By Sarah Haas and Nona Tepper
It was the nail-biter everyone expected.
The hotly contested race to represent Illinois’ 10th Congressional District proved to be just as close as pollsters predicted, with Democrat Brad Schneider battling late into the night in an effort to claim the seat of U.S. Rep. Bob Dold.
In the end, Schneider prevailed, capturing 52 percent of the vote in the district that covers northern Cook and Lake Counties. Dold garnered 48 percent.
The race was not called until nearly 11 p.m. Shortly thereafter, Schneider took to the stage of the ballroom in the Northbrook Hilton Hotel to declare victory.
“It is an honor to be representing the 10th District,” said a smiling Schneider, who was surrounded onstage by his family and well-wishers. “We have to make sure we continue to fight for those things that make our country truly great.”
Dold, who conceded almost simultaneously, was gracious, if somber, in defeat.
“Unfortunately, we came up a little bit short today, and in the end, that’s okay,” he said. “We tried tirelessly. The 10th District deserved nothing less.”
Early in the evening, the mood at the candidates’ respective watch parties was a study in contrasts as the returns trickled in.
“I am hopeful,” said David Schroeder, vice president of federal government relations for the Community Bankers Association of Illinois.
Schroder, was among the buoyant Dold supporters who gathered at Austin’s Saloon in Libertyville. He praised his candidate as a “great supporter of all our causes…He has really been a rock star,” Schroder said.
The mood was decidedly different at Schneider’s party in Northbrook, where Democrats appeared shell-shocked as they seemed to focused on the tight battle between Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump and his Democratic opponent Hillary Clinton than on the Congressional race they assembled to celebrate.
“I’m very scared about security,” said Patricia Silver, adding: “We can’t depend on the media to tell us what’s going on, we have to find out for ourselves.”
This was the third time that Dold and Schneider had battled for the hearts and minds of 10th District voters. Schneider won the seat in 2012; Dold claimed it in 2014.
The race was one of the most high-profile and costly Congressional battles fought this season, with both candidates running a stream of television ads for months before the election. Prominent surrogates like President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama recorded ads for Schneider, while Dold relied on a fundraising advantage. Dold raised more than $5 million to Schneider’s $3.9 million.
In previous contests, raising more money did not necessarily amount to a win in the 10th District. In 2014, Dold trumped Schneider even though he raised less money. The opposite held in 2012, when Schneider beat Dold, despite the Democrat’s funding deficit.
Dold broke with the tradition and tried distance himself from the Republican Party’s presidential nominee in an effort to rebrand himself and appeal to voters in this moderate-leaning district. In advertising, he changed his positions on abortion and women’s reproductive rights, including the defunding of Planned Parenthood.
In the end, Dold’s political flip failed to hold sway with the majority of 10th District voters. Still, his supporters hold out hope that this not Dold’s last run. The next time might even be for a higher office.
“Bob would be strong enough to pick himself up and run again in 2 years,” said
Renee Blake, 17, an intern with Dold’s campaign since May and student at North Chicago Community High School. The she added, “Senator Dold sounds nice to me.”