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Some states face political changes as newcomers arrive

Tim Henderson, Stateline.org on

Published in News & Features

Democrats are slowly taking over, especially in suburbs where new residents include immigrants from Asia and Latin America moving out of urban areas, where residents tend to be more educated and affluent, Jillson said.

The 2018 election showed that those suburban voters were making Texas politics more unpredictable, he said. Democrats gained two seats in the state Senate and 12 seats in the House in key suburban districts, though Republicans kept a majority in both chambers.

"I thought it would take a couple of decades before Texas became competitive on a regular basis, but the process has sped up," Jillson said. "Trump's election and his personality have roiled the traditional Republican voters in the suburbs here."

Even so, Trump is likely to carry Texas by a diminished margin after winning the state by 9 points in 2016, Jillson said, barring any further problems.

But some see Trump doing even better in Texas this year.

Chuck Devore, who was a Republican state legislator in California's Orange County before moving to Texas in 2011, said Texans are even more likely to vote for Trump now because of the economy and the conservative judges he has appointed.

"People may have been suspicious before," Devore said. "Now he has a track record that sits very well with the majority of Texans."

The conservative Texas Public Policy Foundation is planning to poll residents to see whether newcomers are more likely to be Democrats. Some studies suggest many could be Republicans and independents, like the Bauers, coming from Republican suburban strongholds in other states, said Devore, vice president of the foundation.

In Georgia, a fast-growing African American population in the Atlanta suburbs, including many moving from other states, led to similar gains for Democrats in 2018.

 

Jillson said it's common for New Yorkers and Californians new to the South to be reticent about talking politics until they get a sense of their neighbors, like O'Brien Reese.

"You're a newcomer in an area, and you're going to shut up and listen and learn, and then decide, 'Am I going to put up a Biden sign in my front yard, based on what I hear?' But the Democrats are going to find each other and talk," Jillson said.

Joe Akin, who moved to the Houston suburb of Richmond with his wife in August from Warwick, New York, said he hasn't broached the subject of politics with his neighbors, but he is happy with the affordability and nearby relatives from the Northeast.

"The taxes were lower, which is a big plus," said Akin, who is in his mid-50s. "The traffic is still a big issue. It's still really slow, just like in New York. But the difference is people don't get mad -- it's just like, oh well, we're in traffic, and they just stay in their lane and stay calm."

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