By Bob Skolnik
Voters in the 3rd Congressional District, which includes five precincts in the southern part of Brookfield, will have a couple more options in the November general election other than incumbent Dan Lipinski, (D-Western Springs) and Art Jones, a perennial candidate and neo-Nazi who won the Republican primary when no one else filed to run against him in the heavily Democratic district.
Republican leaders have been embarrassed about Jones being the Republican nominee, and a former Republican congressional staffer who now lives in LaGrange announced Aug. 11 that he was mounting a write-in campaign to provide an alternative to Jones.
Justin Hanson, 35, made his announcement in a short speech in the backyard of his LaGrange home in front of about 25 people.
Jones himself showed up the event but stayed for only a few minutes before he was asked to leave. He said that he came to the event because he was offended by comments on Hanson's campaign website, saying that Jones had "snookered" voters.
"He was distorting my position," Jones told the Landmark. "He was trying to undercut my position with the voters by saying I snookered the voters, but I didn't say I snookered the voters."
Hanson said he wasn't surprised Jones showed up at his home.
"He's running an irrational campaign," Hanson said. "That he would come here to a place where obviously his viewpoints are opposed and not welcome doesn't surprise me at all."
Oak Lawn dentist Dr. Kenneth Yerkes is also running as a write-in in the 3rd Congressional District and others, including Palos Township Trustee Christopher Reilly, are also considering running.
Cook County Republican Chairman Sean Morrison said that hopes Republican leaders can coalesce around one write in candidate to support in the coming weeks.
Morrison said it is important to have an alternative to Jones and Lipinski.
"Art Jones is completely unacceptable," Morrison said. "He's a straight-out Nazi, a hater. He is certainly not a Republican and has not been endorsed by any of us."
Hanson, a lawyer with the firm of Gould & Ratner, said that Jones' candidacy prompted him to mount a write in campaign.
"We know that the odds are against us and the chances are long, but there's also a principle to stand up for here, and that principle is that men like Jones, with his Nazi, bigoted viewpoints should not be allowed to go unchecked," said Hanson in his announcement speech.
Hanson is no political neophyte. Prior to going to Chicago Kent College of Law, Hanson worked in Washington, D.C., as an aide to Republican House members who held leadership positions.
He worked Missouri Sen. Roy Blunt when Blunt was the Republican whip and for former congressman Adam Putnam when Putnam was the chairman of the House Republican Conference.
Hanson's campaign is being managed by his wife, Lindsay, who used to work for former House majority leader Eric Cantor and for well-known Republican pollster Frank Luntz.
Hanson met his wife when they both worked on Capitol Hill and he proposed to her in the Capitol rotunda. Their campaign office is a room above their garage.
In his announcement speech, Hanson described himself as "an independent, moderate write-in." He says that he is less partisan now that he has been away from Washington, D.C.
"Seeing D.C. from the outside has changed my perspective on politics and policy, and the way that people communicate" Hanson said. "I was a moderate when I was on the Hill anyway, but I been brought further back to the center."
Hanson believes that he can appeal to voters across the political spectrum.
"As a country our politics feel out of synch with our potential because they are," Hanson said. "I don't think the average American voter, either Republican or Democrat, truly sees themselves reflected in either party today."
Unlike Lipinski and Jones, Hanson -- who grew up in Hickory Hills and Palos Hills and graduated from Nazareth Academy -- says that abortion should remain legal.
"Abortion is a tough issue for me as a parent and as a Catholic, but at the end of the day I think that decision ultimately belongs with women and not the government," Hanson said.
Lipinski faced a tough primary challenge from Marie Newman and won with only 51 percent of the vote in the Democratic primary. Hanson says that he believes he can appeal to many of Newman's supporters.
Hanson said that he supported Ohio Governor John Kasich for president in 2016. He was measured in his comments about President Donald Trump.
"I don't always see the need to be as direct and insulting towards individuals and groups as he is, but I do think that his message, for whatever reason, does resonate with a lot of voters and that needs to be respected," Hanson said.
Lyndsay Hanson said that the campaign has already raised $27,000.
This story has been changed. The story originally quoted Hanson saying in his announcement speech that he was an "independent, moderate, rightist." What Hanson said is that he was running as "an independent, moderate, write-in." The Landmark regrets the error.