Democrats’ path to victory in the House: Illinois 10

This post is the first in what will be a series of articles on Congressional Democrats’ best chances for gains in the 2016 election cycle.

The first step to any Democratic majority in the House of Representatives runs through Illinois’ 10th congressional district. The seat, located in the suburbs of Chicago, voted for President Obama by a remarkable 17 point margin in the 2012 election. However, the seat has always proved more difficult to win on the congressional level. Prior to 2012, the seat had been reliably Republican since Ronald Regan’s election in 1980.

2012 was the Democratic Party’s first sign of hope in the seat, when Brad Schneider, with significant support from the DCCC, managed to wrestle control of the seat away from moderate Republican Bob Dold, partially thanks to favorable redistricting by Illinois Democrats. It seemed as if the Democratic party had finally flipped the seat in a way that was going to stick. The district’s more liberal electorate would ensure that IL-10 would be the silver lining for Democrats in what was otherwise a dismal redistricting cycle. However, a perfect storm of low turnout, unfavorable political climate and an opponent with high name recognition would again steal the seat away from the Democratic Party.

During the run-up to the 2014 election, Bob Dold announced his campaign to take back his old House seat. Because of the intensity of the campaigns in the both in the 2010 and 2012 campaign cycle, he had already established high name recognition within his district, allowing him to move past the biggest hurdle most political challengers face. However, this wasn’t the only advantage that Congressman Dold held in his race to unseat Brad Schneider: He was a member of the Financial Services Committee during his first stint in the House. During his time there, he managed to create relationships with big business interests, who donated seemingly limitless sums of money to Dold’s 2014 bid. In other words, the rematch was not a typical congressional race: The challenger had both the name ID and fundraising prowess of an incumbent.

This influx of corporate cash allowed Dold to rebrand himself as a moderate hero in a Washington filled with partisan hacks. He would accept the science of climate change. He would declare himself as pro-choice. He would even become a Republican who supported gay marriage, as long as religious organizations could still discriminate against gay people with no real consequences. And despite these “moderate” positions, his still opposed bans on additional oil drilling in Lake Michigan, and he’s voted to defund Planed Parenthood and end all federal funding for abortions. However, enough voters bought into Dold’s new profile, and, aided by the low turnout resulting from the lack of voter enthusiasm nationwide, he managed to eke out a win by a margin of less than 5000 votes.

Brad Schneider, via Wikimedia Commons

Brad Schneider, via Wikimedia Commons

However, Dold has not lived up to the moderate identity he has assigned himself since returning to Congress, and this gives Democrats the perfect opportunity for a pickup in 2016. Aided by higher turnout and a favorable political climate, a credible challenger should be able to turn this seat blue for the foreseeable future. And with House Democrats having fewer seats than any time since the Eisenhower presidency, electing a Democrat from the district will be critical to gaining back a majority. What’s more, national Democrats already think that they’ve found that challenger in none other than former Congressman Brad Schneider.

Already having declared his candidacy for the 2016 election, it looks as if Schneider will once again blow past his Democratic primary challenger, Highland Park Mayor Nancy Rotering, who’s polling at a dismal 12 percent among likely primary voters. And because of his connections in Congress, the DCCC is almost sure to back Schneider in any primary fight.

While Dold will continue to be heavily backed by the big banks, Schneider possibly has an even greater advantage. There were almost 60,000 fewer votes cast in Dold’s 2014 win than Schneider’s victory in 2012. The increased turnout of a presidential election immediately puts Dold in a vulnerable position, no matter how many dollars he has in his campaign war chest.

If the Democratic victory in the district is anywhere near the size of Obama’s margin in 2012, Schneider will stand to gain immensely from those coattails. As split ticket voting is becoming less and less prevalent over time, it’s likely that there simply won’t be enough crossover support to keep Dold afloat. That makes the Illinois 10th Democratic target number one.


Jacob Hopkins is a first year student at Kenyon College. He hails from the great state of Arkansas, where he worked on Mark Pryor’s 2014 campaign to retain his Senate seat. He writes on LGBT issues, climate change and Congress.

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17 Responses to “Democrats’ path to victory in the House: Illinois 10”

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  2. FLL says:

    That is good news. Thanks for the updated information.

