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Booming Texas economy may usher in a Democratic win in 2020

Gregory Korte and Joe Carroll, Bloomberg News on

Published in News & Features

WASHINGTON -- For Republicans, the Texas Miracle may become a victim of its own success.

The booming economy that helped the Lone Star State weather the 2008 recession has also sparked a migration there that's changing the face of Texas politics. The workers who have moved to Texas for jobs in the energy and tech sectors are more liberal than Texas natives, slowly turning the deep-red state into a richer purple.

Democrats now find themselves close enough to winning Texas that they've scheduled the third round of 2020 primary debates for Houston on Thursday.

Texas is a big political prize, and getting bigger. Second only to California in size and electoral votes, it's the eighth-fastest growing state in the country, helped by a higher-than-average birthrate, immigration, and domestic migration.

And while a growing Hispanic population may someday fundamentally transform Texas politics, for now the leftward turn is driven mostly by the predominately white people moving to Texas from other states.

"The Latino growth gets a lot of the attention, but that's far from the only thing going on," said Ruy Texeira, a political demographer at the liberal Center for American Progress. "You can't understand or explain the way Texas has shifted in the last couple of decades without looking at what's going on with the white population."

 

Texas Republicans see it in their new neighbors.

"There are some who are coming here for the jobs and they don't have the Republican or conservative mindset, if you will," said Republican activist Nancy Large. "We realize we can't sit on our laurels. We have to get out there and fight."

Large lives in Williamson County, a former Republican stronghold outside Democratic Austin, one of the fastest-growing counties in the state. That growth is being fueled in large part by Sun City, the retirement community where she lives, which is drawing retirees from inside and outside Texas.

WilCo, as it's known, went for Donald Trump by 20,000 votes in 2016 but favored former Rep. Beto O'Rourke by 6,000 in the Senate race against Republican Ted Cruz two years later. The 2018 shift was driven by 32,000 new-voter registrations and 5,000 more ballots cast on Election Day, in a usually low-turnout midterm contest.

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