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Mother Jones on Martha Wong

Mother Jones has a profile of Martha Wong that’s worth reading. There are a few things to discuss in it, starting with the headline “Deep in DeLay Country, a Backlash Takes Shape”. Personally, I think of Fort Bend as “DeLay Country”, not HD134, but maybe that’s just me. I also think an article on the feisty countywide campaigns being waged by the Fort Bend Democrats might have been more illuminative of the backlash effect, but whatever.

Right off the bat, we get this:

Until recently, few people in Houston would have called Martha Wong conservative. She was the first Asian American elected to the city council in this blue-collar town and was a champion of immigrant workers; once in office, she fought for hiring more Chinese-speaking police officers, funding low-income housing, and preserving the bus system. Urban voters sent the Republican to the state Legislature in 2002, believing she was a political moderate.

I guess that’s a matter of perspective. I’ve thought of Martha Wong as a conservative ever since the thong incident while she was on City Council. I can’t speak to the items cited during her term on Council, as I wasn’t paying particularly close attention back then, but her campaign slogan for State Rep has been “Be Right, Vote Wong” all along. Frankly, I think that’s a pretty sizeable clue as to her true nature.

As Wong climbed the rungs of power at the state Capitol, however, she seemed to cast aside many groups that define her district. For example, environmentalists have been drawing attention to extraordinarily high ozone levels in the part of Houston that Wong represents, yet Wong voted against five separate clean air measures. Schools are a big issue in the highly educated district, yet Wong, a former elementary school principal, opposed a bipartisan proposal to raise teacher salaries. Wong acknowledges that voters in her district are independent-minded yet in an interview couldn’t cite a single instance in which she’d voted against her party. The closest she came was on a proposed constitutional amendment banning gay marriage: She supported defining marriage as a union “between a man and a woman” but opposed a ban on civil unions. “Since voting either for or against the bill would have put me in conflict with my beliefs,” she wrote in a statement, “I abstained.”

“We might as well have a mannequin in the chair,” says Jeffrey Dorrell, a precinct chair in Wong’s district for more than a decade. Dorrell supported Wong over a more conservative Republican in the 2002 primary and then watched with chagrin as she scrambled once in office to demonstrate GOP bona fides. Dorrell, who is gay, is so angry about Wong’s stance on the marriage amendment – which was opposed by nearly 60 percent of District 134 voters – that he has resigned his post with the party and is organizing “Republicans for Cohen.”

The ironic thing, of course, is that an abstention on HJR6 really was as good as a No vote, since it needed 100 Yes votes to pass. That said, Wong voted yes in committee, which allowed HJR6 to come to the floor. That’s where she really could have made a difference, and she chose party loyalty over her district. I’m not exactly shedding a tear for her as a result. The fact that she couldn’t think of a single example beyond that of bucking her leadership tells you everything else you need to know.

The rumors that I hear say that the Republicans expect to lose this race. That stuff comes to me at least second hand, so take it for what it’s worth. I’ve thought all along that Ellen Cohen was the candidate to take Martha Wong out, and I see no reason to change that assessment. I will be surprised if this isn’t a pickup for the Dems next week.

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One Comment

  1. kevin whited says:

    The rumors that I hear say that the Republicans expect to lose this race.

    That’s not like that Hutchison/DMN/Perry poll rumor is it? 😉