Texas 1st District
The gently rolling land of East Texas was settled by Tennessee farmers in the years before the Civil War. It sits at the western edge of Scots-Irish America, a swath of land that starts in the Appalachian ridge and is inhabited by a combative, honor-bound and highly religious populace. A hundred years ago, this was one of the poorest parts of America, where farmers scratched a living off the land and hoped for good weather and good prices in the marketplace. When a peach blight in the early 20th century wiped out much of the local fruit industry, many farmers turned to growing roses, which proved ideally suited to the climate and soil of the area. By the 1940s, more than half the nation’s rose bushes were grown within 10 miles of Tyler, which has become known for its annual Texas Rose Festival and the East Texas State Fair. Longview, which in the 1870s was the western terminus of the Southern Pacific Railroad, became a trading center for wagon trains and local cotton growers and timber cutters. In 1943, the Big Inch pipeline began sending millions of barrels of crude oil from the “Black Giant” oil field near Longview—the largest ever in the state—to the East for refining. Since then, the Longview area has become an industrial center for earth-moving equipment and chemicals. A giant U.S. Steel pipe plant has been a mainstay in the community since the 1950s, but in April 2009, the company idled the plant and fired most of its workforce. Marshall was the hometown of the late Lady Bird Johnson. The fields and woodlands around Nacogdoches—the oldest city in Texas—have the distinction as the site where debris from the Space Shuttle Columbia fell in February 2003. An organized search by 25,000 people recovered more than 84,000 pieces—38% of the shuttle.
2008 Presidential Vote
|Cook Partisan Voting Index|
The 1st Congressional District of Texas, covering the heart of East Texas, is made up of 12 counties, the most populous being Tyler’s Smith County and Longview’s Gregg County. East Texas is ancestrally Democratic, a region that responded to the populist rhetoric of presidential candidate William Jennings Bryan in the 1890s and President Franklin D. Roosevelt in the 1930s and 1940s. But Republicans began making inroads in Tyler and Longview in the 1950s and the GOP eventually gained dominance in the region. When Republican George H. W. Bush ran for the Senate against Democratic Sen. Lloyd Bentsen in 1970, East Texas was solidly Democratic. By the time Republican George W. Bush ran for reelection as governor in 1998, it was solidly Republican. Still, Democratic congressmen held onto the district until the 2003 redistricting, masterminded by former Republican House Majority Leader Tom DeLay of Texas to give the GOP a strong advantage in the state. Counties that knew their Democratic incumbent were removed, and replaced by heavily Republican Smith and Gregg counties. In 2008, Republican presidential candidate John McCain carried the district with 69% of the vote.