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Counties of interest, part five: East Texas

Part 1 – Counties around Harris
Part 2 – Counties around Dallas/Tarrant
Part 3 – Counties around Travis
Part 4 – Counties around Bexar

The next three entries in this series will look at regions, and counties of interest within them. For the sake of simplicity, I’ve labeled these regions East Texas, Central Texas, and West Texas, though in a strict sense some of the counties I’m including in them would be called something else – Jefferson County, for example, is usually considered Southeast Texas. Try not to take that too seriously, and just assume I’ve split the state into three vertical sections.

Within those sections I’ve identified counties that have enough voters in them to be worthwhile. Again, this is all arbitrary, but I’ve generally aimed for places with cities or other features of interest. We begin with East Texas:


County       Romney    Obama    Trump  Clinton    Trump    Biden    Shift
=========================================================================
Angelina     20,303    7,834   21,668    7,538   25,070    9,136   -3,465
Bowie        24,869   10,196   24,924    8,838   27,053   10,692   -1,688
Gregg        28,742   12,398   28,764   11,677   32,352   14,657   -1,351
Hardin       17,746    3,359   19,606    2,780   23,806    3,449   -5,970
Harrison     17,512    8,456   18,749    7,151   21,318    7,812   -4,450
Henderson    21,231    6,106   23,650    5,669   28,816    7,048   -6,643
Hunt         21,011    6,671   23,910    6,396   29,135    8,879   -5,916
Jefferson    43,242   44,668   42,862   42,443   47,535   46,022   -2,959
Nacogdoches  13,925    6,465   14,771    6,846   17,359    8,989     -910
Orange       23,366    6,800   25,513    5,735   29,170    6,354   -6,250
Smith        57,331   21,456   58,930   22,300   68,546   29,343   -3,328
Van Zandt    15,794    3,084   18,473    2,799   22,126    3,419   -5,997
Walker       12,140    6,252   12,884    6,091   15,368    7,875   -1,605

As you might imagine this is not friendly territory for Democrats, and it’s getting less so as we go along. These counties are pretty small for the most part, but they contribute a lot of votes to the Republicans’ bottom line. Just since 2012, that gap has grown by more than 50K in the GOP direction. This is the point I’ve been trying to make lately, because while it may seem easy to write off this part of the state, these counties collectively pack a real punch. Look again at that Michael Li chart I embedded in this post about where the vote comes from in Texas. We can either do something to reduce the growing gap we face in the smaller counties, or we can accept the fact that the hill we’re pushing this boulder up gets steeper every cycle.

Let me remind you, there are cities and metro areas in these counties. You know that Jefferson County is home to Beaumont, and Smith County is Tyler. Other cities include:

Angelina County – Lufkin
Bowie County – Texarkana
Gregg County – Longview
Harrison County – Marshall
Nacogdoches County – Nacogdoches, home of Stephen F. Austin State University
Walker County – Huntsville, home of Sam Houston State University

I see three avenues to improve performance in this part of the state. One is as I’ve noted several times an effort to organize and build infrastructure in the smaller cities in Texas. We know what we can do in the big urban areas, and the formerly-small towns that are now part of big urban areas – think of places like Katy and Sugar Land – are increasingly strong for Dems. I believe the potential exists in the smaller cities that are not proximate to the big urban areas, and that more effort needs to be made, and more resources provided, to help them reach that potential. It has to be organic to these cities – surely, a helicopter drop of volunteers and/or paid staffers from Houston and Austin would not be received very well. I know the TDP has done some work along these lines, I’m just saying we need to continue it.

Second, there are as noted above universities in some of these towns. Anything we can do to grow the Democratic student groups and help them register and turn out voters is well worth it.

Finally, we can take a page from Stacy Abrams’ playbook and recognize that there’s a substantial Black population in some of these counties, and get to registering and organizing and empowering them in local and state politics. To wit:

Jefferson – 33.7% Black
Harrison – 24.0% Black
Walker – 23.9% Black
Bowie – 23.4% Black
Gregg – 19.9% Black
Smith – 17.9% Black
Nacogdoches – 16.7% Black
Angelina – 14.2% Black

All that is from those Wikipedia pages I linked above. I will freely admit here that I don’t know what is already in place in these counties – maybe we’re already doing all we can. I kind of doubt it, though.

