Rush Darwish believes he stands out from other candidates in the Democratic primary race for U.S. representative of the Third Congressional District of Illinois.
Darwish, a Palestinian-American from Palos Hills, is running against incumbent Dan Lipinski, as well as repeat challenger Marie Newman, in the primary on March 17, 2020.
If he were to go on to win the general election, Darwish would be the first Palestinian-American—and first Muslim—to represent Illinois in Congress.
But, he said, he differs from Lipinski and Newman in other ways.
“I just think the time has come for the regular person, the middle-class person, to represent the Third District, somebody who reflects the majority of the people in the Third District,” Darwish said. “I’m not a career politician. I’m a small-business man. I’m literally trying to make a living. In my opinion, [the opponents] are extremely wealthy; they’ve got the big homes. … I come from a working-class family. I’m the child of immigrant parents.”
Darwish, 42, runs a media production company in Pilsen that creates products ranging from commercials to videos for non-profit organizations and weddings.
He will take running for office literally on Dec. 1 when he runs through the district, which spans from south suburban Lockport to the Bridgeport neighborhood—over 30 miles. The district also includes portions of Beverly/Morgan Park and Mt. Greenwood.
Darwish, a marathon runner, said he will also meet with residents to promote the importance of registering to vote.
Competing against Lipinski and Newman will be a challenge, as the two faced off in a tight primary in 2018 that saw Lipinski win by about 2 percent of the vote before easily winning the general election.
However, Darwish remains confident.
“The people have inspired me during this election,” he said. “Running a campaign, it’s not easy, but it’s meeting people, shaking their hand; and they say, ‘Go for it, Rush,’ and that means a lot to me.”
Darwish said he has two priorities in his campaign. He supports a federal minimum wage of $15 an hour, and he wants to be part of “creating a pathway for people to get into jobs that pay $20 [an hour] and up.”
He believes that can happen by more workers joining trade unions.
“The jobs are there,” Darwish said. “We just have to create a pathway to get people there and get them trained.”
He also wants more citizens to explore post-secondary education options at junior colleges and community colleges, as well as certification programs that only take weeks or months to complete.
His wife, Aziza Darwish, works in career programs and continuing education at Olive-Harvey Community College.
Rush Darwish’s parents immigrated to the U.S. in 1967, he said, and he believes in creating a path for immigrants to obtain employment—and citizenship.
He called separating families at the border “un-American,” and he said ideas such as a “Muslim ban” will solve nothing.
He believes in the “American Dream” for immigrants.
“People from all over the world want to come here,” Darwish said. “They want to provide for their families.”
Darwish said he believes in “Medicare for all,” but people should have the option to keep their private insurance.
In speaking with voters, Darwish said he’s learned they are “very frustrated” with transportation. He wants to expand Metra service on weekends and transportation services to Midway International Airport.
“We have to offer more transportation for people to get around, and it can’t just be at certain times,” Darwish said. “It has to be 24/7.”
Lipinski, of Western Springs, is known as a conservative Democrat and has held his seat since 2005. Newman, of LaGrange, is a progressive.
Democratic candidate Abe Matthew, an attorney from Bridgeport, recently dropped out of the race and endorsed Newman.
The Democratic primary winner will likely face Republican candidate Mike Fricilone, a Will County board member from Homer Glen, in November 2020.
Darwish believes he can win against Lipinski and Newman.
“A lot of people are looking for a new voice,” Darwish said. “They’re not convinced with those two individuals. I want to be that option for them, and I hope that I’m able to earn [their vote] come March 17.”