High-profile rematch race for Dold, Schneider
Former Republican U.S. Rep. Robert Dold sounds confident when he talks about his chances to win back the seat he lost to Democrat Brad Schneider in 2012.
"We don't have President Obama at the top of the ticket this time," Dold, of Kenilworth, said of the nation's top Democrat. "And Congressman Schneider now has a record."
Of course, Schneider's campaign team said he'll have enough backing to win a second term representing the 10th District.
"Voters this year are energized to send a clear message that they've had enough of Republican shutdowns and endless gridlock, and they're excited to support Brad," Schneider spokeswoman Staci McCabe said.
The Dold-Schneider race is expected to be one of the closest congressional contests on the November ballot. Schneider, of Deerfield, narrowly won two years ago, capturing a seat that had been Republican for decades.
It's going to be a costly race, too. Both candidates likely will spend millions on media ads, get-out-the-vote efforts and other promotional tools. Fundraising has been competitive already, with a combined $5.1 million raised in the race through June 30, according to Federal Election Commission data.
Dold talked about the rematch during an hourlong interview at the Daily Herald's headquarters last week.
Schneider will come in for a similar session Friday. McCabe fielded questions for this story on Schneider's behalf because of the Rosh Hashana holiday.
The 10th District includes parts of Cook and Lake counties. It stretches from Lake Michigan into the North and Northwest suburbs.
Historically independent, the district was redrawn after the 2010 Census to include some more left-leaning communities.
Despite that change, Dold was ahead of Schneider most of Election Night two years ago. It was the late-reporting early and absentee votes that did him in.
"We lost the last election by seven-tenths of 1 percent (with) President Obama, favorite son of Illinois, at the top of the ticket, " Dold said.
In comparison, Obama carried the 10th District by 17 percentage points.
"I think that's pretty darn good," Dold said of his showing.
Independent or not?
Dold paints himself as politically independent, someone willing to buck the GOP and work with Democrats for good legislation.
In his discussion with the Daily Herald, he provided analysis from a nonpartisan website called GovTrack.us that showed the legislation he sponsored during his term in the House fell near the ideological middle.
"One of my hallmarks in being a member of Congress was the ability to work across the aisle," Dold said. "The way to solve the big issues is with bipartisan solutions."
Dold cited his cosponsorship of a bipartisan budget, a February 2011 House floor speech that supported funding the abortion-rights group Planned Parenthood and various pro-environment votes as examples of his political independence.
But even as Dold pushes his middle-of-the-political-spectrum image, Schneider and Democratic Party operatives try to color him with a bright-red brush.
Two years ago, Schneider's campaign tried to tie Dold to the conservative Tea Party movement. One pro-Schneider advertisement called Dold a "Tea Party loyalist," which angered Dold so much he demanded a retraction that never came.
This year, Team Schneider has repeatedly referred to Dold in news releases and interviews as "a reliable Republican."
McCabe pointed to Dold's multiple votes to repeal or amend the Affordable Care Act as examples of a political agenda that's more conservative than Dold would have voters believe.
Likewise, McCabe said Dold twice voted for conservative Rep. Paul Ryan's budget plans, which were opposed by every House Democrat.
"Only in Washington does voting with Republicans on nearly every key vote somehow count as independent," McCabe said.
She also blasted Dold for a 2011 vote on legislation that would have defunded Planned Parenthood, among other things, despite his verbal support of the group. She also said Dold voted for legislation that would "gut" environmental protections.
Dold bristled at those allegations, especially the environmental attack.
"They're trying to say that we wanted to drill (for oil in) Lake Michigan, which is absolutely 100-percent incorrect," Dold said.
The vote critics point to, he said, merely concerned a procedural step.
"The bill that that was going to be attached to was going to drill in the Arctic (National Wildlife Refuge), which we voted against," Dold said.
McCabe, however, cited many other Dold votes as being anti-environment.
"This vote is part of a larger record," she said.
Now that Schneider has served for nearly two years, voters can compare both lawmakers' records before entering polling places.
Dold thinks that will play to his advantage.
"We actually have a unique opportunity that the 10th District hasn't had in over three decades to compare one term versus one term," Dold said. "And I think if you take a look at that one term versus one term, there's no comparison."
McCabe thinks voters will reach a different conclusion.
"Brad's standing up for families on important issues, including fighting for a woman's right to choose, protecting our environment and preserving the promise of Medicare and Social Security," she said.