Again, my bottom line is that we make an effort to narrow the gap in these places, or at least keep that gap from growing ever wider, or we make the task we’re already working on in the big counties that much harder. I’m not saying any of this will be easy, but I am saying we can’t shrug it off because it might be hard. This is the choice we face.

Watch out for snails

The invasive species keep coming, and there’s only so much we can do about it.

Would you want this as a pet?

Ominous red dots pepper the war room maps, and the story they tell is ugly. Foreign enemies are advancing on Texas by the millions – by wing, by foot and free ride. They are coming to chomp, sting, slime and clog, and in their arrival’s wake lies the prospect of devastation and disease.

In the advance guard are zebra mussels, Russian immigrants that have vanquished Michigan lake species and clogged water intake pipes with their concreted shells; red-streaked leafhoppers capable of transmitting devastating disease to sugar cane; and giant east African snails, rat-size intruders with voracious appetites for more than 500 varieties of plants.

The mussels, which colonized 100 Michigan waterways in just 25 years, have hit the Trinity River in Denton County. The leafhoppers, natives of Australia, Asia and the Mediterranean, are in the Rio Grande Valley and marching across Texas to Louisiana sugar fields. The snails, known to charm unwary humans with their soulful eyes and mucilaginous good looks, have landed in Austin.

Enter Sam Houston State University’s Institute for the Study of Invasive Species, a consortium of biologists from four universities whose mission is to track, analyze and defeat the nastiest of nonnative plants, animals, insects and microbes that imperil the state’s well-being.

In the war between Texas and voracious invaders, the institute may be the best hope.

“The scope is giant,” says institute Director Jerry Cook. “The truth is, we don’t know how much damage is being done. Texas is a big state. We have the longest border with Mexico. We have major highways along which invasive species can travel. We have Chihuahuan desert to piney woods and everything in between.”

[…]

Also of concern are zebra mussels, which likely traveled to the Trinity River via contaminated boats, and the giant African snails, which, although illegal to possess, have been dispersed through the pet trade.

The snails, which can grow to 8 inches, arrived in Miami in 1966. Within seven years of being released in a garden, 18,000 of the creatures were munching their way across Florida.

“We like to say they’re ‘rat-sized,’ ” says Smith-Herron, emphasizing the intruder’s least-endearing quality. “The problem is that people think they have cute eyes.”

Yes, someone thought that a giant African snail would make a good pet, and the ne=xt thing you know they’re wreaking havoc on ecosystems across the country. Don’t be a part of the problem, OK? Hair Balls has more.

Woodlands regional crime lab

I’m glad to see that there’s a new regional crime lab being opened up in Montgomery County to assist numerous law enforcement agencies in the area. But I’m especially pleased to see this tidbit in the story about it:

Local law enforcement agencies that have had to wait six months or longer for forensic test results from overworked crime labs will soon be able to turn to a new crime lab in The Woodlands for help solving cases.

The federally funded Sam Houston State University Regional Crime Lab opened this year to help alleviate chronic case backlogs. It won’t begin taking cases until the end of the year, when it’s expected to receive accreditation.

The lab, which is part of the College of Criminal Justice at Sam Houston State University, will handle up to 6,000 cases a year from as many as 200 law enforcement agencies in Southeast Texas.

“Instead of having to endure long backlogs at labs in Houston and Dallas, our local law enforcement agencies will be able to get their tests performed and analyzed more timely,” said U.S. Rep. Kevin Brady, R-The Woodlands, who began pushing for funding to create the new facility about three years ago. “Saving taxpayer money and precious time means more efficient law enforcement,” Brady said.

Emphasis mine. Yes, those evil, filthy federal funds, doing good while costing less. I guess as long as it’s being used on apprehending criminals, and not helping sick people get health care, it’s okay. Just so long as we’re all clear on the fact that those criminals were apprehended through the benificence of that over-reaching, tyrannical federal government.