America’s most liberal-friendly counties: numbers 80-61

Chris Palko Contributor
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After counting down the 100 friendliest counties for conservatives, The Daily Caller is doing the same for liberals. If you still have an Obama bumper sticker on your Prius, this is where you’ll feel most at home. On Monday, we listed numbers 100-81; below is the second installment, numbers 80-61.

The criteria are:

  • Percentage of the vote John Kerry and Barack Obama earned
  • Median household income, adjusted for cost of living
  • Percentage of adult population with bachelors degree or higher
  • Percentage of adult population in management/professional jobs
  • Unionization laws (whether right-to-work laws are present)
  • State concealed-carry laws
  • State abortion laws, as measured by Americans United for Life
  • Status of same-sex partnerships (whether civil union, same-sex marriage, etc.)
  • Number of Whole Foods in the county
  • Strictness of bans on smoking

Note: counties are almost meaningless in New England. Their main responsibility is generally to administer prisons. Some New England states have outright abolished county governments. Counties are used here to compare geographic areas similar to the rest of the country.

Here is a slideshow of 80-61. And here, the list:

80. New Castle County, Del.
Largest city: Wilmington

New Castle County takes up the northern third of Delaware, and is essentially part of the Philadelphia metro area. Wilmington, the largest city in the state, serves as a satellite city and has transitioned from a manufacturing city to a financial center (credit card companies set up here due to favorable incorporation laws). Joe Biden is the most famous native of Wilmington, and his presence on the 2008 ticket turned added nine points to an already strong Democrat showing in 2004.

79. Hudson County, N.J.
Largest city: Jersey City

Frank “I am the law” Hague doubled as the longtime mayor of Jersey City and the preeminent Democratic boss in New Jersey. He was one of the classic big city machine politicians that defined the mid-century Democratic Party. Jersey City and the broader Hudson County have remained Democratic since, and its largest city is now a true melting pot. The area became known as “Wall Street West” during the 1980s when Manhattan financial firms began to relocate across the Hudson River due to cheaper office space. Hudson County has been referred to as New York’s “sixth borough” due to its integration with the Big Apple.

78. Lane County, Ore.
Largest city: Eugene

Eugene and the University of Oregon have long been a left-wing center; counterculture icon Ken Kesey got his start here. It is the capital of the American track-and-field world, encompassing Hayward Field, the legendary Steve Prefontaine and the beginning of a little shoe company called Nike. Neighboring Springfield has the best claim of any same-named place to be the basis for The Simpsons’ hometown, since creator Matt Groening is a native Oregonian.

77. Ingham County, Mich.
Largest city: Lansing

Lansing is both the state capital of Michigan and home to Michigan State University. There’s a town/gown divide as in many college towns, and most of the county outside of Lansing is Republican. Michigan is a mixed bag for liberals; union-friendly, but somewhat culturally conservative.

76. Benton County, Ore.
Largest city: Corvallis

Another Pacific Northwest college town makes the list. This time, the college is Oregon State and the town is Corvallis. The county is located on the west bank of the Willamette River in middle Oregon. Nearly all of the population of the county is in Corvallis, and 48 percent of adults are college graduates. A 2003 study concluded that Benton County was the least religious county per capita in the United States.

75. Mendocino County, Calif.
Largest city: Ukiah

The North California coast was primarily settled by people from New England, and its not surprising that distant cousins are following the same migration into the Democratic Party. Mendocino is a lightly populated Northern California coastal county, whose largest city is Ukiah. This area is not particularly wealthy or well-educated, but it still is reliably Democratic. Jim Jones once had his People’s Temple located here.

74. Cuyahoga County, Ohio
Largest city: Cleveland

Cleveland is a Democratic stronghold — what makes Cuyahoga County worthy of inclusion on this list is that its suburbs are generally more ideologically liberal than its Midwestern counterparts. You can see this difference in the eastern suburbs of the city, particularly the series of “Heights” neighborhoods and towns. Shaker Heights is an affluent inner suburb that gave 77 percent to John Kerry.

73. Delaware County, Pa.
Largest municipality: Upper Darby Township

Suburban Philadelphia was once a Republican stronghold. Delaware County, to the immediate southwest of Philadelphia, gave 60 percent of the vote to George H.W. Bush in 1988. In 2008, it gave Barack Obama 60 percent of the vote. A similar transformation in neighboring counties has been making Pennsylvania a light blue state on the national level. The county’s landscape is varied; there are depressed urban areas like Chester, wealthy communities in the north like Radnor and Swarthmore and middle-class suburban areas in the center and west.

