Candidate Forum Held at LFHS Sunday

A+man+in+a+suit+and+tie

Elizabeth Porter

The League of Women Voters sponsored a Congressional debate at LFHS Sunday afternoon, featuring current 10th District Representative Bob Dold and his opponent, Brad Schneider. The two squared off in the Raymond Moore Auditorium, taking turns setting out their positions on issues such as gun control and the Middle East. Their forum was a welcome change from the partisan bickering we have come to expect from political debates. Though the two traded the expected criticisms of each other’s records, they ultimately share a great deal of common ground.

Considered a battleground district that could go either direction in the November 8th election, the Illinois 10th Congressional District extends along Lake Michigan from Glencoe to the Wisconsin border and as far west as Fox Lake. Congressional districts do not follow county or town boundaries. Instead, they are often a patchwork of constituencies put together by state political parties. Accordingly, the Illinois 10th Congressional District contains much of eastern Lake County, but extends into Cook county and to the McHenry border at Fox Lake as well. What results is a District that is politically moderate, closely split between Democrats and Republicans. In recent years, this has meant that Dold and Schneider have been intermittently in and out of office, with Dold in the seat from 2010 to 2012, Schneider holding from 2012 to 2014, and Dold resuming the seat in 2014 through 2016.

Given this history, it should come as no surprise that the two candidates are centrists. But this year’s presidential election and congressional gridlock has made Dold’s independence from his party the focus of his campaign. At Sunday’s forum, Dold began his remarks with that very point, calling himself “independent” and stressing the many endorsements he’s received. Most notable are the many issues on which Dold parts ways with his party, such as continued funding for Planned Parenthood, stricter gun control, comprehensive immigration reform, support for the LGBTQ community, and meaningful climate legislation.

Both candidates spoke about the need for comprehensive immigration reform and both agreed that reform must include a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants. Schneider faulted the Republican leadership in congress for failing to bring comprehensive immigration reform to the floor of the House of Representatives. Dold pointed out that he had co-sponsored the bill passed in the Senate, agreeing with Schneider that the Republican majority barred it from proceeding.

Similarly, both agreed on the need to reverse Citizens United, the Supreme Court case that allowed corporations to provide unlimited monetary campaign support to candidates. Unless the Supreme Court overrules itself on the issue, it will take a constitutional amendment to reverse the holding. Dold faulted Schneider for receiving outside donations for his campaign while Schneider blamed the Republicans for failing to hold hearings on Eric Garland’s appointment to the Supreme Court. With Garland on the court, the Supreme Court might take the rare step of reversing its own opinion.

With respect to the Affordable Care Act, both candidates agreed that it was not perfect. They disagreed about Dold’s record on the matter, Schneider insisting that Dold had joined the Republican majority in its effort to defund or repeal the law, while Dold maintained that he had sought to improve it. They further agreed that more needs to be done to control prescription drug costs as Dold pointed to the need to fast track FDA approval.

On guns, Schneider reiterated his position that assault rifles should be banned while Dold did his best to distance himself from the NRA, emphasizing the need for certain measures, such as comprehensive background checks and “no fly, no buy” legislation. Dold claimed that the NRA gave both he and Brad Schneider the same poor rating–an F. But Schneider faulted Dold’s party for refusing to bring legislation to the floor for debate.

Dold repeatedly emphasized his history working across the aisle on bipartisan bills and reminded the audience that he was one of the first Republicans to say they did not support Donald Trump and would not vote for him. Dold seemed to consistently distance himself from the Republican Party even ending with a reference to Clinton’s campaign slogan, “Stronger Together”. Dold prides himself on being Independent and urged for more congressmen who will “take on their own party when they think they are wrong”.

For his part, Schneider faulted Dold for doing to little to influence the majority’s extreme positions on many key issues.

Given the theatrics we’ve witnessed in the presidential debates, this forum seemed incredibly civil and thoughtful.  Overall, the event did not feel like a debate, rather than a reasoned discourse. No one mentioned grabbing anyone or anything or threatened to surface hidden emails or distributing sex tapes. It was democracy in action. I left feeling like no matter the outcome, the 10th Congressional District would be well represented.