America’s 100 most conservative-friendly counties: numbers 61-80

Chris Palko | Contributor

The Daily Caller is ranking the 100 conservative friendliest counties in America, and unveiling 20 a day each day this week. Click here to see numbers 81-100. The conservative rankings were determined using the following criteria:

  • How counties have voted in the past two presidential elections
  • Median household income, factoring in cost of living
  • Home ownership percentage
  • Married family percentage
  • Civilian veteran percentage
  • State unionization laws, whether a right-to-work state or mandatory union state
  • State tax burden–state income taxes, factoring in available deductions
  • State concealed weapons laws, ease of carrying weapon legally
  • State weekly religious attendance, as measured by Pew
  • State abortion laws, as measured by Americans United for Life
  • Intangibles, such things as a long conservative history, an ingrained military culture, prominent right-wing politicians

A “county” must be a county-level unit, which includes parishes in Louisiana, independent cities in Virginia and boroughs/municipalities in Alaska, and the population must be over 50,000 as of 2008.

Here is part two, numbers 61 to 80 (click for slideshow). On Friday, we will reveal the top 20 conservative-friendly counties in the nation. And check back in a few weeks for our liberal 100.

80. Hunterdon County, N.J.
Largest municipality: Raritan Township

Hunterdon County is one of the three counties in northern New Jersey that are reliably Republican, all of which border Pennsylvania. Hunterdon County is the wealthiest of them, and has the single highest property taxes in the nation. And New Jersey is not very conservative in its state regulations, with some of the nation’s most restrictive gun laws. The new Christie administration could change some of that.

79. Fort Bend County, Texas
Largest city: Sugar Land

The most politically relevant fact about Fort Bend County is that in 1984, a former exterminator named Tom DeLay was elected to the House of Representatives here. DeLay helped transition a former conservative Democratic stronghold to Republicanism. The second most politically relevant fact about Fort Bend County is that it is a melting pot, as it likely is a minority-majority county. While this heavily affluent county isn’t as Republican as some of the other counties on the list, it is mostly run by conservatives.

78. St. Charles County, Mo.
Largest city: O’Fallon

St. Louis has continually expanded beyond its small base on the Mississippi River. While St. Louis County has long since surpassed the city of St. Louis, now even exurban St. Charles County, at least 10 to 15 miles from the outer limits of St. Louis City, is likely to surpass the city in population in time for the next census. St. Charles is the wealthiest county in Missouri, and has a high number of home owners and married families. The area has a gun culture, and contains a contemporary extension of St. Louis’s strong Germanic religious heritage.

77. Okaloosa County, Fla.
Largest city: Fort Walton Beach

Okaloosa County is the center of what is referred to as the “Redneck Riviera,” the Florida Panhandle beaches known for their quartz white sand and family friendly beaches. The main attraction here is Destin, a rapidly expanding beach resort. It has gone more than 70 percent Republican in the last two presidential elections and has many retired military personnel, mainly from Pensacola next door.

76. Morgan County, Ind.
Largest city: Martinsville

This is one of several “doughnut” counties that ring Indianapolis that make this list. Like the others, Morgan County is 60 to 70 percent Republican, and has far above national average levels of home ownership and married families. The county is southwest of Indianapolis and is only beginning to see suburbanization. Its most famous native is John Wooden, the legendary college basketball coach.

75. Wright County, Minn.
Largest city: St. Michael

Here is another of the newly developing suburban Twin Cities counties showing up on the list. These exurban pioneers are also changing the political climate of their state, giving George W. Bush more than 60 percent of the vote in 2004. More than 85 percent of the county consists of home owners, among the highest in the nation. The former tracts devoted to farming have been transformed only in the past two decades, and more growth promises to be forthcoming.

74. Washington County, Wisc.
Largest city: West Bend

Wisconsin is a traditionally left-leaning upper Midwestern state that is shifting right in its newly developing suburbs. Eastern Wisconsin is now the Republican base of the state, containing nearly all of the counties that Barack Obama failed to win there. Washington County is northwest of Milwaukee and has meshed together a long-standing rural German conservative tradition with strong suburban growth. Local cultural conservatism was embodied by last year’s fight over library books in the main library in West Bend.

73. Kendall County, Ill.
Largest city: Yorkville

This is the only county from Illinois to make the list. Although part of a slow-growing northern state, Kendall is growing faster than essentially all Sun Belt counties. It has one of the highest percentages of married families in the country and is full of upper-middle-class comfort. It only narrowly voted for home state candidate Barack Obama. Illinois has some of the nation’s most restrictive gun laws.

72. Escambia County, Fla.

Largest city: Pensacola

The main fact of life in Pensacola is the presence of Pensacola Naval Air Station, the main base for training naval aviators. Pensacola is also part of the Florida Panhandle’s strong evangelical Protestant tradition. The last Democrat the county has voted for at the presidential level was John F. Kennedy.

