America’s most conservative-friendly counties: numbers 21-40

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. On Wednesday, we looked at numbers 41-60. Now it’s time for the third installment: numbers 21-40 (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 more than 50,000 as of 2008.

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

Here are numbers 21-40:

40. Ellis County, Texas
Largest city: Waxahachie

South of Dallas is the emerging Ellis County. It still carries large traces of rural Texas — “Walker, Texas Ranger” sometimes filmed in county seat Waxahachie, reflecting its authentic Texan atmosphere. Suburbs are starting to fill in on the northern edge of the county. The county boasts a high 63 percent married family percentage.

39. Blount County, Ala.
Largest city: Oneonta

Northeast of Birmingham is the hill-and-ridge county of Blount. Blount County is one of the most Republican counties in all of America, giving both Bush and McCain more than 80 percent of the vote. While not wealthy, its standard of living is steadily rising. Blount County is a dry county, which could be viewed as culturally conservative or nanny state paternalism.

38. St. Johns County, Fla.
Largest city: St. Augustine

The first Europeans to set foot on land that would one day become American soil came ashore in St. Augustine in 1565, more than 50 years before the Mayflower landed. The oldest stretch of America feels brand new because its population only beginning to grow. St. Augustine itself has settled into a pleasant tourist town. The area is a golf mecca; St. Augustine is the site of the World Golf Hall of Fame, Ponte Vedra Beach is the site of the famous TPC Sawgrass course (notable for its par 3 “island hole”).

37. Lexington County, S.C.
Largest city: Lexington

Lexington County forms the western, richer half of the Columbia metropolitan area. The city of West Columbia has long been established here, but more typical of the county is the Interstate 20 corridor where most of the population now lives. Lexington County is the richest county in South Carolina and its second most Republican in 2008. South Carolina scores strong on state indicators, strongly culturally conservative and increasingly free-market oriented.

36. Clermont County, Ohio
Largest municipality: Union Township

Cincinnati’s conservative heritage is also well-represented in Clermont County, which borders Cincinnati to the east. It is 2-to-1 Republican, both in well-off suburban townships on the western edge of the county and the small towns and rural areas. The county is represented by Jean Schmidt, who was known as “Mean Jean” for her intemperate comments early in her congressional career.

35. Rankin County, Miss.
Largest city: Pearl

Mississippi is as deep as the Deep South gets. Mississippi is traditionally the poorest state in America and was synonymous with the Democratic Party. The Democratic identity is gone and some parts are emerging from poverty. Rankin County is across the Pearl River from Jackson and is the major suburban Jackson county. Mississippi takes the honors for most religious state in America, as 60 percent of the population reports attending services every week.

34. Williamson County, Texas
Largest city: Round Rock

Williamson County is north of Austin and has implicitly marketed itself as a conservative alternative to the heavily liberal capital city. Dell Computers is headquartered in the massive suburb/city of Round Rock, which is much unlike the upscale liberal locales in Silicon Valley. Georgetown, the center of the county, is the site of the newest Sun City retirement community, which promises to be a renewable source of conservatism for years to come.

33. St. Clair County, Ala.
Largest city: Pell City

Birmingham could be viewed as a small-scale version of Atlanta. It too is now economically dynamic, with its own set of sprawling suburbs. St. Clair County is extremely conservative, as it is more than 80 percent Republican at the presidential level. It benefits from Alabama’s conservatism and strong demographic indicators such as high home ownership and married family rates. It could have been even higher if not for the lacking income figures, which are only a bit above the national average.

32. Elmore County, Ala.
Largest city: Millbrook

This Alabama county is north of Montgomery and is seeing recent growth in industries such as cars and defense that are more heavily associated with other states. Alabama’s right-to-work laws are part of this realignment of jobs towards the county. This is still a mostly small-town and rural area and there is only a hint of suburbs peaking up from the south.

31. St. Tammany Parish, La.
Largest city: Slidell

Across Lake Pontchartrain from New Orleans is St. Tammany Parish. As described earlier, the post-Katrina population trend in the New Orleans area is to move to higher ground north of New Orleans. St. Tammany has more residents after Katrina than it did before the hurricane. St. Tammany is the most conservative of all the New Orleans metropolitan parishes. McCain won a slightly larger percentage of the vote than Bush did in 2004, and added 8,000 more votes to the margin, a significant increase indicative of post-Katrina migrants’ voting power.

