Texas 2nd District
The spongy land of the Texas Gulf Coast, where French explorer Robert de La Salle and Spanish conquistador Bernardo de Galvez dreamed of thriving settlements, remained mostly unsettled until well into the 19th century. When oil was found at the Spindletop field near Beaumont in 1901, the area all around it boomed, first with oil exploration, then petroleum refining, and then petrochemical production. The rig workers and mechanical engineers they attracted have given a kind of permanent roughneck air to the region. But oil drilling has declined in this area. From 1994 to 2004, annual production in East Texas from the Red River to the Gulf of Mexico dropped from 90.5 million barrels to 43.5 million barrels. Hurricanes Gustav and Ike in 2008 shut down oil pipelines for months and toppled some platforms, but some local refineries have been expanding and adding jobs thanks to high oil prices.
2008 Presidential Vote
|Cook Partisan Voting Index|
The 2nd Congressional District of Texas occupies much of this territory. Nearly 40% of its people live in and around the highly polluted “Golden Triangle” industrial area that includes Beaumont and Port Arthur. This is still very much oil country, and one of the few places in Texas where labor unions have any strength. The Humble oil field was once the largest in Texas and the local Humble Oil and Refining Company is now known as Exxon. Beaumont is the home of several trial lawyers who have become billionaires through asbestos and tobacco cases. Local juries are known for their willingness to bring in large verdicts against big corporations. Port Arthur was the home of 1960s blues and rock singer Janis Joplin. These cities increasingly are in the shadow of Houston, and the majority of the people in the district live in the city’s north and east suburbs in Harris County, where oil is an important part of the local economy but hardly all of it. The district grew 14% from 2000 to 2007, largely because of minorities: The African-American population has increased to 21% and Hispanics are now 18% of the population of the district. In 2008, Republican presidential nominee John McCain got 60% of the vote in this district.