After facing two strong primary challenges when he first ran for reelection Congressman Dan Lipinski (D-Western Springs) is only facing one underfunded challenger for the second straight primary election.
Lipinski is running for his fifth term in U.S. House of Representatives in the 3rd District. He was first elected to Congress in 2004, succeeding his father, Bill Lipinski, who decided not to run for re-election after being nominated in the March 2004 primary.
His opponent in the March 20 primary is Farah Baqai, a resident of Chicago’s South Side. It’s her first run for political office.
Following the 2010 census, the 3rd District was redrawn, changing the boundaries significantly. North Riverside, almost all of Riverside and the northern part of Brookfield have been removed from the 3rd District as the district has expanded to the southwest.
Brookfield south of Southview Avenue remains in the 3rd District as does the one Lyons Township precinct in Riverside. Most of the rest of Riverside, North Riverside and Brookfield are now in the 4th District.
“It’s always difficult to lose areas that I have worked for in the past, but I understand that’s how it has to be in redistricting,” Lipinski said. “I hate to lose those areas, but that’s what happens every 10 years.”
Lipinski said he is proud of his role in establishing a quiet zone around railroad tracks in the area and his role in getting the Army Corps of Engineers to remove the Hofmann Dam in Riverside.
Lipinski said he is focusing on job creation and representing the middle class.
“The most important thing right now is to improve the economy, see more jobs created, bring more jobs especially to the area,” Lipinski said. “I think the job situation is getting better, but we still have a long way to go. The middle class continues to struggle.”
Lipinski, a member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, said that he has worked with two Illinois Republican colleagues, Judy Biggert (R-13th) and Bruce Dold (R-10th) to force Republicans in the House to back off from their plans to stop funding mass transit with 20 percent of federal gas tax revenues in the transportation bill now under consideration in the House.
“It looks like we put enough pressure on the House Republicans,” Lipinski said.
Some Democrats have claimed that Lipinski, who is anti-abortion, is too conservative. They point to his vote against the health care overhaul spearheaded by President Obama and Democratic leaders that was passed in 2010.
Lipinski said he represents the voters in his district and pointed to his comfortable margins he’s had every time he has run for reelection.
“The Democrats in my district are not the same as the liberal Democrats across the country,” Lipinski said. “It’s much more moderate district. I have gotten many more thanks for my votes against the health care bill than I’ve gotten complaints from my constituents.”
Lipinski pointed to his vote against the bailout of big Wall Street banks as an example of his concern for the middle class.
“I voted against the Wall Street bailout all three times it came to the floor,” Lipinski said. “I think it’s important for the middle class to have that voice to stand up for middle class issues, especially job creation.”
Baqai, an immigrant from Pakistan who has worked for nine years as a Chicago police officer, represents the more liberal wing of the Democratic Party. A strong supporter of President Barack Obama, Baqai says she supports the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act passed by Congress in 2010, which Lipinski voted against, and is a strong advocate for women’s reproductive rights.
“Everything that our core value is as a Democratic belief system, [Lipinski] does not believe that,” said Baqai. “I believe that Democrats take care of the people; it’s the party of the people.”
Baqai favors an expanded government role regarding healthcare, saying “healthcare is not a privilege. If we focus on the preventive measure of healthcare then we will not be spending as much money on taking care of the people once we know if you need some kind of help.”
While the healthcare legislation was the result of compromise and is not perfect, Baqai said, “at least we’re working with something.”
The issue of immigration is very important to Baqai, who came to the United States in 1989 and became a citizen nine years later. She said she supports comprehensive immigration reform, and finding ways for undocumented aliens, particularly children who have grown up not knowing their immigration status, a pathway to citizenship instead of facing deportation.
“If they are working and making a contribution to our society, why not? Why shouldn’t they be part of the community? Why shouldn’t they be part of America?” she said. “I think this is very unfortunate and a heartless thing to do.”
But Baqai faces a huge challenge in trying to campaign against Lipinski, whose war chest had more than $800,000 as of the end of 2011, according to federal campaign records.
As of early February, Baqai admitted to having collected less than $10,000 for her campaign.