10th District candidates debate gun control and climate change among contentious topics

By Alexis Shanes
Medill Reports

U.S. Rep. Brad Schneider (D-10th) called for crossing the partisan divide on everything from health care to immigration reform during a debate Sunday with GOP opponent and computer consultant Douglas Bennett.

Schneider added that he is part of the bipartisan Problem Solvers Caucus to “fight for the values and priorities of our community” and identify common ground between parties for policy solutions moving forward.

Bennett, his Republican opponent in the 10th Congressional District race, echoed the collaborative sentiment as the candidates squared off at Deerfield High School, where they tackled audience-submitted questions as the Nov. 6 elections approach. The 10th District includes northern Chicago suburbs in Lake and Cook counties.

“We need people who are not dug in, who are not bitter and angry, who are not part of this system,” Bennett said. “No one should be left behind.”

GOP congressional hopeful Doug Bennett, a computer consultant, said passed legislation is the only standard by which to judge bipartisan success. “Nobody in my industry gets a raise for status reports,” he said. (Alexis Shanes/Medill News Service)

But the similarities ended with the support bipartisanship, as the candidates sparred on health care reform, climate change, gun control and immigration policies. Schneider, now serving his second Congressional term, appealed to voter values for meeting community priorities while Bennett stressed efficiency and tangible results in government programs.

Less than 24 hours before the debate, the U.S. Senate confirmed Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court amid sexual assault allegations, a contentious FBI investigation report and intense national protest. Kavanaugh’s critics have raised countless objections to his appointment, including concerns the justice will reverse Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion.

Against this backdrop, the candidates addressed women’s rights in a debate hosted by the Illinois League of Women Voters members.

“I’m 100 percent pro-choice,” Schneider said. “I believe that every woman has the right to make a choice about her own body. Roe v. Wade is the law of the land and should be upheld.”

Bennett said he wouldn’t support repealing the controversial decision, adding, “I don’t believe for a second that Roe v. Wade will be overturned.

“When you say Roe v. Wade, when you read it, the woman has a right to choose,” he said. “The difference between Brad and I is not from banning it or allowing it, but where that point is.”

Rep. Brad Schneider touted his Congressional record during the debate. “I’m proud in this term I have helped introduced more than 50 pieces of legislation,” he said. (Alexis Shanes/Medill News Service)

The split between candidates was just as evident in an exchange about the United Nations Paris climate agreement to cap global temperature rise at 1.5 degrees Celsius. President Donald Trump withdrew the U.S. from the agreement last year.

“The United States was absolutely wrong in withdrawing from the accord,” Schneider said, adding that China and India have poured trillions of dollars toward the problem. “If we don’t make that investment, if we don’t look to the future, we’re going to cede our future to those countries.”

Bennett didn’t deny climate change explicitly but threw his support behind the Trump’s 2017 decision, saying the accord restricted the U.S. but not other countries, though it sets global standards.

“That accord was flawed and we should have pulled out of it,” he said. “It was more about saying that we signed something than getting something that worked.”

Regarding gun control and school safety, recurring themes, Bennett said he doubts background checks are a viable solution, citing personal experience with the gun ownership process.

“I’m not sure they’re working in Chicago, and that’s a real problem,” he said, adding that gun regulations should “restrict tools of violence,” by disarming “people who are not able to manage their rights.”

Schneider, meanwhile, touted his “fail” rating from the National Rifle Association, although neither candidate has received funding from the organization. In the wake of recent school shootings, the NRA has widened the chasm between pro- and anti-gun candidates.

“I’m proud of my record of leading on this issue,” Schneider said. “I support universal background checks. We should close the gun show loophole.”

Asked if he would find a way to help navigate Illinois budget struggles, Bennett blamed the state and federal governments for the fiscal problems but didn’t offer any solutions.

“We’ve left federal dollars untaken because of our dysfunction in Springfield,” he said. “The way we’ve passed laws in Washington has prevented Illinois from getting its fair share of revenues.”

Schneider said he would support an “intentional effort” to penalize state governments that misappropriate funds, simultaneously returning to his nonpartisan stance.

“We need to make this a dynamic place to work, live and play,” Schneider said. “Illinois didn’t get to the problems it has today by one party.”

The Illinois League of Women Voters hosted the debate, which drew a large crowd to Deerfield High School. (Alexis Shanes/Medill News Service)
Photo at top: Illinois 10th Congressional District candidates – Democratic Rep. Brad Schneider (left) and GOP contender Douglas Bennett – agreed to promote bipartisanship but split apart on numerous issues. (Alexis Shanes/MEDILL)