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Exclusive: Divisions escalate between red states and blue cities


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When Veronica Zavaleta fled an abusive partner in Mexico City in 2001, she felt a sense of security in her new Nashville home.

Today, Zavaleta, 43, says the town that embraced her years ago feels less welcoming, in part because state officials helped block a pro-immigrant measure by city leaders that would limit cooperation with federal immigration authorities.

“I feel like I should be able to reach my local authorities,” said Zavaleta, who owns a cleaning company. “I don’t see why I can’t have a voice.”

Republicans control both houses of Congress, the White House and the state legislatures in 32 states. But Democrats have a wild card: They still lead a majority of the country’s largest cities, often introducing policies that clash with the ideals espoused by the Republican Party.

That dynamic has frustrated state GOP leaders, who increasingly are focusing efforts on overriding decisions they deem too liberal in cities that include Nashville, Austin and Phoenix.


The practice, known as preemption, has ranged from blocking cities in Texas from regulating trees on private land to forbidding others in Arizona from requiring that companies offer sick leave to employees.

And the stakes have grown more punitive for cities that disobey.

“They’ve taken this opportunity to lash back at what have been, in their opinion, years of progressive policies that are ideologically different than what their constituents believe in,” said Lori Riverstone-Newell, an associate professor at Illinois State University who recently published a preemption study.


The cities are mostly blue surrounded by red. No wonder they have a siege mentality.

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