Illinois 16th District
The far northwest corner of Illinois is one of the heartlands of the Republican Party. In the town square of Freeport, some 15,000 people came to hear Abraham Lincoln and Stephen Douglas in one of their seven debates in 1858. Settled by New England Yankees, northern Illinois was one of the strongest Republican constituencies in 1860 and for years after. Not far away, on a little river once navigable by Mississippi River steamboats, is Galena, one of the earliest settlements in northern Illinois and the home of Ulysses S. Grant. Once larger than Chicago, Galena is now a tourist attraction. The second largest city in Illinois is Rockford, on the Rock River, settled by Swedes as well as Yankees and one of America’s leading furniture manufacturers at one time. It is the nation’s leading manufacturer of fasteners, and there is a big Chrysler plant a few miles east in Belvidere. But the city’s manufacturing base steadily declined after World War II, and by the 1980s, Rockford had a serious unemployment problem. It has rebounded in recent years as it has moved aggressively toward becoming a center for professional services and high technology.
2008 Presidential Vote
|Cook Partisan Voting Index|
The 16th Congressional District of Illinois consists of much of the northwest part of the state. It includes the hilly, almost mountainous country around Galena and the Mississippi River, and the flatter plains in the farming counties to the east and south. The fastest-growing part of the district is in the east, in McHenry County and in Boone and Winnebago counties, three of the fastest-growing counties in Illinois in recent years. Politically, northern Illinois, perhaps in stubborn opposition to Democratic Chicago, remained steadfastly Republican for many years. It backed Herbert Hoover in 1932, Barry Goldwater in 1964, and George H. W. Bush in 1992 when the rest of Illinois was going the other way. But in recent years, the trend has reversed. In 2004, George W. Bush ran far behind his father’s 1988 percentages in metro Chicago and in almost every one of the state’s northern counties. In 2008, Barack Obama won 8 of the 9 counties in this district, winning 53% of the vote.