72. Leon County, Fla.
Largest city: Tallahassee

Tallahassee is another city that brings together a state capital and major state university. Florida State is more known for Bobby Bowden than political activity, but it still helps boost a liberal presence in the county. State governments attract the liberal bureaucrats and interest groups looking to benefit from power or influence. There are no Republicans in the county government.

71. Lake County, Ill.
Largest city: Waukegan

The affluent North Shore of metro Chicago now stretches nearly to the Wisconsin border. Such municipalities as Highland Park, Deerfield and Lake Forest were the sort of prosperous suburbs that were GOP mainstays in the past. This and a few other Chicago suburban areas are responsible for turning Illinois into a solidly blue state.

70. Ulster County, N.Y.
Largest city: Kingston

Merely mentioning “Woodstock” can ignite arguments 40 years after the 1969 concert. Of course, the concert wasn’t actually held in Woodstock, but the original intention to hold the event here wasn’t a coincidence: Woodstock has long been an artist colony attentive to alternative lifestyles. Ulster County is located at the base of the Catskills, once part of the Borscht Belt of Jewish summer resorts. It gave Obama 60 percent of the vote.

69. Albemarle County, Va.
Largest city: Charlottesville

Charlottesville is an independent city, but the county seat of surrounding Albemarle County is Charlottesville. Just as well, sicne the two entities are basically one and the same. Thomas Jefferson, a native of the county, set up his last great project in Charlottesville — the University of Virginia. The university dominates the economy and culture of the county. The county correspondingly leans Democratic, and Charlottesville is more liberal than the county itself.

68. Kauai County, Hawaii
Largest community: Kapa’a

Kauai is the farthest west of the main Hawaiian islands. The main settlement here is Kapa’a, where most of the retail and tourism is located. This is the first of three Hawaii county units  on the list, all of which are similar politically and demographically. It was Democratic even before Hawaiian-born Barack Obama ran in 2008, giving John Kerry 60 percent of the vote during a strong showing for incumbent George W. Bush.

67. Hawaii County, Hawaii
Largest city: Hilo

The entire chain of Pacific islands known as Hawaii is so designated due to the largest, most eastern island in the area being named Hawaii. It is now commonly referred to as the Big Island to avoid confusion with the rest. The second city of Hawaii is Hilo, the largest city on this island (though it is not formally incorporated). The island tends to have more of an anti-development ethos as compared to the rest of the islands.

66. Maui County, Hawaii
Largest community: Kahului

Maui County is comprised of a few islands in the middle part of the Hawaiian Islands. The economy of the islands was once mostly based on sugar cane production. Now, the economy is almost entirely based on tourism. It also includes the island of Molokai, most famous for the leper colony Father Damien de Veuster attended to. The islands making up the county gave native son Obama 76 percent of the vote.

65. Albany County, N.Y.
Largest city: Albany

America’s most dysfunctional state government (at least east of California) meets in Albany, a mid-sized city in the upper Hudson River Valley. Its status as the state capital means that the presence of permanent state bureaucrats tilts the county to the left. It anchors a metro area (encompassing Schenectady and Troy) that is larger than many realize.

64. Cumberland County, Maine
Largest city: Portland

Portland is the largest city in Maine, and is one of the most prosperous communities in the state. The city where the prohibition movement began (Portland mayor Neil Dow passed the first prohibition bill in 1851) is now home to a great many microbreweries. Maine was a longstanding Republican state that has become Democratic as the Republicans have come to be defined as a Middle American party. Mainers rejected legalizing same-sex marriage last fall.

63. Cheshire County, N.H.
Largest city: Keene

Western New Hampshire takes its cues from neighboring Vermont instead of its conservative heritage. The largest town here is Keene, which is a college town with more than one-fourth of its population students. This creates a typical university-left setting, and the county unit gave Obama 63 percent. This comes in a sort of county that never voted for Democrats until the 1990s.

62. Yolo County, Calif
Largest city: Davis

Cal Davis is the largest campus in the University of California system, making it bigger than the better-known UCLA and Cal Berkeley. Davis is a liberal mecca of the sort that passes resolutions declaring the city a “nuclear free zone.” This is part of the Sacramento suburbs, and it is actually more Democratic than Sacramento County. This is interior California’s most liberal county.

61. Middlesex County, Conn.
Largest city: Middletown

Middlesex County is generally non-descript, with no real tourist attractions though Wesleyan University is located in Middletown. Katherine Hepburn and her family made their estate in Old Saybrook. The county is generally in the middle of Connecticut’s party spectrum. On the plus side, there’s no barriers to getting hitched with your partner.

Check back tomorrow for the 41st-60th most liberal-friendly counties in America.