Rettig Wins Big In Polarized Election
Janelle Rettig comes in with an 1800 vote margin over Lori Cardella. No way to call that anything but a big win. But more than most elections, this one shows fault lines under the surface.
Rettig won every precinct in the immediate urban area - Iowa City, Coralville, and UHeights -- save for a tie in low turnout Iowa City 7 (where the new mansions vote and Pheasant Ridge and Hawkeye Court don't.) Outside of town, Rettig won only Solon city and, by one vote, Penn.
Janelle took Obama-like margins in the core liberal precincts: 78% at Iowa City 18 (Longfellow), 81% at Iowa City 21 (Mann). Thrown in a big 77% in Iowa City 4 (Manville Heights) where good-government types always do well. And she did better than many liberal candidates on the east side with 60s and 70s. The only close urban areas were the high-income precincts: Iowa City 8 (Weber) and 16 (Windsor Ridge) and Coralville 6 (Wickham).
And interestingly, Rettig performed strongly on the southeast side, an area where conservative candidates for local office often run well. (The Broadway and Lakeside residents don't vote, the homeowners, many of them empty-nesters, do vote.) 68% in my own Precinct 10, 63% in Precinct 12 (Grant Wood), 61% in 14 (Twain) and 65% in 15 (Southeast). Not bad for a candidate tagged as "tax and spend" in the part of town that leans no when spending measures are on the ballot.
The rural area turned out a couple percentage points higher (10%) than Iowa City (7%). But for Iowa City, you need factor out a lot of absentees (Rettig: 73%) and factor in the non-existent student turnout. The higher turnout Iowa City precincts had similar turnout percentages as most of the rurals, with the exception of 20% plus turnout in three north-rural precincts: Big Grove, Cedar and Newport.
Newport was ground zero for this seat nearly four years ago, when Larry Meyers knocked off Mike Lehman in a high turnout primary. Cardella carried Newport, by a relatively close 55% to 42%. Rettig maintained dignity in rural precincts with some suburban and commuter influence, but was whomped in the pure farm precincts. Cardella rolled up 80% in Pleasant Valley and 86% in Monroe. Of course, those are two of the smallest precincts.
More fuel to the farm vote theory: Cardella took 52% in Tiffin (all town) but jumped to 73 percent in surrounding Clear Creek (all farm), and lost Solon (all town) with 45% while winning Big Grove (mixed farm and commuter) with 63.
In all, Rettig carried the election day vote 52% to 44% for Cardella. Total turnout landed at 11%, below any of the other recent county-wide contests.
The overall result, a 20 point win, was as big a win as Carol Thompson got in the 1999 special, or (reversing polarity) as rural conservaDem Don Sehr won in 1994, when it was the liberals who petitioned for the special election. (The streak holds: the side that petitions loses.) It was also a very similar margin to that conservation bond from the 2008 presidential, the first time Cardella and Rettig clashed. I haven't lined the numbers up by precinct yet, but I suspect a pretty close correlation despite this year's very different electorate.
It's hard to imagine a better scenario for Cardella: a low turnout special with the students safely out of town. As for Jim Knapp, who carried the homophobia ball this election, he finishes at 3 percent, even worse than his last place showing (behind a candidate who'd dropped out) in the 2004 Democratic primary.