America’s most conservative-friendly counties, part three: numbers 41-60

Chris Palko Contributor
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The Daily Caller is ranking the most conservative friendly counties in America. On Monday, we counted down numbers 81-100. On Tuesday, we looked at numbers 61-80. Now it’s time for the third installment: numbers 41-60 (click for slideshow).

A quick reminder of our 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.

Check back soon for our list of the 100 most liberal-friendly counties in the U.S.

60. Cobb County, Ga.

Largest city: Marietta

In 1978, this county elected its first Republican to the House. This congressman was Newt Gingrich, and that date was a landmark in turning the South into Republican territory. This county is now firmly part of the New South, as it is one of the best-educated counties in the nation. The sprawling edge city of Cumberland would dismay advocates of “smart growth” but it houses the Weather Channel and the headquarters of Home Depot. This is one of the most heavily populated counties to make the list and is now nearly as large as Atlanta’s Fulton County.

59. Kaufman County, Texas
Largest city: Terrell

Kaufman County adjoins Dallas County to the east. Some of Dallas County’s largest suburbs, like Mesquite, have parts in Kaufman County. The largest town, Terrell, still has more in common with undeveloped rural East Texas than the glittering Metroplex. It lags behind some neighboring counties due to its status as a middle-class rather than upper-middle class county.

58. Carver County, Minn.
Largest city: Chanhassen

Southwest of Minneapolis is Carver County. Its German heritage is apparent, as it features cities called Cologne, Hamburg and New Germany. It has developed into some of the area’s richest suburbs. The most famous resident is Prince. The Purple One long maintained an estate in Chanhassen. Politically, it is about 60 percent Republican.

57. Sherburne County, Minn.
Largest city: Elk River

Sherburne is the highest-ranking Minnesota county. It has one of the highest standards of living of any American county. It is the most consistently Republican of the suburban Twin City counties. Minnesota is a middling state for conservatives. It is a strong union state, but is generally pro-gun. Religiously, it is about right in the middle. Tax rates are higher than average.

56. Carroll County, Md.
Largest community: Eldersburg

Carroll County is a red island in the deep blue sea of Maryland. It is named for Founding Father Charles Carroll (who did not live here). It is a mostly rural county, but the southeastern edge closest to Baltimore is suburbanized. It maintains a cheaper cost of living than the more coastal Maryland counties. Conservative legend Whittaker Chambers maintained his farm here.

55. Virginia Beach, Va.
Co-terminus with City of Virginia Beach

Virginia Beach is a county masquerading as a city. Lrge parts of the county to the south are undeveloped. The isolated beach town of Sandbridge is more like the Outer Banks of North Carolina than the boardwalk area of Virginia Beach. The Hampton Roads have been called the best natural harbor on earth, and accordingly this is the main Atlantic  base of operations for the Navy. It is culturally conservative, as this is where Pat Robertson and his Christian Broadcasting Network are from. While John McCain narrowly won the city-county, Virginia Beach native Bob McDonnell received about 64 percent of the vote last November.

54. Tooele County, Utah
Largest city: Tooele

It’s not exactly surprising to see a Utah county make this list. Tooele County, bigger than Connecticut, is almost all mountains or desert. The famous Bonneville Salt Flats is the premier top speed raceway in the world. To get to the small basin suitable for development, you must avoid a mountain range separating the county from the Salt Lake Basin. Even so, Tooele County has been growing rapidly.

53. Midland County, Texas
Largest city: Midland

The young Yalie George H.W. Bush turned his back on his patrician Connecticut heritage and made his fortune in the then emerging west Texas oil industry. Midland became the largest city between El Paso and San Antonio and it would in time be able to claim two American presidents. The congressional district centered on Midland was the younger Bush’s single best in 2004.

52. Brazoria County, Texas
Largest city: Pearland

More than 400 miles from Midland is the rather different Texas county of Brazoria. As opposed to west Texas’s dusty oil culture, Brazoria County is a hot, humid county on the Gulf of Mexico. Its most famous native is famous Congressman Ron Paul. Closest to Houston is Pearland, the fastest growing area in one of the fastest-growing regions in the country. This is affluent conservative land, parts of which were in Tom DeLay’s district when he was in the House.

51. Ottawa County, Mich.
Largest city: Holland

The Dutch Reformed community that immigrated to the U.S. in the 19th century was a distinctive immigrant group. The center of its American immigration was western Michigan, and while Grand Rapids is the center of Dutch America, Ottawa County is the most Dutch by percentage. In a resounding contrast to the modern Netherlands, the Dutch are considered to be the most conservative ethnic group in all of modern America (only the Cubans are close). Ottawa County is on the right bank of Lake Michigan. Its largest city is appropriately named Holland. House Intelligence ranking member Pete Hoekstra is representative of the area’s conservative tradition.

