National Democrats Target Dold for Defeat in 2012
Before being sworn in, the North Suburb Republican already faces partisan criticism.
The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) met last month to strategize about regaining the Democratic majority the party lost in November. Dold, whose 10th Congressional District runs from Wilmette north to Waukegan, and from Arlington Heights west to Libertyville, was one of five targets named.
"This is a competitive district we feel can be won, and Dold is a representative whose values and record are not in tune with the area," said DCCC Regional Press Secretary Jesse Ferguson.
Dold's victory: the rule or the exception?
Dold, who defeated Democrat Dan Seals by just over 5,000 votes, disputes the DCCC characterization of him and his district, according to his spokesperson Danielle Hagen. She pointed to the success of republicans at the top of the ballot in the area last November: Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Highland Park), who preceded Dold in the seat, beat Illinois State Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias by nearly 40,000 votes in the district while Republican gubernatorial candidate Bill Brady had over 9,000 votes more than Gov. Pat Quinn within the district's boundaries.
"It is no surprise that the DCCC is already attacking Congressman-Elect Dold," Hagen said. "The organization spent millions of dollars in the general election but came up short. The people of the 10th District are focused on the issues facing the country and elected the best candidate to address these issues in Washington."
Some, like 10th Congressional District Democrat Chair Lauren Beth Gash, see Dold's election as an exception to the rule rather than part of a conservative trend.
"Michelle Mussman picked up an open seat in the southwest part of the district, and in the southeast Daniel Biss won a previously Republican seat," Gash said, describing Democratic successes throughout the district at the state legislative level.
Gash, who narrowly lost to Kirk for Congress in 2000, also pointed out that some Republicans failed to beat vulnerable Democratic incumbents in the last election. State Representatives Karen May and Carol Sente, for example, "held on amazingly against heavy Republican targeting."
Reapportionment will change district, but how?
Should Dold seek re-election, he'll find a different district than the one that sent him to Washington in November. The Illinois Congressional delegation will shrink from 19 representatives to 18 as a result of the 2010 Census, and the size of each district will grow to approximately 710,000 persons from today's 650,000.
"We'll draw a map trying to make it communal, contiguous and with natural boundaries," said State Rep. Karen May (D-Highland Park). "We'll also get a consensus from Washington (the Illinois Congressional delegation) on how they feel."
While reapportionment will play a role in the 2012 election, both Republicans and Democrats are unsure what that role will be.
"Though we know the redistricting process will change the 10th, we don't think it will make it any more powerful for the Republicans," said Ferguson, who pointed out that the Democrats control both houses of the Illinois legislature as well as the governor's mansion.
State Sen. Susan Garrett (D-Lake Forest) acknowledged that the change could be significant, suggesting that Democrats wait on picking a candidate to run against Dold until the new map is revealed.
"Anything can happen with the 10th District," Garrett said, referring to the reapportionment process. "We should wait to see how this (redistricting) turns out before we invite anyone to step into the race."
Democrats already eying potential candidates
Democrats may wait to choose a candidate until after the redistricting process, but they haven't wasted any time drawing up a list of possibilities.
May, who played down the idea of running by indicating she can accomplish more for her constituents in Springfield than in Washington, said Garrett "represents many of the qualities we need in a candidate."
"A good candidate would be someone who has some experience in public service, so they know what the job is about," said May. "They should also live in the district."
Another person who lives in the district and meets May's criteria is Rep. Melissa Bean (D-Barrington). She represents the 8th District (her home sits at the border of the two districts), and narrowly lost to Rep. Elect Joe Walsh by 291 votes in November.