Crunching the Iowa City Numbers
With a collective yawn the Iowa City primary is over, and we have a contradictory set of numbers: a giant landslide AND the closest result in city primary history, both on the same night.
But the night's big number is a small number: 1,872 voters. That shatters the previous low turnout record for a city primary of 2,475 set in 1999. Not so many cycles ago Iowa City regularly saw 5,000 people at the polls for an October primary.
Susan Mims places first, 79 votes ahead of Terry Dickens. The differences are subtle. Mims has slight but consistent leads over Dickens in the progressive strongholds like precincts 18 and 21, Manville Heights (precinct 4) and on the west side (2, 8, 9) while Dickens was a little ahead on the southeast side (precincts 12 and 14) and the parts of the east side where every-election seniors vote (6, 16, 23 and 25). While the numbers were tiny, Mims can claim one coup: she actually carried one of the CAMPUS precincts, precinct 5 at the UI library.
From Mims' 75 percent and Dickens' 71 percent we take a huuuuuuge drop to Jeff Shipley's 15 percent and 275 votes. Shipley's slightly higher profile as the current City Council student liaison probably gave him a slight edge, and he ran well in the off-campus student precincts (11 and 19).
To put Shipley's 275 votes in perspective, that's fewer than past candidates like sixth-place Rachel Hardesty and seventh-place Holly Berkowitz drew in higher-turnout 2003, and less than half of what student Brian Davis won in a distant fifth-place finish in 2001 (the last year with a truly high turnout primary).
Dan Tallon and Jared Bazzell trailed, with Tallon making the cut for November with a seven vote edge. It's the first truly close city-wide primary we've ever had (Ross Wilburn beat Gary Sanders for the last spot in 1997 by 59--and to put THAT in perspective, Sanders had more votes in fifth place in 1997 than Mims had in FIRST tonight).
What gives Tallon seven more votes? When it's that close it's hard to say. Might be whoever had a bigger social circle, but I'll bet that DI endorsement Monday swayed more than seven people. DI readers were looking for cues on which of the three students to back. The Press-Citizen endorsement of everyone except Tallon mattered less, because their readers were already settled on the Long Time Resident candidates anyway.
I saw fewer write-ins from frustrated progressives with no horse in the race than I expected. My guess, based solely on a hunch and the returns from Longfellow and Horace Mann, is that they bullet-voted for Mims. (And/or accounted for some of that turnout dropoff.)
Candidates have often come back from third place finishes in October to the top two in November--but never from as far back as Shipley and Tallon are now. The turnout profile of the electorate will have to fundamentally change to something more like the 2007 city election (which of course had that well organized well financed high profile 21 bar vote). And the signs from the primary don't indicate that yet.