I’m writing from my hotel room in hot Sugar Land, Texas, a city southwest of Houston, where I’m writing some reports for our ongoing series on fraud this summer. Stay tuned for more details on that story and in the meantime you can read the first, second and third piece of our series.
As you may have heard recently, Texas has become something of the epicenter of conservative political extremism, as Republicans who control the legislature passed the most restrictive abortion law in the United States, significantly loosened gun laws, and passed new ones. severe restrictions on voting. To understand why this is happening, you need to understand what is happening in Sugar Land and Fort Bend County.
Since 2010, the population in Fort Bend County has just exploded. Last year, the census counted 822,779 people living here, a staggering 40% increase from a decade ago. It is part of the metropolitan and suburban growth that has helped Texas’s population grow 16% over the past decade, making it one of the fastest growing places in the United States.
The county is also now extremely diverse; it is almost 32% white, 25% Hispanic or Latino, 21% Asian and 21.3% black.
“Fort Bend County is probably the most ethnically diverse county in the United States,” Stephen L Klineberg, founding director of the Kinder Institute for Urban Research, which closely studies the Houston area demographics, told me. “And so it’s a perfect model for what the American future looks like [will look like]. “
Although Sugar Land is a short drive from Houston, it is a bona fide city in its own right. There is a pedestrian square with shops and a number of restaurants. In the center is the town hall, flanked by a huge square and fountains where the kids chased each other last night.
“You walk into a new restaurant, you walk into a bar, you walk into a bookstore, you see the diversity in Fort Bend County,” said Mustafa Tameez, a Democratic political strategist. “What used to be just a suburb is now becoming very much like an urban community: highly educated and diverse voters living in close proximity to each other.”
Population is not the only thing that is changing, politics too. In 2012, Mitt Romney easily won the county over Barack Obama by around 10 points. But in 2016, Hillary Clinton defeated Donald Trump by six points. In 2018, Beto O’Rourke won the county in his US Senate campaign against Ted Cruz. Biden led the county in 2020.
In 2018, Democrats won every major county position in the ballot, including the expulsion of the county judge, the highest elected office in the county, a reigning Republican who held office for a decade.
The winning candidate was KP George, an Indian-American immigrant and Democrat, who was defeated when he ran for county treasurer in 2010 and then became a school board commissioner in 2014. He decided to run for judge when he seeing how many people supported Hillary Clinton in 2016. “It opened my eyes,” she told me on the phone a few weeks ago.
These are the kinds of elections that scare Republicans in Texas, who still retain complete control over the state government. And it helps explain why they are imposing such extreme policies in the state legislature.
“There has been explosive growth in the Texas suburbs and that’s driving the change in politics that is creating this kind of last hurray for people like [Texas Lieutenant Governor] Dan Patrick, Governor Abbott and others who are trying to get as much conservative stuff as possible. Because it’s not a reflection of the population and where the population is headed, ”Tameez said.
Klineberg, the demographer, added that there was no way for Republicans to stop the kind of demographic change going on in Fort Bend County. “Republicans see the handwriting on the wall,” he said.
I’m also thinking about …
Texas Governor Greg Abbott signed radical new legislation limiting access to voting into law on Tuesday. The new law already addresses several challenges in state and federal courts.
Several places are seeing a flood of people signing up for lower-level GOP positions that could play an important role in how elections are run, according to a notable ProPublica story. “I’ve never seen anything like it, people are coming out of the wood,” a Florida GOP president told the outlet.
Do you have questions about elections and voting?
Send them to me! Starting this week, you can send me your burning questions about voting rights in America and I’ll do my best to get back to you in next week’s newsletter. You can send your questions to [email protected] or DM me on Twitter @srl
[ https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2021/sep/09/sugar-land-texas-urban-diverse-republicans https://d26toa8f6ahusa.cloudfront.net/wp-content/uploads/2021/07/30214746/a-quiet-place-part-2-bigs-16.pdf