Texas 27th District
Inland from the Laguna Madre in Kleberg County are the vast grazing and oil lands of the 825,000-acre—that’s 1,289 square miles—King Ranch. This still seemingly vacant land between the Nueces River and the Rio Grande was the territory in contention during the Mexican-American War. The United States won that war and declared its sovereignty. Today most people here are of Mexican ancestry, some from families who have lived for generations on this side of the border, some recent immigrants. The culture here is Tejano, proudly American but with Mexican flair and vitality. (Adjacent to the King Ranch is the Armstrong Ranch, where in February 2006, Vice President Cheney accidentally shot a hunting partner.) Fronting the Gulf of Mexico is an altogether different bit of geography: the sand spit of Padre Island, an 80-mile barrier-reef island and national seashore, at the southern tip of which is a high-rise resort where college students throng for spring break.
2008 Presidential Vote
|Cook Partisan Voting Index|
The 27th Congressional District of Texas includes the land from Corpus Christi south to the Rio Grande. Its population is concentrated at the northern and southern ends of the district. In the north, Corpus Christi and surrounding Nueces County, with a 59% Hispanic population, is the southernmost natural port on Texas’s Gulf Coast and the nation’s sixth largest in trading volume. There are big petrochemical plants here, but along the bay front, there are also palm trees and recreational areas. At the southern end is Cameron County, which includes South Padre Island. The population is 86% Hispanic. In addition to tourism, construction is under way on the nation’s largest offshore wind farm; more than 100 turbines will generate power for 100,000 homes.
The biggest city is Brownsville, on the Lower Rio Grande opposite Matamoros, Mexico, one of the major border crossings in Texas. The 1993 North American Free Trade Agreement has lifted the economy in parts of this area, and there has been a boom in commercial construction. But pockets of grinding poverty remain: Not far from the border is the colonia of Cameron Park, where people live in trailers or makeshift structures without water or sewage service, rated by the Census Bureau as one of the poorest places in the nation. At the Brownsville campus of the University of Texas in December 2007, there were protests over the completion of border fencing erected by the Homeland Security Department.
Politically, the 27th District is Democratic, but not as Democratic as one might expect from a 71% Hispanic district. In 2004, Texan George W. Bush carried it with 55% of the vote. In 2008, Democrat Barack Obama won it 53%-46%, with Cameron County providing more than the margin of victory.