30. Livingston County, Mich.
Largest municipality: Brighton Township

Livingston County is on the edge of the Detroit area, only the southeastern corner could be considered suburbs. This is precisely the sort of exurban county that the Bush campaign successfully targeted in 2004. Eighty-six percent are home owners, and nearly 65 percent are married families. It is one of the wealthiest counties in the Midwest and among the most Republican counties with a substantial population in Michigan.

29. Chesterfield County, Va.
Largest community: Midlothian

For those looking to locate the change of the Old South into the New, Chesterfield County is a textbook example. Chesterfield contains the southern suburbs of Richmond, the capital of the Confederacy. The area was tobacco country, giving name to the once prominent Chesterfield cigarettes. About 50 or 60 years ago, the rough-hewn nature of the county changed when Richmond, a city with much racial turmoil, began to move out to the suburbs. The county has moved in a white-collar direction, focused on the emerging edge city of Midlothian, a former mining community. Historically conservative, Chesterfield supported Bob McDonnell in last year’s governor’s race by a 2-to-1 margin.

28. Canadian County, Okla.
Largest city: Yukon

Oklahoma City is one of the most conservative major cities in the nation, and its suburbs are even more conservative. Canadian County to the west of Oklahoma City is more 75 percent Republican. Garth Brooks grew up in this county, in the now suburban city of Yukon. As reflected by Oklahoma’s two conservative senators, the state of Oklahoma is friendly to conservatives, as it is one of the most religious states and it is shedding its former populist economic heritage for free-market policies.

27. Waukesha County, Wis.
Largest city: Waukesha

Waukesha County checks all the boxes on this list. The county government is unanimously Republican, its two congressmen are James Sensenbrenner and Paul Ryan, both strong conservatives. It is 2-to-1 Republican at the presidential level, which makes it one of the most conservative northern suburban counties. It should be a top 10 county. Why is it 27th? Wisconsin has some of the nation’s most punitive gun laws, not allowing private citizens to carry concealed arms. Wisconsin also has relatively high state income taxes, with few deductions.

26. Boone County, Ind.
Largest municipality: Center Township

Yet another of the metro Indianapolis “doughnut counties,” Boone County is experiencing a population boom, particularly on its southeastern portion that directly adjoins Marion County (which is mostly the City of Indianapolis). That portion is the suburb of Zionsville, which was named by BusinessWeek as America’s best affordable suburb. They have recently merged with two surrounding townships and it promises to be one of the most important suburbs in the future.

25. Hendricks County, Ind.
Largest municipality: Washington Township

To the south of Boone County is Hendricks County. Its suburbs lie in the shadow of Indianapolis’s airport, and its nearby suburbs have prospered. The shiny new Metropolis mall has been built in nearby Plainfield. Indiana is the most conservative state in the Great Lakes region and this is reflected in Hendricks County, which gave Bush 73 percent of the vote six years ago.

24. Rockwall County, Texas
Largest city: Rockwall

Rockwall is the smallest county in the largest state in the lower 48. Northeast of Dallas, it has about doubled its population in the past 10 years. It is separated from Dallas County by Lake Ray Hubbard, and on its shore is Rockwall, county seat and one of the richest cities in Texas of its size. It has the third-highest percentage of married family households on this list.

23. Davis County, Utah
Largest city: Layton

Davis County is the northern suburban area of Salt Lake City. The settlement here is based on a small valley strip that lays between the lake and the Wasatch Mountains to the east. Interstate 15 is the crucial artery here, particularly for those in the south of the county who commute to Salt Lake City. The major employer is Hill Air Force Base, in the northern part of the county. The combination of the military and its large Mormon population is closely tied to its political coloring.

22. Boone County, Ky.
Largest city: Florence

Boone County lies at the intersection of the Cincinnati and Southern conservative traditions. Cincinnati’s main airport is located over the Ohio River in an unincorporated area in the northeastern corner of the county. It is the second-richest county in Kentucky and has a more Northern outlook than the rest of the state. Its cultural conservatism is on display in the western portion of the county, where the Creation Museum is located.

21. Nassau County, Fla
Largest city: Fernandina Beach

The Jacksonville area is well represented on this list, and the second-highest ranking of the counties is Nassau County, located between Jacksonville and Georgia. The focus of the county is Amelia Island, a resort area with the most dense settlement. The island ranges from an upscale area with a Ritz-Carlton, to the town of Fernandina Beach, to American Beach, a traditionally African-American beach. There is a strong military and senior citizen presence here. Even McCain got 71 percent here.

Look tomorrow for part five, numbers 20-1.

Chris Palko