Texas, South Face Political Changes as Movers Arrive

By: - January 13, 2020 12:00 am

Trump supporters at an October rally in Dallas. An influx of voters from blue states is making politics more unpredictable in Texas and other red states. Andrew Harnik/The Associated Press

Texas, Arizona and parts of the South are seeing the nation’s largest population bumps — and the people moving there from more liberal states may be feeding political change in those red-state conservative bastions.

As people from California and New York discover the South and Southwest, they’re finding friendly people and lower costs but aren’t sure how they’ll fit in politically.

“Politics is something I’ve learned not to discuss with the locals,” said Mimi O’Brien Reese, who moved from the New York City suburbs to Oak Island, North Carolina, in 2017. “It’s not my job to change the world so I just let it be. Where I live has a lot of transplants from New York, New Jersey and Connecticut, so I don’t feel out of place.”

There’s dispute over whether the newcomers will change state politics in the South, as they may have in North Carolina, which elected a Democratic governor in 2016, or are “leftugees” fleeing liberal policies who will embrace conservatism.

Republican Texas Gov. Greg Abbott made a point, in his State of the State address last year, of saying movers from other states were “fed up with big government policies increasingly running their lives and imposing burdensome regulations.”

Just five states accounted for most of the nation’s sluggish population increase of about 1.5 million between July 1, 2018 and July 1, 2019: Texas, Florida, Arizona, North Carolina and Georgia, according to U.S. Census Bureau estimates released in December. (The increase includes population growth through births, domestic migration and immigration.) All five states voted for Donald Trump in 2016, and they all have GOP-dominated state legislatures. North Carolina is the only one with a Democratic governor.

At the same time, population loss worsened in New York, which lost nearly 77,000 people.

California gained only about 51,000 residents, a fraction of the 336,000 it gained as recently as 2014. A new analysis by Kimball Brace, a Virginia political consultant, concluded that if census population estimates are correct, California will lose a seat in Congress to Texas, though a lot depends on how thoroughly residents are counted in this year’s census.

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Tim Henderson
Tim Henderson

Tim Henderson covers demographics for Stateline. He has been a reporter at the Miami Herald, the Cincinnati Enquirer and the Journal News.