Texas 10th District
Two of Texas’ major cities are named for leaders of the old Texas Republic, Sam Houston and Stephen Austin. They were not entirely attractive characters: Houston had episodes of alcoholic depression and Austin was a slaveholder who argued that Mexico infringed on Texas’ liberty when it freed its slaves. But they were also men of courage and determination who built a distinctively American culture in what was then the northeast of Mexico. Today, the two metropolises named for them are quite different in character. Houston is about commerce, the world capital of the oil business, an entrepreneurial hub spread out over the swampy, humid plains north of the Gulf of Mexico. Austin is the creature of the state government headquartered in the grand Capitol building and of the University of Texas with a huge endowment of land in West Texas that turned out to be full of oil.
2008 Presidential Vote
|Cook Partisan Voting Index|
The historic Austin is a liberal enclave in the heart of a conservative state. But the area around north Austin and its suburbs has taken on some of Houston’s character in recent years despite the continuing popularity of “Keep Austin Weird” bumper stickers. North of the Capitol and the university, on land that was vacant when Lyndon Johnson celebrated his 87-vote victory in the 1948 Senate primary in the Driskill Hotel, an entrepreneurial Austin has taken shape. It embraces technology and the free market and spreads out over the hills into adjacent Williamson County. Curiously, there is no superhighway between Austin and Houston. To get from one to the other, one drives through rural counties with monuments and plaques recalling the days of the Texas Republic.
The 10th Congressional District of Texas connects the western edge of Houston with the northern precincts of Austin through a corridor of still mostly rural counties. It is split into three parts. Approximately 40% live in Austin and Travis County, where the district includes the northern third of Austin, with one tentacle reaching southwest beyond the city limits and another dropping south to Austin State Hospital. Another 40% are in the western edge of Houston’s Harris County, a fast-growing area, with lots of young families, new subdivisions and sparkling megachurches. In between, are the six lightly populated rural counties. Overall, this has been a heavily Republican district—and the fastest-growing in the state, with an increase from 19% to 25% in its Hispanic population and an overall 32% population increase between 2000 and 2007. Republican President George W. Bush won the district with 62% in 2004. Republican candidate John McCain got 55% in 2008. Democratic candidate Barack Obama won the Travis County portion with 63%, while McCain got 68% in Harris County.