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Issue #87: How the Neighborhood from 'Home Alone' Voted in 2022
The real-life Village is moving away from Republicans
Home Alone, the massive blockbuster hit of the 1990s, is one of the ultimate classic Christmas movies. It follows the story of Kevin McCallister, played by breakout child actor Macaulay Culkin, left alone for several days around Christmas. Kevin must defend the MANSION of a house he lives in from the “Wet Bandits” duo of Harry and Marv. Seriously, look at this house.
Any retrospective on Home Alone has always had fun with the question - “seriously, what does Kevin’s Mother and Father do for a living?” The house in question, which is indeed a real piece of property, is currently valued at over $2,000,000.
In 2020, I decided to have some fun by writing about the town of that the McCallister house resides in - Winnetka, Illinois. This town, an upper-income and highly-educated village in the Northeast end of Cook County (just north of Chicago) has seen major political shifts in recent years. Some key stats first about Winnetka
92% of population has a Bachelor degree
2nd richest town in Illinois
13th richest town in the nation
You can read my initial look at Winnetka politics in my 2020 article. That article focused on the national trends in the town. Like many upper-income, highly-educated suburbs; the region went from leaning Republican to becoming pretty darn Democratic. Biden won the village by 36 points after it backed Romney by 12 just eight years earlier.
However, while Biden was winning the town, the GOP still had many down-ballot successes. Local Republicans faired well in races for State Attorney or Circuit Clerk. The Presidential contests aside, the town had routinely voted right-of-the-state; including backing GOP Governor Bruce Rauner in his 2018 loss to now-Governor JB Pritzker.
With the 2022 midterms over, however, I wanted to see how politics within the village have shifted. Would the absence of Trump in the Oval Office cause GOP strength to rebound? Or would the blue trend in the area continue? In my 2020 article, I opined I could see Winnetka moving back to the GOP. Oh boy was I wrong.
The 2022 Blue Shift
In the 2022 midterms, Democrats in Illinois did very well. This also was true in Winnetka. The town made MASSIVE shifts to the Democratic column in these midterms. The top example: JB Pritzker won the vote within the town by a staggering 28 points.
Republicans did not help themselves when they nominated far-right State Senator Darren Bailey, who denies Biden won the 2020 election and who wants Chicago separated from the rest of Illinois. Bailey did poorly in the upper-income GOP suburbs, losing Cook County by even more than Bruce Rauner had four years earlier.
Bailey’s nomination was just one issue for Winnetka Republicans, however. Down-ballot, Democrats did very well as well. In the Attorney General Election, Incumbent Democrat Kwame Raoul won the village after losing it four years earlier.
The five cabinet races in Illinois (including Governor) all went for Democrats this year. Only in the Secretary of State race, where longtime incumbent Jesse White was retiring, did the final margin come out less Democratic than 2018.
In fact, when we look at all the statewide races, including the US Senate contest, the town of Winnetka voted LEFT of the state across the board.
As the table above shows, even the instances where the village voted Democratic (namely in 2008) - it was still solidly to the right of the state as a whole. 2022 is a major departure from this trend.
This trend if unlikely to get any better for Republicans either. The town’s Republican voters are clearly more in the middle vs the statewide GOP base. In the 2018 Governor race, Rauner got a right-wing primary challenger that almost toppled him. In Winnetka, however, the vote was a landslide for Rauner. Meanwhile, in the 2022 primary, Aurora mayor Richard Irvin won the village. Bailey meanwhile got 58% statewide.
On the Democratic side in Cook County, while middle vs left is an emerging battle, the bigger fights are reformers vs the Chicago political machine. In this battle, the Village is solidly in the reform camp. The recent Democratic primary for County Assessor - saw reformer Fritz Kaegi (who’d ousted the machine incumbent in 2018) win the county - but do especially strong in the Winnetka region. Kaegi faced a strong fight from machine-backed Kari Steele.
The town’s resistance to machine politics actually resulted in Pritzker coming in 3rd in his successful Democratic Primary for the job of Governor in 2018. Pritzker isn’t a true machine Democrat, having clashed with it plenty, but he was absolutely viewed as the “party establishment pick” over reformer outsiders in the primary. Daniel Bliss and Chris Kennedy, both Democrats viewed as outsiders from the entrenched party. did better in the town than Pritzker.
Winnetka voters have shown they are allergic to the Chicago machine, but also the MAGA GOP movement.
Local and Issue Trends
The partisan shift in Winnetka was also seen down-ballot as well. In partisan county races, Democrats won within the Village. The town voted 54-44 in the race for Cook Board President and 55-42 for County Treasurer.
The trend can be seen well by comparing the town’s vote for County Commission. While the town changed districts with redistricting, both 2018 and 2022 saw it face a contested commission race. In 2018, the Democrat won by a modest 2%. In 2022, it was a 14 point margin.
Now while the district has moved into the Democratic column pretty solidly, it is not suddenly some left-leaning collective. This was seen in my 2020 article, where the village rejected a progressive-tax measure (though it did support a weed measure). In 2022, Illinois voters approved Amendment 1, which guarantees collective bargaining rights.
The measure won by 43% margin in Cook County, which is narrowly down from Pritzker’s 50% margin. The area where A1 underperformed the most (purple) is in the heavily white upper income communities - including Winnetka.
The measure outperformed Pritzker the most in working class white and Hispanic communities. It has little love in Winnetka though.
I will say, though, the 40% for A1 is better than the 27% the progressive-tax measure got. But this vote shows we are not dealing with a new lefty town.
If the Trump/MAGA fever ever breaks with Republicans, we will have to see how trends in upper-income suburbs like Winnetka change.
For now though, it is clear the McCallister family is sick of these MAGA movement. While they may not love the idea of raised taxes or labor unions (this is a town of managers to be sure) - the family clearly is willing to go along with Democrats in this current political order. When the family all gathers together for Christmas, the DEM-leaning kids and GOP-leaning parents all can agree on one thing - “oh god just make Trump go away.”
Except for Buzz, who is still sitting in a jail cell as he awaits trial for storming the capital on January 6th.