In the four-way race for the Democratic nomination in the 3rd Congressional District three of the candidates are fairly well known. Dan Lipinski, the incumbent, inherited the congressional seat from his father, Bill Lipinski, who served for some two decades.
Mark Pera, the president of the Lyons Township High School Board of Education, has waged a hard and visible campaign, relentlessly attacking Lipinski and positioning himself as the only viable alternative.
Jerry Bennett is a well-known candidate in the southwest suburbs, where he is mayor of Palos Hills. Initially suspected of being a Lipinski plant because of his past support for the congressman, Bennett has waged a campaign that would suggest otherwise.
Then there's James Capparelli.
A self-described "neighborhood guy" from Chicago's Southwest Side, Capparelli said he ran for Congress because folks in the neighborhood asked him to.
"I value their values," he said. "I'm for things that are best for working class men and women."
In an endorsement interview with the Landmark editorial board, Capparelli painted a picture of a candidate whose issues on social positions are rather conservative, but whose support for organized labor is unwavering.
"[American political parties] are being held hostage by extremist groups in both corners. I want to vote the values of people here in this district."
Of all the candidates in the race, Capparelli would seem the most unlikely. He has no experience as an elected official. He spent a couple of years as an assistant state's attorney in Will County after getting his law degree in 2002, a job he said he obtained through friends there.
After that he spent some time in the Illinois Attorney General's Office, working as a bureau chief for veteran's affairs until early 2007.
For most of his adult life, Capparelli has been involved in the U.S military. From 1983-90 he was an active duty officer in the U.S. Army who participated in the 1989 invasion of Panama as a member of the 82nd Airborne Division.
Since 1990, he has been in the U.S. Army Reserve and is a lieutenant colonel commanding the 13th Psychological Operations Battalion, based in Arden Hills, Mich.
From 1995 to 2002, when he received his law degree, Capparelli worked as the director of human resources for a Chicago food distribution company.
Capparelli has received endorsements from a few union groups, including, Capparelli said, the Central States Joint Board. It was those union jobs that allowed American families to flourish, with wives staying at home to raise children. Capparelli's wife is a pharmacist for Walgreens. He opposes abortion, saying "it's a question of faith for me."
On issues of immigration, healthcare, Iraq and the environment, Capparelli's positions seem to be more in line with moderate Republican views.
"I want to vote the values of the people here in this district," Capparelli said. "The winner-take-all mentality is wrong. This country was formed on better ideals and morals than that."
To deal with the problem of illegal immigration, Capparelli said the U.S. should enforce laws already on the books and secure its borders on the land, sea and air.
"We should monitor our borders with a mobile alert force to respond to breaches," Capparelli said.
With respect to healthcare, Capparelli's vision is one that would more or less maintain the status quo, though he believes any company with more than 50 employees should provide health benefits for its employees, and that the government should provide incentives for that to work.
The government should be the last resort in providing healthcare, he said.
Capparelli's military experiences inform his views on that subject.
"We're paying the price for downsizing the military," Capparelli said. "We should listen to our generals. They never favored an invasion of Iraq, and clearly we've created a mess."
However, Capparelli is not calling for a troop withdrawal, and said that he expects the U.S. to have a military presence there for some time.
"If we leave, it will create a power vacuum," Capparelli said. "Also, it would disrupt oil supplies. So, unfortunately, we're in a position of maintaining a presence for the foreseeable future."
On the environment, Capparelli said he favors exploring the expansion of nuclear energy as an alternative, saying that nuclear power was so safe, "I'd put a nuclear reactor in my backyard."