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Brian Mackey / NPR Illinois

J.B. Pritzker and his fellow Democrats ran the table on statewide offices at this week's general election. The party also picked up two seats in Congress, increased its supermajority in the state Senate, and gained a supermajority in the Illinois House.

Many of the Democratic gains were rooted in former Republican strongholds outside Chicago. Do the election results suggest a permanent realignment? Or is it unique to the circumstances of 2018?

Mendoza campaign

Democrats prevailed in statewide races, but couldn't hold on to seats in southern Illinois. Meanwhile, suburban Republicans may hold less sway in the party's legislative caucus.

Illinois Issues: The Racial Achievement Gap

Nov 12, 2015
School desks
Flickr user: dcJohn

Why does it persist, even at well-funded suburban schools?

Both of the major party candidates for governor say Illinois should put more money into education. But neither are ready to embrace a controversial plan that would change how state money is distributed to schools.

There's been an uproar in some Chicago suburbs lately, over a proposal that's already passed the Illinois Senate. Under it, many districts there would see cuts in state funding, because they're in wealthier areas.

As the leader of a nonprofit group that helps Latino families in western Lake County, Carolina Duque knows how difficult it can be for poor immigrants to live in the suburbs. The challenges start with the immigrants’ limited ability to speak English and their low levels of schooling. But what makes those problems worse are the barriers that prevent her clients from adapting to their new surroundings. 

Twenty years ago, almost no one would have thought to call the Fox River village of Oswego a “suburb.” Located 50 miles from Chicago’s Loop, Oswego was incorporated before the Civil War. By 1990, it still had fewer than 4,000 residents. But Oswego’s fortunes changed dramatically in the two decades that followed.

“We are seeing a gang migration out of Chicago. The vast majority of it is heading south, some west. Black gangs, Hispanic gangs, some whites. It started three years ago when a number of big gang leaders wanted to get out from the watchful eye of the Chicago police. So they moved out to places where nobody knew who they were and the police departments were small and ill-equipped. They figured they could get away with more out there without being caught.” 

Jon Randolph

The suburbs to the southwest of Chicago have never been known for eagerness to embrace diversity. Nevertheless, diversity is beginning to embrace them. 

The sprawling community of Oak Lawn and the smaller nearby towns of Bridgeview, Burbank, Hometown, Chicago Ridge and Palos Heights mushroomed in the '50s and '60s as white ethnics fled the South and Southwest sides of the changing city of Chicago.

Madeleine Doubek
WUIS/Illinois Issues

Addison Township Democrat Linda Bourke Hilbert ran for the DuPage County Board last fall like the placeholder she was supposed to be. She didn't knock on many doors. She didn't mail any campaign literature. On election night, Hilbert was so convinced she would lose, she paid more attention to presidential returns than her own.