Tuesday, March 28, 2006

June Primary: The Local Angle

June Primary: The Local Angle

Tomorrow's the deadline to file for county offices in the June primary.

I've said it several times before but this is a big factor in the top of the ticket races. A lot of counties, like my own, are dominated by one party. In Johnson County the Democratic primary is the de facto general election for courthouse jobs. The last GOP county supervisor lost in 1962 and since then only two Republicans have won courthouse jobs:

  • In `72 the Democrats split in the sheriff's race; an unusually strong Republican won and kept the job till 1988.

  • In 1980 an employee of the Democratic Clerk of Court filed to run against her boss as a Republican - and was immediately fired. As a result of the ensuing hubbub she knocked off her boss. But that was a fluke and she lost in 1984 (the last year that job was an elected post).

    In counties like ours it's the local stuff, rather than the top of the ticket, that drives turnout in the primary. In 2004 Johnson County had had two hot courthouse races with open seats. This led to the highest turnout Democratic primary in the state. Not by percentage: by number of voters.

    There's some undervoting on top of the ticket contests, especially by crossover voters, but geographic variations in turnout will have a ripple effect on the top-ballot races. Conversely, the top of the ticket situation affects the local races. The Nussle-Vander Plaats deal means no significant GOP contests and frees local Republicans to interfere, er, cross over, to Democratic races here in the People's Republic.

    (Aside: This practice appalls me and I would prefer a truly closed primary without the "Democrat for a day" sham we see around here. I recognize that all trends are in the opposite direction - but it undercuts the integrity of a party.)

    I've seen some commentary on the variable turnout dynamic in the context of the 1st CD primary. Not sure how that cuts; Culver's father held the predecessor distict and was succeeded by Blouin. Republicans have a big contest so they'll stay in their own party; there's also a primary challenger in Maggie Tinsman's Scott County senate district.

    Near as I know nobody has looked at this on the courthouse level. Looks like a job for... the bloggers! Any co-conspirators out there know about any hot local races? And how does high vs. low turnout cut in your county in the governor's race? Looking forwards to your updates after 5 tomorrow, and I'll fill you in on ours.
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