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Latinos are now a major force in Illinois

Tuesday, Nov 13, 2012

* My weekly syndicated newspaper column

In 1992, Latinos made up about 8 percent of Illinois’ population, but only 1 percent of that year’s total voter pool was Latino. The trend continued for years. Latinos just didn’t vote.

Twenty years later, things have changed in a big way. According to exit polling, 12 percent of Illinois voters last week were Latinos, which is pretty close to their percentage (16 percent) of Illinois’ overall population.

That high participation contributed to many of last week’s electoral surprises.

Twenty years ago, 85 percent of Illinois voters were white and 12 percent were black, while the other 3 percent consisted of Latinos, Asian-Americans and others. Last week, whites made up 70 percent of the state’s voters, blacks were 14 percent and Asian-Americans 2 percent.

In 2004, 2006 and 2010, exit polls showed that 8 percent of voters were Latino, and they accounted for 6 percent in 2008. A persistent, years-long push by immigration rights groups to register Latinos to vote and get them to the polls definitely had an impact here this year, along with a decidedly hostile national Republican position on immigrant rights.

The state Democratic Party focused hard on getting Latinos to the polls. Only about 40 percent of Latinos live in Chicago, with the vast majority in the suburbs and downstate. So concentrating on those voters was a way of pumping up the total Democratic vote, and it appeared to work quite effectively.

Exit polling showed that 81 percent of Illinois Latinos voted for President Obama on Tuesday. That trend presumably resonated all the way down the ticket.

DuPage County is now almost 14 percent Latino, which could be why the Democratic Party did so well there this year. Lake County is 20 percent Latino, Will County 16 percent and Kane County 31 percent.

Rep. Skip Saviano (R-Elmwood Park) went into Election Day hoping to win his new district’s DuPage County precincts by 1,500 votes to overcome an expected 1,200-vote deficit on the Cook County side. He ended up doing slightly better than that in Cook, losing by 1,100 votes, but he lost DuPage by 26 votes. Despite an endorsement by U.S. Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-4th), the Latino vote appears to have done in Saviano.

Democrat Mike Smiddy’s surprise win over freshman Rep. Rich Morthland (R-Cordova) is partially due to the Latino vote, Democrats say. The district’s Latino voting-age population is about 7 percent, and a heavy Latino turnout in the Sterling/Rock Falls area reportedly helped Smiddy over the top.

Smiddy also worked very hard for a year, raised a lot of money from labor unions, particularly AFSCME, and Morthland was injured and unable to walk precincts. Smiddy won with 52 percent of the vote, without any real help from the House Democrats.

The 36th Senate District has a voting-age population that’s about 9 percent Latino, and that undoubtedly helped gin up the numbers for Sen. Mike Jacobs (D-East Moline). The Senate Democrats went into Election Day hoping to squeak out a win for Jacobs. Instead, he breezed to victory with 55 percent of the vote.

One explanation for Jacobs’ surprisingly large margin is that pollsters didn’t accurately measure the potential Latino impact because Latinos voted in far higher numbers this year than ever before. That will change, as will the perception of Latinos as non-voters. This year marks a definite turning point in Latino political power in Illinois.

The 62nd House District, where Democrat Sam Yingling upset Rep. Sandy Cole (R-Grayslake) has a Latino voting-age population of 22 percent. Yingling defeated Cole by 10 percentage points in a district drawn to elect a Republican. Yingling worked very hard for months,and Cole simply didn’t, but the Latino vote was obviously crucial.

The Kankakee-area’s 79th House District is 7 percent Latino. Democrat Kate Cloonen won the district despite being drastically outspent by the GOP and it being widely perceived as a Republican district. Hard work, message discipline and a favorable black and Latino vote enabled Cloonen to win.

If the Republican Party wants to again be relevant in Illinois, it had better stop dismissing Latino concerns. The GOP simply cannot win many elections, especially for statewide office, in this state if Latinos turn out in large numbers and vote 81 percent Democratic.

* An example of how surprised even the Democrats were last week

John Cullerton said internal Senate Democratic polling showed Tom Cullerton trailing [GOP Sen. Carole Pankau] even up to Election Day, though within the margin of error, meaning there was a chance for victory.

“I’m the one who told Tom he won,” John Cullerton said. “He was just stunned. He didn’t know he was gonna win. Our polls had him behind, but close.”

That Senate district has a Latino voting age population of 13.6 percent.

* So if Latinos continue voting in large numbers, and if they continue voting for Democrats, this may not pan out

The narrative about the election in Illinois so far has been about the Democrats’ dominance of hotly contested races for both Congress and Statehouse.

