Illinois 5th District
Few places in America today have more ethnic and cultural variety than the North Side of Chicago. This has been the destination of one immigrant group after another and its neighborhoods harbor all manner of successful middle-class people. Wooden workingman’s cottages from the late 19th century give way to sturdy brick houses from the early 1900s, and then to the prairie bungalows of the 1920s and the white-shuttered, orange-brick colonials of the 1950s. Chicago was America’s top immigrant destination for Poles, Lithuanians, Czechs, Slovaks, Ukrainians, and Romanians. Something about the heavy, dull clouds of the long winters, the short, hot summers, a climate suited to potatoes and cabbage and other hardy vegetables, may have reminded them of central and eastern Europe. By the late 1980s, upwardly mobile immigrants from Mexico and Guatemala, Korea and the Philippines were moving in. The 1990s witnessed new rounds of immigrants from Poland and Ukraine, and also from Pakistan, India, and Bosnia. Family ties, webs of acquaintances that reach back to ancestral villages, have made the North Side of Chicago a natural port of entry for Eastern bloc migrants, even as other newcomers arrive with relationships extending to Latin America and Southeast Asia.
2008 Presidential Vote
|Cook Partisan Voting Index|
The 5th Congressional District covers an oddly shaped swath across Chicago’s North Side, running from the lakefront to the suburbs directly south of O’Hare Airport. The 5th includes Chicago’s most glamorous lakefront apartments facing the Oak Street beach and the gentrified neighborhoods of Old Town, where Crate & Barrel was founded in 1962 and where old houses and factories are being converted into upscale condominiums, often over the objections of preservationists. Nearby Lincoln Park abounds with boutiques, clubs and restaurants and has the highest median household income of Chicago’s 77 community areas. The district is home to baseball’s famed Wrigley Field, which opened in 1914 and is a protected landmark that has defied the teardown trend in ballparks and endured the heartbreak of the Cubs. It takes in the Polish-American and Ukrainian-American neighborhoods, with their own museums around Milwaukee Avenue, and the old Italian neighborhoods running west on Grand Avenue. A couple of blocks from the Chicago River is the grand old St. Stanislaus Kostka Church—a traditional center of the Polish community since the 19th century that now conducts Masses in Spanish. With the increase of Hispanic population to 28% in 2007, a language other than English is spoken in 46% of the district’s households. Across from Pulaski Park is the home of former Democratic Rep. Dan Rostenkowski, chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee from 1981 to 1994, for whom the district was designed in 1992. The district’s politics are vintage Chicago. Longtime political consultant Don Rose says, “The 5th is the second-toughest machine-controlled Democratic congressional district in Chicago. It differs slightly from the conservative 3rd District because of a handful of independent-liberal lakefront precincts comprising 18 percent of the vote.” This is a solidly Democratic district. In 2008, Barack Obama won here 73%-26%.