John Tree, a late entry into the 10th District primary race, could prove to be a force to be reckoned with in the growing Democratic field.
Tree, a 45-year-old Long Grove resident, announced Thursday he'll be vying against community organizer Ilya Sheyman of Waukegan and Deerfield businessman Brad Schneider in the newly drawn 10th District, which includes large swathes of Cook and Lake counties, stretching from Waukegan to Wilmette to Palatine.
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Tree, a colonel in the Air Force Reserve and father of five, said he decided to run for Congress after becoming frustrated by "hard right Tea Partyers holding the government hostage" with a refusal to compromise on the debt-ceiling debate.
"I just said 'Well, it's time to get involved as an elected official,'" he said.
Tree, who describes growing up in a military family that lived paycheck to paycheck, said he wants to "fight for Americans that are just like me growing up."
Tree's oldest daughter, 19-year-old Stephanie, died from an accidental drug overdose in mid-August, initially putting his political plans on hold.
While the experience, he said, was "more grief and pain" than he ever imagined someone could go through, he later realized "I can't put my life on hold forever."
Tree, who worked with the Israeli Air Force on military security during the 1990s, touts his knowledge and experience on U.S.-Israel relations in a district that contains a large Jewish population.
Tree, a highly decorated colonel, left Air Force active duty in 1997 and now serves as the senior reservist at the Pentagon. After working for Proctor and Gamble and Kellogg, he and his wife ran a natural foods business.
Democratic strategist Pete Giangreco of Evanston, who is handling direct mail and strategy for Tree's campaign, noted Thursday that neither Sheyman nor Schneider have, since announcing their candidacies, consolidated Democratic support. Tree said he wasn't recruited for the position, but contacted 10th District Democratic Committeewoman Lauren Beth Gash through the organization's website.
"I reached out. I didn't know how to run for Congress. But I met with them, and got to tell them the story. One thing led to another."