Inside the 1 Percent's Texas Enclave: One of the Richest, Whitest and GOP-Friendliest Zip Codes
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At a strip mall clogged with Ferraris and fashion boutiques, Beretta Gallery salesman Chris Cope shows me a framed photo of one of his best clients, an oilman posing next to a bounty of elephant tusks. In addition to selling massive safari rifles, this high-end Italian weapons emporium in the Dallas suburb of Highland Park supplies $130,000 Imperiale Montecarlo shotguns as well as petite .22s and chic, lockable handbags to conceal them. All told, it sells more firearms than any other Beretta outlet in the world. Last year, the store presented George W. Bush with a $250,000 shotgun engraved with the presidential seal, a picture of his Scotty dog, and "43" on the lever. The gun, which required more than a year to assemble, was a thank-you from Mr. Beretta for a military order of a half-million pistols.
It's fair to call 75205, the zip code for most of Highland Park, the most enthusiastically Republican enclave in the country. Among the two-dozen zip codes that donated the most money to candidates and political parties last year, 75205 gave the highest share—77 percent—to Republicans, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. It also gave Republicans more hard cash, $2.4 million, than all but four other zips nationwide. Affluent, insular, and intensely sure of itself, Highland Park is the red-state counterpart of, say, Berkeley. It's a place where, one native son half-jokes, friends might ask one another, "Do you want to come over for barbecue after we go vote for Mitt Romney?" People in the surrounding city of Dallas, where I grew up, call it the Bubble.
"We don't need the government to do things for us—that's why the town is very, very independent," says Ray Washburne, a co-owner of the Highland Park Village mall and a native "Parkie." In 2004, Washburne and George Seay III (pronounced "see"), a grandson of Texas' first 20 th-century Republican governor, cofounded Legacy, a group of 200 families that "have been successful in their careers and want to be involved in the political process." The group hosts aspiring GOP presidential candidates at a yearly summer retreat in Colorado, where they "network with other people who have been trying to push along the conservative, free-enterprise cause." Washburne befriended former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty at an event in 2008 and later joined his short-lived presidential campaign.
Other big Republican donors here include the Hunt oil family, the children of Ross Perot, and venture capital heiress Dianne Cash, who bought Dick Cheney's Highland Park residence in 2000. Billionaire Robert Rowling, the owner of the Gold's Gym and Omni Hotel chains, gave, along with his holding company, $5 million to Karl Rove's super-PAC last year. Real estate mogul Harlan Crow often hosts party fundraisers at his $24 million spread. He's presented numerous gifts to Clarence Thomas, including funding for a library project dedicated to the Supreme Court justice, a bust of Abe Lincoln, and, according to Politico, $500,000 in seed money for Thomas' wife, Virginia, to start a tea party group.
It's no secret why Highland Park attracts so many rich conservatives. It has a prime location near Dallas' financial center and one of the lowest property tax rates in a state with no income tax. Yet it has one of the nation's best school systems and an average emergency response time of 2.5 minutes. "Highland Park is safe," says Mary Bosworth, a local GOP precinct chair. "You call the fire department and they'll be there in three minutes, versus 'Are you dead yet?' in Dallas."