There is a very real chance that the battle for Illinois’ 3rd Congressional District in November will come down to two Western Springs residents.
One would be the moderate Democratic incumbent Dan Lipinski, the dynastic successor to his father Bill, who served 11 terms in the House of Representatives (the younger Lipinski is in his fourth term.) The other is a relatively new face on the political battlefield: Republican candidate Jim Falvey.
Falvey, a two-decade resident of Western Springs, is ramping up his campaign with just over two months left before the Illinois primaries. And he’s convinced that with the 3rd District’s recent redrawing — moving to the southwest to incorporate more rural residents and fewer urban ones — he has a good chance to be the first Republican to take down a Lipinski in nearly three decades.
“I had the political bug going, I had experience in business, legal, starting firms, starting companies, and then public service has been a theme throughout my life as well,” Falvey said. “That all came together in a desire to run for Congress at some point, and with the redistricting, I thought this was the time to go for it.”
Falvey will face two challengers for the Republican nomination to go up against Lipinski: Richard L. Grabowski, a materials supervisor and outspoken conservative who unsuccessfully bid for the Illinois House 36th District seat in 2010, and Arthur J. Jones, an insurance broker and neo-Nazi who has been disowned by the GOP.
While dismissing Jones, Falvey cited Reagan’s “Eleventh Commandment” and refused to criticize fellow Republican Grabowski, with whom he shares many viewpoints (and who he said he’s “heard is a nice guy,”) but instead pointed to his own personal credentials in law, business and financial markets as the difference between them.
“I would distinguish myself from (Grabowski) by saying that I do have Washington experience; I have experience as a lawyer, with negotiations, in policy-making, in public service, and an interest in politics that goes back, really, to my core,” Falvey said. “I think that presents me with a better opportunity to beat Congressman Lipinski.”
He is somewhat less shy about criticizing Lipinski himself.
“As I was out collecting lots of petition (signatures,) there’s still a huge frustration as to how he got into office,” Falvey noted, referring to how Bill Lipinski won the 2004 Democratic primary election before passing the nomination on to his son. “They’re sort of classic Chicago machine politicians, and the nepotism move is part of it. And people in our district remember that, and are not fond of it at all.
“Lipinski has voted both ways on the health care bill: he voted against it, and then essentially for it, by voting 'no' to repeal it. And on votes that are at all controversial, he’s voted ‘present.’ I don’t know anyone who votes ‘present…’ I see that as trying to have the best of both worlds and not being a man of principle. And I think that’s going to come back to bite him.”
As a southwest Michigan youth, Falvey traveled with family to Washington, D.C., where he got to meet his congressman, David Stockman (later Reagan’s Director of the Office of Management and Budget), and see Gerald Ford speak. He would later return to the nation’s capital for a summer working in a soup kitchen, a homeless shelter and a Catholic think tank.
That summer, he saw what he calls the failure of Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society, but also found an appreciation for public service. He would return to work for the campaign of Michigan Republican representative Fred Upton, spending three years on Upton’s staff before leaving to attend Georgetown Law.
Falvey’s own political views lie mostly in the heart of American conservatism and Republicanism. He is pro-life and supports a strong national defense. His fiscal views are solidly free market; he advocates for a limited federal government, transferring power to state and local governments, a simplified tax code, a balanced budget and business regulation reform.
“Having worked in the futures industry, I can see that there’s a lot of overkill in regulation,” Falvey said. “Things are written by bureaucrats and others in government who don’t full understand the market, and as a result, it leads to a lot of confusion and extra expenses trying to interpret what the government meant, when it could be much simpler.”
On the flip side, his experience doing (often pro bono) legal defense work has led him to oppose capital punishment. He supports civil unions, although not same-sex marriage. He also is opposed to any cuts in Social Security or Medicare (while favoring some reform in those programs) and calls waterboarding and similar interrogation techniques “torture” that should not be used unless hundreds of thousands of lives are at stake.
He also presses the need to “keep an eye on” Iran, North Korea and Pakistan and stands behind American involvement in Afghanistan, while saying he’s “less supportive” of the Iraq invasion — but stresses the need to retain freedom in the country.
“Now that we’ve opened the can of worms, if you will, by going in there, we have to do the best we can to make sure they maintain a democracy there,” he said.
So after a long spell away from the Capitol, Falvey is looking to return in a whole new capacity: as the 3rd District Representative from Illinois.