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Ex-Rep. Brad Schneider faces competition in primary to win back his seat
By Katherine Skiba
Chicago Tribune | Washington bureau
The Democratic primary for the 10th Congressional District pits Highland Park’s mayor against a former lawmaker, a contest next Tuesday that will decide who faces Republican incumbent Bob Dold in November.
Democrat Brad Schneider served one term in the House after beating Dold in 2012, then lost his 2014 re-election bid to the Kenilworth Republican. He wants a rematch with Dold, but first he has to get past Nancy Rotering.
Dold represents the country’s most Democratic-leaning district held by the GOP, according to the Cook Political Report’s Partisan Voting Index. President Barack Obama won big in the 10th in both his White House elections, on average 8 percentage points more than the U.S. as a whole.
Rotering and Schneider, both 54, have a lot in common. Both earned MBAs at Northwestern and are wealthy, each stating in interviews that their net worth exceeds $10 million.
They back Hillary Clinton for the White House, and they position themselves as progressive. They agree on many issues but diverge on the deal inked last year to dismantle Iran’s nuclear weapons program. He opposed it. She favored it.
Rotering, who is also a lawyer, is showcasing her leadership in getting Highland Park to pass an ordinance in 2013 that bans assault weapons and large-capacity magazines.
She says an opponent even called her and council members “Nazis” during a City Council meeting during the battle to get the ordinance passed, but the law was upheld by a Chicago-based federal Appellate Court. When the U.S. Supreme Court last December denied to hear an appeal, the law stood.
She said she stood up to the National Rifle Association, and as a result of the ordinance, heard from people around the world, even taking part in a radio show from New Zealand.
Rotering also pointed to Highland Park’s success in getting Commonwealth Edison to invest millions in infrastructure and other improvements, such as tree trimming, after a series of power outages during the summer of 2011.
Rotering says she was drawn to politics years ago because her eldest son, now 21, was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes when he was 2 years old. She and others pushed for a state law requiring schools to designate a trained staff worker to help diabetic students with their care, since not all schools have full-time nurses.
Rotering has gotten the endorsement of the Democratic Senate minority whip, Dick Durbin of Illinois, who said Rotering has the courage, leadership and determination” to return the district “to the Democratic fold.
“They know I’m the only one who can win this seat back for Democrats,” he said.
From 2004 to 2010, Schneider served as the American Israel Public Affairs Committee’s key contact with then-U.S. Rep. Melissa Bean, advising her on issues related to Israel. Bean served the 8th Congressional District but lost her 2010 re-election contest. She is the one who first urged him to run for Congress, he said. AIPAC is the hawkish pro-Israel lobby.
Touting his record in Congress, Schneider cites the constituent services his office delivered, singling out a particular week in 2014 when his office helped a woman obtain $44,000 in Social Security disability benefits owed to her, as well as two other individuals who were late in receiving thousands of dollars in payments from the Department of Veterans Affairs.
He also touts a measure he introduced that led to sanctions against the terror group Hezbollah, and another that requires the U.S. to ensure Israel maintains a military edge over regional adversaries.
Israel is “absolutely a top priority,” said Schneider, who left the U.S. on the day he got his bachelor’s degree in 1983 in industrial engineering and spent a year at a kibbutz wire factory in Ein Dor in northern Israel.
Rotering has picked up an endorsement from the more liberal J Street, which calls itself a “pro-Israel, pro-peace” group. She said it’s “absolutely incumbent” for the U.S. to keep up a strong partnership with Israel.
The two candidates have squared off at several forums and debates in the district, which runs from Glencoe north to the Wisconsin border and from Waukegan west to Fox Lake. It’s a mix of affluent, average and lower-income suburbs.
Rotering takes issue with Schneider’s support for a 2014 House-passed measure that would have required employers under the Affordable Care Act to give health insurance only to employees working 40 hours a week, not the present 30 hours.
Obama threatened to veto the bill, which did not advance in the Senate. The administration said it would have denied employer-based coverage to about a million people and shifted billions of dollars in costs to taxpayers.
Schneider, in an interview, said the Affordable Care Act was a challenge for small businesses, and the employees who would have been left without coverage could have purchased coverage through the insurance marketplaces created by the health care law. insurance through the ACA’s health-care exchanges.
Schneider has raised and spent more than Rotering, but had fewer dollars in his treasury, according to the most recent Federal Election Commission reports.
For the period ending Feb. 24, Schneider had receipts of almost $1.78 million, including a $5,000 loan he gave his campaign, and had spent nearly $1.58 million. That left him with about $296,000.
For that same period, Rotering had receipts of $1.44 million, including $345,000 in loans she made to her treasury, and spent about $982,000. She had about $452,000 on hand.
Michael Hartney, an assistant professor of politics at Lake Forest College, said the 10th is a rare swing district, since gerrymandering has left relatively few competitive districts in the U.S. Even though the 10th skews Democratic, it often has sent a Republican to Congress in the past.
“The district is unique,” he said, “because it is competitive enough that it’s always going to be attractive to the party that is not in power.”
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