Local Congressional elections see three-candidate races
October 29, 2010

By Susan S. Stevens

Incumbent Democrats each face two challengers in the Congressional races in this community.

Bobby Rush.

1st District

Democrat and incumbent Bobby Rush has been in the U.S. House since 1992 and is a senior member of the Illinois delegation. He also is a senior member of the Energy and Commerce Committee and chair for the second two year term of the committee’s Subcommittee on Commerce, Trade, and Consumer Protection. He played a key role in the bipartisan adoption of the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008 and sponsored landmark legislation to treat postpartum depression in the healthcare reform legislation this year.

He traveled to Cuba as part of a Congressional trade delegation that met with President Raul Castro and former President Fidel Castro. After the trip, he introduced a bill aimed at normalizing trade with Cuba. He also is working to expand trade with Africa. Rush, 63, also is pastor of Beloved Community Christian Church.

Ray Wardingley.
Ray Wardingley considers himself an independent conservative activist. Running as a Republican for Congress, he calls himself “a fiscal and social conservative.” In the past, Wardingley has been an unsuccessful candidate for mayor, congressman, and state senator. He is a retired entertainer, best known for portraying a clown. He prides himself on performing at benefits.

He headed the Neighborhood Watch program in the Beverly-Morgan Park area from 1989 to 1992. In the early 2000s, he founded the Coalition for Restoring Social Standards, petitioning for the excommunication of Catholic politicians who vote against their church’s “non-negotiable moral positions.”

Jeff Adams is the Green Party candidate for Congress in the 1st District. He is a resident of the mid-South Side. Neither Adams nor the Green Party could be reached for comment about his candidacy. The Illinois Green Party consists of independent local Green groups from all over the state. The party calls for ecological wisdom, social justice, grassroots democracy, nonviolence, decentralization, community-based economics, feminism, respect for diversity, personal and global responsibility, and future focus.

Dan Lipinski.

3rd District

Democrat and incumbent Dan Lipinski has been in Congress since first being elected 2004, when his father, William, retired after 22 years holding the seat. The younger Lipinski is particularly concerned about schools, healthcare, Social Security, and Medicare. A diabetic, he introduced and cosponsored numerous bills to reduce health care costs and make insurance more affordable.

He notes he has “brought home” $126 million in the last federal transportation bill. He wants the next transportation bill to put people to work rebuilding infrastructure. He is a leader in the “Buy American” legislative effort. He asked the Obama Administration to do all it can to stop China’s use of illegal subsidies to factories, saying the subsidies make it “extraordinarily difficult for American companies to compete in producing everything from solar panels to energy efficient light bulbs.” Lipinski was one of the few Democrats in Congress to vote against healthcare reform.

Michael Bendas.
Michael Bendas, Republican, for the last ten years has been a consultant to “help businesses become more productive and competitive through strategic and process involvement.” He graduated from West Point and served eight years on active duty in the U.S. Army and 22 years in the Army Reserves, culminating as a brigade commander of reserve aviation. He has worked at First National Bank of Chicago, Household International, and the Signature Group.

He decided to run for Congress because he believes “governments at all levels are going the ‘wrong way’ and that the nation needs a smaller government focused on the people, better educational and energy programs, and dramatically increased fiscal responsibility.” He also calls for job creation, which he said was “only incidental” in the stimulus bill.

Laurel Lambert Schmidt.
Laurel Lambert Schmidt, Green, a former insurance underwriter and freelance writer, said she is the only “peace candidate” in the district race. She co-founded and chairs the Near West Citizens for Peace and Justice and was co-director of the Peace Justice and Environment Project. She is calling for an end to foreign wars, urging that all troops be brought home. She also wants “humane” immigration reform. The 26-year resident of Riverside is married with two grown children. While raising her family, she was active in the local schools, community, church, and Girl Scouts. She also was a Community House trustee. “A recovering Democrat, I joined the Green Party to give a voice to those who want to stop wars, save the planet, and give fair and equitable treatment to all people,” Schmidt said.

Luis Gutierrez.

