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Texas Ties Help Lone Star Lawmakers Transcend Politics -- Sometimes

Chris Hale/CQ Roll Call Illustration

Loving the state you represent is not a unique phenomenon in Congress. But, as Texas Republicans will tell you, everything is bigger in the Lone Star State. This is Part IV of a series on the Texas GOP. Part I examined the growing clout of the House delegation, Parts II and III delved into the GOP’s weekly lunch and the members who miss those gatherings.

Whether it’s immigration, taxes or health care, Texas is roiled by the same thorny political issues that divide the rest of the country. But members of the state’s sizable congressional delegation — both Republicans and Democrats — insist policy disagreements don’t change this one basic Lone Star fact: Texans like other Texans.

“Texas has a very unique personality as a state, and I think most of our elected officials, actually Republican and Democrat alike, kinda share that Texas attitude,” said Rep. Blake Farenthold, a Republican based in Corpus Christi. “We’re proud to be Texans, and we’re not afraid to let the world know that we’re together.”

Farenthold, like many of the delegation’s 23 other Republicans — and several of the 12 Democrats, for that matter — isn’t interested in cultivating a moderate persona.

“Moderate” generally doesn’t work in a state where most of the districts were drawn to reward one party or the other; the average Cook Partisan Voting Index for a Republican district, after all, is R+16.5, and is D+9.67 for Democratic ones.

But even if they often find themselves on opposing sides on issues, Texas Republicans and Democrats — even the most hard-line conservatives and the most passionate liberals — insist there’s something special about home that always brings them back together.

Houston-area Democrat Sheila Jackson Lee, who has never been shy about letting Republicans know how she feels, has a soft spot for her fellow Texans — even if they are often on opposite sides of a debate.

“I think there’s still a great deal of pride,” Jackson Lee said. “I think we enjoy the bigness of Texas, and we recognize fellow Texans.”

Asked about the partisan divide in the state delegation, Jackson Lee insisted that she “wouldn’t cede that point that there is a divide.”

On the other end of the political spectrum, currently leading an effort to impeach Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr., is Republican Pete Olson. No matter his politics, the Sugar Land resident is a Texan, and he said Lone Star members “come together as a doggone delegation to support our state. Party doesn’t matter.”

Olson ticked down the names of half the state delegation, noting that if something important happens in a certain part of the state — El Paso, for instance — he can count on the member from that region to help the delegation solve the issue. (“Beto [O’Rourke], you’re my guy.”)

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