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Heather Momyer/MEDILL

Mokena is currently in the 11th Congressional District, but as of this election, it will be part of the 1st District.

Mokena residents wary of 1st Congressional District expansion

by Heather Momyer
Oct 04, 2012

MOKENA_2012 map

2012 Map of 1st District, effective January 2013

MOKENA_2010 real map

2010 map of 1st District


As the 1st Congressional District in Illinois expands, several Mokena residents are angry. They said they are worried about the invasion of corrupt Chicago politics.

Right now, Mokena is part of the 11th District, represented by a Republican, U.S. Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Joliet). But that will soon change. As of this election, Nov. 6, Mokena will fall into the expanding 1st District, represented by a Democrat, U.S. Rep. Bobby Rush (D-Chicago), a 20-year incumbent.

“He’s from Crooked County,” Al Pizzato, proprietor of Little Al’s Bar & Grill on Front Street, said of Rush. “That county sucks a banana. They’re always in the red.” Mokena is in Will County.

Pizzato, who grew up in Roseland and is a former Marine, said Wednesday he worries about political corruption spreading from the city.

“Let Cook County suffer by themselves,” he said, and the four other men sitting at the bar nodded in agreement. When one patron was asked if he wanted to contribute to the discussion, he simply said, “Al says it best.”

A few men who wished to not be identified said that race was an issue and they were concerned about blacks moving to the area. Rush is an African-American.

Mokena, in the 2010 U.S. Census, was 91 percent white, 1.3 percent black.

“I hope the Republicans win,” Pizatto said. “For the good of this country.” Rush’s opponent is Republican Don Peloquin.

Other Mokena residents, such as Robert Perkins, 25, a psychology student, expressed a lesser degree of concern.

“I like it the way it is,” Perkins said, “but people have to adapt to change.”

Perkins voted for McCain in the last presidential election, but said he’s leaning Democratic this time and would like to see representatives help develop more education support groups, though he is also dissatisfied with teachers’ pensions, which he says are too high.

For many residents in the 1st and 11th Districts, education is a primary concern, but the opinions ran the gamut of the political range. Residents interviewed in Chicago were concerned about the diversity of the district’s new demographics and the ability of any congressman to adequately represent them.

While Perkins questioned the size of the teachers’ pensions, at the opposite end of the district was Zach Cahill, an art professor at the University of Chicago and resident of Hyde Park. Cahill said he is a Chicago Teachers Union supporter who would like to see smaller class sizes.

Or, there is Prince DeMarco, 21, a resident of Morgan Park who grew up in Englewood but works in the southwest suburbs. He’s also concerned about education and would like to see more after-school programs, more inner-city job opportunities and less crime in his neighborhoods.

It’s this range of opinion on the same issues that concern some citizens. People wonder, “How can a representative adequately speak for such a wide-ranging demographic?”

In response to the expansion of the 1st District, DeMarco said, “Their issues don’t tie into ours.”

But, even in Hyde Park there is some suspicion over the redistricting. As one man said before getting on the bus or giving his name, “it’s all politics.”