4th District

Luis Gutierrez, a Democrat, was the first Latino elected to Congress from the Midwest and is a vocal champion of minority and immigrant communities. Workshops he organized helped nearly 50,000 people take the first steps toward citizenship. Immigrants’ rights has been one of his top issues, and he recently announced he would not run formayor so he could continue working for immigrants’ rights in Congress.

Gutierrez, a 20-year veteran of Congress, also prides himself on being a watchdog for consumers, working to crack down on predatory lenders. He secured federal authorization for a $315 million project to reconstruct the Douglas Branch of the Chicago Transit Authority’s Blue Line. He was a teacher, social worker, community activist, and city official before his 1986 election as alderman in the 26th Ward.

Israel Vasquez, a Republican on the ballot, considers himself a member of the Conservative Party. He said he is running for Congress to promote economic prosperity by lowering taxes, reducing the national debt, and cutting spending. Vasquez also calls for strong national security, economic vitality for individuals and businesses, and affordable, quality healthcare for everyone “through the free market system.” Vasquez called for stopping the flow of illegal immigrants into the United States. “Once that is accomplished, we can deal in an effective manner with the millions of illegal immigrants we already have here,” he said.

Robert J Burns.
Robert J. Burns, a Green Party candidate, said that, if elected, he will try to rein in government. “The entire purpose of government is to serve the people and to, among other things, provide for the common defense and general welfare,” the economist said. “Yet we have allowed private interest to trample over these governmental functions, so now government largely serves the interests of only the few oligarchs against the people.” He was an early leader of the Grant Park Advisory Council, president of the South Loop Neighbors Association, and active on the board of Friends of Downtown.

Danny Davis.

7th District

Danny Davis, Democrat, decided to run for a seventh Congressional term only after considering a run for Cook County Board president. Mentioned as a possible candidate for Chicago mayor, he has created an exploratory committee but has not announced plans beyond running for re-election to Congress. Davis said remaining in Congress would allow him to work effectively for job creation and retention, healthcare, and education. He strongly supported President Barack Obama’s healthcare reform, which he expects to help 30 million people.

His Patients’ Bill of Rights took effect in September. It seeks to end insurance company abuses and put consumers and their doctors back in control of their own care. In June, he obtained a $3 million on-the-job training grant for Illinois. He serves on the powerful Committee on Ways and Means and the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. He was a Cook County commissioner and Chicago alderman before he was elected to Congress in 1996.

Mark Weiman.
Mark Weiman is a dentist and small business owner running as a Republican. He has criticized the Obama Administration, saying the government “has made some really bad decisions.” He also criticized the economic recovery plan: “It seems the ‘stimulus’ was not about jobs. It was about patronage,” he said. “Taxes and regulations are stifling entrepreneurship and dragging down our economy,” Weiman continued. The federal government’s main role is to protect its citizens because “without security, nothing elsematters.”

Although he believes America must become energy-efficient, he warned against passing massive legislation to stop global warming, saying it is “still disputed.” If elected, he vows to help create more vocational and professional schools. Weiman said he is licensed to carry a gun in 33 states. “You don’t shoot to kill. You shoot to stay alive.”

Clarence Desmond Clemons filed nominating petitions for the Democratic primary but was removed from the ballot for lack of valid signatures. He is not through, though: he is running in the general election as an independent. An ordained minister, Clemons is associated with the Apostolic Faith Church, 3823 S. Indiana Ave. His own cerebral palsy makes him particularly concerned about healthcare.

“I know what it is to worry about Medicare and healthcare,” he said. “How can we take care of other countries when we can’t even take care of our own?” The district needs more jobs and better schools, he said. “Children should be our future,” Clemons said. “What do they have to look to, to envision?” Clemons worked for former Mayor Eugene Sawyer and has been active in the Chicago Alternative Policing Strategy (CAPS). He lives across the street from Mayor Richard M. Daley. “Every so often, we run into each other,” Clemons said. Daley did not encourage Clemons to run now, but did “in my earlier years,” Clemons claimed.

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