In a clear rebuke of Democratic Party leadership and the mounting threats to abortion rights across the United States, Sen. Bernie Sanders on Tuesday endorsed Marie Newman, who is challenging anti-choice Illinois Congressman Dan Lipinski in the 2020 primary after she narrowly lost to the Blue Dog Democrat in the last cycle.
"At a time when workers are under attack by Wall Street and women's rights are under attack by well-funded extremist groups across the country, I am proud to support Marie Newman's grassroots campaign for Congress," Sanders (I-Vt.) told BuzzFeed News.
"Marie will challenge the establishment by fighting for Medicare for All, a $15 minimum wage, expanding workers' rights," Sanders said, "and she will be a powerful voice for upholding Roe v. Wade at a disturbing moment in our history when a woman's right to control her own body and future is at stake."
.@Marie4Congress will challenge the establishment, and will be a powerful voice for upholding Roe v Wade at a disturbing moment when a woman’s right to control her own body and future is at stake. I am proud to support her grassroots campaign for Congress. https://t.co/9veDVjI2qU
— Bernie Sanders (@BernieSanders) June 5, 2019
Waleed Shahid, the communications director for Justice Democrats, called the endorsement "huge" and tweeted, "I wonder if other 2020 candidates will follow suit." So far, Newman has the support of only three of the 23 Democratic candidates: Sanders, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (N.Y.), and Washington Gov. Jay Inslee.
The senator's endorsement of Newman—his first for a congressional candidate in this primary cycle, according to BuzzFeed—comes as states continue to enact restrictions on abortion that are designed to provoke a lawsuit that forces the right-wing U.S. Supreme Court to reconsider Roe v. Wade, the 1973 case that affirmed the constitutional right to terminate a pregnancy up until viability.
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Lawmakers in nine states—Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Ohio, and Utah—have passed legislation restricting abortion rights this year. Though most measures were pushed through by Republican politicans, a Democratic state senator wrote Louisiana's ban and Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards signed it into law.
At the federal level, BuzzFeed noted, Lipinski is one of the last anti-choice Democrats in Congress. Lipinski's record on reproductive rights was a major focus of the 2018 primary race, but it could take on new weight in this cycle, given the growing threats to Roe.
Newman's support from Sanders also comes as progressives continue to call out party leaders for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee's (DCCC) March decison to blacklist firms and strategists who work with anyone who runs against incumbent Democrats, including primary candidates.
As Common Dreams reported in April, Newman said she had several vendors leave her campaign due to the DCCC's policy. At the time, Ilyse Hogue, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America, expressed her frustration with the news on Twitter: "Dan Lipinski votes against women's rights, LGBTQ rights, and the Affordable Care Act, and the the DCCC is punishing his opponent, Marie Newman who stands up for all of those things."
In addition to NARAL, Newman's campaign is backed by Planned Parenthood Action Fund, EMILY's List, Democracy for America, the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, MoveOn, and Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.), a leader in the Congressional Progressive Caucus.
A few weeks after Newman's revelation about departing vendors, the head of the DCCC backed out of a fundraiser for Lipinski. In a statement, Cheri Bustos boasted about her "100 percent pro-choice voting record" and claimed she was "deeply alarmed" by the recent wave of anti-choice state laws—but she also reiterated that "this does not change how I will work as DCCC chair to protect our big tent Democratic caucus."