Saturday, December 01, 2018

The Supervisor Special And The "Farm Vote"

The field is set in the sprint to the December 18 supervisor special election as Democrat Royceann Porter faces off against Phil Hemingway, the Republican who just lost the general election to Pat Heiden and Janelle Rettig.

The campaign's biggest controversy to date, though, has come from former Democratic supervisor Pat Harney, who tried for the nomination at the November 20 Democratic convention only to lose to Porter 109-42.

It was clear even before November 20 that there was no base in that convention, made up of people who were motivated by governor candidates, party offices, and platform planks to go out to last February's caucuses in a blizzard, for a rural moderate candidate. But the winner still has to carry the election itself, and Johnson County Dems still have not quite recovered from the shock defeat in the March 2013 special election.

In his speeches to the convention, Harney argued that rural voters felt neglected and would not support another Iowa City progressive candidate. Porter's race wasn't QUITE mentioned (she would be our first black supervisor) but it was certainly a strong subtext.

Left unasked in a brief convention Q & A was the question of whether the losing candidate would back the winner. And in the last few days, remarks have surfaced on line and on radio that Harney has a Hemingway sign on his property (a prominent spot on Highway 1). When asked by the Press-Citizen, Harney said the sign was not his but declined to say who he would vote for.

I am disappointed in Pat and I am in no way defending him for not clearly and immediately endorsing Porter. But Harney was very successful in winning elections in this county for a very long time - four contested primaries and four general elections, the convention defeat is his only loss - and in his unfortunate and misdirected convention speech he made a point.

There is a "Farm Vote" constituency in Johnson County. Not all rural voters are part of it, and  it includes some old timers in town, but "Farm Vote" is the best shorthand label I have.  These voters will not support a progressive candidate for supervisor - that office in particular more than others.

It's made up of Democrats who will back a Tom Harkin or a Tom Miller, but maybe not a Hillary Clinton or a Bruce Braley. It's made up of sophisticated local Republicans more motivated by business than ideology. It's made up of independents who care more about who is in the courthouse than in the White House.

This vote was buried (but, as you'll see, still measurable) in the high general election turnout last month, and Hemingway lost badly. But now Democrats need to outnumber them in a more challenging situation, without months of buildup, without statewide and national attention to voting, with people busy or out of town.

The Farm Vote has a sense that the Board of Supervisors should "belong" to them and people like them, because for more than a century it did, in the same way that the Iowa City council "belonged" to the Chamber of Commerce for decades until the Core Four win in 2015. There wasn't a single urban progressive supervisor until Joe Bolkcom in 1992, and the Board didn't get a solid liberal majority until after the 2014 election.

The Farm Vote is well organized year round, election season or not, though a natural social network of churches and clubs and coffee drinking sessions. The word gets through their grapevines. These people WILL vote and they will NOT vote for Royceann Porter.

If you look back at supervisor elections over the past 25 years you see a very strong pattern of how big the Farm Vote is. You can go back to Harney's margin over Rod Sullivan in the 2004 general, you can go back as far as Charlie Duffy's margin over Bolkcom in the 1992 general election (those were vote for three contests), and it's almost the same. 

The "Farm Vote"

Election Measure Total
1992 general Duffy minus Bolkcom 3802
1994 special Sehr total (win) 4291
2000 general Neuzil minus Thompson 3376
2000 general Smalley minus Brown 3761
2004 general Harney minus Sullivan 4435
2008 general Harney minus Sullivan 4273
2010 special Cardella total (loss) 3764
2012 general Neuzil minus Sullivan 2788
2013 special Etheredge total (win) 3142
2018 general Heiden minus Rettig 3086

You can even go back to which two Democrats and one Republican they were backing in the 2000 general election and which one Democrat and one dropped-out-but-still-on-the-ballot  Republican they were not - and the two measures almost exactly line up which is some pretty sophisticated voting behavior.

It doesn't matter whether the candidate was personally conservative or rural (Pat Heiden is neither), but it's a measure of perception and of who this constituency was supporting and opposing.

