Thursday, June 09, 2016

The Election Night Number Cruncher, Two Days Late

Yes, the Deeth Blog still exists. I haven't written anything longer than 140 for about three weeks here for a bunch of reasons - a busier than usual election season at work due to my increased job duties, a lot of human being stuff, the distraction of end game of the  presidential race, and the Survivor Island nature of this particular primary and its complex alliances.

The presidential race and supervisor race overlapped, at least a little. But despite the win by two of the three members of the "Bernie slate," Rod Sullivan and Kurt Friese, the effort was unsuccessful in its main goal.

Because the Bernie Slate was never really about Bernie at all. It was about the longstanding split in the progressive wing of the local Democratic Party over zoning issues in the Newport Road area. Notably, many of the letters from leaders of the "Bernie Slate" focused only on Friese and Jason Lewis, and not Sullivan. Also notably: the Bernie Slate only finished 1-2-3 in one precinct - Newport Township.

The Bernie Slate was a tactical move that tacitly accepted Sullivan's strength, which Rod proved with his strong first place finish. The Bernie Slate, which was never Sullivan's idea and which he clearly didn't need for help, was about carrying Lewis over the finish line.
And while some Sanders supporters who were not clued in to the long-standing local split were brought along, the tactic failed. Because most of all, the Bernie Slate was about beating Lisa Green-Douglass, who came in a solid second in the race for three seats.

Technically, three nominations. But the local Republicans saw what a Johnson County general election did to the personally popular incumbent John Etheredge, who won a low-turnout 2013 special but got clobbered two to one in the 2014 general. This was the ball game.

There was some backlash to the Bernie Slate, in part because the three candidates were all men. And many of the women who have long worked for increased female representation (Mary Mascher, Vicki Lensing, Sue Dvorsky, Sally Stutsman, Jean Lloyd-Jones) encouraged and supported Pat Heiden.

The Oaknoll director was far better prepared to be a supervisor than she was to be a candidate. Heiden did not anticipate the furor that her past party registrations would cause, or the vehemence with which she would be attacked by her rival's supporters. When she didn't research her own records, she got caught at a forum making a misstatement, which was quickly ret-conned into a "lie."

Having worked with voter records and with voters for two decades in greater detail than, well, ANYONE in this county, I can tell you: A LOT of people are confused about how registration works and how their own records look - ESPECIALLY when it comes to the matter of party affiliation. I can also tell you that the records are imperfect, especially prior to 2006 (when the auditor's office went through a bumpy system conversion from in-house software to a statewide system).

It's also worth noting: Democrats have a great opportunity this year, to extend a presidential blowout into down-ballot wins. At the moment that the Sanders campaign nears its end, Democrats are being asked to roll out the red carpet for independents drawn to Sanders.

I agree. We need every new Democrat we can get. That means we ALSO need to welcome the moderate ex-Republicans who are repelled by the party of Donald Trump and Steve King. Maybe Pat Heiden shouldn't have won - but she shouldn't have been vilified, either.

The epitaph for Heiden's candidacy: Even the impeccable Democratic credentials of Mascher and the Dvorskys were not enough to ease fears that Heiden was "the revenge of the Old Guard." In the post Core Four Era, the endorsement of the old-school Chamber of Commerce faction of local politics, of John Balmer and Bill Ambrisco and Matt Hayek, is the kiss of death.

Leaving aside the toxic Newport Road split, the last few months have seen a major progressive shift in first Iowa City government, and now in the Board with Terrence Neuzil's resignation, Pat Harney's retirement, and their replacement by Green-Douglass and Friese respectively.  And organized labor were the only key players to bat 1.000. Two endorsements, Sullivan and Green-Douglass, top two, to go along with their Core Four sweep last fall.

You don't come to the Deeth Blog to be lectured. You come here for numbers. (For statistical analysis I'm ignoring six-voter Iowa City Precinct 5. Which is still better than the ZERO Republican votes in precincts 10 and 19.)

The biggest number of the election isn't available yet: the number of crossover Republicans. With no contests except for House District 77, there was little incentive for Republicans to refrain from crossing over. The 707 Republican ballots were the fewest since 2004 and the third least in the last 40 years. Democratic turnout was 8188 (not counting the slim chance of last second absentees showing up). My projected turnout, politically and professionally (it is literally my job to project turnout) was between 7500 and 9000.

Election day turnout on the Democratic side was actually up from 2014, but overall turnout was down because there were several hundred fewer early votes this year. In 2014 voters couldn't wait to choose, especially in the nasty county attorney primary. In 2016 there were a lot of strategic decisions about how many ballots to cast. The average voter cast 2.51 ballots, meaning that on average, half of all voters left at least one of the three ovals blank. (I suspect a lot of the crossovers only cast one vote for Heiden.)

