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updated: 10/25/2013 11:42 AM

Suburbs turned out to see Kennedy, but didn't vote for him

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The suburbs didn't have many Democrats in 1960 when John F. Kennedy made a broad campaign sweep through the area just weeks before the presidential election.

Though Kennedy's day spent touring the suburbs on Oct. 25, 1960, is remembered locally as a historic event, it didn't seem to translate into many votes.

Kennedy lost all of the collar counties while he won Illinois, narrowly defeating Richard Nixon on the strength of the Chicago vote.

Four years later, after Kennedy's assassination, Democrat Lyndon B. Johnson fared better than Kennedy had in the suburbs, running close behind Republican Barry Goldwater and winning in Lake and Will counties, as well as Cook County.

But it would be another three decades before the Chicago suburbs had any Democratic political strength, political science professors say. When it did happen, it was because the number of people migrating from the city to the suburbs reached critical mass, political scientists said.

"What really happened (in the 1960s) was, new people were moving to the suburbs," said Dick Simpson, professor of political science at the University of Illinois and a former Chicago alderman. "It would take a decade or two to make it large enough for that to have a political impact."

Though Kennedy spoke to huge crowds of mostly Republicans during his suburban tour, the visit thrilled Democratic backers like Hank Bogdala of Waukegan. Then the Waukegan Township Democratic chairman, Bogdala remembers passing out Kennedy literature, putting up a lawn sign and listening to him give a dynamic speech in front of a crowd in Elmhurst.

"Sure, there were a few hecklers. There had to be. But the first time I heard him, I thought, 'This is our guy!'" Bogdala said. "He said, 'Give me your hand and your voice, and we'll walk together.' I still think about that, to this day."

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