Rep. John Carter (R)
Texas 31st District
Williamson County, Texas, long a rural backwater, has become a major population and business center deep in the heart of Texas. Its population has virtually doubled in every recent decade. It was 77,000 in 1980, 140,000 in 1990, 250,000 in 2000, and 394,000 in 2008. Williamson County is just north of Austin, and much of this growth has been generated by the Austin area’s high-technology boom. Hugely successful computer producer Dell is headquartered in Round Rock, with 18,000 local employees and is still expanding. And more growth has been generated by Texas 130, a 49-mile 10-lane toll road that opened in 2008. Georgetown has become a popular retirement destination. Bell and Coryell counties, just north of Williamson County, are the site of Fort Hood, the largest U.S. military base in the world and the largest employer in Texas. The base is the only post in the United States capable of supporting two full armored divisions. It covers 218,000 acres—340 square miles. Toward the end of World War II, about 4,000 German prisoners of war were interned at Hood. Today, its mission is maintaining readiness for combat missions, including training Army Reservists in urban combat. East of Fort Hood is Temple, a rail center. Decades ago, the freight carried from its rail yards was mostly cotton. Now, it serves a variety of industries, including plastics manufacturers.
2008 Presidential Vote
|Cook Partisan Voting Index|
The 31st Congressional District of Texas, created in the 2001 redistricting and sharply altered in the 2003 Republican redistricting, is dominated by Williamson, Bell and Coryell counties, which account for 92% of its population. Historically this was solidly Democratic country, devoted to the party of the Confederacy and later, the New Deal, full of cotton farmers who distrusted Wall Street and railroads and who trusted politicians like Sam Rayburn and Lyndon Johnson and later Ann Richards and Lloyd Bentsen. But people in this district took a shine to George W. Bush’s brand of Republicanism, first as governor and then as president. In 2004, he carried the district 67%-33%. In 2008, GOP nominee John McCain did not fare as well, getting 57% to 41% for Democratic nominee Barack Obama. Also that year, a Democrat based in Williamson County won a state legislative seat for the first time in more than a decade.
Rep. John Carter (R)
Elected: 2002, 4th term.
Born: Nov. 6, 1941, Houston .
Home: Round Rock.
Education: TX Tech. U., B.A. 1964, U. of TX, J.D. 1969.
Family: Married (Erika); 4 children.
Elected office: Dist. Ct. judge, 1982-2001.
Professional Career: Practicing atty., 1969-81.
The congressman from the 31st District is John Carter, a Republican first elected in 2002. He grew up in Houston and graduated from Texas Tech University and the University of Texas law school. He practiced law in Williamson County and served as a municipal judge in Round Rock. He was appointed a district judge in 1981 by Republican Gov. Bill Clements and in 1982 stood for election. Judicial elections are partisan in Texas, and Carter was the first Republican judge elected in Williamson County. Carter became known as the father of the county Republican Party. In 2001, after a three-judge district court created a new Republican 31st District stretching from Williamson County to Houston, Carter retired from the bench and ran for Congress. The real contest in this district was among the eight candidates for the Republican nomination. Carter’s main rivals were Peter Wareing, the son-in-law of Texas oilman Jack Blanton, and Brad Barton, son of U.S. Rep. Joe Barton of the 6th District. In the primary, Wareing led with 37% to 26% for Carter and 16% for Barton.
|John Carter (R)||175,563||(60%)||($1,053,850)|
|Brian Ruiz (D)||106,559||(37%)||($23,020)|
|Barry Cooper (Lib)||9,182||(3%)|
|John Carter (R)||Unopposed|
Prior Winning Percentages: 2006 (58%), 2004 (65%), 2002 (69%)
In the four-week runoff campaign, Carter attacked Wareing as a liberal in disguise, pointing to his campaign contributions to Democrats like U.S. Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee of Houston. When Wareing proposed that each candidate sign a “clean campaign pledge,” Carter offered what he called a “homestead pledge”—a ploy to highlight his charge that Wareing was a Houston carpetbagger who had rented an apartment in the district for the sole purpose of running for the seat. Rep. Barton endorsed Carter as “the only true conservative in this race.” Wareing outspent Carter more than 2-to-1, but Carter won 57%-43%. He got 78% of the vote in Williamson County, which cast 33% of the vote. Carter won the general election easily.
In the House, Carter has been a reliable conservative who has opposed abortion and supported voluntary prayer in schools. He was his freshman class’s representative on the Republican Steering Committee, which makes committee assignments.
On the Judiciary Committee, he won passage of a bill to establish penalties for identity theft. He also won House passage of his Terrorist Penalties Enhancement Act. He objected to continuing the Voting Rights Act requirement that Texas get federal approval of changes in its voting laws, but he voted to extend the act. In 2005, with help from then Majority Leader Tom DeLay of Texas, Carter got a coveted seat on the Appropriations Committee. As a member of the Military Construction and Veterans Affairs Subcommittee, he was well positioned—with Democratic Chairman Chet Edwards of the neighboring 17th District—to defend the interests of Fort Hood. He criticized Republican conservatives who objected to the appropriators’ heavy use of earmarking, the practice of funding projects for individual lawmakers’ districts rather than on a merit system. In 2006, Carter was elected without opposition to the party leadership as secretary of the Republican Conference.
In 2006, Carter faced a challenge from Democrat Mary Beth Harrell, a lawyer in Killeen whose son served in Iraq and who advocated withdrawal from the conflict. Carter won, 58%-39%. In 2008, he won 60%-37% against a little-known Democrat.