Texas 19th District
Until water was discovered in the giant Ogallala Aquifer that lies under Lubbock and its environs, this was Indian country, then a land of Army forts and cattle ranches. When the water was tapped, well into the 20th century, what had been grazing land suddenly became cotton fields, with green crops grown in circles where the sprinklers reached, surrounded by parched land. Lubbock became a regional center, the home of Texas Tech University, and grew rapidly at mid-century. Lubbock County’s population increased from 101,000 in 1950 to 156,000 in 1960. Since then, the regional economy has grown more slowly, as the aquifer seemed to be going dry. In 2007, Lubbock County’s population reached 258,000 and populations of neighboring, much smaller, counties declined. Cotton growers have struggled with international competitors and adverse trade rulings, as well as pressure to reduce agricultural subsidies. However, wind power has become a source of energy, with hundreds of towers between Abilene and Sweetwater. This area has the most wind energy capacity in the nation. Lubbock also has made an outsized contribution to American popular culture. The city and nearby counties have produced a slew of fine musicians: Buddy Holly, Tanya Tucker, Jimmy Dean, Waylon Jennings, Mac Davis, Joe Ely, Roy Orbison and Don Williams. Lubbock native Natalie Maines and her band the Dixie Chicks took a lot of heat when she criticized Republican President George W. Bush in 2003, both locally and throughout the South. They responded by recording the song “Lubbock or Leave It.”
2008 Presidential Vote
|Cook Partisan Voting Index|
Lubbock is separated from the great metropolises of Texas by hundreds of miles of mostly, but not entirely, empty land. Nearly 200 miles southeast of Lubbock, over gully-ridden territory, are Abilene and the surrounding Big Country, with ranches specializing in Angora goats and sheep and exotic animals like ostriches, emus and aoudad sheep. There also are cotton fields and pecan trees and mesquite, and many oil wells, which yielded a temporary economic boom during the 2008 price-spike. Archer City, the boyhood and current home of novelist Larry McMurtry, was chronicled in The Last Picture Show and Texasville. Some of the nation’s B-1 bombers are stationed at Dyess Air Force Base near Abilene.
The 19th Congressional District of Texas connects these two wide-open regions. The population of Lubbock and its surrounding area is about twice as large as the Abilene area population. The two areas combined account for about 60% of the district’s population. As recently as 1978, these parts of West Texas were Democratic enough that in an open-seat election, they rejected the candidacy of a young Midland oilman named George W. Bush in favor of Lubbock Democrat Kent Hance. Today, they are heavily Republican. Bush received 77% of the votes for president in this district in 2004. Republican candidate John McCain won the district with 72% in 2008.