71. Coweta County, Ga.
Largest city: Newnan

Georgia has more counties than any other state except Texas, meaning that the expanding amoeba known as the Atlanta metropolitan area now reaches 28 counties according to the Census Bureau. Metro Atlanta has perhaps the most conservative suburbs in the nation, and the first of eight suburban Atlanta counties to make this list is Coweta County. It is part of the southern suburbs, which have been underdeveloped in comparison with the northern suburban corridor. Coweta is more than 70 percent Republican, like many of the suburban counties.

70. Benton County, Ark.
Largest city: Rogers

In 1962, Sam Walton built his first Wal-Mart in his hometown of Bentonville. Fifty years later, the largest corporate entity in America is a dominant commercial presence. Wal-Mart has attracted legions of other employers who wish to be close to the most powerful merchant in the world, turning the area into one of the fastest-growing in America. It is a 2-to-1 Republican county with strong conservative values. It’s no coincidence that famous Duggar family with their 19 children live here.

69. Gwinnett County, Ga.
Largest city: Lawrenceville

Gwinnett County is somewhat different than the county ranking two spots below. It has been undergoing suburbanization for a few decades more than the rest of Metro Atlanta. It is now the second-most-populated county in Georgia and unlike many suburban Atlanta counties, is nearly majority non-white as it contains the largest Asian and Hispanic population in the area. This partly explains why it only gave McCain 54 percent of the vote.

68. Hancock County, Ind.
Largest city: Greenfield

Another one of the “doughnut counties,” Hancock is located east of Indianapolis. Overflow from the city is just starting to come into the county. It is indicative of the standard of living in the doughnut counties, where high incomes stretch even further due to the low cost of living. It is also above 80 percent in the home ownership category.

67. Warrick County, Ind.
Largest city: Boonville

This Indiana county is not in suburban Indianapolis. Rather, it is on the southern border of the state, right above the Ohio River. The bulk of the population lives between adjacent Evansville and county seat Boonville. It has broken away from Southern Indiana’s Democratic heritage and is now solidly Republican.

66. Henry County, Ga.
Largest city: Stockbridge

Southeast of Atlanta, this county is a living example of how the South has transitioned from Old South to New South. Bridging both is Atlanta Motor Speedway, one of NASCAR’s major race tracks. Like Gwinnett County, it has a diverse population and its formerly overwhelming Republican margins have eroded somewhat.

65. Geauga County, Ohio
Largest municipality: Chester Township

The Cleveland area has long been a Democratic stronghold, but some of its suburbs are conservative. Geauga County is east of Cleveland and is the second-wealthiest county in Ohio. There aren’t any real massive suburban developments yet. It’s county seat, Chardon, is a small town of 5,000. The growth is occurring on the western borders. It also has a more than 85 percent home ownership rate.

64. Municipality of Anchorage, Alaska
Co-terminus with the City of Anchorage

If you can handle the cold weather, then Anchorage could be the best city for a conservative to live in. It has been labeled the most tax-friendly city in America by Kiplinger’s. In fact, due to Alaska’s dividends from oil receipts, residents get money that reduces even that minuscule tax burden. Anchorage has a strategic military presence, with a base downtown. And Alaska doesn’t even require a license for gun owners, the most lax state gun laws on the list. It is such a pleasant, prosperous city that it nearly won the Winter Olympics in the early 1990s. It would rate even higher except that it isn’t as overwhelmingly Republican as some of the other entries on the list and Alaska is among the least religious states.

63. Baldwin County, Ala.
Largest city: Daphne

There are two main areas of settlement in Baldwin County. The bulk of the population is part of the suburbs of Mobile, across the bay from the city itself. The new suburbs are prosperous Gulf Coast towns similar to those around Tampa or Houston. The other thrust of development are the resorts along the Gulf. Beaches like Gulf Shores are very similar to the white sand beaches in the Florida Panhandle. The county is about 3-to-1 Republican.

62. Bullitt County, Ky.
Largest city: Mount Washington

The Louisville area has grown significantly in recent years, and Bullitt County is one of two exurban Louisville counties to make this list. Development is still in its early stages, but this area is strongly conservative and is likely to make Kentucky even more conservative-friendly in the future. This is another suburban county around a traditionally German-American city (like Milwaukee, Cincinnati and St. Louis) to make the list. If you got a taste for liquor, then you’ll be right by the Jim Beam Distillery in Clermont.

61. Santa Rosa County, Fla.
Largest city: Milton

This county, right next to aforementioned Pensacola, is also a conservative stronghold in the Florida Panhandle. The focus here is less on the beach (though there are some here) and more on the military. It is where much of Pensacola’s military population resides. The residential population is remarkably family-oriented considering how much of a military imprint there is here.

Look tomorrow for numbers 60-41.

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