Illinois 6th District
During World War II, the largest troop and cargo airplane, the Douglas C-54, was built at a military airstrip called Orchard Field, just northwest of Chicago. Today, Orchard Field is known as O’Hare International Airport, the nation’s second-busiest. (O’Hare’s three-letter code, ORD, borrows three letters from the word “orchard.”) In the 1940s, Chicago politicians in search of a new airport site annexed Orchard Field, along with thousands of adjacent acres, and renamed it for a Navy flyer who lost his life in the war and hailed from Chicago, Lt. Edward O’Hare. Mayor Richard J. Daley, the father of the current mayor, opened O’Hare in 1955 and aggressively promoted its development, correctly concluding that a great airport in the 20th century could do for Chicago what railroad stations and rail yards did for the city in the 19th century. For years, O’Hare has vied with Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson as America’s No. 1 or No. 2 airport, and it has done much to maintain Chicago as the most vibrant center of commerce in the Midwest. Today, with O’Hare operating close to capacity, Mayor Richard M. Daley’s plans to reconfigure the runways and expand the airport are aimed at maintaining its pre-eminence. However, expansion is highly unpopular in the densely packed suburbs that surround O’Hare. Politically, these suburbs were for many years solidly Republican, convinced that civic virtues could best be realized by opposing the party of City Hall in Chicago, and that economic growth could best be assured by opposing the party that backed stifling government regulation. But in the 1990s, they became less Republican, as voters here recoiled from the national party’s cultural conservatism.
2008 Presidential Vote
|Cook Partisan Voting Index|
The 6th Congressional District of Illinois includes O’Hare and much of the suburban area to its west. Most of the district is in DuPage County, the second-largest county in Illinois after Cook County. It includes the string of long-settled suburbs due west of the Loop: Elmhurst, Villa Park, Lombard, Glen Ellyn, and Wheaton. It takes in other suburbs along Interstate 290: Bensenville, Addison, Wood Dale, and Bloomingdale. Economically, this remains high-income territory; culturally, it is now cautiously moderate or even liberal. In 1988, George H.W. Bush carried DuPage by 124,000 votes, with 68% of the vote, but in 2004, his son carried it by only 39,000 votes, for a total of 54%—which tells you in a nutshell why the elder Bush carried Illinois in 1988 and the younger Bush twice wrote it off. In 2008, Illinois was a lost cause for Republicans opposed to favorite-son Democrat Barack Obama. John McCain lost DuPage by 45,000 votes.