Wisconsin 1st District
With its rolling hills, blanketed by snow during most of the winter, gloriously green under blue skies in summer, the southern tier of Wisconsin, from Lake Michigan to the Rock River Valley, is some of America’s prime industrial country. Settled by Yankee and German farmers 170 years ago, it was once primarily dairy land. By the early 20th century, the steady habits and high skills of the local dairy farmers had made them a good labor pool for factories. There are still major plants here, including the operations center for S. C. Johnson Wax in Racine, with its Frank Lloyd Wright–designed tower. But the recent collapse of the domestic auto industry had a powerful impact on the local economy. In 2008, General Motors closed its Janesville plant, laying off 2,500 workers, and the following year, Chrysler announced that it would shutter its Kenosha plant and lay off 850. Unemployment in Rock County, which includes Janesville, jumped from 4.8% in October 2007 to 13.5% in March 2009.
2008 Presidential Vote
|Cook Partisan Voting Index|
Kenosha, once primarily a factory town, has undergone a bit of a transformation, with some of the old smokestacks and shipyards along its lakefront replaced with museums, a marina, restaurants and boutiques that attract weekending Chicagoans and Chicago-based businesses. Other towns in the area have tried to follow suit, offering tax breaks and other enticements to lure Chicago businesses north. Most of this region is becoming metropolitan, part of the almost continuously suburban zone where metro Milwaukee melds into metro Chicago. But there are still some thriving old lake resorts, most notably Lake Geneva, a favorite of wealthy Chicagoans. In nearby Williams Bay is the University of Chicago’s historic Yerkes Observatory, long one of the nation’s largest astronomy research centers and often referred to as the birthplace of modern astrophysics.
This is the 1st Congressional District of Wisconsin. It runs from Lake Michigan west to Janesville in Rock County and encompasses all of Racine and Kenosha counties on Lake Michigan as well as parts of Walworth County, including Lake Geneva. It also takes in the southern Milwaukee County suburbs of Oak Creek and Greenfield and the southern tier of townships in suburban Waukesha County, including New Berlin. Generally, it tilts Republican, and Waukesha and Walworth counties are heavily Republican. In this presidential battleground state, the district voted 54% for Republican George W. Bush in 2004 but broke narrowly for Democrat Barack Obama in 2008, 51%-47%.