With his victory in the Democratic primary for the 10th Congressional District seat less than a day old, Brad Schneider was focusing on a new political foe Wednesday morning: Republican incumbent Robert Dold.
As he greeted commuters and spoke with reporters at a train station in downtown Highland Park, Schneider tried to paint Dold as a conservative and to link him with the Tea Party.
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He criticized Dold's stance on abortion rights and accused him of wanting to dismantle Medicare.
"To call ourselves a great country and not make sure the most vulnerable of us don't fall in the cracks ... that's a distinction in values," said Schneider, 50, a management consultant from Deerfield.
Dold has resisted the Tea Party tag since his election in 2010. He maintains he's a centrist willing to cross party lines and work with Democrats on legislation.
In a telephone interview Wednesday, Dold called Schneider's efforts to label him a Tea Party conservative "disingenuous."
"Either my opponent is misinformed or misleading the voters," said Dold, a 41-year-old Kenilworth resident who owns a pest-control business. "Either is unacceptable."
Dold pointed out he was one of only seven Republicans who voted last month to preserve federal funding for Planned Parenthood, and he proudly said he was the only Republican in the House who spoke on the group's behalf.
He also said -- as he has in the past -- that he's pro-choice, even though Planned Parenthood criticized him in 2010 for supporting some restrictions on abortion rights.
Regardless, Dold's tactics certainly are different from those of fellow suburban Republican Joe Walsh, who has embraced the Tea Party and has gained notoriety both for criticizing President Obama and for refusing to compromise with Democratic lawmakers on issues.
When asked Wednesday about the obvious style and policy differences between Dold and Tea Party favorites like Walsh, Schneider barely wavered.
"His record is fairly consistent with the Republican Party and the Tea Party, and right now the Tea Party is driving that agenda," Schneider said.
He insisted there are "real differences" between Dold's stance on social and economic issues and his own. The campaign ahead -- culminating with the general election on Nov. 6 -- will be about those differences, he said.
Dold didn't disagree. He accused Schneider of favoring "a larger, more expansive government" and questioned Schneider's small-business credentials while touting his own.
"For me, it's 100 families that I'm responsible for," Dold said.
Dold defeated Democrat Dan Seals to win his seat in 2010, part of a Republican wave that seized control of the House.
Since then, the 10th District was redrawn by Illinois' Democratic lawmakers to eliminate some traditionally Republican neighborhoods.
Schneider acknowledged the new boundaries were designed to give a Democratic candidate an edge. He resisted a question about how he differs from Seals, who ran three times for the seat and lost each time.
"This is a very different district," Schneider said. "I don't think it's a fair comparison."
Dold isn't worried about how the new boundaries could affect his re-election bid.
"You worry about the things you can control. What I can control is that I get my message out to the people in the district," he said. "I'm just looking forward to getting out and talking to the voters."