Texas 13th District
The farther west one travels in Texas, the browner the land gets and the smaller the towns get, until you arrive at counties containing only a few hundred people each—plus quite a few more head of cattle. At that point, the land rises nearly 1,000 feet in elevation, up steep hillsides from the gullies along the rivers that for most of the year are just tiny trickles, to the tilted tableland that makes up the High Plains of West Texas. The winds here sweep down from the Rockies, the land is barren except where irrigated, often with the now dangerously depleted waters of the Ogallala Aquifer. The land alternates between grazing areas and cotton fields. But here and there in this demanding environment—sticky-hot in the summer, swept by north winds from Canada in winter, always threatened in “Tornado Alley”—comfortable cities have been built to house the people and businesses that bring forth some of the nation’s most abundant oil, natural gas, helium and other elements from the earth.
2008 Presidential Vote
|Cook Partisan Voting Index|
The 13th Congressional District of Texas covers more than 40,000 square miles, from the New Mexico border to just north of Dallas, and it includes 42 counties and parts of two others. The population of this region has been either in decline or stagnant for nearly three decades. In the 1990s, the district registered a population increase of just 5%, the smallest gain of any Texas district. From 2000 to 2007, growth in the district was less than 1%. Around Wichita Falls is the agricultural land of the Red River Valley and one of Bell Helicopter’s V-22 Osprey plants. Sheppard Air Force Base, a medical facility and pilot training center, was hit hard by cutbacks in the 2005 base review.
The area produces cotton and milo, a variety of sorghum, and is home to one of the nation’s oldest cattle auctions. The area was long dominated by Texas Anglos, but Latinos lately have been moving here in large numbers to work in the fields or in crop processing. Today, the district is 21% Hispanic. Much of the High Plains economy is based on natural resources. The largest city here is Amarillo in the heart of cowboy country. It is the center of the largest natural gas development in the world, and is—not Chicago—the windiest city in the United States. Just outside town is the Pantex plant that secretly assembled the nation’s thousands of nuclear warheads and was the epicenter of American defense in the Cold War. Its 16,000 acres have been used to dismantle some disarmed weapons and now maintain the remainder of the arsenal. Settled by Confederate veterans, the valley was heavily Democratic through the 1970s. The High Plains was for years more Republican. Both parts are now solidly Republican. The 78% that George W. Bush won here in 2004 was his third-best performance in the nation. GOP presidential nominee John McCain won 76.4% in 2008, his second-best district in the nation, behind Alabama’s 6th District.