- Associated Press - Sunday, October 5, 2014

CHICAGO (AP) - Two years after being embarrassed in congressional elections, Illinois Republicans are aiming for payback in this year’s Nov. 4 midterm vote.

In 2012, the Democrats swept all but one of the state’s contested congressional seats, aided by high turnout for President Barack Obama and a new political district map etched by Democrats in Springfield. This year, Republicans are looking to capitalize on voter frustration with Washington and predicted low turnout to take back some seats to help the GOP solidify its hold on the U.S. House.

“I think we’re going to see great strides,” said Illinois GOP Chairman Tim Schneider.

Democrats are counting on their push for a higher minimum wage and other economic proposals to rally the party faithful and stave off any losses.

Here’s a look at the most competitive contests:



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10th Congressional District: Chicago’s northern suburbs to the Wisconsin state line.

Incumbent: Democrat Brad Schneider

Hometown: Deerfield

Background: Business consultant

Challenger: Republican Bob Dold

Hometown: Kenilworth

Background: Pest control business. Former one-term U.S. congressman.

Matchup: The rematch of a close contest in 2012 could come down to which party turns out the most voters. Dold narrowly lost a bid for a second term by slightly more than one percentage point. The district had been represented by Republicans, including current U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk, since the 1970s. The two candidates share similar views on many issues. Dold recently aired an ad in which his sister assures voters he supports abortion rights, as does Schneider.

Issues: Both candidates are tilting toward the center to attract independents. Schneider and Dold both favor raising the federal minimum wage - Schneider supports raising it to $10.10 an hour over three years, while Dold doesn’t specify an amount. They differ on the Affordable Care Act: Schneider notes that a number of its problems have been fixed. Dold wants changes to make it as “patient-centered” as possible.

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11th Congressional District: Southwest Chicago suburbs, stretching in a “Z” shape from Aurora to Joliet.

Incumbent: Democrat Bill Foster

Hometown: Naperville

Background: Physicist and businessman. Elected to Congress in 2008. Lost re-election bid in 2010. Re-elected to newly drawn district in 2012.

Challenger: Republican Darlene Senger

Hometown: Naperville

Background: Former city council member. State representative since 2009.

Matchup: Foster defeated three-term Republican incumbent Judy Biggert in 2012 in a district now leaning Democrat with a growing Hispanic population. Senger notes her involvement in crafting a public pension overhaul in Springfield last year as evidence of her ability to work across the aisle. The candidates have clashed over a taxpayer funded mailer issued by Foster that claims millionaires don’t pay enough taxes. Senger notes Foster’s wealth and says he’s hypocritical.

Issues: Senger and Foster differ on taxes, government regulations and what’s best for middle-class families. Senger says there should be fewer regulations, while Foster supports ending tax incentives that help companies move jobs offshore and expanding trade skills education. Senger opposes higher taxes to balance the federal budget, while Foster favors a mix of tax revenue and spending cuts.

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12th Congressional District: Stretches from eastern St. Louis suburbs to the Kentucky border.

Incumbent: Democrat Bill Enyart

Hometown: Belleville

Background: Former adjutant general of Illinois National guard. Served in U.S. Air Force.

Challenger: Republican Mike Bost

Hometown: Murphysboro

Background: 19-year state representative. Former U.S. Marine and firefighter.

Challenger: Green Party candidate Paula Bradshaw

Hometown: Carbondale

Background: Emergency room nurse

Matchup: The district has been in Democratic hands for more than two decades but has grown increasingly conservative on social issues. The race could come down to personalities: Democrats have spent millions on ads featuring an angry outburst by Bost on the Illinois House Floor in 2012. Bost argues the eruption was atypical but might help him with voters frustrated with government. Bradshaw won 6 percent of the vote in a failed 2012 bid.

Issues: Bost asserts that Enyart is out of touch and aligned with Democratic House Minority leader Nancy Pelosi. Enyart retorts that he’s voted against Pelosi and the Obama administration “when they’re not correct,” in particular on proposed regulations on coal-fired power plants. Enyart criticizes Bost’s stance against raising the minimum wage and his work as a state lawmaker as Illinois descended into a financial crisis. Bradshaw says Washington is run by corporations and the wealthy. She advocates cutting the U.S. military budget in half and a $15 minimum wage.

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13th Congressional District: Bow-tie shaped district that stretches from Champaign to the St. Louis suburbs.

Incumbent: Republican Rodney Davis.

Hometown: Taylorville

Background: Former projects director and campaign manager for U.S. Rep. John Shimkus

Challenger: Democrat Ann Callis

Hometown: Edwardsville

Background: Former Madison County chief judge

Matchup: Initially seen as one of the nation’s most competitive races. A swing district favoring Republicans in non-presidential years and Democrats otherwise. Callis criticizes Davis as a Washington insider, noting he hired a lobbyist to be his chief of staff. Davis highlights questions about Callis’ residency, noting reports that she signed mortgage papers saying her residence was in Missouri. Callis’ campaign says she is a resident of Illinois and registered to vote and holds a drivers licence here.

Issues: Callis links Davis to dysfunction and indecision in Congress. Davis blames the gridlock on the Democratic-led Senate. The candidates also have focused on jobs and the economy: Callis calls for equal pay for women, criticizes Davis for voting to keep the issue from coming to the House floor. Davis calls for fewer government regulations and boosting domestic oil production.

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17th Congressional District: Stretches from Rockford west to the Mississippi River, south along the Iowa border, then back east to Peoria.

Incumbent: Democrat Cheri Bustos

Hometown: East Moline

Background: Former reporter, editor and nonprofit spokeswoman. Former member of the East Moline City Council.

Challenger: Bobby Schilling

Hometown: Colona

Background: Pizza shop owner. Former one-term U.S. congressman

Matchup: Another rematch. Bustos beat Schilling in 2012 by 6 percentage points. Schilling says Bustos broke her promise to give up 10 percent of her pay. Bustos said she misspoke and meant that she supports legislation to cut congressional pay by that amount. The key Quad Cities area remains strongly Democratic. Schilling has actively sought support from tea party allies who helped him win 2010.

Issues: Schilling has made the Affordable Care Act a top issue, while Bustos has avoided the issue, talking about general health care topics instead. His focus is jobs and the middle class. Bustos emphasizes her focus on agriculture, including work on the latest Farm Bill, and touts her assistance in the federal purchase of the Thomson state prison.

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