Sullivan finished in the top three (three winners) in every precinct, peaking at over 70% in east side precincts 6, 16 and 17 and in west side precinct 9 (where the Sudanese community is becoming a political force). He was just below 50%, though still in the money, in three rural precincts and three North Liberty precincts.

Lisa Green-Douglass came out of the January special election with name ID increased and with a win on her record after her narrow 2014 primary loss. She finished 700 votes behind Sullivan and 300 ahead of Friese. She finished first in her North Liberty base and in Coralville and Tiffin, and also in Iowa City 15 (on the southeast side). In Iowa City she was third overall, finishing fourth in precinct 24 (Windsor Ridge) and in precinct 7 (an odd mix of McMansions and Pheasant Ridge). Out in the county, Lisa had a poor showing in the northeast corner: fourth in Solon, Cedar  and Graham, and fifth in Newport. (However, she was second in nearby Big Grove.)

Friese finished #2 in Iowa City and ran first in some student and near north side precincts of Iowa City - 19, 20, and 21. That's the area near his Devotay restaurant, and turnout spiked in precinct 20 which I had not anticipated (we sent them some extra ballots). He also won University Heights, surprisingly (Heiden won the sign war there) but ran fourth in Coralville, North Liberty and Tiffin. In the rural county, his "stop pouring concrete on farmland" was a dog whistle for Newport and Graham, but it also won him Washington Township, one of the county's only GOP-leaning precincts.

Heiden was a very strong third on the absentees. Oaknoll residents voted early en masse, so heavily that she only finished third in the precinct (Iowa City 2) on election day. An absentee by precinct breakdown would be fascinating (but isn't available). Heiden had some scattered first places in the outlying county, including Swisher and, in a tie with Green-Douglass, Oxford.

She was fourth overall in Iowa City, but was second at Iowa City 8 (Weber) had top three showings in Iowa City 1 (Lemme) the aforementioned 7, 12 (the Grant Wood school area) and 24 (Windsor Ridge). But the margins weren't what she needed. Lemme reported late; Heiden ran ahead of Friese but only by 15 votes, and it was kind of a nail in the coffin (though I could tell Friese would win with about a third of the precincts in.). In the end she was 363 votes short.

Jason Lewis was another 1400 votes in back of Heiden. He was always the weaker link in the Bernie Slate, and his only top three showing was in Newport. As in his two school board races, he seemed to be everyone's next choice. (It would have been fascinating to run this election under Democratic convention rules: Instant runoff, rank all six candidates.) Unfortunately, after three straight losses, he'll have a hard time making himself a viable candidate for anything for a while; Lewis has already ruled out a run in the July 19 special school board election.

Mike Hull, another 1100 votes in back of Lewis, seems like an afterthought here. He was a third protest vote for the Newport folks who opposed Sullivan, and a second vote for the Republicans who crossed over for Heiden.

The heated supervisor primary was in sharp contrast to the House District 77 primary. Two good candidates, one won, and not a negative word between Abbie Weipert and the winner, North Liberty Mayor Amy Nielsen. There was a friends and neighbors factor as Weipert won her base in Tiffin while Nielsen carried North Liberty.

Republicans in 77 picked the better candidate, as former Tiffin mayor Royce Phillips, from the social conservative wing of the party, overwhelmed libertarian leaning Paula Dreeszen. The biggest controversy of the campaign was when Dreeszen made some racially insensitive remarks at an early May forum - remarks that were mis-attributed in print to Heiden. (To their credit: Heiden's opponents including Friese immediately chimed in to help correct the error.)

The November race in House 77 to replace retiring Sally Stutsman should also be a clean race. Phillips is strong for a GOP candidate in Johnson County, but the year and the party balance strongly favor Nielsen.

Trivia: Tom Salm was re-elected as North Liberty mayor to a four year term in 2013, but died in 2014. Gerry Kuhl served several months by appointment until losing to Nielsen in a special election held with the 2014 general election. Should Nielsen win the House race, North Liberty will have its fourth mayor in the same four year term.

The House 77 race is just about the only game in town for the local Republicans. The core party activists are not keen on Trump. Dave Loebsack is for the first time listed as a solid favorite, and state Republicans will be too busy trying to save David Young and Rod Blum to waste time playing offense for ex-Libertarian Christopher Peters. So it's Royce Phillips and Chuck Grassley.

I'm still a little sore about Rob Hogg's loss so I'm not going to write things about Patty Judge that I'll regret later. I don't, however, regret anything negative I say about Tom Fiegen. Hogg, like Monica Vernon two years ago, emerges from a loss with his stature increased. But for now, the DC players have what they want, which is a Name that they can shortlist for last minute money if the Hillary landslide over Trump turns into a downballot wave.

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