Schneider, a business consultant, insists he has strong progressive credentials but emphasizes cooperation and comity, while Sheyman, formerly a MoveOn.org organizer, believes that a district that voted 63 percent for Obama deserves a more unbending progressive advocate in Congress--someone who would have advocated for a public option in the health care reform bill, for example.
Sheyman says that he can make the strongest contrasts with Dold in the general election, but some Democrats (Schneider included) feel that Sheyman is too far to the left to appeal to independents in a seat that has had a GOP representative for decades.
Dold is one of two Republican freshmen that Democrats are challenging in the Chicago suburbs. The other is Rep. Joe Walsh, from Illinois's 8th District. Tammy Duckworth - an Iraq War vet, 2006-vintage congressional candidate, and former deputy assistant secretary at the Veterans Affairs department - is the Democrats' favored challenger, though Raja Krishnamoorthi has also fundraised well
Elsewhere in the state, Democrats are hoping to capture three other Illinois seats from Republicans this fall, and the primaries in two of them look more like coronations than contests. In Rep. Bobby Schilling's 17th District along the Iowa border, former East Moline alderwoman Cheri Bustos is the likely Democratic nominee after Sen. Dick Durbin stepped in and cleared out a few challengers early in the winter.
Ex-Rep. Bill Foster, a Democrat who lost to GOP freshman Randy Hultgren in 2010, is making a comeback attempt against veteran Republican Rep. Judy Biggert in the 11th District outside Chicago. Biggert has long run against a Democratic lean - Obama carried her old seat with 54 percent - but redistricting nudged the district over 60 percent for Obama in 2008, and only one Republican in the country (Dold) holds a seat so Democratic.
The third GOP seat weakened via redistricting Johnson's 13th District. His seat did not change so dramatically, though, going from a marginal lean against Obama to a marginal lean for him. But David Gill, a three-time Democratic candidate who lost to Johnson by 30 points last cycle, is battling against Democrats' favored choice, Greene County State's Attorney Matt Goetten, for the right to oppose Johnson, and a Gill victory could essentially close off the district as a Democratic pickup opportunity.
Democrats are also playing defense in the 12th District, where longtime Rep. Jerry Costello anointed local school official Brad Harriman as his Democratic replacement after announcing his retirement last year. Though Costello held the downstate seat comfortably for 12 terms, it's the type of blue-collar, socially conservative area that has increasingly given Democrats trouble lately. Harriman, a former NFL player, has Costello's ideology and his imprimatur, but Republicans are still hopeful that either Jason Plummer, a wealthy candidate for lieutenant governor in 2010, or Rodger Cook, formerly the mayor of Belleville, can convince longtime Democratic voters to give another party a chance.
The final race of note is in Illinois's 2nd District, where former Democratic Rep. Debbie Halvorson is challenging Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. in a primary. Halvorson has won some critical support from African-American pastors who have criticized Jackson's ethics troubles and hit him for being an absentee congressman, but Halvorson has been a weak campaigner and Jackson's internal polling showed him up by 36 points last week.