Voters in the heart of Illinois buck state's reputation

Illinois has long been “blue” in national elections. The last Republican it chose for president was George H.W. Bush in 1988.

And so it was in the 2016 presidential race – with Hillary Clinton capturing 55.8 percent of the statewide tally to the 38.8 percent collected by Donald Trump.

Meanwhile, Democrat Tammy Duckworth wrested the state’s junior senate seat from Republican Mark Kirk by a similar margin – 54.9 percent to 39.8 percent. Kirk had won the seat once held by Barack Obama in the 2010 mid-term election, when the GOP made giant gains in both houses of Congress.

But those numbers, shaped in large part by the Democratic juggernaut that is Chicago, hardly tell the whole story for a state known as the “Land of Lincoln.” Abe was, of course, a Republican. And he dwelt in a rural society more familiar to residents of central Illinois today than can be imagined by their urban counterparts.

In a region where the flat prairies of the north begin transitioning to the gently rolling and forested hills of the south, Effingham and Shelby counties bear little resemblance to those northern neighbors. Trump won 78.2 percent of the vote in Effingham County and 75.2 percent in Shelby County.

If Effingham is the “Crossroads of Opportunity,” as the sign on the water tower proclaims, it’s also awash in dark red; a landscape where people stand firm in their beliefs – politically, ethically, philosophically, and in the way they approach faith, family and work.

In collaboration with its sister papers across the country, the Effingham Daily News is embarking on a three-year project to take the “Pulse of the Voters.” Stories will appear quarterly, as we talk to voters in their homes, at work, in churches and diners, on street corners, and anywhere else they gather to shape the discussion that drives democracy.

The first installment begins near tiny Beecher City, where vast swaths of farmland straddle the border between Effingham and Shelby counties, and glazed doughnuts sit on a kitchen table.

Read it HERE

See a video HERE

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