  3. kernals says:

    There’s some good news on that front. Lawsuits are pending against racial gerrymandering in VIrginia, North Carolina, Florida, Alabama, and Texas. They could be forced to redraw districts that don’t pack Democratic voters into just a few districts thereby giving key pickup opportunities to the dems.

  4. kernals says:

    The only thing that matters is turnout. We need to get the young, the poor, and those of color to the ballot box.

  5. kernals says:

    And don’t forget the latest Illinois congressman caught up in a corruption scandal was a Republican. When conservatives claim that Illinois has a corruption problem, they are correct, when they claim that it’s a democrat problem, they are wrong.

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  7. Doug105 says:

    The big problem for Republicans in 2016: Millions of them are literally dying

    Read more: http://www.businessinsider.com/the-big-problem-for-republicans-in-2016-millions-of-them-are-literally-dying-2015-5#ixzz3awUEhPvO

  8. kernals says:

    The Democrats can’t win the house with laws in place now. I have some hopes, California, New Jersey, and Illinois are considering automatic voter registration which means more turnout, perhaps enough to swing a few otherwise republican leaning districts. Also, lawsuits pending against racial gerrymandering in Virginia, North Carolina, Florida, Texas, and Alabama could force redistricting that is fair to democrats.

  9. Uncle Sugar says:

    What? You need to turn off Fox News. IL has lower taxes than MI, WI, MN and IA. Go live in IN and pay 1% less. Don’t like property taxes? Move to Walkerville and pay 30% more.

    One Party Rule? The Gov is a Republican. Try again.

  10. jaguar717 says:

    As Chicago and Illinois continue being downgraded into junk status, taxing honest workers out of their homes, and driving away productive citizens, do we really need more One Party Rule?

  11. nicho says:

    Yah.

  12. FLL says:

    Speaking of which party controls the House, I distinctly remember a little maxim repeated by more than one commenter on this blog: “Democrats only vote for civil rights legislation when they know it has no chance of passing.” How to explain, then, why congressional Democrats passed the hate crimes law in 2009 (over a Republican filibuster) and why they passed the repeal of DADT in 2010 (over a Republican filibuster)? I can’t help but notice that the repeal of DADT has had a profound effect on American society. People who repeat the maxim about Democrats that I quoted above seem to have a foggy memory.

  13. Bill_Perdue says:

    They both promote wars of aggression, and the Democrats are ahead in terms of nations attacked and about equal in terms of civilians murdered.

    Both pigheadedly refuse to repeal DOMA, or to pass bills like (a cleansed) ENDA, a CRA or the Respect for Marriage Act when they control both the Congress and the WH.

    Both bust unions with the Democrats leading the charge nationwide and in NY, Illinois and CA, while the Republicans are active in quite a few states.

    Both oppose a decent minimum wage although socialists and the labor left have been able to get passed in Seattle, SF and LA and are working on a major nationwide effort to get it passed and link it to union organizing efforts.

    The Clintons and Obama are to the right of pre-Carter Republican Nixon on unions, the environment and about equal with his record as a warmonger. Obama, after he was elected, finally admitted it. “The truth of the matter is that my policies are so mainstream that if I had set the same policies that I had back in the 1980s, I would be considered a moderate Republican.” Obama, in an interview with Noticias Univision 23. ABC News, 12 15 2012

    http://abcnews.go.com/ABC_Univision/Politics/obama-considered-moderate-republican-1980s/story?id=17973080.

  14. FLL says:

    Due to Republican gerrymandering after the 2010 census, Republicans enjoy a 57-seat lead over Democrats in the House. Clearly, it’s impossible for Democrats to take control of the House in 2016. It will be three to seven years before Democrats control the House, depending on their gains in 2016, 2018 and (after the next census) 2020. Civil rights legislation at the national level—offering legal protection in the Deep South—will be dead until then, which is exactly the way bigots want it.

  15. UncleBucky says:

    Nah.

  16. UncleBucky says:

    Billboard against Dold:

    BIG BANKS SUPPORT DOLD.
    [image of ATM receipt showing $5 ATM charge]

    And YOU ARE BEING FORCED TO PAY FOR DOLD’S RE-ELECTION.

  17. Bill_Perdue says:

    It doesn’t matter which party wins, both are right wing parties moving right.

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