There seems to be some confusion about what I was trying to show with my posts on the Richmond Rail Effect from this past election. I think way more is being made about what I said and what the data says than I intended. Let me try to clear this up.
My thesis was very simple: Would John Culberson's vehement anti-Richmond rail stance help him in the precincts that immediately surround the affected stretch of Richmond Ave? Rich Connelly summed up what I was looking for in his Houston Press article on Jim Henley:
Usually [the inner-loop neighborhoods along Richmond] could be relied on for some Democratic support, but they are mightily pissed at Metro for trying to build a light-rail line through their neighborhoods. Culberson has made clear he agrees with them, and if reelected he'd be a formidable ally for the residents.
So imagine you're a typical Montrose liberal who happens to oppose rail on Richmond. Normally, you'd support Jim Henley against John Culberson because Henley is more in tune with your general belief system. But not this year. This year, you don't care about Iraq or immigration or gay marriage or the culture of corruption or any of those other things. This year, you will break out of your normal habit of pushing the Democratic button, at least in this election (and maybe one other), because you care more about that damned light rail line than you do about those other things, and you know that Culberson has promised to do everything in his not-inconsiderable power to keep it out of your front yard. It's as simple as that.
And that's what I was looking for in the data - any evidence that the normal partisan preference for those areas might have changed this year, in this election. If so - if Culberson had gained support in places like the liberal Montrose precincts - I would have concluded that his vocal anti-Richmond rail stance had won over people who would not otherwise be inclined to vote for him. I'd come to that conclusion because what else could explain it? Nothing that I can think of.
The rest you already know. There is no evidence in the precinct data to support the idea that being anti-Richmond rail moved votes into Culberson's column. He lost support in every precinct surrounding Richmond except for Afton Oaks. He lost votes overall in the surrounding area. He underperformed relative to other Republicans in those precincts, meaning that it wasn't the case that it was just the bad year for the GOP that did him in. He even lost support in the precincts along Westpark, just as he lost support along Richmond. In short, there is absolutely no evidence to suggest that being anti-rail on Richmond was a winning issue for Culberson. Which is what I've been saying all along.
As for Martha Wong, I'd agree that the Richmond rail issue was not as big a deal in her campaign as it was in Culberson's. But her position was no secret:
Some 350 people arrived in cars, buses and light rail trains Thursday to hear 28 of them advise the Metro board on whether its planned University line should go on Richmond Avenue.
State Rep. Martha Wong, one of five elected officials who spoke, also favored Westpark. Wong said many small businesses on Richmond would suffer while Westpark has relatively few to be affected.
"We voted on it to go down Westpark, and we feel you ought to follow the vote," said Wong, R-Houston.
Opponents of a Metro light rail line being considered for Richmond Avenue found no allies in their fight to reroute the line to Westpark Drive at West University Place's City Council meeting Monday.
State Rep. Martha Wong, R-District 134, and a small contingent of business owners and stakeholders trying to stop Metro from placing its University Line project along Richmond Avenue appeared before the council to gauge the city's interest in joining them in their effort to route the line on Westpark.
[West University] Council voted unanimously to support the Metro Solutions Transit Plan to construct the University Corridor light rail line along Richmond Avenue, a topic that has been emotionally debated, particularly by southeast residents.
[Council member Mike] Woods criticized state Rep. Martha Wong, R-Houston, saying he feels Wong's apparent support of a Westpark rail alignment does not represent the interests of West University.
"In the spring, she came before council stating her support for a Westpark line and asking for ours," he said. "I don't feel that rail on the Westpark side is in the best interest of Greater Houston. Rail is a regional issue, and the discomfort to immediate areas during construction is unfortunate but inevitable to the success of an effective rail system."
On another issue during the debate, Cohen deflected a question about whether Metro's University light rail line should run on Richmond, saying that the Legislature has nothing to do with Metro.
Wong reproached Cohen, saying the Legislature authorized the creation of local transit authorities in 1973.
Basically, anyone who paid any attention to the issues in this affluent, educated, well-informed district knew who stood where. And again, if there was any propensity for voters to override their normal preferences based on opposition to rail on Richmond, it simply does not show up in the precinct data. Wong did worse than Culberson in these areas. And again, as before, I can't say that being against rail on Richmond cost Wong votes, but I can and do say that it did not gain her any.
I hope this clears things up. Any questions, let me know.Posted by Charles Kuffner on December 04, 2006 to Election 2006 | TrackBack