But in the suburbs, Republicans can look to 2014 with hope. Because the suburbs are Illinois’ version of swing territory, and seats have tended to change hands often between Republicans and Democrats.

It seems every cycle, Democrats are either gaining seats in the suburbs or ceding ground.

Also, no targeted suburban Senate Democratic members will be up for reelection in 2014. None.

* Related…

* Mark Brown: Young voters hold a lot of sway

* Latino, Immigrant Voter Registration Drive Pays Off As Turnout Fuels Immigration Reform Efforts

* Latino voters’ message to both parties: make immigration reform a priority

* Latino vote tops 2008, goes heavily for Dems

* Obama’s Big Hispanic Voter Win In Presidential Election Worries Republicans

- Posted by Rich Miller        

  1. - Oswego Willy - Tuesday, Nov 13, 12 @ 9:39 am:

    While I completely agre with your article and every fact in it (Well said, Rich!)

    My question is…

    I can’t call you a ‘Major” force until the Latino Community and “flip” and vote “against the grain” of a wave, and make a difference.

    My point is that it’s easy for all Latinos to ding the GOP and make a significant difference against the Republicans. I get it, the Latino Community, unquestionably, turned the tide against the GOP.


    Show me that the Community can be led, follow some leadership to go against the grain and swing something, or someone’s election. Then you have a force where even the Dems will say, “The Latino Community can turn it ‘On’ or ‘Off’ for us at any time, so we need to think about how we tread.”

    If you can turn the votes, then you REALLY have something, even greater than just reinforcing the democratic hold on Illinois. Show me your interests are so important, that you can vote FOR something and not just AGAINST something.

    Well done, Rich. Just a thought on the empowered Latino Community and can they make that ‘next’ step.

  2. - ArchPundit - Tuesday, Nov 13, 12 @ 9:54 am:

    Willy–I think they can do that simply by not showing up. Instead of swinging between two parties, the Latino population might not show up at all which creates a problem if you base your electoral strategy on their participation.

    One of the reasons I think Latino voters will stick around is that there has been a very strong organizing push over the last 6 years partially geared towards electoral politics in Latino communities.

  3. - Oswego Willy - Tuesday, Nov 13, 12 @ 10:02 am:

    ===I think they can do that simply by not showing up.===

    Well done!

    I guess is that I am going even deeper in that, the GOP needs to gain favor of the Latino Community, and if their only weapon is to ’sit out’, then where does the ILGOP go? I thought part of the new ILGOP needs to be to court much more of the female vote… and the Latino vote, and if the only option the Latino vote can give the ILGOP, right now, today, in a snapshot of even this 2010 election, is to offer the ILGOP, the possibility of a ’sit out’ of the Dems, while great for the ILGOP, does nothing for the ILGOP and making significant inroads to that powerful Latino Community.

    Great point, they can sit and then where will the Dems be, but in reality, the next step of being courted and then accpeting the ILGOP, after the ILGOP does what needs to be done in the community to be a viable option, and then getting the community to ‘flip’ …then you have an even MORE powerful Latino Community to fear.

    Just a thought. Great point - ArchPundit -.

  4. - Sinister - Tuesday, Nov 13, 12 @ 10:03 am:

    Also, keep in mind that the Latino population has the youngest median age of any demographic group. What this translates to is second and third generation latinos that are highly educated and will come out to vote consistently, something that their parents may have not done due to their mindset that carried over from their home countries.

  5. - wordslinger - Tuesday, Nov 13, 12 @ 10:07 am:

    It’s an amazing story.

    For the last 20 years, I’ve watched the transformation of Cermak and Roosevelt Roads in Cicero and Berwyn from the old Italian and Bohemian restaurants and stores to Hispanic.

    The GOP should take a hard look hard at recent history.

    As late as 1968, one-third of black voters still saw the GOP as the party of Lincoln. Northern Republicans like Dirksen, Javits and Romney were instrumental in Civil Rights legislation. (George Romney marched with the NAACP for open housing in Grosse Pointe in 1963).

    Nixon’s southern strategy — a dog-whistle for George Wallace voters — led the old southern Dem segregationists into the GOP, where they helped produce national landslides for nearly 20 years.

    But now those folks run the show. Times change and the rest of the country ain’t buying what they’re selling.

    Reagan and the Bushes were Chamber of Commerce business types who understood the necessity of labor from Mexico — documented or not — to the American economy and supported paths to citizenship. They booked significant Hispanic votes.

