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Tug of war in Republican Party on display in 3rd Congressional race

Updated: February 16, 2012 3:13PM

In one corner, ladies and gentlemen, we have a right-wing pugilist, eager to storm Capitol Hill and join forces with the most uncompromising Republican firebrands.

“I will not sell out ‘We the People,’” says Richard Grabowski, a materials supervisor for a manufacturing company.

In the other corner, also seeking the GOP nomination for Congress in the 3rd District, we have a more reflective, establishment-style Republican candidate, equally opposed to higher taxes and supportive of national security measures, but in obvious ways more temperate in tone and policy.

“I believe that I have the ability to engage in negotiations to reach successful outcomes,” says Jim Falvey, a lawyer and businessman with an MBA, in reply to a question about the role of compromise in politics.

Grabowski and Falvey offer 3rd District voters a clear choice, playing out locally the national battle within the Republican Party between militants and pragmatists. Less clear is which brand of Republican stands the best chance of unseating the district’s conservative Democratic incumbent, Dan Lipinski, in the fall general election.

Also running, we should mention, is neo-Nazi Arthur J. Jones.

Grabowski and Falvey both are banking on disappointment with the Obama Administration and — as they see it — Lipinski’s under-the-radar liberalism to rouse more conservative voters in November. Lipinski, to cite an example of his supposedly stealth liberalism, voted “present” rather than take a stand on the conservative Defense of Marriage Act.

Also making this more of a horse race in November, the GOP candidates believe, are the redrawn district’s new demographics — more rural, more white and possibly more Republican. The district still includes much of Chicago’s Southwest Side and the Southwest Suburbs, but now stretches as far south as Will County.

Consider the candidates’ very different profiles:

Falvey, 46, is a graduate of Georgetown University Law School and Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management. He worked in Washington for three years before law school for Michigan Rep. Fred Upton. Grabowski, 45, attended Moraine Valley Community College.

Falvey says his role model in Washington would be former Reagan Administration budget director David Stockman, who was “responsible for the fiscal side of the Reagan revolution.” Grabowski says his role model would be freshman Congressman Joe Walsh, the take-no-prisoners Tea Party conservative from McHenry.

Falvey has performed pro-bono legal work on behalf of a detainee at Guantanamo Bay. He helped to get the detainee a hearing before a judge. To hold anybody, even a non-citizen, without due process, Falvey says, is simply not the American way. “If they don’t do that,” he told the Sun-Times, “the terrorists win.”

Grabowski says he is untroubled by the treatment of detainees at Guantanamo, but he does call unconstitutional a new law that gives the president authority to order the arrest of an American citizen on the mere suspicion of terrorist activities. And Falvey and Grabowski agree waterboarding is torture, though Grabowski doesn’t rule out its use in extreme cases.

As for “bringing home the bacon” — the common practice of nailing down federal funds for local projects — the two candidates could not be more different. Grabowski, true to his passionate belief in the smallest possible government, says he would oppose all public works spending on bridges and roads, including funds for one of Lipinski’s pet projects, a bridge over a rail yard in the district. You can’t get spending “down to zero” any other way, he said.

Falvey, for his part, said he does not agree the bridge was a “mistake,” and sees a somewhat larger role for government.

“Government does what people can’t do for themselves,” he said, “but government should be less involved in economic matters.”

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