Primary Shocker Sets Up Two-Way November Race
Mark McCallum, who came within 200 votes of knocking off Connie Champion two years ago, didn't even make it through the primary tonight, falling 17 votes short of a candidate best known for reviving the urban chicken proposal from a couple years back.
Jarrett Mitchell's surprise fourth place, and incumbent Matt Hayek's overwhelming first place (full results), rearranges what I - and most observers - had expected to be a complicated, strategic, Survivor kind of November election for the two at large seats.
Now all is clear: The second seat is a choice between Mid-American Energy operations supervisor and registered Republican Michelle Payne and Raj Patel, who has the best shot in a lifetime at being the first student elected to the city council since David Perret was re-elected in 1979. (That would be the best shot in Raj's lifetime, not mine.)
It's likely to be a contentious race. The Press-Citizen is already lined up behind Payne, and the university higher-ups are not taking kindly to Patel's bid. But Patel seems ready to deal with the realities of Iowa City in the post-21 era (more ready than I am, frankly) despite all the payback efforts.
It was a close contest for second, with Payne finishing 69 votes ahead of Patel. Candidates have overcome much bigger gaps to move from third to second in the 27 day sprint to the final round.
Mitchell is clearly far enough behind that he's not a factor as anything but a spoiler. Both Payne and Patel nearly tripled his votes. Progressives who might cast a whimsical vote for the libertarian Chicken Guy, and stick with Hayek because "he's a good Democrat," may find themselves feeling the Payne.
And while Iowa City has a significant Vote For The Woman vote (really subtle with the pink yard signs there, Michelle), Payne is no Regenia Bailey or Amy Correia. Registering as a Republican in a 70% Obama county is a statement of values that she needs to explayne. And Raj represents diversity in his own way.
I've made my point, progressives, you know what to do. Now let's crunch numbers in order of finish.
Matt Hayek: Da Mayor appears to have lost little support from his near-consensus election in 2007. He finished first in 19 precincts and carried, narrowly over Patel, the absentees. He was over 80% in high turnout places like Manville Heights, Regina, and City High. It seems the "townie" vote was "Hayek and," mostly Hayek and...
Michelle Payne: I had expected the night's big story would be comparing results between "business" candidates Payne and McCallum, but the Balmer-backed Payne was clearly the old guard choice. She broke 50% of the vote in 10 precincts, mainly on the far east and far west sides where conservative candidates always do well. But she also ran well in Manville Heights, where lots of Vote For The Woman voters live.
Raj Patel: Patel has already broken a barrier. He becomes the first student candidate ever to advance from a primary to November by defeating non-students. (Jeff Shipley and Dan Tallon made November in 2009, but they only ran ahead of a third student, Jared Bazzell, to get there.)
And Patel has already proven himself a stronger candidate than the 2009 contenders by winning votes outside the core downtown precincts, four of which he won. Sure, it was the usual obscenely high percentages, low numbers that all student candidates get (91% with 31 votes at the courthouse). But he didn't have the three vote precincts that past students have scored.
Patel also - and this is one of the night's big stories - won precinct 15 at Southeast Junior High, and ran strong seconds across the southeast side. He also finished second at Longfellow, in progressive stronghold precinct 18. But he wasn't as strong in the other lefty bastion, Horace Mann's precinct 21, which was one of the few bright spots for also-rans Richard Finley and Josh Eklow. Weak on the east side, as one would expect from Love The Hawkeyes Hate The Students voters.
Jarrett Mitchell: We're now in a completely different tier. Mitchell's numbers are competing with McCallum's, not with Payne's and Patel's. Mitchell claimed the last slot with absentees: his 19 vote margin in early votes offset McCallum's two-vote lead on election day.
Mitchell showed a few pockets of strong support: lefty precincts 18 and 21 (did they know he was a registered Libertarian?) and, interestingly, he scored 38% in low turnout precinct 10 on the south side. Mitchell picked up a handful of votes on the east side but won, literally, almost zero on the west side.
Mark McCallum: What happened? McCallum has been burned by the business community twice now. They recruited him in 2009 when Connie Champion was supposed to retire, than scuttled him when she didn't. Then they picked Payne over him this year. But still: couldn't beat the chicken guy?
Theories: Bullet voting was highest in student precincts, where McCallum might have had some support. (But oddly, McCallum ran ahead of Patel and actually WON precinct 5 on campus, although turnout was tiny.) And McCallum was identifed, from 2009, as Business Guy. Payne was identified not as Mid-American Republican but as Only Woman. So Payne scored the vast majority of "Hayek And" votes.
Richard Finley and Josh Eklow: Not much to see here. They splintered some votes, probably from Patel and/or Mitchell and mostly in lefty precincts. Still, Finley got more votes in sixth place - all of 213 - than Dan Tallon got in fourth two years ago.
The Bullet Vote Factor: Citywide, 1.8 votes cast per voter. That means, by best guess, that about 20 percent of voters only picked one candidate. Basically, the more townie the precinct, the more votes per voter (Horn School: 1.93) and presumably the more Hayek And. Downtown and on campus, it dropped down to 1.7 or 1.6, so 30 to 40 percent were picking just their favorite candidate, mostly Patel.
Turnout: Pitiful, but less pitiful than record low 2009 when the townies didn't care much about which two of three students got to lose to Terry Dickens and Susan Mims in November. It was about comparable to 1999, when there was one strong incumbent, three interesting but flawed contenders, and a fifth candidate who refused to campaign. But that set up the closest November election in city history, which got decided by two votes.
So, game on. And that's not even counting the Steve Soboroff-Rick Dobyns district A race. I will go out on a limb and predict a Jim Throgmorton win.