Democrats May Lose Illinois’ 10th Congressional District in 2014

In Illinois, a state where Democratic U.S. representatives outnumber Republicans twelve to six, at least one north suburban Chicago district may see a switch from Democrat to Republican.

With U.S. Representative Mark Kirk running for and winning a U.S. Senate seat in 2010, the 10th congressional district became open for the first time in a decade. Small business owner and Republican Robert Dold defeated three-time candidate Dan Seals, 51-49, in the general election. After redistricting, however, Dold became one of the more vulnerable incumbents in 2012.

In 2012, Dold faced Democratic consultant firm proprietor Bradley Schneider. A first-time candidate, Schneider defeated Dold 51-49. The raw vote difference was fewer than 3,000. By contrast, President Obama defeated Mitt Romney in the district 58-41.

After the 2010 redistricting, the 10th district encompasses the northern suburbs of Chicago, stretches from the northeastern border of Illinois at Zion, and bumps out to the west at Round Lake Beach before finally moving south to Arlington Heights.

Incumbent Bradley Schneider has spent his short time in office working to introduce legislation to direct funds from the Small Business Administration to start-up companies. In 2013, Schneider voted against the so-called Amash Amendment that would have stopped the surveillance programs of the NSA. He also voted to delay the implementation of the Affordable Care Act. In a move that mirrors one of President Obama’s objectives for 2014, Schneider co-sponsored a bill to eventually raise the minimum wage to $10.10.

Dold likes to present himself in the mold of now-U.S. Senator Mark Kirk and Kirk has appeared in campaign ads for Dold. In his initial race, Dold earned the endorsement of the Chicago Tribune for being in the “moderate, pro-choice independent mold of Kirk.”

During his time in Congress, Dold angered some social conservatives for taking a pro-choice position, even to the point of voting against a ban on sex-selective abortions. However, in a district where social issues do not take precedence, he tried to mediate his position by opposing public funds for Planned Parenthood. Dold’s vote became an issue in the 2012 race.

In the 2012 race, Dold frequently eschewed the party label, describing himself as an independent, rather than identifying with the GOP. He also referred to the health care reform legislation as the Affordable Care Act rather than “Obamacare.” In a letter to supporters last May announcing he was running again, Dold did not mention his party affiliation, saying he is an “independent-thinking moderate.”

In the latest fundraising reports, each candidate has raised more than one million dollars. In his October fundraising report, Dold detailed that more than 90 percent of his funds came from individual donors in Illinois. Fundraising could end up playing a significant role in the 10th district. In his 2012 loss, Dold’s $4.5 million outspent Schneider’s $3 million. A similar amount, however, was spent by outside groups on both candidates.

In 2012, the presence of President Barack Obama on the Democratic ticket likely helped Schneider. This year, Schneider will be appearing on the same ballot as Governor Pat Quinn, a Democrat whose political base of support is practically relegated to Cook County. So while it is early in the 2014 election season, the Illinois 10th congressional district is very likely to produce another close finish.