August 12, 2004
So where are they?

Jesse points to this initially promising but ultimately frustrating article about the race in CD17 between Rep. Chet Edwards and Arlene Wohlgemuth. What's frustrating about it?

In the campaign, Edwards is trying to position himself as a moderate Democrat who is equally ready to back his party or the president on issues.

His campaign is trying to portray Wohlgemuth as being right of Bush and the Republican Party on issues. His efforts have been helped by several leading Republicans in Wohlgemuth's home area abandoning their party in the race because they see her as being too conservative.


Edwards' campaign may get a boost from defections among Republicans. Some leading Republicans in Wohlgemuth's home of Johnson County publicly split with her during the Republican runoff campaign to find a candidate for the race to fill her State House seat, and the bitterness lingers.

In the waning days of the election, photos mysteriously appeared that showed one candidate as a cross-dresser.

The photos of candidate Sam Walls, a backbone of the Republican Party in the county and considered one of the area's greatest benefactors, in women's clothes helped give the race to a candidate favored by Wohlgemuth. Texas newspapers reported that Walls had for years been a cross dresser and said Walls in a statement called the activity a "small part" of his past.

In addition, some voters in Johnson County see Wohlgemuth as too strongly aligned with fundamentalist Christians. These voters have taken to calling hard-core religious conservatives Talibaptists, a play on the name of the fundamentalist Islamic group the Taliban.

Emphases mine. Would it kill the reporter to name any of these Republicans/voters that he keeps alluding to? Maybe furnish a quote or two? I haven't been teased this badly since my last foray into a singles bar. I want to believe, really I do. A little actual evidence would go a long way, you know?

And what does the Sam Walls thing have to do with the Wohlgemuth-Edwards race? I suppose "some voters" might hold the fact that a Wohlgemuth ally was the beneficiary of Walls' embarassment against her, but once again, who are these voters and what are they themselves saying? This feels like a big ol' red herring to me. Show me there are voters who might base their November decision on this, don't tell me.

I can already hear some of my readers proclaim that this is an example of the perniciousness of the liberal media. All I can say is that if this is the best the so-called liberal media can do, I don't know why you bother getting upset about it. How could anything this ridiculous be worrisome?

And finally, after all that basically content-free buildup, the story then shoots down its own hypotheses.

Cal Jillson, a political science professor at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, said despite defections in the Republican camp, Wohlgemuth will not suffer significantly for it come election day.

"Wohlgemuth does bother people as sort of being aggressively and thoughtlessly conservative," Jillson said.

"While there is plenty of time left for finger pointing among the Republicans, when push comes to shove on election day, if they turn out, I expect them to vote for Arlene Wohlgemuth," he said.

The redistricting did not greatly change the percentage of Republicans in the district, but it did erase traditional areas of support for Edwards around a military base and among some rural communities.

Political observers have said the new district lines mean that if a Democratic incumbent does well, that candidate can easily get 47 percent of the vote, but 51 percent or more may be impossible.

So now the author has trotted out an expert to say that although "some people" might not like Arlene Wohlgemuth, they'll vote for her anyway. What was the point of this article again?

Posted by Charles Kuffner on August 12, 2004 to Election 2004 | TrackBack

Looks like a textbook case of Pickleritis. (AP's Nedra Pickler is notorious for slandering Democratic candidates in the name of "some voters," etc., when she means "I.") At least now we know it can afflict reporters covering Republicans as well.

As for the race itself, it's gonna depend on turnout. If the GOP gets the vote out, Wolgemuth will win; if too many stay home, Edwards will. Unfortunately, that's the classic recipe for a negative campaign.

Posted by: Mathwiz on August 12, 2004 10:11 AM

Anyone know what percentage of the population of district 17 is from Waco & McLennan County? I think it's a pretty big chunk. Because Edwards has huge name recognition in the Waco area and is also Baptist and this is very much Baptist land. He's also an aggie and the new Dist. 17 now includes A&M.

Personally I think a lot of McLennan Co. Republicans will vote for Edwards on name recognition and religion and the fact that they are comfortable with him. Wolgemuth is very much an outsider here. There are also a lot of elderly voters in this area and they are very worried about healthcare. My wife is a medical resident here and tells me there is a lot of angst about the new medicare programs. That is very much a winning issue for the Democrats. You're going to see Kerry talk a LOT more about prescription drugs.

There are two basic strategies in redistricting. The first strategy is to create safe districts for incumbents where you group like voters together in safe districts.

The second strategy is for partisan advantage where you create a lot of narrow-majority districts for your party balanced by a few heavy-majority districts for the other party. That's more of less what the Republicans did this year. If everything falls into place for Kerry in a Democratic wave it could ultimately backfire on them because none of the new districts they created could really be called safe Republican districts, especially with the Democratic incumbents that are running.

Posted by: Kent on August 12, 2004 8:58 PM

McLennan County is 100% in CD17 (go here and click on PLANC01374 for the details), but Bell and Coryell counties were moved into CD31. That was one of the bones of contention during the redistricting process, as many Waco residents did not want those three counties split up. McLennan County makes up about a third of the population in CD17.

Posted by: Charles Kuffner on August 13, 2004 7:19 AM