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10th District Draws the Eye of National Parties

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Chicago's Northern suburbs have a reputation as some of the wealthiest and best-educated areas in the country. But lately, the quiet area has been home to some pretty loud politics. That's because the 10th District is home to one of the most politically competitive Congressional races around.

If you think the politics surrounding the presidential race have been polarizing, then you should take a look at Illinois' 10th Congressional District. The two candidates recently had their one and only scheduled debate at Deerfield High School. Listen to the reaction of the 800 people in attendance as incumbent Mark Kirk goes over his time limit in his closing remarks.

KIRK: I have sought to fight for this district from one end to the other. Send the reformer with results back to Washington.
(cheering and booing)

All this excitement for a Congressional race. What's drawing all the passions is a couple of factors. One is the candidates themselves. Kirk was elected in 2000. And ever since, the Republican has been presenting himself as a moderate.

KIRK: So who is the best person to represent us in the Congress next year? It will likely be a Democratic Congress and I'm an independent kind of guy. I agree with them on a number of key issues.

Kirk cites his endorsements; from Planned Parenthood for his stance on abortion to the Sierra Club for his record on the environment.

Meantime, his opponent is Democrat Dan Seals, a former lecturer on federal public policy at Northwestern University. Seals lost to Kirk with 47 percent of the vote two years ago. And this year, numerous polls have shown the two candidates neck-and-neck. The thing is, Seals, too, says he's a moderate.

SEALS: I'm hoping that my party leader will be President Obama after the election. And while I support his focus on a change of direction for the country, I don't agree with him on every issue.

Seals says he splits from Obama on some economic issues. Specifically, Seals says he doesn't want to raise the capital gains tax. But the battle for who's the truer moderate isn't the only thing that's driving all the passions.

NORDLUND: The 10th Congressional District is really interesting because in 2000 it voted for Gore and in 2004 it voted for Kerry, and yet it has this Republican representative.

Carrie Nordlund is a professor of political science at Lake Forrest College, located in the middle of the 10th District. She says it's unusual for voters to vote one party for president and another for Congress. Plus, there's the demographics. Nordlund says the region has a wide variety of contingencies when it comes to income, race, and religion. But those factors are exactly why the district has a big bullseye on it from both Democratic and Republican party leaders. Nordlund says the national parties have pumped a lot of money and resources into this race. Democrats, in particular, are salivating at picking up another seat in the House.

NORDLUND: It's very winnable. They just have to convince those Democrats that have voted in the past for Kirk to vote for Dan Seals.

ARNOLD: You say that you're a Democrat. Have you voted for Mark Kirk consistently throughout the years?
TURNER: Last time I have voted for him. But, otherwise, I was always voting Democratic.

Edith Turner from Highland Park attended the debate. She says she's voted Democrat most of her life, but Kirk is unique. Particularly, Turner likes Kirk's stance on supporting Israel.

TURNER: He knows that Iran is the threat. He knows that Hamas and Hezbollah is the threat. And this is why he tries to give Israel the tools to defend itself.

Turner says despite her Democratic history, she's also voting Republican for president this year. But she's representative of the type of voter both Democrats and Republicans are focused on. So focused, they've been spending millions on this seat, that's just one of 435 in the House.

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