Marie Newman is a La Grange resident and marketing consultant who founded a nonprofit to address bullying and now is set to challenge Rep. Dan Lipinski for his seat representing Illinois’ 3rd Congressional District. The district includes all or parts of Crest Hill, Homer Glen, Lemont, Lockport and Romeoville.
She describes herself as a progressive and wants to position herself apart from her opponent. Lipinski has been in office since 2005, having taken over the district from his father, Bill. He did not face a primary challenge in 2014 or 2016.
Newman has been speaking with several residents of the 3rd Congressional District. She recently sat down with reporter Alex Ortiz to discuss what those voters are telling her and what her ideas are to win the Democratic congressional primary in 2018. Below is an edited version of the conversation.
Ortiz: So what should voters know about you?
Newman: I was born in Beverly, grew up in Palos and went to Carl Sandburg High School, so I really understand the 3rd District. I have hundreds of family and friends here. I care about the district deeply because I chose to live here. I not only was born here, but I chose to stay here.
My background is interesting. I have a corporate background. I was an agency executive. I went on to work in other firms. I built my own nonprofit from scratch. One of the reasons that I built the nonprofit was because one of my sons was severely bullied about nine years ago. I realized it was a huge problem where I lived at the time. So at that time, I built an anti-bullying system for the school because I realized so many kids are being affected by this in the school district.
Then, I got appointed to a regional task force that was part of Gov. [Pat] Quinn’s task force to understand best practices for bullying at the time. Sears asked me to build a nonprofit program for them nationally, and so I put together a coalition of 70 smaller nonprofits throughout the U.S. in six weeks. Then we built a campaign around that, all dedicated to solving bullying issues. It was a resource site called Team Up to Stop Bullying.
That program ran for a couple of years. During that time, I was invited to the White House anti-bullying summit, which helped lead the policy that President [Barack] Obama ended up signing. Similarly, I worked with some of the state groups and advocates at the state level for the policy that was developed by Gov. Quinn. So that was the first time I really started to work on advocacy, policy, legislative work.
Most recently, over the last two years, I’ve worked with state and federal legislators on policy around gun safety and background checks and keeping guns out of dangerous hands like criminals and terrorists. I think everyone can agree on that. Unfortunately, our lawmakers cannot agree on that. I’ve done a lot of different things. I’ve built small businesses that have been very successful and one that failed. I know what it’s like to not make payroll. It doesn’t feel good, and it resonates with me when I talk to small-business owners.
Ortiz: What was that transition like from the corporate and nonprofit world to advocacy and political work? Were you politically active in the past?
Newman: I’ve always been politically active. I’ve worked on probably six different campaigns, Obama, Hillary [Clinton]. This past round, I worked on [Rep. Brad] Schneider, [Rep.] Raja [Krishnamoorthi] and a couple of other smaller campaigns. So I am no stranger to canvassing and phone banking and all of the like. I’ve been doing that for many, many years, probably 10 or 15 years.
But even prior to that, I was very politically astute. I actually research judges. I’m that voter. Very much a strong Democrat my entire adult life, so I think it’s very important that the Democratic Party do two things: That it evolve and stay very vocal, and be a great voice for its inhabitants and for its voters. Starting last fall, when people started to urge me [to run], I actually did what I always do. I did a huge research dive into what the district was about.
Ortiz: What have your conversations been like with the people in the district who don’t agree with you politically?
Newman: What we can all agree on, and this is where we can concentrate where we all agree, is whether you are a [Donald] Trump supporter, an independent or a Hillary supporter, everybody agrees that working families need to be enabled and empowered. Most precisely, working families need a fair deal. They’re not getting a fair deal right now. It’s interesting, because when I talk to folks who potentially voted for someone other than I did, we can all agree on that. So I think, let’s start on where we agree and start working on that.
Ortiz: Do you worry about the polarization in the country today, or do you think that’s starting to turn?
Newman: I see bright spots. I do. I see good conversations out there. I don’t think we’re going to all change each others’ minds. I’m not naive, but I do think we can agree on mutually beneficial needs.