10th House race will pit Democrat Schneider against GOP's Bennett

  • Republican congressional candidate Doug Bennett of Deerfield

    Republican congressional candidate Doug Bennett of Deerfield

  • U.S. Rep. Brad Schneider of Deerfield

      U.S. Rep. Brad Schneider of Deerfield Steve Lundy | Staff Photographer, 2017

 
 
Updated 3/21/2018 4:33 PM

The contest for Illinois' 10th Congressional District seat will be a showdown of Deerfield residents.

But that's pretty much where the similarities end between Republican Doug Bennett, a computer consultant who narrowly won Tuesday's GOP primary, and Democratic incumbent Brad Schneider.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

While Schneider has supported same-sex marriage, abortion rights and stricter gun control laws, Bennett is a staunch conservative who's on the other end of the spectrum on those and other divisive issues.

And in the famously independent 10th District, which has a history of electing lawmakers who are liberal or moderate on social issues regardless of whether they're Democrats or Republicans, political experts say Bennett faces an uphill battle.

But he's gearing up for the fight.

"I think we're going to run a very competitive race," Bennett said Wednesday. "And if we get our message out to voters, I think we win this race."

Bennett nabbed the Republican nomination with more than 35 percent of the votes cast, unofficial results showed. He received 8,484 votes, while Highland Park resident Jeremy Wynes had 8,225 votes and Libertyville's Dr. Sapan Shah had 7,093 votes.

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A victor wasn't clear until Wednesday because ballots cast before Election Day in Lake County were tabulated unusually late.

The district includes parts of Lake and Cook counties. Wynes won the Cook County portion, but Bennett's lead in Lake County was big enough to overcome his deficit south of Lake-Cook Road.

Schneider ran unopposed in the Democratic primary. In a statement Wednesday, he congratulated Bennett on the primary win.

"There will be plenty of time for campaigning this fall, and I look forward to a healthy debate on the issues then," Schneider said.

Schneider is seeking his second consecutive term in Congress and his third overall. He won the post in 2012 by defeating Republican Bob Dold, but Dold reclaimed the job in 2014. Schneider won another rematch with Dold two years later.

Dold was a moderate Republican, as was the previous Republican to serve the district, Mark Kirk. Shah and Wynes both portrayed themselves as political outsiders and moderates, but the strategies didn't pan out for them.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Shah and Wynes also attacked each other with negative campaign ads and statements; they didn't target Bennett until late in the campaign.

"(They) disregarded him," Lake County GOP Chairman Mark Shaw said.

Bennett felt his conservative platform resonated with GOP voters in the primary, which traditionally attracts die-hard party voters.

Collecting enough votes to win the Nov. 6 general election will be a tougher task for Bennett. The trick, Shaw said, will be getting voters to look past his stances on abortion or marriage and find common ground on immigration, skyrocketing college costs and other issues.

As for Schneider, he's regularly held town hall meetings with constituents since rejoining the House last year. He said he's confident his priorities "align with the values of our district, including growing the economy for all Americans, reducing gun violence and improving our health care."

Not surprising for an incumbent, Schneider is far ahead of Bennett when it comes to campaign cash.

Candidates in the 10th District typically spend millions on TV ads, mailers and other campaign tools -- and Team Bennett doesn't have that kind of dough.

As of Feb. 28, Schneider's campaign committee had $1.9 million banked to spend ahead of the general election, Federal Election Commission records show. In stark contrast, the Friends of Doug Bennett committee had about $67,280 saved and more than $115,000 in debt because of loans from the candidate.

Bennett believes many potential donors stayed out of the primary race because Shah was dramatically better funded. Now that he won, Bennett expects checks to flow his way.

"This is a district that has money," he said.

Bennett thinks he can raise $2 million for the November campaign -- but that he'll be outspent by Schneider anyway.

"We have to be supersmart with every dime we spend," Bennett said.

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