Democratic congressional hopeful Brad Schneider's past donations to Republican candidates were questioned Thursday during a candidate forum on WTTW's "Chicago Tonight."
All four Democratic candidates on the ballot in the 10th District race appeared on the program, hosted by Phil Ponce, for a 15-minute discussion about their backgrounds and the issues facing the nation. They are Schneider, Vivek Bavda, Ilya Sheyman and John Tree.
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But Schneider was the only one consistently targeted by the others, and the issue was the campaign checks he's written over the last decade to multiple GOP lawmakers, including U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk of Highland Park.
Ponce asked Scheider about the donations -- and the Republican primary ballot he pulled in 2000 -- a few minutes into the discussion.
Schneider previously has said he voted Republican in the 2000 primary to support a friend. As for the donations, Schneider told Ponce his critics should "look at the whole picture."
"Ninety percent of my contributions are to Democrats," said Schneider, a Deerfield management consultant. "I've given, since 2000, over 70 contributions to candidates. A handful of them are to Republicans, and all of them are in the context of their support of a strong U.S.-Israel relationship."
That explanation wasn't good enough for Sheyman, who has attacked Schneider about those donations at public appearances and in literature.
Sheyman criticized Scheider for giving money to Nebraska Sen. Mike Johanns, who has opposed the mandate for contraception coverage for women and last month publicly backed a lawsuit filed by his state against the proposal.
"I think that's what voters are looking at," said Sheyman, an activist from Waukegan. "Who can win this district and who is going to go (to Washington, D.C.) and stand up and fight for me."
Tree got into the act, too, saying the "Republican accusations" alienate Schneider from the Democratic Party's liberal base.
"To win this seat ... you need to appeal to your base and to the middle," said Tree, an Air Force Reserve officer and a former corporate executive from Long Grove.
Bavda, an attorney from Mundelein, was silent on the issue. When given the chance, he instead talked about his teaching experience and a jobs plan.
The candidates also talked about the economy, federal spending and the tensions between Iran, the U.S. and Israel.
A fifth Democrat, Hainesville resident Aloys Rutagwibira, is running a write-in campaign. He did not participate in the WTTW discussion.
The winner of the Democratic primary will face Republican incumbent Bob Dold in the November general election. Dold is running unopposed in the primary.
The 10th District includes parts of Lake and Cook counties. It stretches from Lake Michigan into the North and Northwest suburbs.