50. Collier County, Fla.
Largest city: Naples

Southwest Florida is an important, if overlooked, Republican stronghold. No county personifies this better than Collier County. Its warm weather and lack of state income tax has drawn hordes of retirees, particularly conservative Midwesterners. Naples particularly is an incredibly affluent—and conservative, city.

49. Butler County, Penn.
Largest municipality: Cranberry Township

Butler County is Pittsburgh’s version of the Sun Belt. Long a rural farming county, rapid development on the southern tier has increased its political importance. The new center of population is Cranberry Township, which more resembles the suburbs of Phoenix and Dallas than the declining metropolitan area of Pittsburgh. The tax burden is less here than closer in to the City of Pittsburgh. These suburbs are culturally conservative; guns are plentiful and Pennsylvania was labeled as the state with the most pro-life laws in the nation by anti-abortion groups.

48. Ascension Parish, La.
Largest city: Gonzales

Leaving Baton Rouge on the way to New Orleans, the first parish you would pass through is Ascension Parish. This was traditionally a poor backwater. In recent years, it has become part of suburban Baton Rouge. The few incorporated areas are still underprivileged, but new residential plans in the unincorporated areas have changed the character of the county, making it more affluent and Republican.

47. St. Charles Parish, La.
Largest city: Destrehan

The second entity on this list after St. Charles Borromeo, St. Charles Parish is on the periphery of New Orleans. Much of the county is uninhabitable swampland, but the developed areas have shared in Louisiana’s sharp break to the right that began before Hurricane Katrina, but was greatly accelerated because of the storm. Like many Louisiana parishes, John McCain ran ahead of George W. Bush. Unlike much of Louisiana, it has remarkably stable communities, as St. Charles is composed of more than 80 percent homeowners.

46. Wilson County, Tenn.
Largest city: Mount Juliet

The Nashville area is fast becoming one of America’s major metropolitan areas and reflective of that growth is Wilson County. On the east end of Nashville, Wilson County is a typical Southern suburban county that is heavily conservative. It showed an increasing Republican percentage of the vote at the presidential level in 2008. It has named a park after Charlie Daniels, who now lives here.

45. Randall County, Texas
Largest city: Amarillo

Amarillo could be viewed as an experiment: What if a major modern city were built upon the model of the Wild West? The frontier seems more alive in the Texas Panhandle than any other area with significant settlement. The Panhandle turns in the best Republican results at the county level than anywhere else in the nation. The largest city in here is Amarillo, which shows no signs of cosmopolitan liberalism. It’s just a very big Texas town. This could be the most Republican metropolitan area in the country, certainly among those with populations of more than 200,000 people.

44. Livingston Parish, La.
Largest city: Denham Springs

Hurricane Katrina permanently altered settlement patterns in Louisiana. Many were compelled to move to higher ground north of Lake Pontchartrain. Livingston Parish has been one of the beneficiaries of this movement. Contrary to the general pattern, Livingston Parish has many more residents after the hurricane than before. This population influx accounted for a huge pro-McCain surge in 2008, giving him eight percent more of the already high vote given to Bush four years earlier.

43. Comal County, Texas
Largest city: New Braunfels

Germans didn’t only come to the big beer-producing cities of the Midwest; some came to the Texas Hill County outside San Antonio. The town at the center of the region was New Braunfels. Unlike almost the rest of the South, this area has been Republican since the beginning, and that heritage has only been reinforced in the past few decades. Comal County is now in the periphery of San Antonio and a nibble of the southern portion of the county is being developed. But here, a mostly rural and small town county is doing well enough to make the list.

42. Ozaukee County, Wis.
Largest city: Mequon

The suburbs of Milwaukee are conservative strongholds, and this neighbor to the north is no exception. Prosperity is widespread here, with virtually no poor areas. Its largest community, Mequon, is also it’s most affluent. It is also on Lake Michigan, giving it a scenic boost to make up for its cold weather.

41. Washington County, Utah
Largest city: St. George

The southwestern corner of Utah is referred to as “Utah’s Dixie” due to the desert climate of the area. In the past cotton was grown here. Physically, it is unlike the rest of Utah. Politically, it is very much like the rest of the state. Lots of places claim to be the fastest-growing place in America, but at least in the middle of the past decade, county seat St. George truly was the fastest growing metropolitan area, even outpacing Las Vegas. Its politics can be summed up by saying that instead of Bush winning the county 4 to 1, McCain merely won the county 3 to 1. It is less affluent than the rest of Utah.

Look tomorrow for numbers 40-21.

Chris Palko