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Despite an aggressive and well-funded challenge from Mark Pera, incumbent U.S. Rep. Dan Lipinski, D-Illinois, rolled to a comfortable victory last Tuesday in the 3rd Congressional District primary, which showcased bitter divisions within the party.

Lipinski piled up nearly 54 percent of the votes while Pera, the president of the Lyons Township High School Board, finished a distant second with little more than 25 percent of the votes cast. Meanwhile, Chicago lawyer Jim Capparelli and Palos Hills Mayor Jerry Bennett finished far back with 11 and 9 percent, respectively.

“Despite having more than $1 million spent against me in the campaign, the very strong support that I received in both the city and the suburbs illustrates that 3rd District voters don’t just want talk, they want a representative who is willing to roll up his sleeves and get things done,” Lipinski said in a statement e-mailed by his campaign spokesman Matthew Mayer.

Lipinski did not return several telephone calls after the election seeking further comment.

Pera ran an aggressive campaign against Lipinski, even taking a leave of absence from his job as an assistant Cook County state’s attorney in August to campaign full-time. He spent more than $600,000 in the race, including loaning his campaign $261,500 of his own money, according to federal campaign finance records.

According to federal records, Lipinski’s campaign spent $191,016 through the end of December.

Using cable television ads and numerous direct mail pieces to attack Lipinski, Pera criticized the incumbent for voting too often with President Bush and the Republican Party.

Lipinski, who was first elected to Congress in 2004 after his father, longtime Congressman Bill Lipinski, decided not to run for re-election after winning the primary, won convincingly in both the city and suburban portions of the district and relied on the support of Democratic ward and township organizations.

Lipinski won 50 percent of the vote in the suburban portion of the district and received 57 percent of the vote in the Chicago portion of the district.

Capparelli may have gotten the most votes per dollar, having raised less than $100,000.

“I was under funded, that was very apparent,” Capparelli said. “It was a tremendous learning experience.”

Bennett finished last despite receiving endorsements from the Chicago Sun-Times, the Southtown Star and the Forest Park Review.

Pera said he thought he had a good shot to win going into Election Day.

“I am surprised at the outcome,” Pera said. “It is very disappointing. We really thought it would be a different outcome. I thought that we were raising issues that would really capture the imagination of the voters and, you know, it didn’t happen.”

In November’s general election Lipinski will face Bridgeview real estate broker Michael Hawkins, who easily defeated Art Jones, a perennial candidate with past ties to white supremacist organizations.