Illinois 14th District
Downstate Illinois, as it is known locally, is a misnomer. Although it certainly does refer to the territory south of Chicago, and therefore “down the state” from Chicago, it also means everything north and west of the nation’s third-largest city. In the vernacular, downstate Illinois is everything that is not Chicago or its suburbs, just as upstate New York is everything that is not New York City. The 14th Congressional District is where downstate Illinois begins, at least where it begins in the westerly direction from the city. Where the densely packed suburban areas leave off, the district begins in western DuPage County. It is home to two great Illinois landmarks: Cantigny, the estate of Col. Robert McCormick, longtime publisher of the Chicago Tribune, and Fermilab, the world’s fastest particle accelerator, which takes a staff of 2,000 people to operate. The 14th also contains the Fox River Valley and its industrial cities, Elgin and Aurora; Aurora’s population grew 19% from 2000 to 2006 with a large influx of Hispanics. In contrast, there is urbane St. Charles, a small city bisected by the Fox River that is filled with antiques stores and restaurants and sponsors the well-attended annual Scarecrow Festival.
2008 Presidential Vote
|Cook Partisan Voting Index|
The district also includes Kendall County, rated the fastest-growing county in the nation in 2008. The county added some 42,000 people from 2000 to 2007, a 77 percent increase that edged out Flagler County, Fla., for fastest growth among U.S. counties with 10,000 people or more. Following a pattern established by cities and their close-in suburbs, Kendall exploded in population as people sought cheap land and more-affordable housing near job centers in suburban DuPage and Kane counties, which are a commute away. In effect, Kendall is a suburb of the suburbs. Since 2000, subdivisions and strip malls have sprouted out of its cornfields. Kendall’s surge helps make this the fastest-growing congressional district in Illinois.
Farther west, the 14th passes through DeKalb County, long the world’s leading manufacturer of barbed wire, and goes on to Lee County, to take in Ronald Reagan’s boyhood home in Dixon. This was traditionally some of the most heavily Republican territory in the country. Northern Illinois was settled when Chicago was just a frontier village, by Yankees from Ohio, Indiana, upstate New York, and New England, and by Germans emigrating after the failed revolutions of 1848. They were the heart of the Republican Party from its founding in 1854, and the core of the Grand Army of the Republic a few years later. Their descendants remain mostly Republican today.