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For the past quarter century, the Lipinski family has dominated congressional politics in Illinois’ 3rd District.

But when Bill Lipinski decided to call it quits back in 2004, then was the time to retake the pulse of the 3rd District and seek a candidate for the future, not one wedded to past politics.

Instead, Lipinski’s son, Dan, was forced into the breach. We feel it’s time the 3rd District had a new voice in Washington; that voice should be Jerry Bennett.

Bennett and fellow democratic challenger Mark Pera have similar views on issues such as Iraq, the environment, health care and immigration. But Bennett, who has 27 years of experience as mayor of Palos Hills, would be better able to take the lead with legislation and form a consensus with other delegates, much the way he has been able to gather local leaders to solve regional issues.

Bennett has much more experience dealing with regional issues with groups such as the Southwest Conference of Mayors, a group he helped to establish; the Illinois Municipal League, of which he is president; the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning, of which he is chairman; and the Southwest Central 911 Police and Fire Dispatch, for which he has been chairman of the board since 1985.

Pera deserves credit for running the most aggressive campaign to unseat the incumbent, but too often he concentrates his fire on Lipinski’s shortcomings. In any race the incumbent’s record deserves scrutiny, but Bennett’s approach to the contest builds his own credibility as someone who will work with others.

The way in which Dan Lipinski acquired his seat in the U.S. Congress remains a huge stumbling block, and the evolving role of his father-the former congressman turned transportation lobbyist-hasn’t helped to clear the waters.

While Lipinski, a member of the House Transportation Committee, dismisses any suggestion that his father might lobby him on behalf of clients such as United Airlines and the Burlington Northern-Santa Fe Railroad, the fact is that the Lipinskis created this morass. If people are questioning the legitimacy of Dan Lipinski’s installment into his father’s longtime congressional seat and are looking askance at his appointment to his father’s old congressional committee, it’s only fair that they question his father’s subsequent employment as a transportation lobbyist. The Lipinskis have no one but themselves to blame.

On the issues, Lipinkski’s solution for Iraq seems unrealistic at best, and involves complex diplomatic negotiations with supposedly willing international allies. Thus far, the proposal hasn’t found its way out of committee.

James Capparelli, a long shot in the race, would have made a fine candidate for the district’s Republican ticket, and was willing to admit his GOP slant. We would have enthusiastically endorsed him in that race, which over the years has been a magnet for fringe candidates and ghost candidates.

County republicans, however, have again failed to field a credible candiate.