From KERA News:
Around the country, big cities in both red and blue states are almost exclusively led by Democrats. Fort Worth’s mayor, Betsy Price, is a long-time Republican, though the office she holds now is nonpartisan.
Price says she realized just how rare Republican mayors are at her first U.S. Conference of Mayors back in 2011. When the mayors split off for Democratic and Republican caucuses, she says, “there must have been 200 in the Democrat mayors’ room, and about 10 of us who would self-identify on the Republican side.”
“I was shocked,” says Price, who now chairs the mayors caucus for Community Leaders of America, a group working to increase the numbers of conservatives in local government.
There’s no single explanation for why Tarrant County bucks the national trend. Political scientist Jim Riddlesperger from Texas Christian University says the county identifies with its cowboy heritage, practicing what he calls an “open-space politics” that dominates the Texas political landscape.
“We identify with guns, we identify with cattle, and we identify with the Western culture. And that’s characteristic of Tarrant County, also,” Riddlesperger says.
The county is also far less dense than other urban centers. Riddlesperger points out that that even though it’s America’s 16th-largest city, Fort Worth prides itself on a small-town feel.
“Those things plus the oil economy, plus the huge defense industry here in Tarrant County, combine to make Tarrant County more Republican than most urban areas,” he says.
Most of the county’s nearly 2 million residents live in the suburbs. And even inside the city limits, large stretches of Fort Worth look and feel suburban or even rural.