Republicans pick Houston to host their 2028 national convention

FILE - Republican National Convention, Aug. 24, 2020, in Charlotte, N.C. The Republican National Committee said Friday that it will hold its 2028 convention in Houston. Republicans have chosen Houston to host their 2028 national convention. (Travis Dove/The New York Times via AP, Pool, File)

WASHINGTON (AP) — Republicans on Friday chose Houston to host their 2028 national convention, hoping to cement support in Texas even as Democrats are betting that a booming Hispanic population and other key demographic shifts could eventually turn the country's largest reliably red state blue.

“I am excited to announce Houston as the host city for the 2028 Republican National Convention,” Republican National Committee Chair Ronna McDaniel said in a statement. She applauded the committee's “smart business decision” last spring to allow for selecting the site “earlier than ever.”

Houston is the United States' fourth largest city and is among its fastest growing, with a population exceeding 2.3 million. It was for decades a Republican stronghold, the home turf of President George H.W. Bush and the site of the Republican convention that nominated him for reelection in 1992.

But the city has since become solidly Democratic, with the party sweeping every countywide seat in Harris County, which includes Houston, in 2016. In a reflection of the change, McDaniel's statement listed among the officials Republicans are “eager to work with” Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner, a former state lawmaker who was once a leading Democratic voice in the Texas House.

“As the nation’s most diverse and inclusive city, we believe Houston represents the future of the United States and our aspirations as a country," Turner said in a statement released by the RNC.

Houston's blue shift is a departure from the rest of Texas, which hasn't supported a Democrat for president since Jimmy Carter in 1976 and where Republicans have won every statewide office since 1994 — the longest political winning streak in the nation. Still, Texas is now more than 40% Hispanic, and its strong economy has brought in many new residents from more liberal states.

Both factors have Democrats dreaming about flipping Texas, which would drastically alter the nation's political landscape.

Former U.S. Rep. Beto O'Rourke came within 3 percentage points of upsetting Republican Sen. Ted Cruz in 2018, though then-President Donald Trump carried Texas by a larger margin of about 5.5 percentage points in 2020. Democrats are hoping to knock off Cruz in next year's Senate race with a primary field that includes Rep. Colin Allred, a former NFL linebacker who was elected to a once strongly red Dallas district.

Texas nonetheless remains “the heart of the conservative movement," Republican Gov. Greg Abbott said in a social media post on Friday. His party's retrenching there reflects a different strategy than next year, when the GOP will hold its convention in Milwaukee, in the critical swing state of Wisconsin.

Democrats haven't yet selected their 2028 national convention site. But the Democratic National Committee considered Houston along with New York and Atlanta before settling on Chicago for its 2024 convention, underscoring the importance of the battleground Midwest.