As you see, it's also almost exactly the same number of people in presidential elections and in low turnout specials, whether the stakes are victory itself or just bragging rights. It's a remarkably consistent pattern across 25 years of elections.

Note that Cardella got more votes in her losing race than Etheredge got in his win. Or, put another way, the regular Democrats outnumbered the Farm Vote in January 2010 and did not in March 2013. I'm confident Porter and the Democrats can outnumber the Farm Vote - but we need to work, and now you know just what needs to happen.

Thursday, November 22, 2018

Double The Fun And The White Album

Today's an important anniversary. Most Americans, of course, will think of 1963. Though technically I am considered a "boomer" based on my December 1963 birth, I've always believed you aren't a Real boomer unless you remember where you were for JFK.

But that's not the anniversary I'm talking about.

Nor am I talking about the OTHER event of November 22, 1963 - the British release of With The Beatles, which was more or less turned into the American MEET The Beatles.

No, I'm here for the other Beatle release, five years later: Today is the 50th anniversary of the White Album.



That anniversary was celebrated with a deluxe reissue full of demos and alternate takes, AND by a return to the top ten for the first time since it's original release. I had hoped it would re-enter the charts at number nine, number nine, number nine. But it did just a little better at number six.

I first came to know the White Album as I turned 17, in the terrible weeks after John Lennon's murder. Sure made "Happiness Is A Warm Gun" more disturbing.  It had other sinister associations at the time thanks to a certain cult leader, which led U2 to lead off their 1988 cover of "Helter Skelter" with "this is a song Charles Manson stole from the Beatles, we're stealin' it back."  But there's no true Evil in the grooves, and the White Album has triumphantly outlived that and come down to us as a portrait of a band at the peak of its powers.

The conventional wisdom has long been that the White Album is "the sound of the Beatles breaking up" (they are wrong; that would be "Let It Be") and the very deliberate rhetoric of this reissue is to revise this history and present a portrait of the group working together. It's loaded up with friendly and playful interaction highlighted in the famous "Esher demos." Often bootlegged but heard here in near-studio quality, are basically Beatles Unplugged, hanging out at George's house and just playing for each other, and oh yeah the material is the Freakin' White Album.



But my favorite so far is an actual studio track, a ten minute version of "Revolution 1," the slow, non-single version that starts side four of the original release. It's the main take, without the horns and the shooby-doo-wops that were overdubbed later - and it goes on longer. And the part after the original record fades out is, as you recognize in fragments, what eventually turns into the core of "Revolution 9," the sound collage that many people rate as the Beatles worst track. (They are wrong; that would be "Run For Your Life.") Number 9 makes a whole lot more sense after you hear the whole take of Number One.

At 107 tracks and 5 hours and 46 minutes, the full version of the expanded White Album is a real time commitment - I still haven't finished, and I've been known to go through all 2 1/2 hours the Clash's entire Sandinista triple album in one sitting. Yes, even Side Six.

In an era where even downloads are old fashioned and streaming is the main tool of music distribution, time constraints seem quaint, especially the roughly 20 minute programme of a vinyl album side. But that's how the White Album was originally heard, that's how I formed my music listening experience in the 1970s and 80s, and that sense of the appropriate length of a musical selection still colors my brain. And those constraints - the 40 minute LP, the 80 minute CD, the 90 minute homegrown cassette mix tape - shape the art too. Decisions on what to keep and what to shelve got made based on those formats, and Stevie Nicks is STILL mad that time constraints kept "Silver Springs" off Rumours and made it a B-side instead.

Even by the standards of a vinyl era double album, the original White Album is long, long, long (see what I did there) at 93 minutes and 43 seconds. I can't find another "classic" major artist vinyl era studio double LP that's within ten minutes of the White Album. In fact, it's only ten minutes shorter than the TRIPLE All Things Must Pass and the double plus EP Songs In The Key Of Life - and the Beatles put out a seven minute single at the same time.

You may know it.



