Why Demographics Favor Hultgren over Walsh

Congressman Child Support

Rep. Randy Hultgren thinks he has demographics on his side in his primary against Rep. Joe Walsh, who announced Wednesday he will run for Hultgren’s 14th District seat.

“My district is the fastest-growing district in Illinois, so I know that there’s going to have to be a congressman for Kane County and Kendall County and western DuPage County, kind of the western suburbs,” Hultgren said in a recent interview with Ward Room.

Those are the areas of the new 14th District Hultgren currently represents. The district used to extend west, almost to the Quad Cities, but now goes north into McHenry and Lake counties, areas currently represented by Walsh.

Hultgren is right about the 14th being the fastest growing district in Illinois. In fact, Kendall is the fastest growing county in the nation, having increased its population by 110 percent between 2000 and 2010. Kane County grew 27.5 percent.

In the new 14th District, Walsh currently represents McHenry and Lake counties, which are not as dynamic. McHenry grew 18.7 percent in the last census, while Lake only grew 9.2 percent.

Since the census that determined the makeup of the district was conducted in April 2010, and the election will be held nearly two years later, we can draw the assumption that Hultgren’s turf will contain more voters than Walsh’s by then. If Kendall county is growing at the same rate it did in the last decade, it will have added another 22 percent to its population. This isn’t likely, because exurban growth depends on new housing, and building has slowed since the recession. But you get the point. Even though both candidates are bringing roughly a third of their voters into the new district, Hultgren Country will probably be more populous than Walsh Country by election time.

Also, Hultgren is slightly more popular in his territory. In November 2010, he won Kendall County 53 percent to 44 percent, and Kane County 51 percent to 46 percent. Walsh, who eked out a 250-vote victory against former Rep. Melissa Bean, won McHenry County 52 percent to 43 percent, and Lake County 49 percent to 47 percent.

Walsh has more name recognition nationwide. But there’s a saying that all politics is local. That favors Hultgren.

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