So I’m reading this article about opposition to the Trans Texas Corridor by folks who are living on or near the proposed path for I-69, and a question strikes me.
Although TxDOT has heard a nearly unanimous negative verdict from residents of the area, Dennis Mlcak is not sure how much that matters.
“They keep pushing this thing, and it keeps marching in a forward direction, so we can’t really wait and see if it will die of its own accord,” he said.
The Mlcaks’ friends, Dane and Maxine Rudloff, whose property lies along I-10 near Sealy, have been through this before. When I-10 was built in the 1960s, the family had to sell 13½ acres for right of way. The road cut off 50 acres from what was left.
“We could see it, but eventually we sold it,” Dane Rudloff said. “My mother-in-law went to her grave fuming about that.”
So here’s my question: Has opposition to the Trans Texas Corridor been a deciding factor in any race for state office? I’m hard pressed to think of one. The anti-TTC folks claimed victory when Rep. Carter Casteel lost her GOP primary in 2006, and while every vote counts in a close race like that, it was James Leininger’s millions that put Nathan Macias in a position to win. I suppose you can count Rep. Mike Krusee’s retirement as a win, but it was demographic and partisan trends that knocked him out – Bill Moody scored 47.8% in HD52 (PDF) in 2006.
Beyond that, I got nothing. I thought the anti-TTC fervor would play a role in the 2006 Governor’s race, and maybe it did drive some voters from Rick Perry to Grandma Strayhorn or Kinky Friedman (who spoke the most clearly against the TTC on the trail), but in the end Perry won, and he beat back the toll road moratorium in the Lege. If the Governor’s race were this year instead of 2010, that might be an issue, though I daresay other things would overshadow it. If it’s an issue in any State House races, I haven’t noticed it yet.
Another factor to consider:
It is from there — the ranches and small towns of Walker, Grimes, Waller, Fort Bend and Austin counties — that some of the most unyielding opposition has come.
Walker, Grimes, and Austin Counties are all represented by State Rep. Lois Kolkhorst, who was one of the strongest anti-TTC voices in the Lege last session. Waller and the relevant part of Fort Bend are represented by freshman Rep. John Zerwas, who is also an opponent of the TTC. In other words, these folks already have champions in office, so there’s no reason for the TTC to be a big electoral issue. The fact that these four counties plus a slice of Fort Bend only cover two districts demonstrates that however deep the feelings are, it’s not very broad in terms of population. These folks may be passionate, but there’s not that many of them, and that’s not a recipe for success at the ballot box.
If there was an inviting target for their wrath, it would have been State Sen. Steve Ogden, who represents Walker and Grimes counties and is a strong proponent of the TTC, but he won easily in 2006 over a typically underfunded candidate. (Sen. Glenn Hegar represents Waller, Austin, and Fort Bend; he had no Democratic opponent in 2006.) As I see it, until and unless a statewide candidate taps into this sentiment and converts it into votes he or she would not have already had – which is to say, until and unless a Democrat convinces these generally Republican voters to cross over – the TTC will not be much of a campaign issue. The spirit may be willing, but the numbers are weak.