The Sun-Times recently examined the political geography of the collar counties, and how voters there could swing the gubernatorial race. The electorate in DuPage, Kane, Lake, McHenry, and Will counties could make up more than 40 percent of the state's total, the newspaper reported, but neither Gov. Pat Quinn nor GOP gubernatorial nominee Bill Brady have made many visits to the area of late, choosing instead to do stops meant to fire up their base supporters.
One group that Quinn and Brady will find more of should either candidate venture into the collar counties ahead of November 2: poor people. According to a Brookings Institution study (PDF) released earlier this month, the number of poor people living in the five collar counties increased from 128,135 to 188,180 between 2000 and 2008. Many suburban communities saw the number of poor residents shoot up dramatically. In Woodstock, the seat of McHenry County, the poor population increased by over 56 percent, for example. At the same time, more than half -- or 55 percent -- of the region's social service providers reported losing a key revenue source last year; one in four said they had reduced services since the start of the Great Recession.
Suburban poverty is relatively low compared to Chicago, and poor voters will likely form a small part of the total electorate in the collar counties. But in Illinois, it's increasingly impossible to make the case that combating poverty is merely a Chicago -- or even just an urban -- issue.