Saturday, November 16, 2002

Urban Issues Watch: The Democratic party may be gaining inroads in the suburbs, says David Brooks, but the exurbs are the new frontier:

The problem for Ms. Townsend was that ... she lost the rural areas and was crushed in the fast-growing exurban counties, beyond the metropolitan areas, like Frederick County, north of Washington, and Harford County, north of Baltimore. Her loss to the Republican, Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., illustrated an important feature of the political landscape: Democrats stink in the exurbs. Look at the states where Democrats lost important races: Georgia, with its sprawling megalopolis stretching out from Atlanta; Minnesota, with its growing office parks and monster malls; Florida, where Gov. Jeb Bush triumphed in the strip mall zones around Orlando. ... Colorado is something of a microcosm of how voting patterns are shaking out around the country. In the race for Senate, Tom Strickland, the defeated Democrat, easily carried Denver as well the university-centered Boulder County, with its highly educated, affluent voters. But in the Colorado where the sprawl people live, it's an entirely different story. In Douglas County, the fastest-growing county in the country, which stretches from Denver almost down to Colorado Springs, the Republican incumbent, Senator Wayne A. Allard, dominated, as he did in all the other fast-growing exurban corridors. ... These exurbs are booming. Before 1980, says Robert Lang, a demographer at Virginia Tech, only a quarter of all office space was in the suburbs. But about 70 percent of the office space created in the 1990's was in suburbia, and now 42 percent of all offices are located there. You have a tribe of people who don't live in cities, or commute to cities, or have any contact with urban life. Mesa, Ariz., another quintessential exurb east of Phoenix, already has more people than St. Louis. Extrapolate out a few years, and some of these sprawling suburbs will have political clout equal to Chicago's.
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