Mark Pera is currently challenging sitting Congressman Daniel Lipinski in Illinois’ third district. Pera has lived in Western Springs for the last 25 years raising his family and serving his community. He is a Cook County state’s attorney assistant and has been on the Lyon Township High School Board of Education for 12 years, the last six years of which he has been president.
Q: My first question is a simple one. Why do you want to serve in the U.S. House of Representatives?
A: The 2008 Democratic Primary Election in IL-03 provides a critical opportunity for a change in the direction of leadership in our district. With the voters support, I want to send the message that we will no longer tolerate business as usual.
Q: How have you developed your progressive values? Has it been your faith, friends, family?
A: I grew up in Gary — my father, my brothers and I all worked in the steel mills — and it was a labor town. My family was very much pro-labor. That definitely shaped my values. In my hometown, we cared about our neighbors and they cared about us. That’s influenced my ideas about leadership.
Q: Can you explain to us your strategy on taking on an incumbent Democrat in a primary race, especially with some form of a Chicago machine?
A: While we’re running a traditional campaign and talking face to face with the voters, we’re also to using the Internet to get our message out.
Q: If you had been serving in the new Congress since January what would you have done differently that current Congressman Dan Lipinski when it comes to Iraq?
A: Well for one, I would have pushed legislation requiring the military to initiate a troop withdrawal.
I have been saying for months that it’s past time that we brought our soldiers home. Congress has the power of the purse and I believe legislators should use that power to put an end to this disastrous war and protect the safety and security of the troops. Congressman Lipinski has voted five times to fund the war, a total of more than $260 billion in war funding. He voted against setting up a timetable.
Q: The netroots have labeled Mr. Lipinski a Bush Dog Democrat, what are your thoughts on this label and the approach the progressive blogs are taking to your race as well as others?
A: This campaign is receiving more blogger support than any other primary campaign in the country as far as I can tell. As an example, on Sept. 23, Markos Moulitsas wrote a piece on DailyKos endorsing our campaign. Over the next 24 hours, we received more than $10,000 from more than 200 people. In early September, we had a similar experience. That kind of response tells us that our message is resonating and gives the campaign a big lift.
The blogs, sites like Act Blue, these are communication modes that were in their infancy in 2004, made a major impact in the mid-term elections in 2006 and are now an invaluable tool for campaigns. We’ve made a quality, up-to-date Web site and blogger communications a campaign priority. That sets us apart from other candidates.
A number of folks out there, such as the people at Prairie State Blue, Larry Handlin, Howie Klein, Eric Stoller, David Sirota and others, deserve credit for boosting this campaign’s profile. They’ve helped get our message out and clue people in on Congressman Lipinski’s background and voting record. Their hard work compliments the work we do everyday at our campaign office. We hope they keep it up in the months ahead.
As far as “Bush Dog,” I think that as long as people use it as a play on the “Blue Dog” Democrat tag that some members of Congress have adopted, it’s appropriate.
Q: Where among Illinois’ political players are you finding your support?
A: In terms of volunteers, much of my support is coming from the voters themselves. Chicago’s Northside DFA has endorsed our campaign and we’re anticipating additional endorsements. I think we’re going to see more names emerge as the campaign moves forward. Locally, we’ve been a feature candidate for bloggers such as Larry Handlin from Archpundit. Overall, we’ve seen a tremendous amount of online support for the campaign.
Q: When you are going out in the district what has been a typical response by voters?
A: We’ve been received very warmly. A couple weeks ago my wife Leslie and I attended a 100th anniversary event in the Mount Greenwood neighborhood. Now that’s an area that political insiders would say is very favorable for the incumbent Congressman, but I can’t tell you how many people approached me to say they were happy I am running. Some said to me, “Gee, you mean your father couldn’t get you a seat in Congress.” I told them the thing my father ever gave me was a job in the steel mill.
In general, people are very unhappy with how Congress and the Bush Administration are running this country. Voters called for change in 2006 and they didn’t get it, so they are rightfully upset. They want accountability and that’s one of the major themes of our campaign. I want the people I talk with to understand that a vote for me is a vote for change. “More of the same” politics has put this country in a critical position. Just look at issues like Iraq, health care, energy policy and the environment.
Q: On your website you list out the differences between you and Lipinski, cleverly his are in red, how are these issues resonating in this southwestern suburban district?
A: Again, voters are unhappy with Congress. They want change. If you take stem cell research, for example, the overwhelming majority of not just Democrats in this district, but also Americans as a whole, want the federal government to invest in embryonic stem cell research. Nearly everyone knows someone who suffers from the intractable diseases that may be treated or even cured by this new medical technology. Yet President Bush and Congressman Dan Lipinski let their ideology trump the needs of the American people and blocked legislation to develop this technology.
On Iraq, voters believe that we need to begin a troop withdrawal and set a date to complete it. Congressman Lipinski agrees with and votes with President Bush on Iraq. He believes that we need to have a long-term commitment to Iraq. These kinds of votes simply frustrate the electorate.
Q: What exactly do you propose to restore basic rights that the Bush Administration has trampled over in his tenure, such as Habeas Corpus and FISA wiretapping, among others?
A: We are a nation of laws and citizens and government alike should respect these laws It was shocking to see such blind trust from “Democrats” like Congressman Lipinski.
I believe we can establish security and successfully fight terrorism without sacrificing our Constitutional rights. The next Congress, and the Democratic President we elect in November 2008, need to make the restoration of our civil liberties a priority.
Q: If elected to the House of Representatives what would the first bill that you introduce entail? And what would it mean to the American people as a whole?
A: We have a race in win on Feb. 5, but my legislative priorities would absolutely include Iraq, stem cell research, developing a sensible energy policy and health care.