Kacich: Gerrymandering? Not in Champaign County

Kacich: Gerrymandering? Not in Champaign County

There exists among some in Champaign County a belief that the local Illinois House district is badly gerrymandered and that the same is true of Champaign County Board districts.

But the election results — again — suggest otherwise.

The 103rd House District, represented by Rep. Carol Ammons, D-Urbana, includes all but five precincts in Champaign and one in Urbana. And it also takes in six "suburban" precincts just outside the city.

It is compact, contiguous and substantially equal in population to other districts, as required by the Illinois Constitution.

It also is pretty politically uniform, like the Champaign-Urbana community.

Ammons was unopposed for election to a second term, but in the presidential election earlier this month, Democrat Hillary Clinton won all but two of the precincts in the 103rd District. And state Sen. Scott Bennett, another Democrat whose district includes all of the 103rd District plus the rest of the Champaign-Urbana precincts, plus several more suburban and rural precincts, won 74 of the 87 county precincts he ran in.

The same is true of county board districts, where Democrats control all of the urban districts and Republicans control the rural districts, giving Democrats a 12-10 advantage on the county board.

It parallels the results of the presidential race and most other election contests, where Democrats win the Champaign-Urbana precincts and Republicans take the rural precincts.

There are exceptions, of course, but they are minimal.

The best measure of party strength in this month's election probably was the race for state comptroller featuring Republican Leslie Munger and Democrat Susana Mendoza.

Mendoza won countywide by 1,194 votes, taking 54 of 62 Champaign-Urbana precincts and four others outside the cities. Munger took almost all of the rural and suburban precincts and eight in Champaign.

As I wrote earlier this month, Champaign-Urbana remains a blue island in an increasingly red sea of downstate Illinois.

Ammons will be one of only eight Democratic representatives from south of Peoria in the new General Assembly, but it's not because of gerrymandering. It's because Champaign-Urbana has become increasingly Democratic while most of the rest of county remains solidly Republican.

Trump vs. Clinton

Now that most counties in East Central Illinois have made their election counts official, we can be certain who won the presidential race in the 10-county area: Donald Trump, and it wasn't close.

Still, unofficially, Trump had 106,146 votes to 81,123 for Hillary Clinton in the East Central Illinois area that includes Champaign, Vermilion, Iroquois, Edgar, Ford, Douglas, Coles, Piatt, DeWitt and Moultrie counties.

Clinton won Champaign County with 54.7 percent of the vote, but Trump took every other county, ranging from 74.4 percent in Iroquois County to 60.2 percent in Coles County.

Clinton also won in Danville — where votes are counted by the Danville Election Commission — but she was swamped in the rest of Vermilion County, where Trump got nearly 70.5 percent.

Davis' local slump

U.S. Rep. Rodney Davis, R-Taylorville, got the highest vote total last month that he has ever received in Champaign County — 27,759 — but he still remains 0 for 3 in the county, where he generally represents its most Democratic parts.

Davis finished behind Decatur Democrat Mark Wicklund in Champaign County, with 42.4 percent of the vote. That's worse than he did two years ago against Ann Callis (46.7 percent) but better than in his first race in 2012, where he got 36.5 in a three-way contest.

La Due's competition

For only the fourth time in eight election attempts, Champaign City Council member Michael La Due will have an opponent in the April municipal election in District 2.

La Due's election conquests in the past have included Karen Rasmussen (2009), Michael Bush (1997) and Harry Washburn (1993).

This time, he is being challenged by Alicia Beck.

Tom Kacich is a News-Gazette reporter and columnist. His column appears Wednesdays and Sundays. He can be reached at 217-351-5221 or kacich@news-gazette.com.

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