America’s 100 most liberal-friendly counties: numbers 60-41

Chris Palko Contributor
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The Daily Caller is counting down the 100 most liberal-friendly counties, after having done the same for conservatives. 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, on Tuesday we counted down 80-61 and below you’ll find numbers 60-41.

A reminder of our criteria:

  • 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 60-41.

60. Union County, N.J.
Largest city: Elizabeth

Elizabeth is one of several northern New Jersey cities that rose to prominence during the Industrial Revolution. It long has been home to shipbuilding and refinery businesses, and some heavy industry remains. Now, Elizabeth is more than half Hispanic, home to a kaleidoscope of Latin American nationalities. The suburban areas of the county are politically split, but the urban portions closest to New York make this a clear blue county. Obama got nearly 64 percent of the vote here.

59. Fairfax County, Va.
Largest community: Burke

Suburban Fairfax County in northern Virginia was for a long time generally Republican. That’s changed in the last decade. The county is now about 40 percent non-white and many liberals who had previously stuck to Washington or Maryland have moved here as well. This is the second-richest county in America (not adjusted for cost of living), speaking to the wealth that government employment can bestow. Obama won 60 percent of the vote here, but a year later Bob McDonnell narrowly won the gubernatorial election with 51 percent.

58. Santa Barbara County, Calif.
Largest city: Santa Barbara

Santa Barbara County is present-day California in miniature. The county is divided between a liberal coastal area anchored by Santa Barbara and a conservative inland surrounding the city of Santa Maria. Like the rest of the state, the coastal area has more people, and therefore dominates the direction of the county. The Santa Barbara oil spill in 1969 was one of the impetuses for the environmental movement, which dominates the coastal area’s anti-development consciousness. The county last voted for a Republican presidential candidate — George Bush Sr. — in 1988.

57. Travis County, Texas
Largest city: Austin

Austin has long been a liberal island in the red sea of Texas, housing a liberal intelligentsia based around the University of Texas and the state capitol. It was influential far beyond its numbers, giving the conservative state such liberal luminaries as LBJ, Lloyd Bentsen and Ann Richards. Another Austin resident, Karl Rove, ended their hold on state government. Austin is is where Whole Foods first opened 30 years ago, and where the public television series “Austin City Limits” came to be a national institution.

56. Douglas County, Kan.
Largest city: Lawrence

Lawrence is another liberal outpost in an otherwise conservative state. The home of the University of Kansas, Douglas County is typical college terrain with coffeehouses, radical politics and a large number of college graduates (47 percent of the population). Some conservative tradition persists: There are right-to-work laws, guns are easy to obtain and same-sex marriage is constitutionally banned (Douglas County was the only county in the state to vote against the ban).

55. Palm Beach County, Fla.
Largest city: West Palm Beach

When the 2000 presidential election recount took place, Al Gore felt confident that a recount of rejected votes in Palm Beach County would put him over the top. That confidence was well placed; Palm Beach County has given Democratic candidates between 60 and 62 percent in the last three presidential elections. Palm Beach County is a melting pot, with large Cuban, Haitian, Jewish and black populations, augmented by the presence of French and British expats making vacation homes here.

54. Windsor County, Vt.
Largest town: Hartford

Vermont was once America’s most conservative state. It was settled by descendents of Puritans who went to the Massachusetts Bay colony a century earlier. It is notable that what was FDR’s worst state was Obama’s best, outside of his native Hawaii. The Windsor County area has no town larger than 10,000 residents. Despite being nearly all-white and heavily rural, the county gave Obama 68 percent of the vote.

53. Washington County, Vt.
Largest city: Barre

The smallest state capital in America is Montpelier, with just 8,000 residents. The mines of nearby Barre yield granite that could very well be somewhere in your house. Vermont is perhaps the most socially liberal state in the U.S., as it was the first state to allow civil unions and was the first state to democratically approve same-sex marriage.

52. Hennepin County, Minn.
Largest city: Minneapolis

Minneapolis is a tranquil, pleasant city, and one of the major fonts of American liberalism. No doubt the city’s Scandinavian heritage accounts for this: Norwegians and Swedes brought the social democratic politics of their native countries to the land of 10,000 lakes. There’s a reason one of the jokes about Walter Mondale was that he had “Norwegian charisma” (which is to say, none). A group of researchers deemed Minneapolis to be America’s most literate city, based on such factors as number of bookstores, newspaper circulation and library resources.