  6. - The Captain - Tuesday, Nov 13, 12 @ 10:14 am:

    I would expect to see these districts swing quite a bit this decade under this map, especially the congressional districts. Democrats won 5 of the 6 targeted swing CD’s (8, 10, 11, 12 & 17) with only a narrow loss in 13. However in 2010 both Bill Brady and Mark Kirk won all 6 of these districts, in fact Kirk won them all by no less than 8 points. They’ll swing back at some point under this map, they’re not drawn in such a way that either party can hold them for the long term.

  7. - ArchPundit - Tuesday, Nov 13, 12 @ 10:21 am:

    –ext step of being courted and then accpeting the ILGOP, after the ILGOP does what needs to be done in the community to be a viable option,

    And excellent point back at you. It would be far healthier for any community to be between parties and not on one side. Sitting out may work, but it isn’t a good sign for democracy.

  8. - ArchPundit - Tuesday, Nov 13, 12 @ 10:24 am:

    ===hey’ll swing back at some point under this map, they’re not drawn in such a way that either party can hold them for the long term.

    I doubt this. 12 and 17 are vulnerable along with 13 to especially in off year elections, but the 2010 swing wasn’t a typical wave–it was much larger than even 1994. Democrats do have a problem of motivating their base in off year elections and I’m not sure what the solution to that is, but we aren’t likely to see the kind of swing we saw in 2010 in 2014.

  9. - The Captain - Tuesday, Nov 13, 12 @ 10:32 am:

    Arch I’d be very happy to bet against the 2020 congressional delegation of Duckworth 08, Schneider 10, Foster 11, Enyart 12, Davis 13 and Bustos 17. I’d be very happy to bet that you won’t have 5 out of 6. You could keep declining X out of 6 and we could keep gambling.

  10. - ArchPundit - Tuesday, Nov 13, 12 @ 10:46 am:

    I’d take high odds on the first 3 still being around assuming they don’t move on by choice. Enyart could face some tough opposition, and I’d give lower odds on him simply because of the district. I expect Bustos to be a high profile target every time and so with her it will depend on how she runs her office and how good a reelection candidate she is.

    Davis will be a target, but with a start in a non-Presidential year he’ll have a shot at working the District. That said, the man barely beat David Gill so he doesn’t have that going for him…

    2010 was a really bad year for Democrats nationwide and locally we had Pat Quinn, the best shot the ILGOP has produced in years. Pat Brady is a genius. (Wait, we did that to ourselves)

    In 2014 a Pat Quinn nomination could be a big problem, but ultimately most House races are decided by the demographics of the districts and especially in those top three, they favor Dems in any sort of ordinary year. Enyart and Bustos will face tough off year elections. A Quinn or some other sort of bumbling fool at the top of the ticket is a problem for them.

    I don’t foresee another round of tea party anger boosting GOP turnout and another recession to tank Democratic turnout in 2014. 2018 is a ways away so who knows, but Illinois’ demographics are turning more and more blue in those districts with the exception of 12 and 13.

    I’ll take my victory lap on something I said quite some time ago on here. Demographics matter and I expected Dems to take all but 13 and 12 would be close. Turns out Davis and Plummer were even worse candidates than I expected so I sort of blew that part of the call, but I’ll take demographics in the long term. Anything short of a 2010 and everyone holds.

  11. - Oswego Willy - Tuesday, Nov 13, 12 @ 10:58 am:

    ===Duckworth 08, Schneider 10, Foster 11, Enyart 12, Davis 13 and Bustos 17.===

    Today, right now, taking all that happened on Tuesday and not factoring in anything in the future, good or bad for any or all of them …

    I go…

    Duckworth, Foster, Enyart, and Davis stay …

    Schneider and Bustos don’t make it.

    It’s difficult to unseat a sitting Congressman (so I have been told) and they all have a year to solidify, and the demographics ain’t gonna change THAT quick, as of today.

  12. - dave - Tuesday, Nov 13, 12 @ 11:18 am:

    **Also, no targeted Senate Democratic members will be up for reelection in 2014. None.**

    Andy Manar and Mike Jacobs are both up for reelection in 2014.

  13. - The Captain - Tuesday, Nov 13, 12 @ 11:32 am:

    Under the CD map of the last decade there certainly weren’t 6 competitively drawn districts, yet you still had party change in 8 when Bean took it, 11 when Halvorson took it and 14 when Foster took it. That’s just off the top of my head, am I missing any? So when you guys are predicting that no more than 2 or 3 switch parties this decade under this map that has more competitive districts that just strikes me as a very unlikely probability.

  14. - Rich Miller - Tuesday, Nov 13, 12 @ 11:33 am:

    ===Andy Manar and Mike Jacobs are both up for reelection in 2014. ===

    Yep. That was a typo. Meant to say “suburban,” because the article was about the suburbs. Just blew right past it. Thanks for pointing it out.

