Friday, November 10, 2017

City Election Post-Mortem, Part 1

I'm not ready yet to write about Iowa City's District B race. That may be a while yet.

But after three days I have a few thoughts on other races.

I had a smooth Election Day at work and the only real surprise professionally was a failed stealth write-in effort in Solon.

Mazahir Salih's win is a big, big deal. It's a big deal on the national or even world scale as she becomes, more than likely, the first Sudanese-American woman to win an election in the United States.

It's a big deal locally. Her win doesn't flip the council like the Core Four 2015 sweep did. It solidifies the previous 5-2 progressive council majority into a 6 to 1 majority. And going from Terry Dickens to Mazahir Salih is the biggest single seat shift maybe ever or at least since since Amy Correia replaced Ernie Lehman in 2005. That's how we used to measure progressive wins in Iowa City, one notch or even a half a notch at a time.

We replaced a guy who literally ran for the council because he wanted to stop the homeless from begging in front of his jewelry store to a community organizer who works with Iowa City's most challenged and needy residents.

I don't want to seem less excited than I should be. I was excited - several weeks ago. This race was over a long time ago, and the thrill's immediacy has worn off for me. Salih was a strong enough candidate that she essentially cleared the field.

The old guard Chamber of Commerce faction made the weirdest move possible in quietly recruiting Angela Winnike and then letting her run of the strangest non-campaigns ever. Had they simply let the at large race go entirely, Salih and Kingsley Botchway could have coasted, but with token opposition they worked hard and potentially helped District B candidate Ryan Hall.

And again, I am REALLY really not ready to write about that yet.

In landslides this big it's hard to read anything into result patterns. Winnike's distant last everywhere numbers vary so little by precinct from her 19% overall total that it's hard to ID any "hot spot." Salih finished just 64 votes behind Kingsley Botchway for first place, with rarely more than a handful of votes separating them in each precinct. Both got about 5600 votes, and based on precinct totals it appears that only 300 or so people voted for one but not the other.



The Coralville result is actually more interesting. Even though the self-labeled "progressive" candidates lost, the new council is much more liberal than the old, in a way that most Iowa City people don't get.

Prior to the election the center of gravity on the Coralville council was Tom Gill and Laurie Goodrich, moderates both just re-elected Tuesday, and the retiring Bill Hoeft. It was and always had been kind of a businessy body.

Now, the newly elected Meghann Foster makes up a council majority with the two holdover members, Mitch Gross and Jill Dodds, and this new majority is a mainstream Democrat kind of majority that's far less tone-deaf on, say, affordable housing than Gill and Goodrich. This is the most progressive the Coralville council has ever been and is a big leap forward. It's also, as Foster pointed out to me, the first ever female majority Coralville council (Iowa City had a female majority in 2006-07).

Foster finished in a solid first place with 74%, drawing support from both the business side and the liberal side. Cindy Riley in fourth place in the top-three-win election was trying for a similar appeal but got lost in the shuffle.


The "progressives," Elizabeth Dinschel and Miriam Timmer-Hackert, were in fifth and sixth place with 25% of the vote and nearly identical totals, just three votes apart.

A loss that big can't be chalked up to "lack of support from key Democrats" or questionable yard sign placement by their opponents, both charges that flew on social media in the final days.  Much was made of Goodrich's GOP affiliation (Gill is a DINO) but in the context of the 2013 "Koch Brothers" Coralville election in which she won her first term, she was the moderate choice against a radical conservative slate.

A 25% total indicates that either the message didn't get through or that it was heard and rejected, and reflects a fundamental mis-read of the Coralville city election voters. Timmer-Hackert and Dinschel challenged things and made some good points - that fell on deaf ears. Hey, I like the idea of walkable communities, too, but car culture is deeply, deeply embedded in Coralville, and people who care about walkable communities around here deal with that by... not living in Coralville and thus not voting in Coralville.

Imad Youssif was, well, on the ballot, and based on my work interactions with him I have a feeling he's going to become a perennial Some Dude candidate for stuff for a while.