Dold Democratic Challengers Make Case
Five diverse candidates explain why they have the best chance to win a seat in Congress.
All five Democrats vying in the March 20 primary to challenge Rep. Robert Dold (R-Kenilworth) see themselves as best able to unseat the freshman incumbent in the Nov. 6 general election. The contest promises to be one of the country’s most hotly contested races.
Before Dold was sworn into office a year ago, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee targeted him for defeat on the heels of his 5,000 vote victory over Dan Seals even though the area’s new boundaries were not drawn.
A few months later, Emily’s List, an organization dedicated to electing progressive women to office, declared its intention to defeat Dold as well.
In May, the Illinois General Assembly passed a new Congressional map placing Dold’s Kenilworth home in the 9th Congressional District of Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Evanston). Dold immediately said he would run in the new 10th where approximately 75 percent of his current constituents live.
Though the reconfigured district is considered slightly more Democratic than the old, it cannot be considered safe for either party. In 2010, both Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Highland Park) and Republican gubernatorial candidate Bill Brady won within the boundaries.
Though the five challengers have diverse backgrounds in business, law, community organizing and the military, they see their circumstances as the right ones to secure the Democratic nomination and become a member of Congress.
Challengers Backgrounds’ Differ
Two of the potential Democratic nominees, Deerfield management consultant Brad Schneider and Long Grove business owner John Tree, come to the campaign with a business background like Dold. Tree is also a colonel in the United States Air Force reserve.
The other three Democratic contenders, Waukegan community organizer Ilya Sheyman, Mundelein attorney Vivek Bavda and Hainesville mathematician Aloys Rutagwibira bring different experience to the campaign.
Schneider and Tree dismiss Dold’s experience operating a 150-year-old family pest control business as one dimensional. They claim their exposure to companies large and small makes them more suited for the job. Tree also said his experience in commerce sets him apart from Schneider.
“My life experience makes me the best person to run against Dold. My military background, owning a business and working for large companies gives me broad experience. Dold has only run a small business,” Tree said. “I’ve actually run a business,” he added referring to Schneider’s work only as a consultant.
Schneider was quick to point out in 1997 he took over an insurance agency and ran it until 2003. “It was a turnaround. It was losing money and we made it profitable,” he said. “My experience is broader and deeper,” he added trying to distinguish himself from Dold.
Small Business Background Gives Dold Unique Perspective
Dold thinks the responsibilities he had operating a small business give him a unique perspective legislating to help solve the problems in today’s economy. He has continually spoken about the contribution of small business to the economy.
“Being responsible for the livelihoods of 100 families is an awesome responsibility. I know what it’s like to meet a budget and a payroll,” Dold said. “Two thirds of net new jobs come from small business.”
Sheyman thinks the work he has done as an organizer is exactly what a member of Congress does. He believes this experience best positions him to win a general election contest against Dold.
“I’m the only one in the race who has consistently advocated for middle class families on issues,” Sheyman said. “This is what the job is about. I will continue to advocate on behalf of the community.”
Bavda thinks his independence distinguishes him from Dold and his Democratic competitors as well as his work in both the public and private sectors.
“I’m willing to take political chances, provide solutions, and don’t rely on a group of cynical political consultants,” Bavda said. “I talk about substance while my competitors talk about politics.”
Rutagwibira also believes independence makes him best suited to give the 10th District its first Democratic representative in many years. He claims he is willing to make unpopular decisions if necessary.
“Making the right decision in the face of uncertainty is what separate leaders from managers,” Rutagwibira said. “Leaders take care of people, assume calculated risks, do not shy away from adopting policies which help people however unpopular and riskier the policies may be.”