Blonde On Blonde, Electric Ladyland, Tommy, Layla (sorry George but that's a better Patti Boyd record than "Something"), Exile On Main Street, Goodbye Yellow Brick Road, Tusk, London Calling, 1999, Zen Arcade, Double Nickels on the Dime, Daydream Nation - all those albums fit on a single 80 minute CD, not that I would ever burn them onto CDs. That would mean 20 minutes or less per side of vinyl.

There was some criticism when Prince's Sign 'O' The Times came out in `87, just as vinyl was fading and CDs were growing, that it was just barely too long for one CD and was sold and priced as a double. It's RIGHT on the line at 79:58 and could have been trimmed to fit with nobody but Prince noticing.

Led Zeppelin's Physical Graffiti is 82:39 but a half hour of that is outtakes from their previous three LPs. Drop one song and you fit, and you make the very short 1982 odds and sods release Coda one song less skimpy.

Others of note: Quadrophenia (81:33), The Wall (80:54 that could have been fit under 80 through edits to sound effects alone), Elton John's 1976 Blue Moves at 84:47 with a LONG instrumental intro to the first track, and The River at 83:38 with a couple filler tracks. That's still just 21 minutes per LP side.

Even the one song per side Tales From Topographic Oceans by Yes is only 81:14, and the interminable early Chicago albums clock in under 80.

After spending way too much time looking, the only studio double I can find longer than the White Album is Todd Rundgren's Something/Anything? at 96:57, nearly 24:30 per side.

How much is too much? That question has surrounded the White Album for half a century now. It's long been a parlour game among Beatle fans to list a single LP White Album, as producer George Martin begged them to do.

Paul disagrees.



There is NO too much. I wouldn't trade away a moment. Not a single "hold that line! block that kick!" in minute eight of Number Nine, not the syrupy strings of "Good Night" (but the unplugged version on this set with John, Paul and George on harmonies is gorgeous), not "Piggies" (why do people hate "Piggies"?), not Ringo's first goofy attempt at songwriting, not "Why Don't We Do It In The Road," none of it.

Except MAYBE "Honey Pie."

 And this Thanksgiving, I'm thankful for a six hour White Album - and a few days off to hear it.

Monday, November 19, 2018

2018 General Election Number Cruncher

Two weeks ago I left my office at a relatively early 11:20 PM and headed a few blocks to what, based on everything I had seen all day, I expected would be a victory party.

As I arrived I saw flocks of people leaving, looking like the cat had just died, and one of the first filled me in that they had just called the governor's race for Reynolds.

It's taken me a couple weeks to absorb that, to catch up on the mental pile of election cleanup work confronting me in what is now just 40 hours of work a week, and to absorb the local numbers. And as I look at the Johnson County numbers, I see a landscape with little relief, a monochrome map of dark blue and darker blue.

Johnson County could not have done more. We got Obama-level turnout and Obama percentages. I say this not to brag, but to acknowledge that our best in the People's Republic is not enough to win the state. It is a necessary condition, yes, and we have to do it again each and every time, but we have to do something else somewhere else.


But as I look at my local numbers, a landslide this deep inundates any minor differences, and the partisanship of a general election masks subtle local trends.

The biggest trend to note is turnout.


I had estimated (this is literally my job) about 58,000 total voters - 30,000 early and 28,000 on Election Day. That would have been an incremental increase from our old "real" record of 52,959 in 2014. (2010 was technically bigger at 53,855 but that was with 2500 undervotes for governor and a weird turnout spike on campus caused by a bar age admission issue.)

We had seen the increase coming during early voting, which ended up 4000 over my prediction, and ordered more ballots from the printer. Almost immediately on Election Day it became clear we would need them. By the 11 AM turnout update we decided to ship out everything we had. Campus still lagged, but they kicked in before the 3 PM update. We had to print a few extra in-house for one of the dorm precincts but otherwise we were fine.

Turnout ended up at 68,262, nearly 15,000 above the record and closer to the presidential record than to the old midterm record. Like I said: Obama turnout.

And the Democrats got Obama shares of the vote.

