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Chicago Suburbs Threatened With Democratic Takeover

By vouchey in News on Dec 20, 2004 4:04PM

Suburbia in its halcyon days.Rather than talk about how cool it is that Obama is on the cover of Newsweek this week, Chicagoist thought we'd skip the boosterism and talk about something real: Changing suburbanite voting patterns.

It's a topic that concerns quite a few Illinois politicos, since if it's true, it has the potential to upset the Republican-Democratic balance in Illinois. For forty years the understanding has been that Democrats own Chicago, Metro East (the St. Louis suburbs), and pockets of small industrial towns throughout the state. Republicans in turn, get the suburbs of Chicago and everything else.

But as the Cook County suburbs and other inner 'burbs have aged, Democratic candidates have gotten foothold here and then in smaller races -- Terry Link's race for state senate in Lake County in 1996 is one example -- and now bigger pieces of the Republican pie are disappearing too. Cases in point: The NW Suburbs' Congresswoman-elect Melissa Bean and new Will County Exective Larry Walsh. Four years ago you would have gotten a big smirk from Republicans for talking about Democrats in these parts. Ten years ago you would have gotten a big belly laugh. But not any more. The GOP isn't running scared, but they're taking things seriously.

The Democratic thinking is that after college, people move to the big city to start their careers and form their worldviews. In their late twenties and when they start families, they move to the suburbs for the cheap housing and good schools -- but keep their citified thinking. But because political science is a "soft science" and doesn't really follow hard rules like, say physics, it's hard to judge political theories until you have the hindsight of a few election cycles later. But it should be fun watching Democrats and Republicans pound the crap out of one another for a little while.

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