Iran nuclear deal raises heat at first Dold/Schneider debate

By Sarah Haas

The Iran nuclear deal formed the narrative line of a contentious debate Sunday night between U.S. Rep. Bob Dold, R-Kenilworth and Democrat Brad Schneider, who is trying for the second time to unseat Dold in the 10th Congressional district.

The candidates squared off before a packed house in the auditorium of Lake Forest High School. It was the first of three scheduled debates between Dold and Schneider, and it proved to be as antagonistic as the stream of commercials both sides have been running for weeks.

Though they touched upon a range of topics in the 90-minute discussion, the two men clashed most explosively over the controversial Iran nuclear deal, which became a perennial talking point after both were originally asked about their perspectives on the extensive $38 billion aid package set to be delivered to U.S. ally, Israel.

Dold brought the Iran deal up first, expressing his opposition and calling it a “historic mistake” that it is going to “haunt us for generations.” He then criticized Schneider for his changing opinion on the agreement.

“We’ve seen a flip-flop by my opponent who said he was against the deal and as soon as he started to have political pressure in the primary flip-flopped on the deal,” Dold said. “He 100 percent supports the deal.”

Schneider countered by telling the crowded auditorium that it is “woefully irresponsible” for the United States to walk away from the Iran nuclear deal, as Dold suggested.

“He’s been lying about my position on the deal for the better part of a year,” Schneider added.

Though the debate moved forward, the Iran nuclear deal continued to dominate the conversation. Dold attempted to rebuff points Schneider made on the deal even when new, unrelated questions arose.

Moderator Judy Hoffman urged both candidates to stay on topic, but with little success. That seemed to be okay with many in the crowd who said they liked the spirited exchanges.

“I think it’s very competitive,” said Wyn Cain, community leader for the League of Women Voters of Lake Forest-Lake Buff, which sponsored the debate. “They’re both very interested in being elected to the office.”

Sunday’s debate was not the first time that Dold and Schneider’s disagreement over the international topic has come to light.

Dold wrote an op-ed for the Chicago Tribune in July stating his opposition to the deal, and has released a series of television advertisements criticizing Schneider and his alternating views. Schneider has defended his change of position on the controversial pact, and has reaffirmed his support of it.

Neither candidate seems to have gained much of an advantage by using this topic as a talking point. The Rothenberg & Gonzales Political Report declared the 10th Congressional District House race a “pure toss-up,” leaving Dold and Schneider in search for a competitive edge.

Still, residents at the debate appreciated hearing what some described as a substantive airing of the differences between the two candidates.

“We really heard about issues today, unlike quite often where we hear about personalities…which we don’t necessarily want to hear,” said Elliott Hartstein, former mayor of Buffalo Grove and debate attendee. “It’s always great to go to a debate, especially in this particular election season, where you hear a real discussion of issues.”

Photo at top: Republican U.S. Rep. Bob Dold (standing) makes a point while Brad Schneider, his opponent in the 10th District Congressional race, looks on during their first debate at Lake Forest High School. (Sarah Haas/MEDILL)