Better, in fact: Barack topped out at 69.9% in 2008. This year, Dave Loebsack led the Democratic ticket in the "seriously" contested races at 72.4%, a notch above Fred Hubbell's 71.6 and just below treasurer Mike Fitzgerald's 73.3 over token Republican, um, ... (I had to look) Jeremy Davis. (Tom Miller won 84% in a race with a Libertarian and no Republican.) With his TV name ID, State Auditor-elect Rob Sand ran just a little bit better than the other down-ballot challengers; there was very little gap between Tim Gannon and Diedre DeJear.

By coincidence the Johnson County vote split almost exactly between early voting (34,119) and election day (34,143), for the closest race of the election. That makes comparing numbers easy. And almost race by race, the early vote numbers were 15 to 16% better for Democrats than the Election Day tallies. So many Democrats voted early that there were a disproportionate share of Republicans left yet to vote on Election Day. Still, Hubbell's 64% of the Johnson County Election-Day-Only vote was far better than he did in any other county, and his 79% on the absentees approaches Kim Jong Un levels.


Johnson County voters had their eyes on the prize and were in no mood to protest-vote. The write in vote nearly vanished in 2018, dropping from 964 (1.25%) in the presidential to just 24 votes for governor.
Voters exercised their write-ins on an obscure back of the ballot race for a two year short term on the Soil and Water commission, where no candidate filed. 3319 voters cast write-ins with the winner, appointed incumbent Bonnie Riggan, tallying just 93.

The back story on that is Soil and Water had two separate contests: two full four year terms and the two year term. WHY state law doesn't just have everybody run in the same race and give the third place person the short term, I don't know.

The language on the paperwork is non-intuitive and asks if the candidate is seeking "to fill a vacancy." EVERY appointee gets this wrong - they think "the seat isn't vacant - I'm in it." Some township people got it wrong, too. But township officials only need to re-do an affidavit. Soil and Water commissioners need signatures.

So on the day before the deadline, all three incumbents filed for the two full terms. The next day, the deadline passed and no one had filed for the short term. Rather than run against her colleagues, Riggan withdrew to run as a write in for the short term.

But the blank line on the ballot caused much electoral amusement. Everyone and their cousin thought it would be cute to get their friends to vote for them. There were at least three social media campaigns going on. And us election workers couldn't explain any of this to voters, who usually only asked after they had their ballots, because explaining the story pretty much says, vote for Bonnie.

The overall non-two party vote fell from 7.6% for president in `16 to just 1.8% for governor this year. If you thought Gary Siegwarth of the "Clean Water Party" would be a refuge for Hubbell-hating lefties, you were wrong as he scored just 0.4%.

So the bulk of the third party vote (1.35%) went to Libertarian Jake Porter, taking a big drop from the 3.6% won by 2016 presidential candidate Gary Johnson. Porter's statewide 1.6% means the LP loses the full party status it craved for decades after just two years, the same fate that befell the Greens in 2002. And it wasn't just a top of the ticket thing - the LP was under 3% in all of the D vs R vs L contests (typically third parties do better in down ballot races that some voters see as less "important.")

The third party contender I was worried about was Daniel Clark, a former Bernie Sanders national delegate who defected to Jill Stein and who was running as an  independent against Dave Loebsack.

There was pro-Clark paid Facebook advertising claiming to be from Democratic Socialists of America (DSA says it wasn't really them), and the far left has always had a chip on its shoulder about Loebsack. My theory has always been: Since he beat the last anti-war Republican, Jim Leach, the left expected Loebsack to be at the left edge of the party - today we would say "Bernie" or "Alexandria," but in the vernacular of 2006 it was "Kucinich."

I worried that, because of Loebsack's history of big Johnson County wins, disgruntled lefties unhappy about a Hubbell-led ticket but eager to defeat Kim Reynolds would use their protest votes against the supposedly "safe" congressman. But the mood was to punish Republicans for Trump, and that meant voting for Democrats. Clark fizzled at just 0.7% - enough to swing some races, but not enough here. What's funnier is the 1.7% won by Libertarian nominee Mark Strauss, who apparently did not get the memo that "Republican" Christopher Peters is a small l libertarian who used to be a big L Libertarian.

