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Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Tesla's decision to build a $1 billion factory in Texas is a good bit of economic news for a state that's suffering in the throes of the pandemic.

Why it matters: The creation of 5,000 new manufacturing jobs near Austin comes as the state's ongoing coronavirus outbreak threatens to overwhelm hospital systems and tears at the economy.

  • It's also an election-year gift that could feed competing political agendas.

Driving the news: Tesla CEO Elon Musk disclosed the location of the company's second U.S. auto assembly plant during an investor call Wednesday to discuss its latest financial results.

  • Construction of the nearly 5 million-square-foot factory will begin this fall.
  • It will produce Tesla's unorthodox Cybertruck pickup and an electric Tesla Semi truck, as well as Model 3 and Model Y passenger cars for shipment to the eastern half of the U.S.
"We're going to make it a factory that is going to be stunning. It's right on the Colorado River, so there's actually going to be a boardwalk where there'll be a hiking and biking trail. It's going to basically be an ecological paradise, birds in the trees, butterflies, fish in the stream, and it will be open to the public as well."
— Elon Musk

Context: In Texas, a red state where the race for president is viewed as a tossup, per a Quinnipiac University poll out this month, people care more about the economy than the pandemic or racial inequality.

  • On this issue, Trump has the advantage, leading Biden by a 16-point margin (56% to 40%), according to Quinnipiac.

What to watch: Both candidates could try to use Tesla's move to bolster their own economic narratives. President Trump, elected in 2016 on a pledge to bring manufacturing jobs back to America, often takes credit for companies' decisions to add jobs or expand U.S. production, while attacking CEOs like GM's Mary Barra that do the opposite.

  • On Thursday, Trump told Fox's Sean Hannity: "I said, 'Elon, build a factory in Texas' .... He called me up just a little while ago to say 'I got it done,' meaning he got it done but I was pushing that job very hard from Elon."
Screenshot: @realDonaldTrump (Twitter)

The other side: Democrat Joe Biden, meanwhile, can point to Tesla's factory as a symbol of the types of clean energy jobs he'll promote if elected.

Of note: Three other electric vehicle factories are currently under construction in the U.S.

  • This week, Nikola broke ground on a $600 million factory near Phoenix that will build electric semi trucks starting next year and hydrogen fuel cell trucks in 2023.
  • Lucid Motors' electric sports car will start production by the end of the year at its new factory, also near Phoenix.
  • Rivian, which plans to build electric pickups, SUVs and Amazon delivery trucks, is renovating a mothballed Mitsubishi plant in Illinois.

The bottom line: Both candidates could try to use Tesla's gift to their own political advantage as they try to lift Texans past the pandemic.

Go deeper

Ben Geman, author of Generate
Oct 23, 2020 - Energy & Environment

Biden looks to stem oil "transition" furor amid GOP attacks

Former Vice President Joe Biden. ANGELA WEISS / Getty Images

Joe Biden's campaign is looking to blunt attacks in response to his comments in Thursday night's debate about a "transition from the oil industry," as Republicans look to make the remarks a liability in the closing days of the race.

Driving the news: Biden campaign spokesperson Bill Russo, in comments circulated to reporters Friday afternoon, said the former VP "would not get rid of fossil fuels," but wants to end subsidies.

Cuomo asks New York AG and chief judge to choose "independent" investigator into sexual harassment claims

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo at a press conference on Feb. 24. Photo: Seth Wenig/pool/AFP via Getty Images

A special counselor to New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo released a statement Sunday asking the state's attorney general and chief judge to jointly pick an "independent and qualified lawyer in private practice without political affiliation" to investigate claims of sexual harassment against the governor. The AG's office subsequently turned down the offer, saying it wants to conduct its own probe.

The state of play: The statement is an about-face from Cuomo, who had previously selected a former judge close to a top aide to lead the investigation, the New York Times reported, a move that was widely criticized.

Republican Sen. Sasse slams Nebraska GOP for "weird worship" of Trump after state party rebuke

Sen. Ben Sasse, (R-Neb.) Photo: Andrew Harnik - Pool/Getty Images

The Nebraska Republican Party on Saturday formally "rebuked" Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) for his vote to impeach former President Trump earlier this year, though it stopped short of a formal censure, CNN reports.

Why it matters: Sasse is the latest among a slate of Republicans who have faced some sort of punishment from their state party apparatus after voting to impeach the former president. The senator responded statement Saturday, per the Omaha World-Herald, saying "most Nebraskans don't think politics should be about the weird worship of one dude."