Write-ins hopeful vs. Lipinski
Two challengers take on longtime Congressman
By Steve Metsch
In his re-election campaign, U.S. Rep. Dan Lipinski (D-3rd) is facing three write-in candidates and a Republican nominee.
The Republican nominee, Art Jones, and one of the write-in candidates, Richard Mayers, have alleged ties to white supremacist organizations.
Kenneth Yerkes, a dentist from Oak Lawn, is running as a write-in Republican. Justin Hanson, an attorney from La Grange, runs as a write-in independent.
Election Day is Nov.6.
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Hanson, 35, formerly with the Cook County State’s Attorney’s office, is married with two young children.
A lifelong Southwest Sider, he decided to run for office because he wants the district to have a more proactive representative.
Hanson grew up in Hickory Hills and Palos Hills, and “spent a lot of time in Bridgeview.” His late grandfather, John Oremus, was mayor of Bridgeview for years. The flag from his casket is displayed in Hanson’s office above his garage.
Why challenge a longstanding congressman as a write-in candidate?
“I believe I can be an effective advocate for this district, especially in the areas where it needs stronger, more energetic representation,” Hanson, a Marquette University graduate, said.
“I think Dan means well and he wants the things he talks about, like bipartisanship and the theme of compromise. I just don’t believe he has the fire, the energy, the passion to bring about the results that are produced by compromise and bridge building,” Hanson said.
Asked about his energy, Lipinski, 52, said: “There are a lot of people out there who think if you’re not yelling and screaming, you’re not getting anything done. Usually, it’s the exact opposite.”
“President Trump is very loud and aggressive. I don’t think people are looking for more of that,” Lipinski added.
Hanson is running as an independent and describes himself as “center left.” Another reason he is running is to silence “a truly hateful candidate like Art Jones,” a Lyons resident with Nazi ties.
“I’ve canvassed in Lyons and there are many good people there,” Hanson said.
He’s trying to get the word out to voters about why they should not cast ballots for Jones. “At the end of the day, the district wins if he loses,” Hanson said.
Lipinski and Yerkes are pro-life. Hanson is pro-choice.
“I think the district was very exhausted after the primary because it got so ugly. I didn’t feel it was my place to cause the district to go through that again. I put it out there. This is where I am,” Hanson said.
He concedes that “It’s a challenge getting your name out there” as a write-in candidate, along with educating people how to cast votes for a write-in candidate.
“We need more long-term infrastructure spending projects here. Where is Dan Lipinski on this?” Hanson said. “We’re letting infrastructure fall into disrepair. Dan would agree with that. I just don’t think he has the drive and energy to address these issues effectively and I’d love the opportunity to try.”
Yerkes, 61, had hoped to get the blessing from Republican leaders for the election, but did not. So, he decided to run as a write-in candidate.
Yerkes was deeply offended that Jones, a former leader of the American Nazi Party and a Holocaust denier, won the primary and will appear on the ballot as the GOP candidate.
With that in mind, he decided to run in the election. A proponent of term limits, he does not plan to serve more than two terms if elected.
Lipinski advocates term limits for presidents, governors and perhaps mayors, but thinks they’re not good for legislators whom, he said, need time to become experts in various areas.
Asked about the pro-life, pro-choice debate, Lipinski said he reflects the sentiment of the majority of his constituents. “This is a pro-life district,” he said.
“I have a track record of representing my district well, of bringing things back for the district, of listening to everyone,” Lipinski said when asked why people should vote for him.
Yerkes calls himself “very strong pro-life,” adding, ”I will always advocate for innocent, developing human beings. I’ve been in a number of pro-life marches in Chicago and in Washington, D.C. Pro-life people have a choice now between Lipinski and me.”
He called Hanson, who had worked on the staff of several Republicans in Washington, “left of Lipinski on a number of issues.”
Although Lipinski has been in office 14 years, Yerkes believes he offers a viable alternative for conservative voters.
“Before, they had no choice,” Yerkes said.
He’s thought of seeking for office since his 20s. Now, with his children now adults, he feels the time is right. He has been married for 36 years and has been a dentist for 36.
His father, David, 90, is the head of John Yerkes & Sons plumbing in Chicago.
Yerkes’ campaign slogan is “People and Principles Over Money and Power,” a theme he plans to lean heavily on if elected.
“With that being said, I’ll have quarterly town hall meetings because it’s ‘we the people of Illinois.’ I need to discern what my constituents’ needs are.
“One of my skills is listening. I think that’s why I talk so much because I’ve listened so long.
Yerkes said “we need to advocate for small business because that’s what makes American strong and get away from monopolies which destroy small businesses.
He has no love for lobbyists, whom he said “are ruining the country by throwing money at candidates.” That’s why he would limit amounts that can be raised for campaign funds.
“You need to drain the swamp,” he added, “and then go after the rats.”
Lipinski said that if Democrats win the majority of seats in the House, infrastructure like highways, sewer and water systems top his to-do list.
“I hope we can pass an infrastructure bill. President Trump talked about that but didn’t get one done. I think that would be our first priority,” Lipinski said.
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Email Steve Metsch at firstname.lastname@example.org