Despite what looks like a very rough year for Democrats, they see an opportunity to gain a seat in Illinois District 10. The D+6 district went 61 percent for Barack Obama in 2008. Despite its lean towards the Democrats, the seat is currently held by Republican Congressman Mark Kirk. Because he is running for Senate, this puts Republican nominee Robert Dold against third-time-running Democrat Dan Seals in the race for Kirk's seat.
The 10th Congressional District consists heavily of wealthy "North Shore" Chicago suburbs. Kirk represents the wealthiest district in the state of Illinois and the 20th richest district out of the 435 Congressional Districts nationwide. For an idea of what the district resembles, I'd recommend watching Matthew Broderick and Ben Stein in Ferris Bueller's Day Off -- the fictional town of Shermer, Illinois where Ferris lived was supposedly based on District 10's Northbrook, Illinois.
The District tends to attract self-identified fiscal conservatives and social moderates. With the strength of the Chicago derivatives trading industry, it's not surprising that Dold has donors in financial services. Dold did tell TAS that he supported the TARP bill, saying that not passing TARP would have meant "financial Armaggedon," but he cautioned against bailouts because he said they provide incentives for excessive risk-taking. He stated that he opposed using TARP money for bailing out General Motors and AIG. Dold has pledged never to raise taxes if elected.
Mark Kirk, while not always popular with national conservatives, has been able to hold a Democratic district in five consecutive elections. "Mark Kirk and I see eye to eye on most issues," Dold told TAS. Although, Dold emphasized that he disagreed with Kirk's vote on Cap and Trade. Kirk was one of eight Republicans to vote in favor of the bill, but later said that he would not vote in favor of a similar bill in the Senate. "Businesses would suffer from a cap and trade bill," Dold asserted. Dold is pro-choice but opposes partial birth abortion when the health of the mother is not in danger. Congressman Kirk has been criticized for being one of four Republicans voting against a ban on partial birth abortion in 2003.
Dold supports the Afghanistan surge, while his Democratic opponent does not. On the issue of same-sex marriage, there is a significant difference between the two candidates, with Dold supporting a constitutional ban * while Seals supports same-sex marriage.
While the district is a little bit Democratic, a couple factors favor a Republican hold. For instance, Democrat Dan Seals has already lost twice in this race to Mark Kirk in 2006, and 2008 -- two years that largely saw nationwide victories for Democrats. Moreover, Seals faces lingering issues about living slightly outside the district that he wants to represent. Dold said he does not plan to make a big issue out of Seals's residency but did say, "he's had five years to move into the district if he wanted to be in the district, but he's chosen not to."
This race will likely be very close, with the two candidates running roughly even in fundraising at the moment. The Democratic Party might want to pour resources into this race to have a success story on what is otherwise likely to be a gloomy election night for them. On the other hand, general unrest about the Democratic Party and deficit spending is likely to help Republicans -- even in the Chicago area.
*CORRECTION (8:00 PM): The Dold campaign has told me that the Chicago Daily Herald was inaccurate and that Dold does not support a Constitutional ban on same-sex marriage and that Dold supports "allowing same sex partners to have contractual rights including hospital visitation rights."
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