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Austin bucks the Texas trend

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By Samantha Hayes

February 21, 2008

Austin, Texas -- Politically speaking, most of Texas regards Austin like a big blue pimple right in the middle of its face.

Austin is an anomaly, a Democratic pocket in the biggest, and arguably one of reddest states in the Union.  It's the state capital and home of the University of Texas - and folks who live here like bucking the trend.

It might have occurred to me that I would discover Austin's ironies Wednesday night when, looking for a restaurant during the lunar eclipse, photojournalist Oliver Janney and I wandered into a local favorite called, "Moonshine."

While I did not enjoy a beverage of the same name, I can more than vouch for the food at this place. And OJ and I were happy to buck our own trend of eat-anything-available-campaign-trail-diet. The effects of which are worse than the freshman fifteen by the way.

I'll go ahead and admit now that while I was looking for a good meal, I was also interested in finding folks to talk to about Thursday's Democratic debate in Austin.  I like hearing what locals think about the election.

Turns out our server, Josh Whatley, grew up in Austin. He said he had watched it grow from a population of 250,000 to well over one and a half million. As for why it has a wild Democratic hair, Josh thinks it's because so many people move here from other parts of the country. The university is perhaps the biggest draw, but Austin also experienced a huge boom in tech jobs in the 90's. While that boom may have busted, Austin's appeal has not. Josh's wife is a real estate agent and has noticed no shortage of people interested in moving here, and believes that has insulated Austin to some extent from the housing crises going on in cities all over the country.

After discussing the people and property values in Austin, we touched on a third topic -  politics.

For Josh, there seems to be no question about which side of the political aisle he stands on, but his choice between the two candidates is a little more difficult.

"Hillary seems fake to me." Josh described how his feelings for the New York Senator have changed since she was the First Lady. "Hillary seems like a politician, not a person."

That doesn't mean he's sold on Obama, but said that he's probably never heard anyone deliver a speech like Obama and, "if you believe everything he says, you won't recognize this country in four years."   He compared Obama's charisma and communication skills to that of Jack Kennedy and Ronald Reagan.

As for the debate, Clinton and Obama will at least be in friendly territory. Democrats - and there are plenty in this city -are enthusiastic and will tune in tonight and turn out to vote on March 4th.  

The rest of the state may end up being John McCain country, but not in Austin, and they won't let you mess with that.

Oh and there was a fourth topic I almost forget to mention. Pork chops with maple glaze. That's what I ordered for dinner. 

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