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Texas Tribune

Sery Kim

Poor baby.

A Texas congressional candidate on Monday sued The Texas Tribune for defamation, claiming that the newspaper wrongly identified her as a “racist.”

In an article, Texas Tribune political reporter Patrick Svitek reported on comments made by Sery Kim, a Korean American who is on the ballot for Texas’s 6th Congressional District, during a GOP forum March 31. Responding to a question about U.S. immigration, Kim reportedly said, “I don’t want them here at all.” According to the Tribune, she was referring to Chinese immigrants.

“They steal our intellectual property, they give us coronavirus, they don’t hold themselves accountable,” she continued, according to the Tribune.

“And quite frankly, I can say that because I’m Korean,” she reportedly added.

The Tribune article in question ran with the headline, “GOP congressional candidate in Texas special election loses prominent supporters after racist comment about Chinese immigrants.”

Following these comments, two of Kim’s largest backers, California Reps. Young Kim (R) and Michelle Steel (R) — the first two Korean American Republicans to serve in Congress — pulled their endorsements for her.

In the lawsuit, Kim claimed that the Tribune “rendered judgment on what is the standard for a racist comment” by using the quote from Kim, “I don’t want them here at all,” later adding that “The Texas Tribune’s direct quote from Sery Kim does not have any words relating to China, Chinese, Chinese immigrants or any nouns or pronouns or even adjectives other than ‘them.’ ”

According to the lawsuit, the paper acted with actual malice by writing “outside of the direct quote made by Sery Kim,” the phrase Chinese immigrants “to paint Sery Kim as a racist.”

The lawsuit adds that “at no point” during the forum “did Sery Kim, in direct quotes, say she didn’t want Chinese immigrants here at all.”

I didn’t write about the original story because “Republican candidate says something stupid and offensive” is hardly noteworthy. This is next level, so I have to give her some props. My vast experience in reading and watching legal dramas makes me fully qualified to say that this will be laughed out of court, and if a bunch of Twitter commenters are correct, could subject her to court costs due to Texas’ anti-SLAPP law. I will say this much: If the goal was to stand out in an extremely crowded special election field, she has accomplished that.

The Trib and the Chron get together

A peek at what to expect in the Sunday Chron:

Coming Sunday: A Houston Chronicle and Texas Tribune investigation finds children living in residential treatment centers have been provoked to fight, been punched and choked, forced to strip down to their underwear, and have engaged in sexual acts with staffers. The state of Texas spends millions of dollars each year to care for these teens and children. At least 250 times in the last two years, those same children have been physically or emotionally abused, records show.

I’d say I’m looking forward to reading that, except for the fact that it sounds awful and I’m sure I’ll feel the need for a stiff drink afterward. But I’m glad for the collaboration. The Trib has done a fine job on stories like this, and it’s a good thing if they get more exposure. Evan Smith has more.

UPDATE: The story itself is here and here. It’s a difficult one to read. More on the Chron/Trib partnership is here.

More polls coming

Bring it on, I say.

Blum and Weprin Associates in New York, a veteran survey firm specializing in political polling, will conduct the polls on candidate matchups, public policy and other political issues. Blum and Weprin Associates have polled Texas political races for several state newspapers in the past and have extensive experience working in Texas and across the country.

The surveys will canvass likely voters, using standard methodology, telephone interviews and a sample size that will result in the most accurate results available before the March primary elections.

The partnership agreement allows the newspapers to leverage their extensive reach and political expertise. In addition to covering the survey results, each of the papers will use staffers in their home offices and in the state Capitol to tailor special stories for their regional readership and online users.

The newspapers in question are the five major dailies, who have joined together to fund this effort. Good for them, I say, as does Evan. More polling data is better than less, and 2010 is a year we’ll definitely want more of it. I look forward to seeing what they have to say.

Me in the Trib

You might have noticed, when you opened your metaphorical copy of the Texas Tribune this morning, that they’re hosting a discussion between myself and David Benzion on the merits of Houston Mayor and (by God we sure hope he’s a) candidate for Governor of Texas Bill White. You can find the discussion, which we’re conducting by email, here. They’re updating that post each time one of us replies to the other. It’s going to go through Thursday, after which White will (please! pretty please!) end the suspense by confirming that he is in fact a candidate for Governor. So check it out, leave a comment, and let me know what you think. My thanks to Evan Smith for the chance to clutter up their homepage.

