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Bernie Sanders on Chuy Garcia, Marie Newman and 2020

U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders (right) said he wants to make sure progressives like Cook County Commissioner Jesus “Chuy” Garcia (left) get elected to Congress. | File photos

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.