Democrats battle to paint north suburban House seat blue again

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Former U.S. Rep. Brad Schneider, a Democratic candidate for Illinois’ 10th Congressional District, makes a point during a debate against challenger, Highland Park Mayor Nancy Rotering, in Lincolnshire last month. | Steve Lundy/Daily Herald via AP

What’s it going to take to beat Republican Bob Dold, and win back the north suburban 10th Congressional District seat for the Democrats?

Brad Schneider, who lost the seat to Dold the last time around, is banking on experience representing the district. Highland Park mayor Nancy Rotering contends that new energy is needed to ultimately turn the red seat blue again.

The wealthy, politically independent district has flip-flopped so many times lately between R and D that some constituents aren’t entirely sure who currently represents them. The apparent vulnerability of the seat — which neither party can take for granted — also expects to draw millions in outside money.

Schneider says he’s ahead of Dold already, according to a national Democratic poll conducted in October.

“I was the first Democrat to win this seat in 32 years in 2012. I know the people in the district, they know me, they know what I stand for,” he told the Sun-Times. “They know I come out and listen to them. And that’s why they want me to go back. There’s no question that in this year we can carry this district.”

Rotering has accused Schneider of being all talk. “I’m running because the 10th District has a ton of opportunities but they have had had a lack of courageous leadership in the last few years,” she said. “The seat has been handed back and forth by Bob and Brad with no real action.”

Nancy Rotering, the mayor of Highland Park, Illinois, and a Democrat candidate for Illinois’ 10th Congressional District, speaks during a debate against her challenger, former U.S. Rep. Brad Schneider, in Lincolnshire last month. | Steve Lundy/Daily Heral

Nancy Rotering, the mayor of Highland Park, Illinois, and a Democrat candidate for Illinois’ 10th Congressional District, speaks during a debate against her challenger, former U.S. Rep. Brad Schneider, in Lincolnshire last month. | Steve Lundy/Daily Herald via AP

The 10th District stretches up the North Shore from Winnetka through Waukegan to the Wisconsin line, west as far as Fox Lake and encompasses Mundelein, Buffalo Grove and parts of Mt. Prospect and Des Plaines.

Schneider, 54, a management consultant, wrested the seat from Dold in 2012 to spend a single term in Congress in 2013 through 2014, when Dold won it back. Schneider is married with two sons.

Rotering, 54, a former health care attorney, has been mayor of Highland Park since 2011 — the suburb’s first female mayor. Previously she held one of six city council seats for two years. She is married with four sons.

Both have advanced degrees, and are Jewish in a district with a heavy Jewish presence. Both have raised more than $1 million so far as of the end of 2015 and have cut several TV spots. As of December 31, Rotering had lent herself $345,000; Schneider had given his campaign $5,000.

Their biggest divide is Iran, a major issue in their district, which has great support for Israel’s security.

Schneider publicly spoke out against the president’s Iran agreement, and it cost him.

“I had serious concerns about the deal that it had gaps within the deal that was going to make it hard to police and enforce the deal to ensure Iran doesn’t move closer to a nuclear weapon, and that there were risks within the deal leading to greater destabilization in an already dangerous and chaotic region,” he told the Sun-Times.

“I called on the administration to take steps to close those gaps and reduce those risks, not renegotiate the deal.”

Rotering backs the agreement, saying she saw two options: Do nothing or live with diplomacy.

“Was it perfect? It wasn’t perfect. Was there an option for renegotiation?  Of course not. It was a big deal to even get the people to the table,” she said. “This was our opportunity to move forward with diplomacy coordinated with our global allies and take steps to diminish Iran’s opportunity to develop nuclear weapons.”

That division led some major Democrats to throw their support in the primary behind Rotering. She’s backed by former White House counsel Abner Mikva and Sen. Dick Durbin, who even cut a TV spot for her.

Schneider’s opposition to the Iran deal also cost him the support of U.S. Rep. Jan Schakowsky.

Schneider has described his endorsements as “grassroots,” though he’s also picked up endorsements from House Leader Nancy Pelosi and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee’s Red to Blue program.

As for other major issues, the candidates aren’t dissimilar.

Gun control rates high as a legislative priority for both. Rotering championed a ban on assault weapons and large-capacity ammunition magazines she passed in Highland Park, her hometown of about 29,000, that garnered national attention. Schneider used his very first speech in Congress to call for limits on such weapons, and boasts that his record on gun control earned him an “F” rating from the powerful National Rifle Association.

Both also ranked Obamacare and keeping health care accessible high, though Rotering accused Schneider of working with Republicans to delay the rollout of the Affordable Care Act.

Schneider said he did vote — along with Republicans — against penalizing citizens who hadn’t signed up in time for coverage.

“I had no expectation that (the rollout) would be as bad as it was, but I thought, ‘Better to give people the incentive to come on board rather than to train them to pay a small penalty not to come on board,” he said.

VITAL STATS: 10th Congressional District candidates BRAD SCHNEIDER First job: Working in grandfather’s furniture store. Sold first piece, a bed frame, at age 8. Favorite local restaurant: Max and Benny’s in Deerfield. Show off dish to cook: I don’t really cook. Likes to make mac and cheese with canned mushrooms and canned tuna fish. Political role model: Rep. John Lewis of Georgia. Hobby: Riding a bike through the district. TV show or movie to rush home for: M*A*S*H. One nice thing about your opponent: Her son is best friends with his son and if you’ve great kids, you must be good parents. Last book you read: Move: Putting America’s Infrastructure Back in the Lead by Rosabeth Moss Kanter Something about you that’d surprise your constituents: Would consider pursuing a teaching career. NANCY ROTERING First job: Doctor’s office at age 16, interpreting lab results. Favorite local restaurant: Walker Brothers Pancake House in Highland Park. Show-off dish to cook: (Laughs.) I can’t really cook. Brownies. Political role model: Sen Dick Durbin. Hobby: Hanging out with my kids. Running. TV show or movie to rush home for: Survivor. One nice thing about your opponent: Um … he tells great stories. Last book you read: I’m in the middle of Believer by David Axelrod. Something about you that’d surprise your constituents: I’ve climbed seven 14,000-foot mountains.

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