By Bob Skolnik
Riverside resident Mark Lorch, a Republican making his first try for elective office running against Jesus "Chuy" Garcia in the overwhelmingly Democratic and heavily Hispanic 4th Congressional District, has not run a very visible campaign.
In 2016, Democratic incumbent Luis Gutierrez, who announced last November that he would not run for re-election, had no Republican opponent. In 2014, he won with 78 percent of the vote over a little-known Hispanic Republican.
The 4th Congressional District includes almost all of North Riverside and Riverside, and virtually all of Brookfield north of Southview Avenue, but is centered in the near northwest and southwest sides of Chicago.
Former Riverside resident and WGN political analyst Chris Robling, a Republican activist, called Lorch's campaign "a suicide mission," but praised him for providing a respectable choice on the ballot and preventing a fringe candidate from getting on the ballot.
"Mark Lorch is doing exactly what we need to have happen over in [Congressional] District 3 where, unfortunately, it didn't," Robling said, referencing GOP candidate Art Jones, a neo-Nazi who ran unopposed in the primaries. "Mark is providing voters an alternative."
As of Oct. 17, Lorch had raised only about $8,100 for his campaign, according to data from the Federal Election Commission. Garcia, on the other hand, has raised just over $805,000. Candidates in highly competitive Congressional races in the Chicago area have raised more.
It is difficult for candidates to raise money in races in which they have no realistic shot of winning. But Justin Hanson, running as a write-in the 3rd Congressional District, has managed to raise $44,409, nearly five times the amount that Lorch has raised, despite not entering his race until this summer.
Lorch's biggest contribution is $4,409.36 personal loan he made to his own campaign.
The next largest contribution has been $1,000 from Riverside resident and former Riverside-Brookfield High School District 208 school board member Ed Jepson.
"I think he's a fine person," Jepson said of Lorch, who works in corporate finance for Duff & Phelps. "He's a middle of the road kind of guy, which is my politics."
Jepson has made two other campaign contributions this year—a pair of $500 donations to Virginia Democratic Sen. Mark Warner's campaign committee. Jepson has known Warner since their days as fellow students at the Harvard Law School in the late 1970s where they played poker together on Thursday nights.
Lorch's campaign has largely consisted of frequent social media posts on his campaign's Facebook and Twitter feeds. He has no campaign website, no campaign office and no paid staff. He had no campaign events scheduled for the weekend of Oct 27, 28, a week and a half before the Nov. 6 election.
In his Facebook posts, tweets, and in comments to the Landmark last spring, Lorch has characterized himself as a moderate Republican.
Lorch has lambasted career politicians for making irresponsible spending decisions leading to large budget deficits. He has called for efficiency and transparency in government to reduce wasteful spending.
Lorch also appeared ABC Channel 7 public affairs show "NewsViews" on morning Oct. 7.
The Chicago Tribune endorsed Garcia, but praised Lorch as a political newcomer who brings a sharp skill set to the race.
"He has smart takes on many issues, and we'd like to see him stay engaged in politics," the Tribune said of Lorch. "But Garcia is more in sync politically with the district."
The Chicago Sun-Times reported that Lorch failed to complete a questionnaire the newspaper sent to candidates and did not respond to calls requesting that he appear for an endorsement interview.
Lorch declined to comment to the Landmark for this story. The Landmark reached out to Lorch by telephone, email, and text. Lorch emailed the Landmark in response to two phone calls and asked for questions to be submitted to him in advance so he could determine how to respond. The Landmark emailed 11 questions to Lorch.
After hearing nothing from Lorch for three days, the Landmark reached out to Lorch by text message Monday evening. In response Lorch sent a text message to the Landmark.
"I want to be respectful and responsive to my hometown paper read by my neighbors, but I have lost faith that you will write anything positive or objective about me," Lorch wrote. "Therefore I think it is best that I have 'no comment' for your article."