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Mary Hansen

Mary is a reporter at NPR Illinois and graduated from the Public Affairs Reporting program at UIS and received her BA in International Studies from American University. Previously Mary worked as a planning consultant and reported for the State Journal-Register where she covered city government.

Mary is a lifelong NPR listener since tuning into her home station WESA in Pittsburgh.

Gary Smith has worked at the grain elevator at Okaw Farmer’s Co-op in Lovington, Illinois, for forty years. On his desk sit two computer screens, where he tracks corn and soybean prices online at the Chicago Board of Trade.

As he explains, trade moves fast: “Just bam bam bam, and within a few seconds it could change a nickel or a dime against your favor.”

Farm towns in Illinois have been shrinking for decades, and the trend doesn’t show signs of reversing.

By 2025, rural counties with populations of less than 10,000 people will see 7.4 percent of their residents leave, while counties with populations between 10,000 and 25,000 will lose 5.4 percent. That’s according to projections from the Illinois Department of Public Health.

Illinois is losing residents, according to recent census estimates, and common explanations include high taxes, unfriendly business policies or the state’s growing pension debt.

An article from the watchdog group Better Government Association examines those claims. The BGA’s senior editor, Bob Secter, says they distract from a deeper look at demographic trends.

Illinois will host what could be the most expensive race for governor in U.S. history. The huge increase in campaign spending raises a lot of questions about the rise of big money in politics. Between now and the election, Illinois Issues will examine the impact in a series we're calling Money Machines.

As big box stores continue to close, some worry Illinois isn't ready for the changing economy.

Erika Harold won the Republican nomination for Illinois attorney general, while state Sen. Kwame Raoul defeated a crowded race to win the Democratic nod. They'll face off in the general election in November.

Incumbent Attorney General Lisa Madigan set off a scramble last year when she made a surprise announcement she would not seek a fifth term. The race drew ten candidates in all.

With funding from the Republican Party and Governor Bruce Rauner, Harold beat former Burr Ridge mayor Gary Grasso, winning 60 percent of the vote.

Buying shoes, a new computer or even toilet paper online can be convenient and cheap, but officials in cities across central Illinois say it’s taking a bite out of their budgets.