tides are changing here in the Third district of Illinois.”