By Bob Skolnik
Democratic turnout surged locally in the March 20 primary election as it did throughout suburban Cook County, according to a report released last week by the Cook County Clerk David Orr.
In Riverside Township, nearly four times as many primary voters took a Democratic ballots this year compared to the previous gubernatorial primary in 2014.
In that year, only 842 Riverside Township voters took a Democratic ballot, accounting for just 38.5 percent of the primary votes cast in Riverside Township. This year, Democratic primary voters outnumbered Republican primary voters by a 3-to-1 margin in Riverside Township, which includes most of the village of Riverside, the eastern half of North Riverside, and the Hollywood section of Brookfield.
This year 3,289 primary voters in Riverside Township took a Democratic ballot, accounting for 76 percent of all primary votes cast in the township.
In other area townships the pattern was similar. In Lyons Township the share of Democratic primary voters more than doubled going from 36.9 percent in 2014 to 74.5 percent this year. In Proviso Township the share of Democratic primary voters increased from 69.1 percent in 2014 to 86.7 percent this year.
Although Democratic turnout has surged across the nation in a number of elections since the election of Donald Trump as president in 2016, probably the biggest reason for the upsurge in Democratic turnout in this year's primary is that this year there was a hotly contested primary race for governor, featuring millions of dollars spent on advertising.
In 2014, then incumbent Gov. Pat Quinn faced only light opposition from little-known activist Tio Hardiman in the primary. In 2014, Republicans had a heated primary with millions spent on advertising by eventual winner Bruce Rauner, which drew Republican voters to the polls.
State Rep. Mike Zalewski, who also serves as the Democratic committeeman of Riverside Township, said that the competitive Democratic race for governor was a major factor in the increased Democratic turnout this year as was increased energy from Democrats since November 2016.
"I think nationally you're seeing trends that are favorable to the Democratic Party, and I think that's reflected in the township itself," Zalewski said.
Republican turnout fell in the 2018 primary. In the 2014 primary 1,343 voters in Riverside Township took a Republican ballot; this year 1,038 did, a drop of about 23 percent.
Nearly 2,000 fewer primary voters in Lyons Township took a Republican ballot this year compared to four years ago. Similarly, there were more than 1,000 fewer Republican primary voters in Proviso Township this year compared to 2014.
The report also contained other interesting bits of information. The second precinct of Riverside Township -- otherwise known as Riverside Lawn, where the Cook County Land Bank has purchased more than 20 homes in an attempt to depopulate the flood-prone neighborhood -- had the fewest number of voters, 19, of any precinct in suburban Cook County.
The first precinct of Lyons Township, which includes the southernmost tip pf Riverside's First Division portion had the fifth fewest voters, 57, in this year's primary. But that precinct also drew the fifth-highest voter turnout of any precinct in the county at 55.9 percent.
Women turned out for the primary at a higher rate than men in suburban Cook County. Women accounted for 54 percent of all votes cast in this year's primary even though they make up 51.5 percent of the population.
The report also shows what was clear soon after the election, that Marie Newman, who narrowly lost to incumbent Congressman Dan Lipinski (D-Western Springs) in the Democratic primary for the 3rd Congressional District, outpolled Lipinski in the suburban portion district and did especially well in Brookfield and LaGrange.
In the small portion of southern Brookfield that is in the 3rd Congressional District, Newman beat Lipinski by a nearly 2-to-1 margin, picking up about 65 percent of the vote. Newman also ran very strongly in her home town of LaGrange, picking up more than 65 percent of the vote in many precincts there.
But Newman also packed a punch in Lipinski's hometown of Western Springs, garnering 60 percent of the vote there and losing just one precinct – by three votes.
Overall Newman won 51.69 percent of the vote in the suburban Cook County portion of the district and won five of the eight suburban townships in the district.
Her best township was Lyons Township, which includes the Brookfield portion of the district, which she carried with 57.68 percent of the vote there.
Lipinski's best suburban township was Stickney Township, where he won 56.94 percent of the vote.