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Four Democrats face off for chance against Dold in 10th District

Decomcratic candidates for 10th Congressional District primary clockwise from top left: Vivek BavdBrad Schneider John Tree IlySheyman.

Decomcratic candidates for the 10th Congressional District primary, clockwise from top left: Vivek Bavda, Brad Schneider, John Tree and Ilya Sheyman.

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Updated: March 17, 2012 10:11AM

Democrats in the 10th Congressional District have an enviable problem:

No matter whom they vote for in the March primary, they’ll be voting against several other highly credible candidates.

It’s the kind of solid field that a party on the outs in a district sometimes produces when it smells blood.

The 10th has been redrawn to include more Democratic turf — 61 percent of the new district’s voters went for Barack Obama in 2008 — making incumbent Republican Bob Dold more vulnerable in November.

The district stretches from Glenview on the south to Waukegan on the north.

There is Brad Schneider, 50, a Deerfield industrial engineer and management consultant, who is running as a voice of business experience.

Schneider has the key endorsements of several North Shore Democratic state senators and representatives, former or current, and former U.S. Rep. Melissa Bean, which arguably makes him the most establishment candidate. But other candidates also boast significant endorsements.

There is Ilya Sheyman, at 25 just old enough to serve in Congress. He’s a community organizer and is allied with the strongly liberal wing of the Democratic Party. He was national mobilization director for the liberal advocacy group, and he received a $10,000 donation from Democracy for America, the PAC founded by Howard Dean, the lefty former governor of Vermont.

There is John Tree, 45, a full colonel in the U.S. Air Force Reserve and a businessman, who says he came by his Democratic politics while working as a missionary in Haiti as a young man. He was struck by the lack of a basic government safety net for the poor in such an impoverished country, he told the Chicago Sun-Times Editorial Board.

“Every man for himself leads to Haiti,” he said, whereas the Democratic Party believes “we’re all in this together.”

And there is Vivek Bavda, 34, a lawyer with a master’s degree in public administration who describes himself as a pragmatist committed to finding “evidence-based” solutions to problems.

As for the problem with Congress, he told the Editorial Board, it’s that too many elected officials are “ideologically driven.”

Sheyman, the first candidate to air TV ads, disagreed. Washington is not too ideological, he said, but “too partisan.” Especially on the Republican side of the fence, he said, folks are far more interested in scoring political points than in working together to get things done.

Schneider, who has two sons, said he’s running for Congress because his generation “has an obligation to pass to the younger generation a better world” — and that’s not happening.

Specifically with respect to improving the economy, he said, he would promote investment in infrastructure, green energy and high-skilled manufacturing jobs, and he would work to “restore” a culture of innovation.

And, as a “pragmatic progressive,” he would seek bipartisanship by identifying “areas we can collaborate.”

Tree, asked how he would cope with Washington’s toxic atmosphere, replied, “For me, it’s a question of leadership.

“I’ve been promoted many times. We all need to bring a more enlightened discussion to Washington,” he said.

The defining issue in this race may be how willing Democrats in the 10th District are to roll the dice with Sheyman, the most idealistic and progressive candidate, rather than with Schneider or Tree, either of whom would be a safer bet in the November general election, more likely to draw independent voters.

Adding to that calculation may be the degree of importance voters place on professional and life experience. The Russian-born Sheyman, whose family were Jewish refugees, is just a few years out of McGill University and single, while Schneider and Tree are family men with longer work resumes.

It’s tempting to describe this election as a contest between the heart and the brain, which may be how it shakes out for many voters. But among the candidates, we see no shortage of either.

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