Absent from convention, Schneider 'focused on the district'
CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- As Brad Schneider campaigns for Congress across the Northern suburbs, he can expect to see a lot of friendly faces.
The 10th Congressional District the Deerfield Democrat hopes to represent has garnered attention as the most Democratic-leaning district in the nation that's now held by a Republican, U.S. Rep. Bob Dold of Kenilworth.
Among suburban congressional districts intensely fought over by Democrats and Republicans, Schneider is one of his party's best shots to gain a U.S. House seat, at least on paper.
Yet, as Illinois delegates leave the Democratic National Convention today energized for the final push of the campaign, they leave without having seen Schneider all week. He stayed in Illinois, opting to host local parties to watch President Barack Obama's speech Thursday night.
"We're focused on the district," Schneider said. "We need to be here in the mix."
Schneider is one of a number of Democrats across the country who heeded the advice of national party official and New York Congressman Steve Israel, who earlier this year urged candidates to stay away from the convention in Charlotte, N.C., and focus on the campaign back home.
In some tight races, skipping the convention was seen as a way for Democrats to demonstrate an independent streak and distance themselves from Obama -- a tactic that could be valuable to Schneider as both he and Dold try to move to the political middle to woo voters in the 10th District, which includes much of Lake County and northern Cook County.
But Schneider says that's not why he stayed home. In fact, he proudly points to his attendance at the 2008 Democratic National Convention in Denver as an observer, using tickets his parents won to attend.
He says he wanted to devote the time to campaigning, and rolled out his first TV commercials this week.
After all, Schneider pointed out, the 10th District trends Democratic, having been drawn that way by Illinois Democrats who, as the state's party in power, engineered the once-per-decade remapping.
The portion that overlaps with Dold's current district voted for Democrat Dan Seals in 2010 during a national Republican wave, Schneider says. And that year the remaining territory covered by the new district, he said, supported Democratic U.S. Reps. Jan Schakowsky, who won, and Melissa Bean, who lost.
"This district supports the president by a good majority," Schneider says.
Schneider's campaign won't be a walk in the park. It's expected to be one of the most expensive in the area, as both parties fight for a majority in the Illinois congressional delegation and control of the U.S. House.
Seals would know. He ran three times in the 10th District and lost three times. He says the new district will help Schneider greatly.
"But Congressman Dold has a strong financial advantage," Seals said.
As of June 30, Dold had about four times as much cash in his campaign fund as Schneider -- $2.1 million to $567,000.
Dold attended his party's convention last week in Tampa, giving a speech to Illinois delegates and mingling with party leaders who have and will continue to donate to his campaign. He also set aside time to campaign in the 10th District.
Seals says the race between Schneider and Dold, boiled down to its simplest form, is a contest between two different advantages.
"I think this is a fight between demographics and dollars," Seals said.
While Schneider campaigned at home, both of his colleagues who are running tight contests in the suburbs -- Tammy Duckworth of Hoffman Estates in the 8th District and Bill Foster of Naperville in the 11th -- had speaking roles at the Democratic convention, to some extent. Duckworth gave a well-received speech from the convention floor on Tuesday, and Foster spoke to Illinois delegates on Wednesday.
Dold, speaking to Illinois' Republican delegation last week, sought to fire up their energy for him.
"We have 68 days left. Your job back home is to make sure we're talking to our neighbors," Dold told them. "This is about do we step forward or do we step backward."
Still, Schneider argues he's embracing the Democratic Party more than Dold is the Republicans.
"He's trying to hide where he's coming from," Schneider says.
Demographics might be with Schneider, but history isn't. The 10th District -- in its various forms -- hasn't been held by a Democrat in a long time.
Before Dold's two years, now U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk represented the district for 10 years. Before that, former U.S. Rep. John Porter served in the 10th District for 22 years. It was Abner Mikva, leaving office in 1979, who last represented the 10th District for the Democrats.
This 10th District is different, though, Schneider says.
"It's not even a sibling of the old 10th," he argues. "It's a cousin."