December 03, 2006
Richmond rail effect revisited

I have four things to say about this Chron article regarding the Richmond rail issue and its possible effects on the Wong-Cohen race:

1. I covered this exact topic more than two weeks ago, both here and at Kuff's World.

2. I have sent an email to Rad Sallee and James Campbell pointing this out and asking why my work was not acknowledged. I will print any response I get.

3. The story contains two factual matters that need to be addressed:

Wong ran stronger in boxes farther west. In Precinct 233, which includes the Greenway Plaza complex, Cohen had only a narrow majority. This is one of several locations where Metro could cross the line over from Richmond to Westpark.

And Wong swamped Cohen with 62 percent of the vote in precincts 177 and 178, which include Afton Oaks and adjoining Highland Village. Afton Oaks residents have led opposition to the Richmond route.

All of this is true. It also fails to mention that Wong had carried Precinct 233 in 2004 (as Culberson did in both 2004 and 2006), and that Wong lost support in boxes 177 and 178 when compared to 2004 (64.89% in '04 versus 59.07% in '06 for Wong in 177, 67.24% and 66.27% in 178). In fact, Wong lost support in every single precinct that contains Richmond Ave from 2004 to 2006. There is no "other hand" for her here.

Daphne Scarbrough, a leader of the Richmond Avenue Coalition, which opposes rail there, said she thinks the issue played little if any role in Wong's defeat.

"Our area is much more Democratic than it is Republican," said Scarbrough, who owns and lives above a metal arts shop on Richmond near Shepherd.

If by "our area", Scarbrough means "the precincts east of Kirby that include Richmond", then Scarborough is right. That's definitely Democratic turf. However, if she meant all of HD134 (which is my interpretation), then she's wrong. The average Democratic statewide candidate got 54.89% in HD134, and the average Democratic countywide candidate got 48.42%. Only six Democrats - Jim Henley, Bill Moody, Jim Sharp, Mary Kay Green, Richard Garcia, and Cohen - got a majority of the vote there. That makes HD134 less Republican than it was in 2004 and 2002, but still Republican overall.

4. Finally, short of exit polling, you can't really say that rail was a factor in Wong's defeat. It wasn't that big a theme in the campaign - education, health care, and the gay marriage amendment were all more dominant. What you can say, what I did say about Culberson as well, was that being anti-Richmond rail did not help Wong. She did not pick up any support in the areas that would be inclined to vote for Cohen based on other issues; in fact, as noted, she lost support everywhere, including in the one precinct where anti-Richmond sentiment was strongest. Being anti-Richmond rail may or may not have cost Martha Wong votes, but it sure didn't help her gain any votes.

Having said that, these paragraphs don't make sense to me:

Hot opposition to rail on Richmond flared red in the Nov. 7 election, but a Houston Chronicle analysis of the vote suggests that outside the most vocal neighborhoods the passion drops off.


Wong first won the District 134 seat in 2002 and held it in 2004, but this time she lost by 12 percentage points despite the district's Republican-leaning history. In the district's seven precincts that include or border Richmond, Cohen drew 59 percent of the vote and Wong 38 percent, with the remainder going to a Libertarian candidate.

In 2004, Wong took 45 percent in those same precincts, which run from Graustark to the West Loop. Although some of the precincts extend north to Westheimer, all of their voters live less than a mile from Richmond and most are much closer.

The problem with this is that paragraph 1 implies that there was some kind of anti-Richmond rail effect that was visible in the returns from the precincts close to Richmond Ave, when as we've already seen what there was specifically contradicts that, which those subsequent paragraphs acknowledge. The story is very simple: Being anti-Richmond rail did not help Martha Wong. It may or may not have hurt her, but it did not help her. Period.

Now we'll see what feedback I get from the Chron. Stay tuned.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on December 03, 2006 to Election 2006 | TrackBack

2 observations about the rail effect:
you might want to consider the plunge in Wong's vote percentage in 2002-04-06 in the possible LRT-alignment precincts, which range from as little as 10 pts up to 17 pts - huge drops even in precincts Wong carried in 02 and 04. Her high-handed attempt to ride on Culberson's antirail coattail without canvassing any constituents south of 59, her badgering of the West U city council, her pretentious lecturing to concerned civic associations (other than Afton Oaks) definitely had something to do with voting patterns in those precincts.

in Sept and Oct there was an under the radar effort to inform voters in precincts 137, 360, and 570 - the Westpark alignment precincts - that Wong had lied about polling her constituents in those precincts before going public with her anti-Richmond position. The issue was couched in terms of what constituents deserve from an elected official in regard to effective representation and honesty rather than specifically the LRT alignment. Cohen's campaign had absolutely nothing to do with this block-walking/emailing effort, which was organized and executed by Repub, Dem, and Ind neighbors fed up with Wong's LRT act.

Posted by: IHB2 on December 3, 2006 4:22 PM

Rumor has it that James Campbell is the Chronic's code name for circular file.

Posted by: Charles Hixon on December 3, 2006 4:38 PM

I have sent an email to Rad Sallee and James Campbell pointing this out and asking why my work was not acknowledged.

There's only an obligation to acknowledge your work if your work was quoted or otherwise incorporated in the story. Are you asserting that Rad Sallee copied your work without attribution?

That would be a pretty strong assertion, for which you've provided no evidence. And that's more Rick Casey's style than Rad Sallee's.

If by "our area", Scarbrough means "the precincts east of Kirby that include Richmond", then Scarborough is right. That's definitely Democratic turf. However, if she meant all of HD134 (which is my interpretation)

Her business is east of Kirby on Richmond. Thus, your interpretation is likely wrong.

Posted by: Kevin Whited on December 3, 2006 6:23 PM

I am not alleging plagiarism. I am pointing out that I reported this on the Chronicle's site two weeks ago. It is certainly possible that nobody was aware of this. I wanted to make sure that they were.

Moreover, I think that there should be more awareness of what content exists in the Chron reader blogs. I believe that someone should have known about this. Had it appeared only on this site, that would be different. But it appeared on their site, under their brand. I believe there should be some awareness of that.

Posted by: Charles Kuffner on December 3, 2006 6:32 PM

I read the article in the paper today and the analysis did not make sense. Ms. Scarbrough's business is just east of Shepherd. For some reason, she gets quoted all the time and it appears that her opinions are representative of the neighborhood. I can assure you, as someone who lives one block from her business, THEY ARE NOT!! Only the businesses on Richmond (at least east of Kirby) are anti-Richmond rail. Those of us who live near Richmond are in favor of rail on Richmond.

Posted by: Bob on December 3, 2006 9:48 PM


In all fairness to Rad, he likely does not read the Chron blog. Although, there should be one of the editors alert enough to check it from time to time.

It seemed to me that Rep. Wong's opponent benefitted significantly from the pro-urban rail "special interests."

This is the nature of politics.

BTW - Matt Stiles wrote an interesting story about the significant number of contributors to COH politicians who blatantly violated the "blackout period" seemingly with impunity.

Posted by: Royko on December 4, 2006 12:03 AM

Does Rad live in Afton Village? His reasoning in that piece is sloppy: Martha Wong got beat soundly, it had nothing to do with rail, so that means that rail is bad bad bad. He still doesn't understand that 100-year infrastructure projects can't be built from the perspective of a two-year election cycle. He should resign from the Chronicle and go to work for Culberson's office.

Posted by: Scott Singleton on December 4, 2006 9:04 AM