Suburban Voters Could Be Crucial in Statewide Elections Politicians Focus on Soccer Moms, Others

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Byline: John Patterson Daily Herald State Government Writer

SPRINGFIELD - The first election of 2002 is seven months away, and already politicians are wooing one of the most coveted voting blocs: soccer moms.

Perhaps no group of voters has become as singularly desirable as that of suburban women, followed closely by the votes of their husbands. Interviews with numerous candidates during the past week indicate the 2002 elections promise to be a full-fledged battle for suburban votes.

For you, that means mailboxes packed with fliers introducing you to candidates for governor Corinne Wood, Jim Ryan and Pat O'Malley along with every other Republican running for office. Perhaps they've already begun arriving. Soon it will be hard to turn on the radio or TV without hearing or seeing a campaign ad.

But Republicans, long considered to have a stranglehold on the suburbs, won't be the only ones knocking on the doors of the coveted suburban voters. Emboldened by Al Gore's strong showing in 2000 and other recent gains, Democrats vow they will vie for the hearts, souls and, more importantly, votes of suburban residents.

"The truth of the matter is that nobody's going to get enough votes out of Cook County in the primary to win it all there," said Lou Lang, a state representative from Skokie and one of potentially nine Democratic candidates for governor. "The suburbs and the collar counties are going to make a huge difference as to who the next governor's going to be."

Nearly all the Democrats running for governor said with so many Chicago-based Democrats running, winning the suburbs is key to winning the nomination and building a base of support for the general election.

"I live in DuPage County. What people don't understand is DuPage County has the second-highest number of Democratic votes in the state," said Michael Bakalis, a Darien Democrat and former state comptroller who's running for governor. "It's a Republican County overall, but there's huge Democratic votes there."

Evidence of the Democratic gains was proven last fall when Gore came close to beating George W. Bush in the collar counties, several high-profile Lake County statehouse races were won by Democrats, and DuPage County elected its first Democratic member of the county board since 1982. …