The Texas Trib and its polls

I’ve been so immersed in the Houston elections that I forgot to give a warm welcome to the Texas Tribune, which made its debut on Tuesday. I really like the look of the site, I like their lineup of writers, and I like what they’re aiming to do. Once their RSS feeds become available, I’ll be really happy. So welcome aboard, y’all. I look forward to seeing what you can do.

One thing in particular I’m interested in is their polling center, which assimilated the Texas Politics Project. Their first effort has drawn some criticism, much of which boils down to what Paul Burka says:

I will tell you up front that I do not know enough about statistics to know whether [their methodology] is reliable or not. I do know enough to know that this methodology is not truly random, because everybody who signed up has manifested enough interest in politics to want to be surveyed.


Internet polling is probably the future of polling, and the UT/Tribune poll is our best hope for a regular flow of campaign information, so I’m going to have to get used to it. But my confidence level is not very high.

The good news is that the more of this they do, the more of a track record they’ll build by which we can judge them. Remember that SurveyUSA, whose absence in Texas Burka rightly laments, was once viewed skeptically because it used an automated interactive script to get people to push buttons on their phone in response to questions instead of talking to a live person. If the TxP polls prove to be as accurate as SUSA has been, we’ll look back at this some day and wonder what we were afraid of.

But that’s a few years, or at least a few dozen polls, away. What we have to go on now is their October 2008 polls of the Presidential and Senate races. The results they got – McCain 51, Obama 40, Barr 1; and Cornyn 45, Noriega 36, Schick 5 – aren’t bad; they did come pretty close to the actual margin of victory in each race. Here’s what I wrote at the time.

I’ll note that whatever else one may think, the results are in line with most other recent polls, the last Rasmussen Senate poll being an exception. The (too) high number of undecideds skews things a bit – in particular, for the one bit of sample breakdown that we do get, the poll claims 16% of black respondents and 17% of Hispanics are undecided in the Senate race. I can just about guarantee you that a large majority of each will ultimately cast their ballots for Rick Noriega. On the flip side, I think the five percent showing for Libertarian Yvonne Schick is too high – I believe she’ll ultimately get two to three percent, with the rest mostly going back to Cornyn.

In case you’re curious, Yvonne Schick ultimately got 2.34% of the vote. Sometimes these predictions are easy to make.The point is that after they’ve polled the gubernatorial primaries in February, the general election races in October, and the (special?) Senate election whenever, we’ll have a much better idea if we’re dealing with reliable data or for-entertainment-purposes-only stuff. My advice is to poll as many races as you can, close to the election whenever possible, and let the chips fall where they may.

The Texas Tribune

Very cool.

The longtime editor of Texas Monthly magazine will team with an Austin venture capitalist to form a nonprofit news Web site devoted to government and politics in the Lone Star state.

With a large bankroll, a staff at the outset of about eight journalists, and the cachet of Evan Smith, the Texas Monthly editor, the new venture, called the Texas Tribune, hopes to be an immediate force on the state’s political landscape, much as Politico became two years ago in national politics. Many local news organizations have cut back on statehouse coverage, and the creators of the Texas Tribune plan not only to post news on their own site, but also to supply it to newspapers around the state.

“This is not about horse race politics, primarily,” Mr. Smith, who will have the title of chief executive, said in an interview. “It’s going to be a lot of deep-dive policy stuff. We have the lowest voting turnout in the country. We have a number of major issues that get no attention or insufficient attention by the people we elect.”

My congratulations to Evan Smith and to former Houston Chronicle reporter Matt Stiles, who will be joining Smith on staff at the Texas Trib. I’m excited to see what kind of coverage they will produce. Just one question: does this mean that Eileen will finally be in charge at Texas Monthly?

The chairman of Texas Tribune is John Thornton, general partner of Austin Ventures, a venture capital firm, who said he has given $1 million to the project and has raised $2.2 million, and plans to raise $4 million from individuals and foundations by the time it begins, possibly in November. Other nonprofit local news sites in places like the Twin Cities, San Diego, St. Louis and Chicago started with significantly less money behind them.

“We want to have at least two years’ runway, even if there’s no additional revenue, and preferably three,” he said.

An active supporter of Texas Democrats, Mr. Thornton, 44, who is based in Austin, said he is giving up partisan politics for the sake of the Texas Tribune. He said the new venture has quietly approached reporters and editors about joining, and that with many journalists unemployed, and others worried that their employers will keep shrinking, “talent ain’t the issue.”

Thornton was a year ahead of me at Trinity. He’s been blogging about the changing face and realities of media and its finances for some time now, so the fact that he launched something like this is no surprise to me. I wish him and his crew good luck with this venture, and will be very interested to see if it can be as successful as they hope.