Republicans Find a Senate Candidate at Last
Illinois Republicans may have found a U. S. Senate candidate against Dick Durbin, a West Point grad who narrowly missed getting elected to Congress in 1994 because the fix was in.
Jim Nalepa, a LaGrange businessman who has been active in the GOP for fifteen years was a dead-on almost sure thing to defeat Democrat Bill Lipinski (D-Illinois) in 1994. It was the year Republicans took over the U.S. House. Lipinski was struggling trying to justify a lifetime of liberal voting to an upsurge that called for house-cleaning that swept the nation and extended to his district in Illinois.
Lipinski was on the ropes when he called for a favor from a prominent Republican state senator who was in trouble herself. Judy Baar Topinka was running a tight campaign for state treasurer. Topinka and Lipinski sat down and decided to back each other. The next day, Topinka, Riverside township committeeman, produced a sample ballot which she mass distributed throughout the third district on the South Side of Chicago where Polish, Italians, Czechs and Irish congregate in modest suburbs like Berwyn. The ballot was marked for Democrat Lipinski. Thus did the longtime Republican fixture, Topinka, rise above party principle. In return she got just the required number of Democratic crossovers to win the state treasurer-ship.
Nalepa has been a success as an executive placement official but has passed the word privately that he feels no matter how many bucks Durbin has, the Senate?s number two man can be in trouble when a Republican campaign airs the speech he made to the Senate accusing U. S. servicemen at Guantanamo of being as heartless as troops who pillaged in behalf of Mao Tse Tung and Pol Pot. The first step that a Nalepa campaign would take is to air the TV speech as a commercial. Then as a follow-up, the campaign would show Mayor Richard M. Daley condemning the Durbin statement as irresponsible. Finally a third commercial would show a tearful Durbin apologizing to the nation for his demagogic remarks.
Nalepa, a decorated veteran who participated in the Grenada invasion of 1983 is regarded as one candidate who can take the fight to Durbin and make the contest far closer than is generally expected.