Illinois 3rd District
A century ago, humorist Finley Peter Dunne’s fictional Mr. Dooley pontificated on matters political in a saloon on Archery Road. This was Archer Avenue on the South Side of Chicago, one of the radial streets that cut across what was once open prairie near the Loop and along the Chicago River. Archer Avenue was one of the paths of outward migration and upward mobility for the children and grandchildren of Chicago’s ethnic and cultural groups, and still is. Even today, in Archer Heights, you can scarcely go a block without hearing someone speaking Polish. Italians from the river wards along the Chicago and Sanitary Ship Canal moved west, the South Side Irish moved west and south along Cicero Avenue toward Oak Lawn, the Bohemians (as they were called then; now Czechs) were heavily concentrated in the neat bungalows of industrial suburbs like Berwyn. Today, Latinos are driving these same avenues, up before dawn to arrive at factory jobs, or taking CTA “El” trains to the Loop or to “edge city” jobs out the expressways. Midway Airport, Chicago’s main airport from 1927 until O’Hare Airport opened in 1955, is now a discount-airline hub. It has been renovating and expanding its congested terminals and parking lots, all squeezed into the heart of a busy commercial area on the southwest side.
2008 Presidential Vote
|Cook Partisan Voting Index|
The 3rd Congressional District of Illinois consists of much of this territory, crisscrossed by grid-pattern streets, the canal, the railroad lines and the switching yards so common in this, the center of the nation’s rail network. It is part of Chicago’s bungalow belt, with one after another of the ubiquitous peaked brick houses neatly lining every street like Monopoly pieces, the handiwork of Swedish, Italian and Polish masons. The 3rd also includes the far southwest edge of Chicago, most of the suburbs of Berwyn and Riverside, with its early-20th-century prairie-style houses, and a few older affluent suburbs like Western Springs and the more recent and middle-income expanses of Oak Lawn and Palos Hills. In the Archer Avenue city neighborhoods, Poles cling to their heritage, with more than 20 weekend schools teaching Polish to local kids and adults. A narrow corridor extends to the famed Bridgeport neighborhood, the lifetime home of the late Mayor Richard J. Daley, father of the current Mayor Richard M. Daley, and the storied Irish stronghold that produced four other Chicago mayors. In recent years, Bridgeport has diversified, as Hispanics and Asians have moved in. But it still attracts few African-American families, who are perhaps wary of Bridgeport’s history of racial hostility and violence. The district’s overall Hispanic population increased to 30% in 2007, making it the second largest in the state. Politically, this has been marginal territory: ancestrally Democratic, culturally conservative, multiethnic and viscerally patriotic. Of the seven congressional districts that include parts of Chicago, the 3rd has cast the highest percentages for Republican presidential candidates, though the GOP vote has fallen well short of a majority.