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Sweet: Schneider, Rotering have differences, aim for same goals

Former 10th District U.S. Rep. Brad Schneider, D-Ill., and Highland Park Mayor Nancy Rotering are vying to win the Democratic primary and face off against U.S. Rep. Bob Dold, R-Ill. | Photos by Rich Hein/Sun-Times

When I started this column, it was about how the Bernie Sanders/Hillary Clinton Democratic battle was presenting a dilemma for House hopeful Nancy Rotering in a 10th District Dem primary race against Brad Schneider.

I moderated a debate between them Tuesday at Congregation B’nai Jehoshua Beth Elohim in Deerfield, hosted by a group of North Shore Jewish organizations. Fresh from a drive in from Des Moines, where I covered the runup to the Monday caucus vote, I asked whom they backed for president.

Some background: Schneider is looking to reclaim the seat he lost to Rep. Bob Dold, R-Ill.

It goes like this. Dold is elected to Congress in 2010. Schneider defeats Dold in 2012. Dold beats Schneider in 2014.

Schneider wants a 2016 rematch. First, he must win the primary against Rotering, the Highland Park mayor.

Her campaign is anchored on her support for the Iran nuclear ban — which Schneider opposes — and Highland Park’s successful fight, up to the U.S. Supreme Court, for an assault weapons ban. The main political argument Rotering makes is that she is the Democrat who can hold the seat beyond 2016.

At the debate, both Schneider and Rotering lavished praise on Sanders, the Vermont senator who lost the Iowa vote by a smidgen to Clinton. He is positioned to win the Feb. 9 New Hampshire primary.

Schneider said he was for Clinton.

When I turned to Rotering for her reply, I was curious what she was going to say because from the start, she has been wooing progressives — the Democrats who are most avidly supporting Sanders.

Indeed, when I was at Sanders’ Iowa headquarters in Des Moines on Sunday, I spotted Ilya Sheyman, who ran against Schneider in the 2012 10th District Democratic primary. Sheyman did well — he gained 38.6 percent of the vote to Schneider’s 46.9 percent — demonstrating that there is a substantial progressive base vote in the district.

Sheyman is now the executive director of MoveOn.org Political Action, dedicated to “electing candidates who are committed to standing up for progressive values” and helping Sanders.

Just as Clinton, threatened by Sanders, is stumping as a “progressive who can get things done,” Schneider, whom I considered a Democratic centrist when he was in the House, promotes himself on his website as a “principled, proven progressive.”

Rotering climbed on the fence at the debate. “So I am not picking one at the moment,” she said.

Despite what she said, Federal Election Commission records show she donated $2,650 to Clinton’s campaign in May.

On Wednesday, I called her because the donation did not square with her supposed indecision. Rotering phoned me right back. My question caught her off guard, she said. “I wasn’t prepared to endorse last night.” She is for Clinton.

ON GUNS

Both Rotering and Schneider are highlighting support for gun control measures on the stump and in their direct mail pieces. Rotering deserves to toot her horn — but she is unfairly attacking Schneider as if he doesn’t care about the issue. They are aiming toward the same goal. Their approaches are different. Schneider was endorsed by the Brady Campaign and the Center to Prevent Gun Violence in 2014. He was a co-sponsor of a bill to close the gun-show loophole.

It went nowhere because no gun measures advance in Congress. That’s why President Barack Obama issued executive orders to curb guns last month. It’s that hard.

Rotering passed the local law 6-1 in June 2013. One vote was hers. I know liberal Highland Park. I know Congress. The six-member Highland Park City Council is not Congress.