peraheadshotl.jpg[As always, please be polite and stay on topic with our guest.  Any off topic discussions should be taken to the prior thread.  With that, please give a big FDL welcome to Mark Pera.  -- CHS]

A lot of members in this community have been excited about Matt Stoller’s Bush Dog expose and call to action. Blue America’s long-term commitment to help replace reactionary and corrupt Maryland Congressman Al Wynn with Donna Edwards is coming from the same intention of trading in Democrats who collaborate with the right-wing agenda for Democrats who are believers in progressive values and principles.

Some time ago I started watching a suspiciously conservative-voting congressman in a very blue Illinois district, Dan Lipinski in IL-03, an area that includes southwest Chicago and mostly working class ethnic suburbs.

Several Chicago bloggers and local DFA members have asked me to get to know Mark Pera, president of the Lyons Township high school board of education and an Assistant State’s Attorney in the Cooks County State’s Attorney’s Office, the second largest prosecutorial office in the country. I’m really glad I did and I hope you will be as well. He started the conversation off on the right note:

“I represent the values of the Democratic Party… I’m from the Democratic wing of the Democratic Party and he’s from the Republican wing of the Democratic Party. There’s a place for people like him… and that’s the Republican Party.”

Lipinski slipped into Congress in 2004 when his father retired. If his voting record is frighteningly similar to reactionary Tennessee congressmen like John Tanner, Lincoln Davis, Bart Gordon, and Jim Cooper, that’s because the representative from IL-03 has spent the last couple of decades outside of Illinois, mostly living in Tennessee.  To this day he hasn’t bothered buying a home in the district. He rents half a duplex in Western Springs but mostly lives in his congressional office.  And I mean that literally.

The July 13 issue of Daily Southtown quotes Lipinski telling a reporter:

“Yes, I sleep in my office.” He purchased an air mattress 18 months ago. The congressman, who makes $165,000 a year “showers in the House of Representatives gymnasium each morning. He keeps his socks and underwear in a filing cabinet. His suits and shirts are in the office closet. A staff member estimated the dimensions of the office as 20 feet by 13 feet… ‘I make myself about six sandwiches every weekend and take them back with me,’ Lipinski said. ‘I don’t think I’ve ever gone out for lunch in Washington.’”

Since entering Congress, Lipinski has racked up quite a record. He’s virulently anti-choice, anti-stem cell research, anti-environment, pro-war, and even voted with the Republicans to intervene in the Terri Schiavo case. He became part of the Bush Dog campaign when he voted with the Republicans on Bush’s FISA legislation, something that stands in stark contrast to Mark’s well reasoned stand on FISA. In this community, I think I’ve said more than enough about Dan Lipinski.

Now, what about Mark?

When he graduated from high school he went to work in the steel mills of East Chicago to raise money to send himself to college. He worked in the mills every summer through college and into law school to pay his tuition. Unions and understanding the needs of Americans working men and women aren’t just theoretical to him — he has lived it.

He’s building a ground campaign of grassroots activists that draws from a natural Illinois progressive coalition: pro-choice voters, anti-war voters, environmentalists, and the district’s rapidly growing Hispanic community. Unseating an incumbent is always an uphill battle. Mark’s is a winnable race.

Before I ask you to kick in at our Blue America page, I want you to ask Mark questions about the issues that mean the most to you. I suspect you’re going to be very happy with what you hear.

His prosecutorial specialty, by the way, is environmental law. Sandra from the Northside DFA described him to me as “right on all the issues that Lipinski is so wrong on, he’s charismatic, confident, and well spoken. And unlike Lipinski, if elected he will owe his allegiance to the people instead of to the Democratic machine. If you are a voter in District 3, it’s a no-brainer.”