50 States in 50 Days Election Preview: 28. Texas

In the 50 days leading up to the election on November 6th, I will be doing a profile of the 50 states and previewing what is on the ballot and how they are likely to vote. All of the posts so far can be found here

28. Texas

Capital: Austin

Nickname: The Lone Star State

Motto: Friendship

About the State

Before settlers from France and conquistadors from Spain arrived in Texas, it was home to many different Native American tribes including the Alabama, Apache and Cherokee.  The first Europeans to attempt to colonise the region were from France, who landed at Matagorda Bay and established Fort Saint Louis there, although they had actually been searching for the mouth of the Mississippi River.  While this settlement lasted only three years, it encouraged Spain to found missions in East Texas in order to solidify their own claim to the area.  During the 18th century, France and Spain fought several battles over the territory until, following the Seven Years’ War, the French ceded all land west of the Mississippi in the Treaty of Paris.  When the United States purchased the Louisiana Territory in 1803, they insisted that Texas was included in it, but eventually agreed a border of the Sabine River with New Spain, a boundary that now marks the boundary between the two states.

When Mexico declared its independence from Spain in 1821, Texas was included in its borders and the new country invited people to immigrate there from the United States to increase the low population.  In 1829, Mexican President Anastasio Bustamante, outlawed slavery and the following year declared that all persons held in bondage should be set free, but settlers from the US got around this new law by making their slaves indentured servants for life.  Bustamante also put an end to any legal new arrivals from the United States, but there continued to be illegal immigration into Texas and residents began to agitate for it to become an independent state, leading to the Texas Revolution in 1835-36.  During that war, there was a thirteen day siege by Mexican forces, led by President General Santa Anna, against the Alamo Mission that killed all but two of the Texans who were defending it, with Davy Crockett being among those who perished.  Following this defeat at the Battle of the Alamo, the newly elected delegates in Texas declared their independence and, after Sam Houston led their army to victory against Mexican forces in the Battle of San Jacinto, Santa Anna was captured and forced to sign the Treaties of Velasco, ending the war and establishing the Republic of Texas.

In the 9 years it was an independent country, Texas was negotiating to become a part of the United States, eventually achieving that after James Polk – an expansionist – was elected in 1844, although the Congressional Act authorising the annexation was signed by the outgoing President James Tyler, on March 1st 1845 and in December of that same year, Texas became the 28th state of the Union. Mexico believed that their new border with the US should be at the Nueces River, 150 miles north of the Rio Grande, where America believed the boundary to be, a dispute that led to the two-year Mexican-American war.  The Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo that concluded the conflict resulted in the United States paying Mexico $18.25m in exchange for undisputed control of Texas up to the Rio Grande, as well as land that is now part of California, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah, Arizona, Colorado and some of Oklahoma, Kansas and Wyoming.

The abundance of cotton plantations – which heavily relied upon slave labour – meant that by the 1860 census, 30% of the population of Texas were enslaved.  In 1861, the state seceded from the Union to defend the practice and joined the Confederacy, acting mainly as a supplier to the southern forces during the Civil War, although the final skirmish of the war, the Battle of Palmito Ranch, was fought in Texas.  On June 19th 1865, Union General announced the Emancipation Proclamation in Galveston – nearly 18 months after President Lincoln’s order had taken effect – finally abolishing slavery in Texas, an event that is commemorated as Juneteenth, or Freedom Day.  As with all of the other former Confederate states, African-Americans continued to face prejudice, disenfranchisement and segregation until the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s.

Beginning in 1867, cowboys led cattle drives from Texas to Abilene, Kansas – where there was a shipping facility – along the Chisholm Trail.  Although the cowboys that made the trips have become part of American folklore, by the 1890s the drives were no longer needed as corporations had seen the value in the cattle market and were establishing meat-packing plants closer to ranching areas.  Cattle remains the state’s most valuable agricultural product and King Ranch, in the south of Texas, is the biggest in America, covering an area larger than Rhode Island.  In 1901, the biggest boost to the Texas economy happened at Spindletop, where oil was discovered, with more being found later across the state and under the Gulf of Mexico.  Further industry came to Texas during World War II, with construction of military bases, munition factories, shipbuilding and army hospitals providing higher paid jobs to many in the state, including farmers whose agricultural work was taken on by temporary labourers from Mexico.

Texas is the second largest state of the Union (behind Alaska) and its more than 25.6 million residents also place it second in population (with California being first).  It is the only state that has three cities that have a populace of more than a million – Houston, Dallas and San Antonio.  Its nickname of the Lone Star State came about as when Texas was a part of Mexico, it had been part of the State of Coahuila and Texas whose flag had a star for each of the two regions, which was replaced with the current emblem when independence was achieved and the Republic of Texas formed in 1836.  Two Presidents have been born in the state – Lyndon B. Johnson and Dwight D. Eisenhower – while George W. Bush was the Governor of Texas from 1995 until his election in 2000.

In 1900, the worst natural disaster in US history occurred when a hurricane hit Galveston, claiming the lives of more than 8000 people; and it was in Dallas in November of 1963 that Lee Harvey Oswald assassinated President Kennedy as his motorcade drove through the city.  Texas is home to eight “Big Four” teams: Dallas Cowboys, Houston Texans (NFL); Texas Rangers, Houston Astros (MLB); Dallas Starts (NHL); San Antonio Spurs, Dallas Mavericks, Houston Rockets (NBA); and high school football – played on a friday night – is a huge part of Texas culture, as is the college game.

Presidential Race

Electoral College Votes: 38

2008 Result: McCain 55.5% Obama 43.8%

Latest Poll: Romney +19%

Republican candidates have carried the state of Texas in the last 8 Presidential elections and there is virtually no chance of Barack Obama breaking that trend this November.  With it having 4 more Electoral College Votes than ever before, it is the most valuable of the safe states for the Romney campaign.

Also on the Ballot

Congress: There is one Senate election in Texas this November, with incumbent Kay Bailey Hutchison (R) not seeking re-election after holding the office since June of 1993.  This year’s contest is between Democratic candidate, Paul Sadler, and the GOP’s Ted Cruz, with the latter holding a significant lead in the polls and looking safe to win the seat.

As a result of redistricting following the 2010 census, Texas will now have 36 Representatives in the House, an increase of 4 from their current number.  The current delegation is made up of just 9 Democrats against 23 Republicans, but three of the four new districts are expected to go blue in November, as well as the 23rd, with Rep. Francisco Canseco (R) in a close race with Pete Gallego (D).

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