Loebsack and Hubbell had near-identical totals in Iowa City, Coralville, and North Liberty. They were in the 80s in many Iowa City precincts and Hubbell topped out at 90 in precinct 18.The congressman ran about 500 votes and 3% better in the rest of the county, allowing him to carry Jefferson East and Cedar Township where Hubbell didn't. Both lost the county's two historically Republican townships, Sharon and Washington.

Two places that turned around a bit were Oxford and Lone Tree. Both swung heavily to Trump, but Hubbell took 53 and 54%. Loebsack was in the upper 50s and low 60s, same as 2016, so the swing in the presidential may have been about that race and those two candidates.

Our only top tier legislative race was in Senate 39 where Democratic incumbent Kevin Kinney easily dispatched Republican Heather Hora. Kinney rolled up a 68-32 margin in fast growing North Liberty and Tiffin, and only narrowly lost Jefferson East, Sharon, and Washington. The negative TV ads that tried to paint Kinney as, in effect, a Johnson County liberal backfired due to Kinney's popularity and persona. It's hard to call an ex-deputy sheriff soft on crime.

Liberal hopes were high for Jodi Clemens, challenging Bobby Kaufmann in House 73. But Clemens only carried the Johnson County part of the district 54-46, not enough to overcome Kaufmann's margins in Cedar County and in heavily Republican Wilton in Muscatine County.

This district has tormented local Democrats for close to 20 years, since the 2001 map, as it looks so good on paper but is so loyal to Kaufmanns pere and fils.



Clemens carried the Johnson County early vote two to one but lost election day 55-45, and this mostly rural part of the county saw a higher share of election day voters than the city precincts did. She topped 60% in the small piece of Iowa City in the district and in Scott Township, a technically "rural" precinct that is trailer court dominated. But Clemens only narrowly carried Solon and lost the surrounding townships.

This race is an object lesson in how a purist stance on campaign finance reform functions as unilateral disarmament. Clemens had a firm policy of individual donations only (though she did accept money from county parties). That got her crossed off all the labor lists, the women's lists, the environmental lists, and, if she was ever in consideration, off the state party's target list.

The House 73 northeast corner shares Senate District 37 with Coralville and far west Iowa City. After a solid win in a serious primary, Zach Wahls had a near walkover in the general , defeating Libertarian Carl Krambeck 82-17% in Johnson County. Wahls was in the 70s in the rural areas and in the 80s in town.

Wahls spent much of the cycle helping other candidates. He's raised leadership-level money before even taking office and with Hubbell's loss he immediately becomes one of the most prominent new faces in the Capitol. The RAYGUN t-shirt is no doubt coming soon. The national publicity just keeps happening, too:



Libertarian Krambeck did almost as well as Joe Bolkcom's Republican challenger, Pat Wronkiewicz, in Senate 43 (most of Iowa City). Bolkcom crushed his first ever GOP opponent 79-20%. "Wronk" did best, ballpark of 30%, in the two dorm precincts, 3 and 5, where there was at least some awareness that he was a student, and in precinct 24 in Windsor Ridge which is just a smidge less blue than the rest of town. (Same is true of precinct 8 but that's in Wahls' district.) The Republican reached 35% in Hills, which counter-trends in local school elections but is reliably blue in general elections.

The one courthouse race was for the Board of Supervisors and the two Democrats beat the one Republican. Pat Heiden and Janelle Rettig took near-identical totals in Iowa City, Coralville, and North Liberty, with some variation by precinct and with Heiden slightly ahead.

I noticed a trend I have never seen before: the two Democrats rotated names as the law requires and there was a noticeable advantage across the Iowa City, Coralville, and North Liberty precincts for the person listed first. It was almost as if a lot of the new voters in this high turnout election were unaware they could vote for two. The flip-flopping roughly balanced out, though.

In the remainder of the county, though, Rettig ran 2000 votes behind Heiden and 352 votes behind Republican Phil Hemingway, who is running in the December 18 election to replace the late Kurt Friese. He'll likely face the winner (and maybe the loser?) of Tuesday night's Democratic nominating convention; the GOP meets Saturday to presumably nominate Hemingway.

