The Council of State Governments - WEST


September 12, 2013

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Demographics and Growth Transforming the 

West's Political Landscape

By: Edgar Ruiz, CSG-WEST 


The changing demographics and growth are transforming the West into America's new swing region. According to Ruy Teixeira, in his book titled "America's New Swing Region," these shifts may bring about significant changes to the national electoral landscape in the coming years, making the West the new "Heartland" of the United States.


Speaking to members of the Westrends Board during the CSG-WEST Annual Meeting, Dr. Robert Lang, director of Brookings Mountain West at the University of Las Vegas, Nevada (UNLV), and contributor to Americas New Swing Region, explained that several factors have led to these changes, including emerging metropolitan voting patterns, the rise of minorities -especially Hispanics, and the attitudes of the Millennial Generation.  


According to Dr. Lang, nowhere is the speed of change more rapid than in the Mountain West, including the states of Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Nevada, New Mexico, and Utah.  Of these states, Nevada and Arizona ranked first and second among the states in growth, increasing their total population by 35 and 25 percent, respectively, over the 2000-2010 decade. (Teixeira, 2012).  Dr. Lang stated that the growth in these states was linked to Western economies tied to growing "megapolitan regions" and industries such as information technology, financial services, energy and tourism. 

Dr. Lang speaking during the WESTRENDS Board Meeting at the CSG-WEST Annual Meeting.

The Mountain West is among the most urbanized areas in the country.  The share of minority voters has sharply increased in large metro areas in the region, such as Phoenix, Denver, Las Vegas, Albuquerque and Salt Lake City.  The increased share of eligible and engaged minority voters in metro areas are shaping public opinion, including favoring a far softer line on immigration and considerably more support of increased government involvement in areas like schools, health, and the environment.  (Teixeira, 2012).


The Millennial generation - those born between 1982 and 2002- in the West, as in other parts of the country, is more supportive of activist government, the social safety net, regulation, environmental protection, health care reform and more accepting on social issues. (Teixeira, 2012).  However, Mountain West Millennials, while more politically liberal than older generations, differ from Millennials from other parts of the country as they are considerably more Republican than their generation outside the region.  It is expected that the loyalties of this group will be hotly contested in coming election cycles. 


Teixeira states that the Mountain West is transitioning from a once solid and reliably Republican region into a more contested space.  While the timing of the shifts seems to favor Democrats, Teixeira warns that it's also important not to over read the data from the last election cycles, as the West is by no means a lock for Democrats. 


For more information, please see the following articles:


America's New Swing Region, National Journal


Politically and Otherwise, the Mountain West Swings, Rasmussen Reports


America's New Swing Region: Changing Politics and Demographics in the Mountain West by Ruy Teixeira

XXVII Border Legislative Conference


The 27th Border Legislative Conference (BLC) convened September 5-7 in El Paso, Texas.  The meeting, which was hosted with the support of Texas Senator Jose Rodriguez, brought together legislators representing nine of the 10 U.S. - Mexico border states.  The meeting kicked-off with a welcome message from Congressman Beto O'Rourke of El Paso, along with El Paso Mayor Oscar Leeser. 


The meeting provided attending lawmakers an opportunity to hear from experts and openly discuss key issues such as transportation infrastructure, development of border master plans and the effects of climate change to the border region's agriculture and water supplies.  BLC members visited the University of Texas at El Paso to participate in the El Paso launch of the State of the Border Report presented by Erik Lee from the North American Research Partnership and Chris Wilson from the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars - Mexico Institute.

Ana Luisa Fajer, Director General for North America for Mexico's Ministry of Foreign Affairs, provided a keynote address on opportunities to enhance North American cooperation and the role of state legislatures to foster innovation.  Moreover, members heard and engaged in substantive discussions regarding recent initiatives in Colorado and Washington legalizing recreational use of marijuana and the implications of such laws to the border region.  Colorado senator and CSG-WEST Vice Chair, Nancy Todd, participated in this panel to provide an overview of the initiative process and how Colorado is implementing the law.


During the meeting, participating lawmakers visited the Museum of the Revolution in Ciudad Juarez to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Chamizal Treaty.  The Treaty, which was signed in 1963 by then U.S. President Lyndon Johnson and Mexican President Adolfo Lopez Mateos, settled a land dispute between the two countries along the Rio Grande.  Several dignitaries participated in the celebration, including U.S. Consul General Ian Brownlee, Mexico Consul General Jacob Prado, Ciudad Juarez Mayor Hector Murguia Lardizabal and Ralph Seitsinger, the Mayor of El Paso in 1963 when the Chamizal Treaty was signed.


Chihuahua Diputado E. Gabriel Flores Viramontes was honored for his service as chair of the BLC in 2013.  California Senator Lou Correa rotated to the position of chair and Mexico legislators elected Diputada Imelda Alejandro of Nuevo Leon as the 2014 BLC vice chair. 


The next BLC will convene in the Mexican state of Nuevo Leon.  For more information about the BLC, please visit or contact the CSG-WEST Office at (916) 553-4423.

CSG National Meeting Next Week

Secretary Kathleen Sebelius to Address CSG 

at 2013 National Conference

The Council of State Governments is pleased to announce that U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius will speak during CSG's 2013 National Conference


The Evolving State-Federal Health Care Relationship

Saturday, Sept. 21, 8-9:30 a.m.


The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act vastly impacted every aspect of health care marketplaces in the United States. Since March 2010 when President Barack Obama signed the ACA into law, states, health insurers, hospitals, doctors, patients and employers have raised a variety of questions in an effort to understand what is expected and how the law will affect them. U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius has played a central role in the development and implementation of the law. Sebelius, a former Kansas governor, will discuss the role of states in health care reform implementation and next steps they'll need to take. 


Please visit the conference registration page for more information on current rates or to register.


Questions About the Conference?

Contact CSG at (800) 800-1910 or

The mission of CSG-WEST is to facilitate regional, nonpartisan cooperation and exchange of information, and to strengthen legislative institutions among our 13 member states. These services are achieved through a variety of programs and services offered to legislators and their staff, including the convening of policy forums, professional development training, international relations opportunities, publications and institutional links with other political entities in the West.

CSG-WEST serves the Western legislatures of Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah, Washington and Wyoming. Associate members include the Canadian provinces of Alberta and British Columbia and the Pacific islands of American Samoa, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands and Guam.