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Lipinski, Newman square off at Moraine Valley forum

  • Written by Steve Metsch

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                Photo by Steve Metsch

U.S. Rep. Dan Lipinski (3rd) and challenger Marie Newman shake hands after their political forum Wednesday night at Moraine Valley Community College. 

The two candidates seeking the Democratic nomination – and barring a miracle – the next two-year term in Congress representing the 3rd Congressional District, went toe-to-toe for about an hour Wednesday night.

A political forum, not a debate, hosted by the League of Women Voters was held in a large meeting room in Building M at Moraine Valley Community College. An overflow crowd estimated at about 500 heard from the incumbent, U.S. Rep. Dan Lipinski, and challenger, Marie Newman.

Newman took the more aggressive role, taking shots at Lipinski’s record throughout the evening and talking about changes she’d bring to the job. Afterward, she said she thought the evening “did a really nice job of creating a clear contrast between Mr. Lipinski … our value systems and our moral systems.”

“I think a lot of people don’t understand his voting record and his dangerous views. He doesn’t seem to believe people deserve a livable wage, affordable child care, and paid leave and benefits for folks who work hard. When he says he’s for working families, I find that very hard to believe,” Newman said in the lobby.

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                                                                        Photo by Steve Metsch

U.S. Rep. Dan Lipinski answers a question during Wednesday night’s forum at Moraine Valley Community College.

Lipinski, who saved harder verbal jabs for his closing statement, said afterward that the format was difficult because he was unable to answer charges levied against him by Newman.

Neither candidate responded to frequent catcalls from the audience. One especially vocal Newman supporter left before he was asked to leave.

In his closing comments, Lipinski touted being endorsed by the Illinois AFL/CIO and 25 other unions, including the Fraternal Order of Police, and by the Chicago Tribune and Sun-Times.

“I’ve fought for women in the workplace. I’ve fought for fair treatment of women and equal pay for equal work. That’s why I’m endorsed by 56 women who are elected officials in this district. I work with local elected officials to solve problems, transportation, flooding, railroad noise and other issues. That’s why I’ve been endorsed by 30 suburban mayors and seven Chicago aldermen in the 3rd District,” Lipinski said.

Each candidate took turns answering questions submitted by the audience and covering a wide range of issues. They were asked by Annie Logue, president of the League of Women Voters of Chicago. She ran a tight ship, often reminding audience members to not shout comments and refrain from applauding.

The first question, a timely one given the recent shootings in Florida, was about curbing gun violence.

Newman endorses extensive background checks, and urged reviving a ban on assault weapons or have a semiautomatic weapon ban.

“Responsible gun owners should have as many guns as they like, however, some – domestic abusers, criminals, terrorists, and those with mental illness – should not have guns. That’s just common sense,” Newman said.

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                                                                         Photo by Steve Metsch

Democratic challenger Marie Newman answers a question during Wednesday night’s 3rd Congressional District forum at Moraine Valley Community College.

Lipinski said he “received an ‘F’ from the NRA,” adding that he’s co-sponsored and voted for bills urging more background checks, and wants limits on the ammo capacity of guns. More, he said, should be done for mental health care as well. “There’s a lot we have to do.”

Reproductive rights, a hot button issue in the campaign, were also discussed.

Lipinski said he’s working on trying to help women “who have an unplanned pregnancy and are seeking help,” adding “there’s more we can do to help women so they don’t feel it necessary to seek an abortion.”

Newman said “I do trust women, and families to do what they need in accordance with their beliefs,” noting that “Mr. Lipinski has tried to defund Planned Parenthood seven times.”

The district’s diverse population, which includes many Muslim and Arab residents, needs attention, Newman said: “There is hate and divisiveness and we need to stop that. The way to do that is to get to know one another.”

Lipinski said he has reached out, visiting with Muslim and Arab groups.

“When Donald Trump put in his travel ban, which was a message of discrimination, I spoke against that. I went to the prayer center in Orland Park, and did the same at the Mosque Foundation in Bridgeview,” he said.

Newman got several loud cheers when she took Lipinski to task over lesbian and gay issues.

Lipinski said “every individual should be treated with dignity.” He voted 10 years ago to add sexual orientation to federal hate crime laws and voted to end “don’t ask, don’t tell” in the military, he said.

“That’s fascinating,” Newman said. “This is the gentleman who sat next to me at the Sun-Times editorial board meeting on Jan. 24 and indicated he does not believe in marriage equality and would not support it. I find it fascinating he’s interested in dignity. I will fight for everyone’s rights. Human rights are human rights.”

In a rare moment, both agreed that the gerrymandering of congressional districts must be looked at closely. But Newman called it “fascinating” since Lipinski “worked closely with (Illinois Speaker of the House) Mike Madigan and his groups to cut out whole parts of an existing congressional district because he didn’t seem to think he wanted them.”

Funding also was brought up as an issue.

After Newman said Lipinski had taken $1.7 million in what she termed “dark money” from a Republican PAC in North Carolina, he said he had “no idea what she is talking about,” adding that Newman has accepted funding from a Washington-based super PAC “pouring at least $1 million into her campaign.”

There was a clear division between them about legalization of marijuana.

Lipinski brushed it off, saying he would “allow the states to do what they are going to do,” adding he looked forward to answering questions about “bread-and-butter issues most people in the 3rd District are concerned about.”

Newman favors legalizing marijuana. She said she had three reasons, but only mentioned “it does help people in pain, and it does have other medicinal purposes.”

Lipinski touted his bringing $375 million in transportation funding to the district, but Newman said the Midway area needs reviving. She’d use empty space near the airport to provide training for trades.

Paying down the federal debt, increased by Trump’s “federal tax scheme,” is a problem, Lipinski said: “We need the courage to make the tough choices. Will there need to be cuts? Will we have to raise taxes?”

Newman suggested installing a “financial transaction tax that would not hurt anyone, it’s pennies, pennies,” but offered no details on how it would “bring the debt down dramatically.”

In the end, each side claimed victory. That will be determined by the voters at the March 20 primary. No other forums or debates are scheduled between the two.

In attendance was the Republican candidate Art Jones, who showed up even though he was not invited to take part.

Wearing a red “Make America Great Again” cap, Jones said he was disappointed to have not been included.

“I think Lipinski has got a fight on his hands, which is too bad because she’s really out in left field,” said Jones, a Holocaust denier.