3rd District Democratic race enters home stretch

Monday TV debate goes off without Lipinski

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By BOB SKOLNIK

Heading into the final week before the Feb. 5 primary, the candidates for the Democratic nomination in the 3rd Congressional District are taking their case to the voters in any way they can. They are knocking on doors, shaking hands at train stations, and speaking in front of just about group that will hear them.

Two term incumbent Dan Lipinski (D-Western Springs) is being challenged in the Democratic primary by Orland Hills Mayor Jerry Bennett, Chicago lawyer Jim Capparelli, and Mark Pera, a Western Springs resident and president of the Lyons Township High School District 204 school board.

The three challengers appeared together Monday night on WTTW Channel 11 "Chicago Tonight" program for a debate that lasted approximately 10 minutes. Lipinski did not participate, flying back to Washington on Monday afternoon to attend the State of the Union address by President George Bush.

Chicago Tonight host Phil Ponce said on the air that the show had offered to tape the program on Friday when informed that Lipinski would not be available Monday, but was told that Lipinski was not available then either.

On Sunday about 40 or so members of Democracy for America (DFA), a grass roots left of center group headquartered in Burlington, Vt. that grew out of the unsuccessful 2004 presidential campaign of former Vermont governor Howard Dean, gathered to canvass for Pera in Chicago's Bridgeport neighborhood.

Jim Dean, Howard Dean's brother and the head of DFA, flew in to knock on doors with Pera, who was also accompanied by his wife Leslie and two of their four children.

"I'll vote for you because you came to my door," Jim McArdle of south Union Avenue told Pera on Sunday after the candidate knocked on his door and spoke with him briefly. McArdle said that he had never before had a candidate knock on his door.

Dean characterized Pera's race with Lipinski as a battle between citizen activists and the status quo.

"The politics in this country is about a culture of activism versus a culture of incumbency," said Dean.

Members from DFA chapters in Chicago and Oak Park have been helping Pera in the campaign.

Sandra Verthein, the chair of the North Side DFA chapter said her group had knocked on 4,609 doors for Pera.

Lipinski campaign spokesman Matt Mayer said he is not worried about the help that Pera is getting.

"Congressman Lipinski doesn't have to import support form outside the district," said Mayer. "Congressman Lipinski has the support of more than 40 elected officials who are actually from the third Congressional District."

One of those elected officials supporting Lipinski is North Riverside Mayor Richard N. Scheck. Scheck's support is more than just verbal.

Members of the Scheck family have donated $12,500 to the Lipinski campaign, all but $1,000 of that on June 30, 2007 according to federal records. Mayor Scheck has donated $2,500 himself. He made a contribution of $1,000 dated April 17, 2007, a $1,100 contribution on June 30, 2007, and another $400 contribution also dated June 30, 2007. His wife Judith Scheck donated another $2,000 in two $1,000 increments, both dated June 30, 2007.

Mayor Scheck's son, Christopher, gave the Lipinski campaign $2,000, son Michael Scheck and his wife Catherine contributed $1500 each as did son Richard M. Scheck and his wife Megan. All those contributions were dated June 30, 2007. None of Mayor Scheck's sons live in the 3rd District, according to the federal records.

Scheck said his family members all made their own individual donations to Lipinski's campaign. Federal law prohibits individual giving money to someone else to contribute to a candidate for federal office. Individuals can contribute a maximum of $2,300 to a federal candidate to use in a primary campaign and another $2,300 that can be used in a general election campaign.

Scheck said that he did not supply any of the money for his sons and daughters in law to contribute to Lipinski.

"Absolutely not," said Mayor Scheck. "They all know Dan Lipinski. They've known Dan and they've known his dad through the years. We all have a high level of confidence in Dan. We make other contributions to other politicians."

Scheck said that he has worked with Dan Lipinski and before that, his father, Bill Lipinski, on issues affecting North Riverside.

Scheck runs Scheck Industries, a national firm that is a heavy mechanical equipment contractor that with annual sales of $115 million. His three sons also work for Scheck Industries.

Scheck said that Dan Lipinski helped North Riverside win a $1.8 million grant, which will be used for, among other things, to build a bike path in North Riverside.

He said he did not believe his contributions to Lipinski played any role in helping North Riverside get the grant.

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