Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Green-Douglass, Dems Win With One Wing Tied Behind Backs

The Johnson County Democrats were not blindsided again, as nominee Lisa Green-Douglass handily won tonight's special election for the Board of Supervisors, with a 61-38% margin over non party candidate Chris Hoffman.

Turnout was, no nice way to put it, pitiful, with just 3295 voters. 3.8% isn't even a good beer. That's down from the already bad 6100 voters in the March 2013 special supervisor election won in a shock upset by Republican John Etheredge.

Democrats learned the lesson of that election and didn't take this for granted - some of the presidential campaigns pitched in with doorknocking. The Republican Party proper stayed out, which played a factor in the turnout drop.

Chris Hoffman ran a relatively content-free campaign, focused mostly on why political parties are bad, which fooled no one except some editorial boards who eat that shit up. The North Liberty council member seemed to focus most of his energy on that city, where he won a 75% landslide, yet Green-Douglass goes into the books as the first North Liberty supervisor (a rural Madison Township address) since maybe ever.

Green-Douglass rolled up a big 77% margin on absentees, and carried the Iowa City election day vote with 70%, losing only in new development precinct 10 (Trueblood) with very few voters and in Precinct 24 (Windsor Ridge). She even won the southwest side's precinct 8, where the Core 4 did poorly in November.

Coralville results were closer with a 53-46% Green-Douglass win. The rest of the county was all over the place. Green-Douglass struggled in the farm townships, as most courthouse Dems have in recent years.

The highest rural vote was in Newport Township, which Hoffman won with 69%. But the zero-development faction (more accurately, the "develop my area last so I can maximize the dollars when I finally do sell out" faction) gave Hoffman their protest votes, but nothing else. The names Rubright, Tulchin and Glasgow that wrote four figure checks to Etheredge to spite Terry Dahms in 2013 were absent from Hoffman's finance report.

The brief career of John Etheredge proved that trying to win a county wide general election on any ballot line other than the Democratic Party is an effort in futility. So an investment in Hoffman would have only been a short term strategy, and the Newport Gang is playing for the long term, which means saving their dollars for the June primary.

This election is just round one of the primary for the full term. Expect the nay-saying about the special election cost and tut-tutting about the low turnout to begin almost immediately, from a faction of Democrats who didn't lift a finger to boost that turnout or help Lisa. In effect, Lisa and the Democrats won with one wing tied behind their backs.

If anyone is to be blamed for the election cost, it should be Terrence Neuzil, who left town a year before his term ended for a higher paying job out of state. But instead, blame is likely to be aimed at Green-Douglass herself, and at perceived ally Rod Sullivan, who along with fellow incumbent Pat Harney will be on the decisive June 7 ballot.

The negativity is likely to be loudest from the camp of Kurt Friese, who along with Green-Douglass was gearing up for the primary when Neuzil resigned. (Also in the primary mix: Oaknoll exec director Pat Heiden - who was a registered Republican as recently as October and just became a Democrat this month after a brief transition as No Party.)

At the December 2 meeting of the vacancy committee, Friese supporters argued against an election and for an appointment, citing the length of the term and the cost of an election. After the committee decided for the election, Friese continued to argue against it in public in a misleading way, trying to meek it seem as if the decision had not already been finalized.

Friese then opted out of seeking the nomination at the December 16 Democratic convention. Depending on who you believe, he didn't want to cancel his vacation or he knew he didn't have the votes.

There are reasons you say in public, and then there are the real reasons, and one of their number made the mistake of admitting the real reasons they wanted an appointment.

Give her credit for the frankness: Caroline Dieterle argued at the December 2 meeting in favor of what she called "the Slockett rule," named for the former auditor who had a rigid policy of opposing the appointment of anyone who had lost a prior election. The invocation of the rule was clearly meant to exclude Green-Douglass, who finished a handful of votes behind Mike Carberry in the 2014 primary, from consideration, and by extension to force the appointment of Friese.

Well Tom Slockett, thank god, isn't the auditor anymore, Travis Weipert is, and Travis thinks having 3.81% of the voters decide, while not great, is better than having a three person committee decide. And Lisa Green-Douglass is off the loser list and on the winner list.

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