Republican U.S. Rep. Bob Dold and Democrat Brad Schneider recently met early one morning for a small business breakfast at a scenic golf course in north suburban Waukegan. The event took place on a bright fall day but, for some voters, it might have felt more like Bill Murray’s Groundhog Day.
For the last three election cycles, the same two candidates have been knocking on the same doors and shaking the same hands as they both search for support in the 10th District of Illinois.
Dold often brings it up when he’s speaking to voters.
“What’s interesting is that you all have a unique opportunity that a vast majority of the nation doesn’t have,” Dold said at the golf course. “You actually have an opportunity to compare one term versus one term.”
Dold was elected to his first term in Congress in 2010. Two years later, Schneider won by just over 1 percent, taking the seat for the Democrats. But then in 2014 -- a rematch -- Dold took the seat back for the Republicans and has since been serving the 10th district.
So for this election cycle, Dold and Schneider are running against each other for a third time. Dold said it doesn’t matter who he runs against because he would run the same campaign. As for Schneider, he’s never been in a general election without Dold.
“I get the question a lot, ‘Is it strange running against the same guy all three times?’” Schneider said after the Waukegan forum. “Everyone asks me the question, but it’s all I know. I’ve run against the same guy all three times.”
Many of the top issues and talking points have remained pretty similar throughout their past campaigns, like the repeated calls for bipartisanship in an increasingly polarized Congress.
That issue may have some traction in the north suburban 10th District, which has a history of electing moderate Republicans. U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk represented the area in Congress for five terms beginning in 2000.
“I think the 10th District is looking for independence,” Dold said. “One of the advantages that Brad gets is he gets to listen to me out there talking about these things, and we see him trying to copy that as much as possible.”
Schneider argues he’s the bipartisan one and blames Republicans for not working with the Democrats enough.
“The people of the 10th District want a government that’s working,” Schneider said. “They want [a] Congress that’s gonna say, ‘Let’s roll up our sleeves, talk about the challenges we face as a nation and let’s work together to develop solutions.’”
The similarities between the two candidates do not end with their calls for bipartisanship.
At a recent debate at Glenbrook South High School, both men were asked about immigration reform. Schneider answered first and stressed that immigration reform would “bring 11 to 12 million people out of the shadows into being full members of our communities.”
During his turn answering the question, Dold included a similar sentiment: “We also need to make sure we’re allowing the 12.5 million people that are living in the shadows the ability to come out of those shadows and be contributing members of our community.”
The similarities have undecided voters in the district at a bit of a loss, even though they’ve been hearing from these candidates for more than five years.
Mike O’Neil, who went to the breakfast at the Waukegan golf course, said he voted for Dold in the past, and calls himself Republican-leaning. He said he’s really concerned about how deadlocked Congress has been lately, and after hearing from both candidates, he said he’s got a lot of homework to do.
“You know, as you sit through presentations like this, I come out probably a little bit more confused in thinking about how different are they really on some of these issues,” O’Neil said. “It’s nice to say, ‘Yeah, I’m for education.’ Everybody’s for education.”
Lauren Chooljian covers city politics for WBEZ. Follow her @laurenchooljian.