51. Philadelphia County, Pa.
Co-terminus with the City of Philadelphia

There are many Philadelphias. There are the cramped narrow streets of South Philadelphia, the densely populated Center City, rich Chestnut Hill and blue-collar northeast Philly, to name a few. Few remember that a Republican machine controlled the city government until 1951. Now, the machine is Democratic, and Philadelphia gave Obama 83 percent of the vote. Pennsylvania’s state laws are not a progressive’s idea of the good society, though — the state has the most stringent abortion laws in America and relatively free gun laws.

50. Broward County, Fla.
Largest city: Fort Lauderdale

Fort Lauderdale anchors a series of coastal towns between Palm Beach and Miami. This was once a heavily conservative retiree area, but increased diversity has made Broward a minority-majority county, thus producing the biggest Democratic margins in the state. The county voted for Obama by a margin of 2 to 1.

49. Providence County, R.I.
Largest city: Providence

Upper-class Yankees from Massachusetts once called Rhode Island “New England’s sewer”  because it was founded by people who found the Puritan vision too limiting. The tag was only reinforced when the state was almost totally remade by immigrants from Ireland, Italy, Portugal and Quebec. Providence has always been the smallest state’s largest city, and the most Democratic place in the state with the highest average percentage given to Democratic presidential candidates in the last 30 years.

48. Monterey County, Calif.
Largest city: Salinas

The Monterey area has many claims to fame. Majestic Big Sur is in the northern part of the county. One of the most renowned golf courses in America, Pebble Beach, is located here. Salinas was the home of writer John Steinbeck. And the Monterey Pop Festival was the first major rock festival, presaging Woodstock by two years. Like much of coastal California, it’s in the Democratic column, voting about 2-to-1 Democratic in presidential contests.

47. Howard County, Md.
Largest community: Columbia

Columbia, Maryland is a master-planned community designed by James Rouse (Edward Norton’s grandfather) to avoid income and racial segregation. It has become more like other suburbs in recent years, but is still distinctive. Howard County is located between Baltimore and Washington, and different parts of the county are oriented toward each city. It is one of the richest counties in America, both on raw income figures and adjusted for cost of living.

46. Essex County, N.J.
Largest city: Newark

As late as 1940, Newark was the 18th-largest city in America. It had nearly a half-million residents when race riots broke out in 1967, precipitating a textbook case of white flight. Today, Democratic mayor Cory Booker has won plaudits — even from conservatives — for championing school choice. Some of the interior suburbs of the city to the north and west are politically marginal, but the urban core around Newark is deep blue.

45. Camden County, N.J.
Largest city: Camden

Talk about a county with a split personality. Right across the Delaware River from Philadelphia is Camden, which earned the dubious distinction of being the city with the highest crime rate in the country. Its dysfunction is so severe that it is practically run by outsiders: Its police and school system are administered by the state. Beyond the waterfront, there are suburban areas that are prosperous. Cherry Hill Township is the biggest of these, and has turned into the major employment center in South Jersey.

44. Montgomery County, Pa.
Largest municipality: Lower Merion Township

The Main Line west of Philadelphia has long been synonymous with old money. It spans three counties, but the core is in Montgomery County. Communities such as Narbeth, Wynnewood, Ardmore, Gladwyne and Bryn Mawr once defined country club Republicanism, but came into the Democratic orbit as the Republican Party became more populist. Montgomery County is Pennsylvania’s largest purely suburban county and also has blue-collar Norristown and the internationally famous King of Prussia Mall.

43. Bergen County, N.J.
Largest city: Hackensack

Bergen County in northern New Jersey is the state’s largest county. It has a few large towns, but is heavily suburban overall. The county was a leading indicator of the leftward shift of major metropolitan suburbs during the Clinton era. The eastern, more populated part of the county is generally solidly Democratic, while the western, more sparsely populated part is Republican-leaning.

42. Santa Fe County, N.M.
Largest city: Santa Fe

Before the Mayflower set sail for the New World, Spanish colonists were building present-day Santa Fe to administer the vast claims north of the Rio Grande River. While half of area residents have Hispanic heritage, most have been living here hundreds of years, setting them apart from the current Mexican immigrant population. Santa Fe is a small, middle-class city with two Whole Food and strict anti-smoking regulations.

41. Tolland County, Conn.
Largest city: Vernon

Tolland County is part western Hartford suburbs and part small-town New England. The biggest attraction here is the University of Connecticut, located in Storrs. The county is very affluent, particularly when its income figures are adjusted.

Check back tomorrow for the fourth installment of The Daily Caller’s list of America’s most liberal-friendly counties: numbers 21-40.