First diary - go easy...
Illinois 8th Congressional District (map) covers some of the distant Northwest Suburbs of Chicago and extends North to the Wisconsin border. The district has an interesting mix of middle-of-the-road suburbs like Palatine, upscale old-money in Barrington Hills, and farm country in Lake and McHenry counties.
Here's the quick wikipedia summary.Phil Crane was the district's representative from 1969 to 2005, and at 36 years he was the longest-serving Republican member of the House. Before Crane, the district had Donald Rumsfeld from 1963-1969.
So going back many years the district was a trustworty solid Republican area, probably more based on economic conservatism than social. The area has an average income 1-1/2 times the national average, no doubt skewed high by some big money in Western Cook County. census
But the district has now elected Democrat Melissa Bean three times, and voted for Obama in '08. What happened?
There were several contributing factors:-- First and most importantly, Phil Crane was a fired-up conservative for a long time, but somewhere in the late 80s he became detached and complacent. He battled the bottle and that might be part of his loss of enthusiasm. For a dozen years the district never heard from him or saw him except for election time.
-- Melissa Bean ran the classic underdog campaign against Crane, lost, but garnered credit for her moxie. When it came time for the Republicans to recognize that Crane was done they weren't willing to put him out to pasture. He ran again and lost.
-- Melissa Bean is a centrist -- one of the Blue-Dogs. There was even a lefty wingnut who ran against her in '06, which gave Bean the chance to prove to center-right Republicans that she wasn't on the fringe.
-- The Republican party in Illinois is corrupt and a total mess (Alan Keyes for Senate anyone?). People see no difference between them and the corrupt Democrats. Infighting and power-grabs characterize a party in complete disarray, and the local Republicans in the 8th district are no better.
-- The Republican party squandered the first-term reelection challenge of Bean by nominating a boring (but rich) guy who hated campaigning.
-- The GOP couldn't get any power candidates to run in '08, settling on an unknown nice guy with money. He lost 40/60.
-- The district slowly moved to the center. It still voted for Buch twice, but in 08', even Lake and McHenry counties went for Obama.
Bean has been visible, connected, internet-savvy, and centrist. The RedState regulars won't like her but she is a right-leaning democrat and a pretty accurate representation of the District's political views.
Unless something dramatic happens, this seat will be Bean's until she's ready to pack it in.