Wednesday, November 04, 2015

Core 4, Old Guard 0


Just - WOW.

Even in my best case scenarios, even as I was watching turnout in the lefty Longfellow neighborhood running ahead of townie bastion Lemme - never did I let myself hope for a SWEEP.

For decades, we scrapped to pick up just ONE seat a cycle, or even settled for replacing a Neanderthal with a moderate.

But today we ran the table, gaining three seats and holding one, and we swung the council from a 5-2 majority for the developer-landlord class that has run the town for forever, to a 5-2 progressive majority.

For the first time ever, the People's Republic of Johnson County has voted, in a city election, in a way that resembles the way we vote in general elections.

And it's not just a win for the next four years. In a very big way, this is a permanent win for Iowa City progressives. Because the old guard lost something more important than Dobyns and Payne and Hayek's open seat today. They lost their scare tactic.
These accomplishments are the result of careful planning, prudent budgeting and operational efficiencies. They reflect a balance between investment in our future and adherence to our values.

A group of city council candidates threatens this balance. They call themselves the “Core Four” and seek a majority on the council. One of them is presently suing the city. Another says our community is not “just” and wants to issue public debt to fund his pet causes. All of them are unabashedly running as a slate.

If this slate wins, the next mayor will likely be Jim Throgmorton. We will return to the anti-growth, micromanaging city hall of eras past. We will lose the critical progress made by recent councils with the help of talented professional staff. We will jeopardize the city’s long-term ability to fund important social services for our most vulnerable populations.

Matt Hayek, Press-Citizen, October 14, 2015
This is the latest, and final, distillation of the argument that the powers that be have been making for all of my 25 years here and long before. That they and only they had the ability to govern the city, and that without them the barbarians - the "Kubby crazies" or "Kanner and Pfab" - would scare business away and destroy our tax base and generally despoil our fair city. They coded their flyers with "Lifelong Resident" and their voters, older or born here, responded in fear or in spite.

They never had to PROVE it - because the progressives were never given the chance to govern. We came close, briefly, in the mid 90s, but even coming close escalated the scare tactics and swept away two seats in 1995.

Well now, the progressives have the chance to govern. We have a four year chance to prove what "responsible growth" really means and prove that it works, that it's not "micromanaging" and "pet projects." And when we do it, it takes away the old guard's scare tactic forever.

Hayek's ham-handed editorial was a turning point in the campaign. Its hostility showed the outgoing majority's true colors - remember, Hayek got elected as a consensus moderate but grew more conservative with each passing year in office. Rather than producing the usual scare, as it was intended, it produced a backlash , and motivated progressives to an organizational and energy level never seen before.

There was also a synergy with other events.  The controversial hiring of UI president Bruce Harreld and the resulting protests may have finally made Iowa City academics make the connection between election results and outcomes. The county minimum wage ordinance, and the outgoing majority's awkward effort to avoid taking a stand before election day, energized labor. And the accelerating Democratic presidential contest meant liberals were in a motivated and political mood at an unusual point in the calendar.

Candidate recruitment also mattered. It's rare to find a candidate as qualified out of the box as John Thomas, or as beloved by two key groups, labor and the Democratic Party, as Pauline Taylor.

On this front, the other side also made a decent effort. Tim Conroy and Scott McDonough had enough good-guy credentials that they had a reasonable hope of peeling off some progressive votes, but this time the left wasn't buying it. We'd been burned before, with Hayek and Rick Dobyns being prime examples.

I almost feel bad for Conroy and McDonough for getting lumped with Dobyns and Michelle Payne, two of the weakest winners the city has ever seen. Dobyns is now a lifetime 1-3 in elections (lost 2005, ran the losing 21 Bar campaign 2007, and won in a near-walkover in 2011 when his opponent didn't campaign). Payne won with fewer votes than any winner, or even many losers, in 2011, mainly because she was the only woman running that cycle and because her very able opponent happened to be 20 years old. And if the townies hate progressives, they REALLY hate students. (The students were a complete non-factor today.)

The numbers are showing a geographic/demographic shift in Iowa City's voting patterns. Progressives led in places they've never led before. The Core Four, all four, won east side precincts like 6 and 16 (the two Mercer precincts). They won on the southeast side precincts 12, 14, and 15, which vote liberal in presidential elections but historically are dominated by older, empty nest townies in local races. They won at Regina, which includes bits of the liberal north side but is mostly east siders.

The conservative bastions of Iowa City have shifted out of the old east side neighborhoods into the newest developed parts of town: the new far south side developments (precinct 10), west of Mormon Trek (7 and 8), and especially Windsor Ridge (precinct 24).

Almost everywhere the patterns were the same: Throgmorton ahead of Cole and Conroy ahead of Payne, and one pair ahead of the other pair. (Chris Liebig used my bullet voting formula, and perhaps my used beret, and determined that 95% of the available votes were used, remarkable in a vote for two race. My bet is bullet votes for Conroy were the exceptions; Payne was more or less left to rot.) And if Throg and Cole were winning, so were Taylor and Thomas, with Taylor doing just a little better.

Absentee voting almost exactly mirrored the election day percentages.

The few exceptions:
  • Conroy ran very strong in Manville Heights, trailing Throgmorton for first by one vote while Cole ran third. The same rank order also happened at Precinct 2 (Horn).
  • The votes split fairly evenly at Lemme where Throgmorton won followed by Payne, Conroy and Cole.
  • Cole was technically in first place at the Rec Center...  with 12 votes to Throgmorton's 10.
  • Payne actually WON, with low turnout and by one vote over Throgmorton, the new development Precinct 10 at Trueblood. She also nudged Conroy into last place by one vote at Tate, but in the big picture she suffered the worst incumbent loss since Dee Vanderhoef in 2007, or arguably since Irvin Pfab lost his primary in 2003.
The only notable deviation in the district races was at Horn, where Dobyns won bigger than McDonough.

The other real action today was at University Heights. What had looked like their first quiet cycle since 2007 suddenly amped up last Monday with the emergence of write in candidates. So they jumped to their now usual governor level turnout and presidential level of contentiousness, and the result is both split and incomplete with an administrative recount in the works.

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