Rep. Dan Lipinski (D)
Elected: 2004, 3rd term.
Born: July 15, 1966, Chicago .
Home: Western Springs.
Education: Northwestern U., B.S. 1988, Stanford U., M.A. 1989, Duke U., Ph.D. 1998.
Family: Married (Judy).
Professional Career: Asst. professor, U. of TN, 2001-04.
The congressman from the 3rd District is Dan Lipinski, elected in 2004 and the son of Rep. Bill Lipinski, who represented the district for 22 years. Dan Lipinski grew up in Chicago, in the city’s 23rd Ward, and first served as a campaign volunteer for his father in 1979. He got engineering degrees from Northwestern and Stanford universities, before switching to political science with his doctorate at Duke. He worked on the staffs of four House Democrats from Illinois, though not on his father’s, and was an American Political Science Association congressional fellow for the House Democratic Policy Committee. He wrote his doctoral thesis on the topic of congressional newsletters (Congressional Communication, published by the University of Michigan Press). At the beginning of 2004, he was an assistant professor of political science at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville.
|Dan Lipinski (D)||172,581||(73%)||($553,030)|
|Michael Hawkins (R)||50,336||(21%)|
|Jerome Pohlen (Green)||12,607||(5%)||($6,960)|
|Dan Lipinski (D)||62,439||(54%)|
|Mark Pera (D)||29,544||(25%)|
|Jim Capparelli (D)||13,312||(11%)|
|Jerry Bennett (D)||10,742||(9%)|
Prior Winning Percentages: 2006 (77%), 2004 (73%)
The process behind Lipinski’s nomination to run for his father’s seat is a case study in Chicago’s still thriving backroom politics. In the summer of 2004, Bill Lipinski denied widespread rumors that he was going to give up his seat. Then on August 13, he abruptly announced he would not seek re-election in November because “I want to come back to Chicago and spend more time with my wife.” (Not that much time as it turns out, because he later became a transportation lobbyist.) His announcement came just 13 days before the August 26 deadline to replace a withdrawing candidate. A meeting was scheduled for August 17 for the 19 ward and township Democratic committeemen in the 3rd District. The group was to choose the new nominee by weighted vote and consisted of a Who’s Who of connected Chicago politicians and their family members: John Daley, the 11th Ward committeeman and brother of the current mayor, Richard M. Daley; Michael Madigan, the 13th Ward committeeman and speaker of the Illinois House; Edward Burke, the 14th Ward committeeman and husband of an Illinois Appeals Court judge; Tom Hynes, the 19th Ward committeeman and father of Illinois Comptroller Dan Hynes; and finally, apparently not feeling the need for a pretense of objectivity, there was Bill Lipinski, the 23rd Ward Committeeman. At the meeting, Lipinski offered for consideration the name of the most qualified person he could think of, his son, Dan, and shortly afterward, Dan Lipinski was nominated without opposition.
The nominee was not briefed quite as well by the political heavyweights in the room as he perhaps should have been. At his first press conference, Lipinski, who had not lived in Illinois for 15 years, made the politically unconscionable assertion that he had for many years been a fan of the Chicago Cubs, Chicago’s North Side baseball team. The White Sox is the hands-down favorite team of the 3rd District’s South Side neighborhoods and suburbs. A state lawmaker at the back of the room signaled Lipinski to wrap up his remarks before further damage could be done. Luckily for Lipinski, a Democratic nomination, even one decided by a group of old political pals getting together in a room, is tantamount to election in the 3rd District, and he sailed to victory in November. The Republican nominee was Ryan Chlada, a 26-year-old college dropout and bar owner who won the GOP nomination unopposed. He was a political ally of former suburban Cicero Mayor Betty Loren-Maltese, who was serving prison time for racketeering. Chlada avoided publicity, had no website, and filed no reports with the Federal Election Commission, which is legal if a candidate does not raise or spend much money. Lipinski won, 73%-25%.
In the House, Dan Lipinski has kept his pledge to be “not really that different from my father,” who was the most conservative Democrat in the Illinois delegation. He opposes same-sex marriage and abortion rights except when the mother’s life is at stake. Also like his father, he has focused on local transportation projects, especially helping Midway Airport, which generates more jobs than any other employer in the district, and on improving Chicago’s rail infrastructure. In his second term, Lipinski won a seat on the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. In 2007, he played a key role on two pieces of that year’s massive energy bill: cash incentives for progress toward hydrogen-based energy, and a mandate requiring high-efficiency lightbulbs in federal buildings.
Lipinski has drawn primary opposition in both of his re-election bids, and even though he easily survived, it’s a sign that he has not locked up this district. In 2006, an observant John Sullivan, an assistant Cook County state’s attorney, said that Lipinski got his seat in “a backroom deal” and often had voted in Chicago while living out of state. Financial planner John Kelly used “no tricks, no fix” as a campaign slogan. Lipinski won, 54% to 26% for Kelly and 20% for Sullivan. In the 2008 primary, Lipinski faced Cook County Assistant State’s Attorney Mark Pera, an abortion-rights supporter who criticized Lipinski’s support for the war in Iraq and questioned his campaign payments to his father for consulting work. And Democratic Rep. Luis Gutierrez, of Illinois’ neighboring 4th District, withdrew his endorsement of Lipinski because Lipinski had opposed establishing a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants. Several liberal interest groups, local reformers, and others contributed to Pera, who raised and spent $770,000. But Lipinski prevailed, 54%-25%. Despite the candidacy of favorite-son Barack Obama in the presidential contest that year, Lipinski remained neutral in the Illinois primary.