  15. - S.Dolopoulos - Tuesday, Nov 13, 12 @ 11:40 am:

    === 12 percent of Illinois voters last week were Latinos ===

    That means 610,927 Latino ballots were cast for President in Illinois.

    According to the Pew Hispanic Center, there are 773,000 Latino eligible voters in Illinois.

    * Latino voter turnout was at 79.03%. *


    Especially in light of the Center for the Study of the American Electorate’s report that:
    - National voter turnout was down to 57.5%
    - Democrat voter turnout in Illinois decreased -6.4% (the 4th largest drop in America behind NY, UT & DC).

  16. - DuPage Dave - Tuesday, Nov 13, 12 @ 11:46 am:

    I happlily voted for Tom Cullerton last week and thought he ran a great campaign. His workers were out regularly beginning in September. They knocked on my door at noon on election day to ask if I had voted yet. He had more signs out than Tammy Duckworth (although somewhat fewer than Deb Conroy). Like all Dems running in DuPage he downplayed his party affiliation.

    It’s time for someone to come up with a new term rather than “suburban”. It connotes bankers taking the 8:17 train downtown from their bedroom communities. That’s not the DuPage County I’ve lived in for 30 years. It is increasingly “working class” (if that term means anything anymore) and therefore less likely to vote Republican.

    In my first election here, the nice lady working the table said “Welcome to our town. Now make sure you don’t vote the wrong way.” Things have changed since then.

  17. - cermak_rd - Tuesday, Nov 13, 12 @ 12:13 pm:


    I live right over at 13th in Berwyn. It is fascinating to see just how much the town has changed in the past 15 years. And how the different folks in it have figured out how to live together. Berwyn today is a diverse community, which given its history is amazing.

  18. - Five Percenter - Tuesday, Nov 13, 12 @ 12:30 pm:

    What many fail to understand is that we can talk alignment of values till the proverbial Oberwies cows come home. At the end of it all, the IL GOP has to provide Hispanics a seat at the table. Not just in the 3 months before election day, but look to create avenues for real inclusion. Now for all my ultra con friends- this doesn’t mean losing your conserative values or becoming more like the democrats- it’s about respect. No one likes shiny beads, trinkets and whiskey. Hispanics buy into the GOP values. What scares them the most is the massive knucklehead rhetoric that prevailed this cycle.

  19. - Statesman - Tuesday, Nov 13, 12 @ 12:34 pm:

    Trinkets, beads and whiskey. Isn’t that what the former Blago fundraisers took from the Brady campaign in 2010? BTW -one of whom is running for Cicero Town Pres?

  20. - Five Percenter - Tuesday, Nov 13, 12 @ 12:48 pm:

    So the ILGOP’s play for the Latino vote was to appoint Gabby Wyatt as vice-chair. Woman, Hispanic. Very nice, hard working lady that was a great individual contributor and team player, but she had no coalition. A serious play for the Latino vote needs to start in the community with players that can turn out the vote. Clear eyes, brown face isn’t enough. Today it’s clear eyes, brown face and connections.

  21. - reformer - Tuesday, Nov 13, 12 @ 1:59 pm:

    When the bill to legalize driver’s licenses/certificates for undocumented immigrants comes up next year, what will Republicans do?

    It won’t help their cause if they jump up and down like Bost, demanding to know “What part of illegal don’t they understand!” Will the IL GOP follow the advice from George Will, Charles Krauthammer and Sean Hannity to become less hardline on immigrant issues?

  22. - amalia - Tuesday, Nov 13, 12 @ 2:10 pm:

    it’s not just an immigration thing. it’s middle class economics and if the Dems hold on tight to that, they will hold lots of folks, including Latinos.

  23. - reformer - Tuesday, Nov 13, 12 @ 2:27 pm:

    Reboletti says Republicans can’t just be the party of NO. The last time driver’s certificates came up, just a handful of Republicans voted for them, but they are all gone or will be soon (Munson, Beaubien, Coulson, Mulligan and Skip.) Will Reboletti step up and follow the recommendation of the chiefs’ assn, which supported the driver’s certificate bill?

  24. - Thinker~Doer~Socializer~Feeler - Tuesday, Nov 13, 12 @ 3:31 pm:

    Reformer, if such a bill comes up next year, the republicans should oppose it. If the language or purpose of the bill is inconsistent with national immigration reform, then the Illinois republicans would be on solid footing to oppose. If I recall correctly Hillary Clinton opposed giving illegal immigrants driving licenses when she ran for president in 2008. Driving is a privilege, not a right.

Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.

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