Rep.-elect Marie Newman, a progressive who counted Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez among her backers, rejected the GOP branding of her party as socialists and said Democrats are the party of "jobs, jobs, jobs."
Republicans throughout the 2020 election drove home a message that electing Democrats would mean a vote for socialism based on influential leaders on the left like Ocasio-Cortez and Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., who describe themselves as Democratic socialists.
Newman, the incoming congresswoman from Illinois' 3rd District, dismissed the socialist tag as GOP fear-mongering and said she's focused on making life more affordable and creating sustainable job opportunities.
"Republicans have been calling us socialists since about 1901," Newman, 56, said in an interview with Fox News during congressional orientation in Washington.
"We are not socialists," she continued. "We are Democrats. Get over it."
Newman said the party needs to better highlight how Democrats have a track record of expanding jobs and prosperity. She refers to a Democratic Party chart showing far better job increases, manufacturing growth and GDP gains under modern Democratic presidents compared to GOP presidents.
"That's all we do is jobs, jobs, jobs," Newman said.
"We have always been better at jobs. And we've always been better at the economy. And we're going to keep doing that."
Newman came to Congress by mounting a primary challenge against Rep. Dan Lipinski, a conservative Democrat who is anti-abortion, arguing his positions on a range of issues were out of step with the Chicago area district. His father, Bill Lipinski, held the congressional seat previously.
Newman will be the first woman elected to represent the 3rd District.
Ocasio-Cortez shined a light on the race when she announced her first primary opponent endorsement for a sitting member of Congress would be Newman. Newman also had the support of Justice Democrats, the progressive insurgent group that backed Ocasio-Cortez's upset primary win in 2018.
But Newman is quick to point out that her primary endorsements came from a broad coalition, including labor unions like the SEIU Illinois State Council, local officials like Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot, and national figures, including Sens. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., Cory Booker, D-N.J. and Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y.
"I am super fortunate that all perspectives in the party supported me," Newman said. "[The Democratic Party] embraced me and found something in my platform. And I think it's because I have a very practical approach to all of my policies. And we need that right now. We desperately need someone that is really good at building bridges and building coalitions to get a practical path forward so we get something done."
Newman is a progressive who talks about using a pragmatic approach to implement big changes. She wants to phase in Medicare-for-All in chunks, starting with lowering the eligibility for Medicare to age 55 and laying out a clear timetable so Americans know what to expect. She wants universal child care, paid family leave and a minimum wage of $15 an hour.
"My platform has always been based on making life more affordable for everybody," she said.
She views the Green New Deal as a resolution with good ideas, but prefers President-elect Joe Biden's $2 trillion plan to create green energy jobs because it's a tangible proposal that can be made into law.
"Bernie pushed hard to get Biden to move on a couple of things particularly on the green stimulus package," Newman said. "And look at this package. This is the most progressive green stimulus package we've ever seen out of the Democratic Party. It's very aggressive. He understands we have less than 10 years to solve this problem."
Democrats were optimistic they would expand their House majority based on major fundraising advantages over Republicans and President Trump's slumping popularity in the suburbs. Instead, Democrats lost many swing district races and they're poised to have the slimmest majority since the dawn of the new millennium when Republicans occupied barely 51 percent of seats in 2001.
Moderate Democrats have blamed socialism and defunding the police for the losses, whereas Ocasio-Cortez argues that progressives energized the record turnout for Biden and the House candidates who lost just campaigned poorly.
Newman views the internal Democratic division as a "hearty family discussion." She said the party needs to analyze all the things that went right in 2020 and everything that went wrong. One of her takeaways was Democrats need to focus more on grassroots doorknocking and phone banking, and less on raising money.
"It's not all about fundraising," said Newman, who rejected all corporate PAC dollars during her campaign. "We need to organize."
Newman, a wife and mother of two from La Grange, first challenged Lipinski two years ago but narrowly lost the primary. Prior to her four-year journey to Congress, Newman worked in advertising and then started a small management consulting firm.
She became an anti-bullying expert after her son was severely bullied to the point of hospitalization. Newman authored a book to help parents and then partnered with Sears to build a national coalition of non-profits called Team up to Stop Bullying that was announced in 2012.
Newman said it was "horrifying" to see Trump in the White House because he's "the epitome of the ultimate bully."
She's looking forward to a Biden presidency that will stop the hurting, name-calling, fear-mongering and chaos, she said.
"He is a unifier and a healer. And he's a good man," Newman said. "That's what we all need right now."