Local candidates butt heads in committeeman race

Lyons Twp. GOP post pits Peraica against newcomer LaPidus

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By BOB UPHUES

The March 21 primary is long on referendums but short on contested political races in Brookfield, Riverside and North Riverside. However, there is one race pitting two local residents, one from Brookfield and one from Riverside, against one another?"for Republican committeeman of Lyons Township.

Although he wasn't expecting any challenge, incumbent GOP committeeman Tony Peraica, of Riverside, will face off in the primary election with newcomer Michael LaPidus, of Brookfield.

Peraica, who will simultaneously run for reelection to the Cook County Board and for election as Cook County Board president in November, has been the Lyons Township GOP committeeman since 2002.

A committeeman is not a governmental office. Rather, it's a political one. Committemen, both Republican and Democrat?"are responsible for organizing political parties in each township. They do everything from selecting precinct captains and election judges to holding political fundraisers and helping get political slates elected.

Peraica said that prior to his election to the post in 2002, the Lyons Township Republican organization was dysfunctional, and that he's infused life into the group.

"I think I've not only met all of the promises I made, but exceeded them," Peraica said. "The fact that we have two township trustees and a collector that are Republicans, when we didn't have anyone for the last 20 years proves the Republican Party is vibrant in Lyons Township."

He also pointed to his support of such political figures as David Visk in Lyons, Michael Garvey in Brookfield, Michael O'Connor in Berwyn and Alan Nowaczyk in Willow Springs as proof of his success as a reformer.

"During my term we've elected a number of mayors who are reform-minded," he said.

Peraica said he was surprised by 28-year-old LaPidus' entry into the race, and that he wasn't very familiar with him.

"He's a man who's really unknown to most Republicans in Lyons Township," Peraica said. "He hasn't attended any of the monthly meetings we've had at the LaGrange Town Hall."

However, LaPidus is being supported by some very well-known Republicans from Lyons Township and elsewhere. Former state Rep. Eileen Lyons is co-chair of his campaign, along with former state Sen. Thomas J. Walsh.

He also has the support of LaGrange businessman Steve Palmer, Western Springs Trustee John Madell and former LaGrange Trustee Jack Hagan.

LaPidus, who grew up in Brookfield and Berwyn, attended Morton West High School and graduated from Northern Illinois University in 1999 with degrees in corporate communications and political science.

He's the owner of a restaurant in LaGrange called Roly Poly Sandwiches and said he's been involved in Republican politics for years, working as a volunteer for George W. Bush's campaign and as an intern in Illinois Gov. Jim Edgar's office in 1996.

"I've always been a political fan and I've always been involved," LaPidus said. "As I've become involved in LaGrange and the business has expanded, a lot of people thought this would be a good position for me in order to reform the Republican Party in Lyons Township."

LaPidus said that the Lyons Township GOP "was extremely active for Tony Peraica" and that he was using the post "solely for his political ambition."

LaPidus said he would focus on grassroots organization, offer more events and speakers and increase communication with Lyons Township Republicans.

"I want to take my background in politics and business and focus on energizing local Republicans," LaPidus said.

Riverside Twp. committeemen uncontested

Meanwhile, for the incumbent committeemen in Riverside Township, the primary election will be a quiet one. On the Democratic side, John Toman is running unopposed, as is Republican candidate Judy Baar Topinka.

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