No surprise that Phil's strongest showings were in Sharon and Washington in the southwest, and in Cedar Township in the red-trending northeast corner. He also narrowly carried Swisher and Sheyville, and won Cosgrove by one vote over Heiden. Rettig was not, however, shut out in the rurals, carrying Hills.

With only one Republican in a vote for two race, the undervote was high.  The average voter cast just 1.5 votes in the supervisor race. That means on average half the voters skipped an oval - probably many more when you take into account people who skipped the supes entirely. Early voters marked 1.58 ovals on average, while the more GOP election day electorate marked just 1.42 and undervoting was at its peak in the precincts Hemingway carried.

Well, that was fun. Let's do this again in four weeks.

Friday, October 19, 2018

Johnson County Absentee numbers, Week Two

I am only doing one thing right now, so that's what I'm writing.

Through close of business today our office had 16755 total absentee requests: 11660 domestic mail, 4647 at the office, 187 at a satellite and 261military and overseas mail.  …

The party breakdown on that is more that 3:1 Democrat to Republican, which is not unusual. In 2016 Hillary beat Trump 75-19 in Johnson on absentees. (These were the first results reported from the state, was all downhill from there.)

On the same day, 17 days out, in 2014 we had 15062 requests: 11576 mail, 2622 at the office, 795 at satellites, and 69 overseas.

17 days out in 2010 Johnson County was at 15495 requests: 8718 by mail, 1893 at the office, 4747 at satellites, 97 overseas, and 40 at care centers. Remember, all Johnson County stats from 2010 are skewed by giant campus-based satellites promoted by the referendum campaign to repeal Iowa City's 21 Bar ordinance. Many 2010 voters at the campus sites skipped the other contests on the ballot and voted only on the bar issue.

So Johnson County is 1260 requests ahead of 2010 (and, once you factor in the under-vote by the bar-issue-only voters, further ahead than that) and 1693 ahead of 2014. And many more of those votes are at the office and ready to count, as opposed to requests that are not returned yet.

We have more by mail requests than either 2010 or 2014. The office is more than double 2010 and nearly double 2014. Remember: That's 17 days of office voting in 2010 and 2014 but only 10 days this year.

The satellites lag, but 2010 was a unique case. We have had only one satellite site to date, on opening day, and the March To The Polls was directed to the office instead. The Johnson County satellite schedule begins in earnest next week with 3 days each at  UIHC and IMU  

In Johnson County Democrats have returned 25% of the requested mailed ballots, Republicans just 13%. Likely because the Dems absentee mailings were earlier than the GOP.

Bottom line: About 10% ahead on requests. More votes in the bank than in 2014 and more "real" votes in the bank than 2010 (once you exclude the bar-only vote).

Saturday, October 13, 2018

Johnson County Absentee Numbers So Far

Since everyone is asking and since I am OCD about numbers I am spending time on Friday night comparing Johnson County's absentee numbers to the last three governor years.

When we closed shop at 5:30 tonight, 25 days out, we had 11727 total requests. 8872 domestic mail, 230 overseas mail, 2438 at the office, and 187 at our opening day satellite.

Same day in 2014 we had 12198: 10150 domestic mail, 56 overseas mail, 1713 at the office, and 279 at satellites. Remember, that was with 12 days of office voting in 2014 and 2010, but only five days in 2018.

25 days out in 2010 we were at 12547: 7332 domestic mail, 93 overseas mail, 1257 at the office, and 3865 at satellites. Those numbers, like all Johnson County stats from 2010, are skewed by massive satellites on campus driven by the 21 Bar referendum.

2006 is such ancient history that it barely bears comparing: Just 5657 requests total, almost all by mail. Only 327 voters at the office in 12 days; we've seen more than that every DAY this week. Back then, the Republicans weren't even trying on the early vote; they were putting everything into their Bush era 72 Hour Plans for Election Day and teaching their base that early voting was "fraud." Terry Branstad put a stop to that in his 2010 comeback and the GOP returned to their big absentee mailings of the 90s.

