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POLITICS Marie Newman: Lipinski's 3rd District challenger
by David Thill

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Daniel Lipinski has represented Illinois' 3rd District in the U.S. House of Representatives since 2005. But in 2018, the Democrat will have a challenger—from his own party. Her name is Marie Newman, and she plans to bring change.

Newman, a 3rd District native and resident of La Grange, said she feels "compelled" to run for the seat. Although she has long considered running, it was the 2016 election cycle that finally propelled Newman—a former J. Walter Thompson partner, small business owner and founder of the national non-profit coalition Team Up to Stop Bullying—to announce her candidacy April 10.

She feels not only at odds with the policies proposed by the Trump administration, but also with a general negativity that she sensed emerging in the country during the presidential campaign. "We cannot move forward as a nation as we are right now," she said.

The problems

Newman said she first felt drawn to government work about seven years ago, while working on an anti-bullying task force established by the office of then-Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn. That was when she discovered the appeal of advocacy work. Though she had worked in nonprofit and volunteer capacities in the past, advocacy specifically called to her because of its legislative component.

"Part and parcel to advocating for an issue or a topic is understanding what a law can and can't do," said Newman. Laws can create boundaries for people to abide by, she said, "but they certainly can't change hearts and minds. So, advocacy is both changing hearts and minds and attitudes, as well as leading to companion legislation."

Since that initial foray, Newman said that peers from both the advocacy and legislative realms have urged her to run for elected office. But in the midst of family and work obligations, the time wasn't quite right—until now.

After some voter research at the end of 2016, she began holding what she calls "coffee issue sessions," in which she does just that: meet with voters over coffee to discuss issues of concern. She has held about 50 of these meetings, while also attending gatherings of local chapters of progressive groups such as Indivisible and Action for a Better Tomorrow.

During these meetings, Newman said she has heard from many voters stretched thin by mounting bills and low wages. She recalled one young mother, who told Newman that she and her husband often must choose at the end of the month whether to pay for health insurance, the mortgage, school tuition, or some other pressing expense.

"I've heard that a lot," said Newman. And "if I wasn't motivated before that—and I was—it was very motivating to move forward and understand how I could solve those problems."

So, then, what will Newman do to solve those problems?

The solutions

Speaking about health insurance, Newman said that she believes a single-payer model can be part of America's future. But, she said, "The pragmatics are that [in] the next four years, we will not be able to get very close to that."

What she believes can happen in that time, however, is for the federal government to take steps to improve the Affordable Care Act. "There are some very significant problems" in the ACA ( also known as Obamacare ), Newman said. For example, she pointed to high medication and service costs, and the so-called family glitch ( which results in a loss of government subsidies for families who otherwise cannot afford health insurance on the state exchanges ).

"Right now, we have to live in reality," said Newman. To that end, she said, legislation in the next four years should focus on protecting the ACA and fixing its flaws.

Newman's next area of focus is small business, which she said accounts for 55 percent of the GDP and is a source of many American jobs. "We have got to start paying attention to small business," she said.

She advocates tax relief for small business owners, which she believes will lead those businesses to growth. Additionally, she said, increased access to loans and capital for small business owners will allow them to scale their businesses and raise employee wages, "and we can have a livable wage in this country."

And finally, said Newman, individual rights must be protected and advanced. The word "tolerate" is "outdated and obsolete," she said. "We have to start recognizing, respecting, seeing, and appreciating each other."

Looking at LGBT rights, for example, Newman acknowledged that Illinois has it "slightly better than many states do." But, she added, "We all have a long way to go." She believes that while marriage equality was a positive step, national legislation is also necessary to protect equal access to public accommodations, as well as to ensure safety for LGBT people in schools and workplaces. Those rights, said Newman, need to be advanced.

The plan

If Newman is elected, she will be tasked with pushing her ideas through a Congress that some scholars say is more ideologically divided than ever before in modern times. However, she believes it is possible to find common ground.

For example, Republicans she has talked to agree that small business is a fast-growing sector. "That's an opportunity," she said. "How about if we start capitalizing on opportunities and moving forward together?"

Trying to find areas of agreement between the parties may sound "cliché" or "simplistic," Newman admitted. "But it really is that simple, because…there's really no other way. We can either do worse or better, and I want to do better."

Between now and the March 2018 primary—currently a contest between Newman and incumbent Lipinski—Newman will run what she described as a "highly event-driven," "highly personal," and "highly…interactive" campaign.

"What has been woefully missing" from the 3rd District, said Newman, "is any means of two-way communication" between Lipinski and his constituents. In contrast, she plans to keep in constant communication with voters, as well as with a campaign team that will be largely volunteer-driven. She already has a sizeable base of volunteers, she said. But she hopes to get more.

"It's going to take an army," said Newman. "It's a small army right now. I want it to be a big army."

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