Biden had 55% of overall suburban vote, though he lost in McHenry County

  • Voters wait in line in October at the Rolling Meadows courthouse.

      Voters wait in line in October at the Rolling Meadows courthouse. Mark Welsh | Staff Photographer

Updated 11/4/2020 6:52 PM

Early tallies from Tuesday's presidential election reflect a growing blue trend in the suburbs for Democrats as Republican influence ebbs incrementally.

In 2004, when Republican President George W. Bush ran for reelection and carried all of the collar counties, Democratic turnout for his opponent, Sen. John Kerry, in suburban Cook, DuPage, Kane, Lake, McHenry and Will counties averaged about 47%. In comparison, Republicans supporting Bush in the six counties accounted for 52.4% of the votes.


Flash forward to Tuesday's contest with President Donald Trump seeking a second term, and the trend is reversed. Preliminary tallies show suburban Republicans delivered 42.7% of the vote to Trump.

Democrats in Cook and the collar counties handed former Vice President Joe Biden a 55% average of all votes cast, although the president won McHenry County.

"To be stupidly generalizing here, the Republican Party owns rural America and the Democrats own urban America and, typically, they fight over the suburbs," said former U.S. Rep. Joe Walsh, a Mundelein Republican who ran against Trump in the primary.

"We lost the suburbs in 2016 and in 2018 ... primarily because of Donald Trump," Walsh said.

Republican turnout for the president in the suburbs actually increased from 40% in 2016 to 42.7% this year. "That extra margin came from voters who realize he did a good job with the economy and jobs," said veteran DuPage Republican organizer Pat Durante.

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Traditionally, when Chicago Democrats moved to suburbia in the 1950s and 1960s, they became Republicans, Durante recalled. That shift isn't happening now, he said. "I don't get it. They move to DuPage to get away (from Chicago) and they keep voting Democrat," he said.

Following Bush's suburban sweep in 2004, all of the Chicago area backed Barack Obama's successful presidential bid in 2008. All but McHenry County did so again when Obama won reelection in 2012, and all but McHenry County backed Hillary Clinton in 2016.

The biggest chunk of Biden support in the metro region came from suburban Cook County, which delivered him 61.6% of votes cast, followed by DuPage with 57.2%, Lake with 56.8%, Kane with 55.4%, and Will with 52.7%.

"Joe's promise to fight for the middle class was key to his victory," Kane County Democratic Party Chairman Mark Guethle said.

McHenry County proved the outlier Tuesday -- again -- as Trump garnered 50.6%, surpassing his 2016 victory in which he had 50.3% of votes cast. However, McHenry County Democrats also upped their game, giving Biden a 46.9% tally compared to 42.7% for Democrat Hillary Clinton in 2016. The remaining 2016 votes went to Libertarian and Green Party candidates.


"McHenry County Democratic candidates remain competitive in a red county," McHenry County Democratic Chairwoman Kristina Zahorik said.

Other totals for Trump were: 36.7% of votes in Cook, 40.8% in DuPage, 41.4% in Kane and Lake, and 45.3% in Will.

Democratic state Sen. Laura Murphy of Des Plaines remembers growing up in Park Ridge -- Clinton's hometown -- when "no one said the word 'Democrat.'" Now, "the suburbs are a very mixed and diverse environment," she said, adding that women are a significant catalyst for change who played a role this election. "Character counts," Murphy noted.

Regarding demographic trends, "Latinos are not a monolith, but from my perspective, I've seen a lot of Latino support in my district and growing in others," Democratic state Sen. Cristina Castro of Elgin said.

Some tallies could change as 305,312 mail-in ballots are still outstanding in the six counties.

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