Ward Room
Covering Chicago's nine political influencers

Why Cook County Dominates Illinois Politics

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Downstate resentment of Cook County is at an all-time high. Gov. Pat Quinn was elected in 2010 by winning three counties and would have been elected even if he’d only won Cook. Last year, a state representative from Decatur proposed kicking Cook County out of Illinois and setting it up as its own state. 

    Why do they hate us so? Probably because few counties dominate their states as thoroughly as Cook County dominates Illinois. We have 40.6 percent of Illinois’ residents. Only three other counties in the U.S. can match that. New Castle County, Del., and Providence County, RI, don’t really count, because they’re in homogenous states too small for regional rivalries. Delaware and Rhode Island are counties that declared themselves states. The only county that dominates a real state as thoroughly as Cook dominates Illinois is Maricopa County, Arizona.
    Here’s how we compare to other urbanized states.
    Illinois
    Largest county: Cook 5,231,351
    State population: 12,875,255
    Percentage: 40.6
    New York: 
    Largest county: Kings 2,565,365
    State population: 19,570,261
    Percentage: 13.1
    California:
    Largest county: Los Angeles 9,818,605
    State population: 38,041,430
    Percentage: 25.8
    Michigan:
    Largest county: Wayne 1,820,584
    State population: 9,883,360
    Percentage: 18.4
    Texas
    Largest county: Harris 4,253,700
    State population: 26,059,203
    Percentage: 16.3
    Georgia
    Largest county: Fulton 977,773
    State population: 9,919,945
    Percentage: 9.9
    Ohio
    Largest county: Cuyahoga 1,280,122
    State population: 11,544,225
    Percentage: 11.1
    Massachusetts
    Largest county: Middlesex 1,503,085
    State population: 6,646,144
    Percentage: 22.6
    Florida
    Largest county: 2,496,435
    State population: 19,317,568
    Percentage: 12.9
    Arizona
    Largest county: Maricopa 3,817,117
    State population: 6,553,255
    Percentage: 58.2
    Washington
    Largest county: King 1,931,249
    State population: 6,897,012
    Percentage: 28