By Bob Skolnik
The Republican primary in the 4th Congressional District is taking on a decidedly Riverside tone.
One candidate, political novice Mark Lorch, is from Riverside and another candidate, Ann Melichar, grew up in Riverside and now lives in the Logan Square neighborhood of Chicago.
A third candidate, Jay Reyes of Riverside, is pulling out the race. The only candidate in the race without a connection to Riverside is little-known Chicagoan Ruben Sanchez Jr.
Melichar and Sanchez are facing challenges to their nominating petitions. Both challenges were filed by filed by another Riverside resident, Steven Rembis.
Only 180 valid signatures are needed to get on the Republican primary ballot in the 4th District, long a Democratic stronghold and a seat which has been held since 1993 by Luis Gutierrez, who has decided not to run for re-election.
Melichar, 48, grew up in Riverside and lived in the village until she was 15, when her family moved to Chicago. She attended Central and Hauser schools and went to high school at St. Ignatius.
She is a lawyer who works as a case manager in the foreclosure mediation department of the Circuit Court of Cook County.
Melichar earned her law degree from the John Marshall Law School in 2003 and earned a master's in real estate law from the school in 2005.
This is Melichar's second run for U.S. Congress. In 2006, she ran against incumbent Luis Gutierrez and was overwhelmingly defeated, receiving only 14.2 percent of the vote in a district that includes heavily Hispanic areas on Chicago's northwest and southwest sides of Chicago. Much of Riverside and northern part of Brookfield was added to the district after the 2010 census.
Despite her defeat in 2006, Melichar says that she believes things can be different this time around, because if she wins the Republican primary she will not be running against an incumbent.
In November, Gutierrez announced that he would not run for a 13th term.
"This is an open race," Melichar told the Landmark. "You never know what's going to happen."
Melichar's father, Earnest, was a Republican precinct captain when he lived in Riverside.
In 2008, Ann Melichar was elected as a John McCain delegate to the 2008 Republican National Convention. In 2016, she ran unsuccessfully for delegate pledged to support Ohio Gov. John Kasich.
Melichar was circumspect when asked about views of President Donald Trump.
"While I don't necessarily follow everything that he does put out there or his methods, he is our commander in chief at this time," Melichar said.
Melichar, who also holds a Bachelor of Arts in European civilization from the University of Iowa and a Bachelor of Fine Arts from the International Academy in interior design, said that she would bring a fresh approach and a diverse background to Congress should she be elected.
She declined to go into detail about her policy positions, but described herself as conservative.
"I'll be coming out with more information about positions after I get past the petition challenge," Melichar said. "I'm sort of focusing on that."
With Reyes dropping out of the race, Melichar says she is the only GOP candidate who is not a newcomer to politics.
Melichar said she has fond memories of growing up in Riverside. Her family first lived on Longcommon Road and then on Maplewood Road.
"I spent a lot of time every summer at the Riverside Swim Club," Melichar said. "I was on the swim team there."