Illinois: A State Divided - NBC Chicago

Illinois: A State Divided



    Many "downstaters" feel disconnected to Chicago-focused politics. (Published Monday, Oct. 25, 2010)

    Pontiac, Illinois is a quintessential small American town. With a chip on it’s collective shoulder.

    Just ask resident Carol Gardner.

    "It seems like down here we say, 'What they do up north of here is not politically correct.  It’s usually corrupt. We don’t like to be related to that,'" said Gardner.

    The seat of Livingston County, Pontiac, with a population of about 12,000, is 100 miles southwest of the Loop, but a world away from Chicago.

    Illinois is a state divided: Chicago and the metropolitan collar counties, and everything else.

    "It’s a mindset down there. They think everything is aimed towards Chicago.  Chicago gets this, Chicago gets that," said Roosevelt University professor Paul Green.

    In the 2006 governor’s race, 45 percent of the vote came from downstate Illinois while 55 percent came from the Chicago metropolitan area.  All of which validates the sentiment that if downstate Illinois isn’t all-together dismissed, politically, it’s a back seat rider.

    In this election cycle, what’s capturing the passion of many voters here may surprise some.

    While the attention in Chicago in the collar counties spotlights the gubernatorial, U.S. Senate race and some congressional races, some of those feeling ostracized downstate have their eyes on a different -- and potentially more important -- target:  ousting the state’s biggest Democrat, Chicago’s Speaker of the House, Mike Madigan.

    "The people who are really politically sophisticated are excited about the possibility of getting rid of Speaker Madigan," said John McGlasson, Chairman of the Livingston County GOP.  "We do have a legitimate chance to take over the Illinois House."

    The Democrats don’t see it that way. Speaker Madigan’s spokesman Steve Brown said that is only wishful thinking on the part of the Republicans.

    Still, this election season has bred a sense of unity between red and blue downstaters. And it has to do with Chicago.

    Both Joe Ruddy, chairman of the Livingston County Democrats, and his Republican counterpart McGlasson have heard their supporters loud and clear.

    According to McGlasson, when it comes to downstate versus Chicago, "a lot of the people just feel totally disconnected."

    Ruddy concurs.

    "There has been people say they wish there was two states, one Chicago and one downstate."

    But all will vote together on November 2nd.