Rep. Bob Dold is locked in a tight race with Democrat Brad Schneider, who the congressman unseated in 2014. In an exclusive interview with Ward Room Thursday, Dold touched on the November election, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump and the key issues affecting his 10th Congressional District.
Dold was originally elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 2010, replacing incumbent Republican Mark Kirk, who was elected to the Senate that same year. Dold was defeated by Schneider in 2012, but regained the seat in a 2014 rematch.
"They think it's a flip-flop district, it's really not a flip-flop district," Dold said. "With the exception of the two years Brad Schneider served in Congress, this is a district that's been held by a moderate Republican for the last 36 years."
This year, Dold has a substantial fundraising edge over Schneider and has already garnered endorsements from the Chicago Tribune, the Chicago Sun-Times and the Daily Herald. In an interview with Ward Room last week, Schneider faulted some of Dold's stances, claiming the congressman hasn't supported an assault weapon ban and has supported a Republican budget that would defund Obamacare. Nevertheless, Dold said he was excited to compare records with Schneider Monday.
“What makes this different is that this is actually really a unique opportunity where the voters of the district, 100 percent of them, have a chance to compare my record, one of the most independent, bipartisan and effective members of the United States Congress, and my opponent, who’s been ranked one of actually the least effective members of the United States Congress," Dold said.
During Monday's interview, Dold was also critical of Trump, who the congressman first came out against in December of last year. Dold said he "could not and will not defend" Trump's divisive comments about women, Latinos, Muslims and the disabled. Additionally, he said he was personally offended by the billionaire's comments about Arizona Sen. John McCain.
"When he says John McCain's not a hero because he was shot down and prefers those that weren't shot down," Dold said, "My uncle was the second one shot down in Vietnam. If anybody wants to say that his service to our nation is anything less than heroic for me is just unacceptable."
As far as his ballot, Dold said he would probably write someone in, but wouldn't specify who. Nevertheless, he said voting for Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton would be "a mess" and "a disaster."
"My mother gave me a plaque," Dold said. "It says, 'Your integrity determines your identity.' And I think, if you ask the American people, there's a huge integrity problem there with Mrs. Clinton."
The Republican, who has broken with his party in the past, said despite the country's political divide, what voters really want is unity and results.
"What they're really looking for is they want someone that's going to be able to bring the country together, unite the country and provide a vision about where we're going to go," he said.
The congressman said the country needs to move past "the new normal," which he says is typified by roughly one and a half percent growth for the economy.
"That's been that way for about 8-10 years," Dold said. "We really need to get to at least the old normal, which was about three and a half percent growth. That difference is about $4.6 trillion dollars to our economy."
Dold listed jobs and the economy as his district's most pressing issues. More specifically, he said he wanted to ensure that businesses are growing while education and training are providing the skills to get those jobs.
Moreover, Dold said he was committed to tackling the poverty and drug problems facing his district. This year, the congressman introduced Lali's Law, a bill that increases access to overdose antidote naloxone throughot the United States. The measure was signed into law in July as part of the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act.
The congressman also pointed to national security as an issue that affects his constituency. Dold railed against the Iran nuclear deal, referring to the country as "the greatest state sponsor of terror in the world."
"As we look at the Iran deal, I still think it's one of the greatest threats we have to our own national security," Dold said. "A nuclear armed Iran is a huge problem and this agreement I think will be an agreement that will haunt us for generations."
During Wednesday's interview, Dold said the U.S. needs to "ratchet up sanctions" because "we've emboldened the Iranians." The congressman claimed the deal gives Iran $150 billion in sanctions relief and allows the country to keep their nuclear architecture in place.
"This is probably one of the worst deals that I think we could've gotten," Dold said. "It's not are they going to violate, it's when and how significantly."
Dold faulted his opponent, Schneider, for changing his stance on the deal. Schneider originally came out against the deal in a 2015 blog for the Times of Israel, but has since moved to supporting the agreement.
The congressman also touched on the Syrian refugee crisis, expressing concerns over the country's vetting process. Dold said he wants to get infrastructure in place to properly vet refugees in the U.S. and use intelligence on the ground in Syria to verify that refugees "are not going to be posing a threat."
Dold also said he was open to establishing a "safe zone" in a country like Jordan. As far as establishing cease fires and no fly zones in the region with Russia, Dold said he would "love to see that happen." Additionally, he called Syrian President Bashar al-Assad "a very bad man" and expressed concern about the country's global standing.
"The world's watching," Dold said. "Our allies are watching and our enemies as well. And we've created a situation where our allies don't trust us, our enemies don't fear us. And this is a dangerous spot to be in because when the U.S. in essence recedes from a leadership role, someone fills that void."