Illinois 19th District
Much of Southern Illinois is a land of prairies, of flat, treeless land sloping imperceptibly down to the Ohio and Mississippi rivers. It was settled almost entirely from the south by farmers coming overland from Kentucky, such as Abraham Lincoln’s family. Just beyond the Ohio River, they found hilly terrain, some of which turned out to have coal deposits. As they traveled farther north, they must have been astonished, after miles of thick forest, to see the great American prairie stretch before them, a vast sea of empty land extending past the horizon. The prairie lands proved wondrously rich and were soon crisscrossed by rail lines taking their produce away and bringing in industrial products from St. Louis, Chicago and points east. About the same time, vast coal deposits were found in southern Illinois, and several mining towns sprouted. This was the home turf of John L. Lewis, the imperious leader of the United Mine Workers for half a century and, in the late 1930s and early 1940s, one of the most powerful and eloquent figures in American public life.
2008 Presidential Vote
|Cook Partisan Voting Index|
The 19th Congressional District of Illinois, the largest in the state, extends more than 200 miles up, down and across. It covers all or part of 30 counties in the rich heartland of southern Illinois—most of the land area south of Springfield, from the Ohio River to the Mississippi. Much of it is south of the old National Road, which became U.S. 40 and is paralleled by Interstate 70, the traditional boundary between the part of downstate Illinois settled by Southerners and the part settled by Yankees. The city of Effingham, which straddles that line, is where corn and soybean fields give way to hills and valleys with orchards and woodlands. The boundaries of the 19th are jagged, but there is a rational political explanation for them. The biggest voting blocs are in Madison, Clinton and Washington counties, part of the St. Louis metropolitan area, and the Sangamon County suburbs of Springfield, the state capital. The district includes the coal-mining area around Mount Vernon, sparsely settled areas along the Ohio River and some prairie counties along U.S. 40. Traditional Democrats have become harder to find here. George W. Bush won 61% of the vote in 2004, his best performance in the state. In 2008, John McCain won 26 of the 30 counties in the district.