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Rick Santorum's Illinois Ties Spark Division In State GOP Candidate Once Called Home (VIDEO)

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GOP presidential candidate Rick Santorum graduated from Carmel High School, a Catholic school in northwest suburban Chicago, in 1976.
GOP presidential candidate Rick Santorum graduated from Carmel High School, a Catholic school in northwest suburban Chicago, in 1976.

Though GOP presidential candidate Rick Santorum is perhaps best known for having represented Pennsylvania in Congress, his ties to the state of Illinois run surprisingly deep.

Santorum, as reported by ABC Chicago, graduated from Carmel High School in a northwest suburb of Chicago in 1976. Santorum attended the Mundelein, Ill. Catholic school for one year.

While in attendance at Carmel, Santorum was a member of the National Honor Society and Service Club, the Chicago Tribune reports. His family had moved to the area after Santorum's father had been transferred to work as a doctor at the Great Lakes Naval Station.

"I got a great education there and if it wasn't for how well I did there, I wouldn't have been able to get into the college that I wanted," Santorum said this week, NBC Chicago reports.

(Scroll down to watch Santorum discuss his Illinois connection.)

Al Salvi, former Illinois state representative and the honorary co-chair of Santorum's Illinois campaign, told ABC that, after the former senator's near-victory in the Iowa caucus, interest in Illinois has picked up in his campaign. Salvi is now working arduously to collect enough statewide signatures to get Santorum on the ballot for the Illinois primary March 20.

"The success in Iowa has electrified everything, and it's completely changed the game here in Illinois," Salvi told the State Journal-Register this week.

While many Carmel alumni are backing the ardently socially conservative candidate, others are not as pleased by Santorum. As of Friday, 113 Facebook users have "liked" a group titled "Carmel Catholic Alumni Against Rick Santorum," a page critical of the candidate's controversial stance on and disparaging statements concerning LGBT rights. Wednesday, he defended previous comments he made comparing homosexuality to bestiality.

"[W]e want the world to know that not everyone from his alma mater supports his bigoted views," the page's description reads. "In fact, we support equality, acceptance and pride."

Some Facebook pages have also sprung up expressing Illinoisan support for Santorum. "Rick Santorum - Illinois 2012" has 95 "likes;" "Santorum Illinois," a closed group, has 47 members and "Illinois Rick Santorum Fans" has 33 "likes."

Other prominent Illinoisans have expressed support for the Iowa caucus's victor and former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney. State treasurer Dan Rutherford, U.S. Rep. Aaron Schock and Senator Mark Kirk are among the state GOP leaders who have pronounced their support for Romney.

Still, Jon Zahm, the Illinois state political director for Santorum's campaign, described Illinois as "a conservative-leaning state" in a primary and said he expected Santorum to come out on top due to his more conservative record, according to the State Journal-Register.

As of Thursday, only Romney, Ron Paul and Rick Perry have filed to be on the state's primary ballot, according to NBC. The deadline to file is 5 p.m. Friday.

WATCH NBC's report on Santorum's Illinois ties:

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