Illinois 8th District
Schaumburg may not be nationally known, but it is one of America’s major corporate headquarters cities. Sixty years ago, this suburb northwest of Chicago was farmland. Today, Schaumburg—near the intersection of the Northwest Tollway and Interstate 290—is the site of the headquarters of Motorola and Zurich American Insurance. Nearby are the headquarters of Sears and Kemper Insurance, as well as the gargantuan Woodfield Mall and subdivisions as far as the eye can see. Schaumburg yearns for traditions. It has built a performing arts center, formed an orchestra for young people, and built from scratch a traditional downtown district. Lately, civic endeavors are taking a backseat to concerns about the recession, which hit here early. Motorola lost 3,000 jobs worldwide in 2008 alone.
2008 Presidential Vote
|Cook Partisan Voting Index|
The 8th Congressional District of Illinois is made up of Schaumburg and dozens of similar communities north and northwest of Chicago. A short drive from Schaumburg is Palatine and country-manor Barrington Hills. The district—whose population grew 12% from 2000 to 2007—includes the rapidly-growing western half of Lake County, with little lake communities being surrounded by new suburbs like Deer Park and Volo. It also includes the Lake Michigan town of Zion at the Wisconsin border. To the west, the 8th includes about half of fast-growing McHenry County, where Democrats have begun to show some life. The area lacks a regional identity, other than the “northwest suburbs.” The local newspaper, the Daily Herald based in Arlington Heights, tried valiantly for a few years to give it a sense of place with a billboard campaign that dubbed it “Herald City.” It didn’t quite stick.
The tone of life is not elite, but people here are affluent. Culturally, it has more in common with the great rural Midwest than it does yeasty, lusty Chicago. Economically, its suspicion of government and trade restrictions has declined, as Motorola has become the victim of overseas competition, which has caused job upheaval in Schaumburg. Historically, this was one of the most Republican places in the nation. In the past decade, like other Chicago suburbs, it moved toward the Democrats. The Latino population has risen from 11% in 2000 to 15% in 2007, and Asian-Americans constitute 7%. If the 8th is still one of Illinois’s most Republican districts, as measured by its 56% support of George W. Bush in both 2000 and 2004, it has become far less Republican than districts with similar demographics in Texas and Georgia. Like most of the Chicago metropolitan area, the district voted for Barack Obama in 2008. Obama won 56% here compared to John McCain’s 43%.