Could A Suburban Houston District Be A Bellwether For National Politics?

Once the heart of “Bush Country,” Texas’ 7th Congressional District could be a new hub of centrist politics, with voters looking for ways to check extremists in both parties.

By Rhonda FanningMay 14, 2019 12:12 pm

Many say the battleground for the 2020 presidential election will be the American Midwest – states like Ohio and Michigan, for example. But pundits may be overlooking other bellwethers – places where larger, underlying social forces could affect the nation’s politics as a whole. 

Josh Kraushaar, politics editor at National Journal, writes in a recent article that one of those bellwether places is in the Houston suburbs: Texas’ 7th Congressional district.

“It is one of the most affluent suburban districts in the entire country,” Kraushaar says. “And it was really the epicenter of types of gains that Democrats made when they won back the House in 2018.”

Kraushaar says most districts where Democrats beat Republican incumbents in 2016 and 2018 were wealthy suburban areas. Back in 2012, the 7th district voted for Mitt Romney, but then it backed Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump in 2016. In an upset in 2018, Democrat Lizzie Fletcher won the congressional seat that had been held by Republican John Culberson.

“This is sort of the Republican heartland in Texas. … It’s the home to the Bushes. It is a district where the oil and gas industry in Texas is about as big as anywhere in the country,” Kraushaar says. “This should be the Republican base.”

Kraushaar says voters in the district aren’t fans of President Trump, and they also care about climate change and social issues – interests that put them in line with Democrats.

“This is sort of typical of the very dramatic swings that President Trump has brought out with his election,” Kraushaar says.

Suburban districts like Texas’ 7th are experiencing a struggle between extremes, Kraushaar says: Do they choose Trump, or the progressives who are currently ascendant in the Democratic Party?

“It might end up being a hold-your-nose election, where these voters may want to check the Democratic extremism in Congress, but they also want to check President Trump, and it’s a matter of which task is more urgent,” Kraushaar says.

Kraushaar says the desire to constrain the president led to Fletcher’s win in 2018. But in 2020, he says the decision will be harder for these voters.


Written by Shelly Brisbin.