So to sum up: Mail is behind 2014 but ahead of 2010, office is far ahead of past years despite fewer voting days, and satellites can't be fairly compared because of the unique situation in 2010.

Tuesday, October 02, 2018

The Voters Have Spoken And They Said, Meh

"I thought the compressed cycle and the shadow of the general election would lower turnout. But it appears that Iowa City wants to squeeze in a full-fledged city election cycle. The real loser may be the Democratic ticket as this city council vacancy sucks up a lot of energy in the most Democratic county." John Deeth, September 5 

Called that one wrong,

Instead, the lesson from Tuesday's abysmal (9%) turnout Iowa City special election is more basic and more universal: In local elections, a big field of candidates means more people out campaigning means more turnout.

Historically, turnout roughly doubles between an Iowa City primary and the final election four weeks later. But that's in a normal cycle, with six or eight candidates on the final ballot.

Tuesday, with two people on the ballot instead of the five from the primary, turnout was up just 229 people, from 3966 to the 4195 we had Tueday. Nearly all of that increase came in the absentees, which bumped from 490 in September to 666 Tuesday.



(I almost hate to tell people but we got three countable ballots in Wednesday's mail, ruining the 666...)

And most of that absentee gain was because the short early voting window was one day longer; the auditor's office was closed the day before the primary for Labor Day, and we saw about 150 voters this Monday. Only 53 more people showed up at the polls Tuesday than voted at the polls September 4.

That's unheard of between a city primary and a final city election. Again: turnout usually doubles. Tuesday's turnout falls below the record low for a regular cycle city election of 4685 (9.7%) set in 2009. That was both a yawner and a blowout that was decided on filing deadline day when townies Terry Dickens and Susan Mims drew unknown students as opponents.

This election was at least closer, with no obvious pattern or key to Bruce Teague's win. He consistently did just a little bit better than Ann Freerks across the city. In precincts with significant turnout (the student vote was negligible), Teague topped 60% on the southeast side (Twain and Grant Wood), in precinct 6 (Village Green and Town and Campus) 17 (the old City High precinct) and 24 (Windsor Ridge).  Freerks led Teague on the absentees and in precincts 4 (Manville Heights), 8 (the Weber area), 10 (south central part of town) and interestingly in precinct 21, the lefty Horace Mann precinct temporarily voting at St. Wenceslaus Church.

But turnout was down in precincts 17 through 21, the progressive and downtown core of the People's Republic. Some of the vote may have been a shift to early vote - no doubt some folks who usually vote early had the calendar sneak up on them in the primary and realized too late that there was no voting on Labor Day.

But more of that may have been the smaller field, and more to the point WHICH candidates were eliminated in the primary. And I don't just mean the "vote for my friend" people who were motivated to get out by personal ties to the defeated candidates, and then skipped the second round.

The groups that know the most about getting out voters in local elections are the old guard/townie/Chamber of Commerce faction, and organized labor and its allies. Labor was supporting Christine Ralston in the primary, but she trailed Teague by 18 votes. The Chamber's choice, Brianna Wills, was just behind in fourth place, while Ryan Hall, favored by the left of the left, was fifth.

That meant the groups who know the most about boosting turnout were largely bystanders in the second election. On the surface it seems that slightly more of the Hall and Ralston vote shifted to Teague (Hall posted on social media Monday that he had voted for Teague), but there's another layer here.

The organized groups had favorites but they also had "Anyone But" candidates. The Chamber's historic boogeyman has always been the prospect of a student on the city council (which hasn't happened since the early `80s), especially a student as left as Hall. Labor-liberal types, meanwhile, were opposed to the Chamber's favorite, Wills - and it was her total collapse in the progressive precincts that knocked her from second place to fourth in the primary.

But the two Unacceptable candidates were eliminated, reducing that kind of motivation. Survivors Freerks and Teague were more or less acceptable to most of the Every Election Voters who chose to participate.

Had Hall gotten through the primary, you would have seen the townies energized like they haven't been since the last 21 Bar election in 2013. And had Wills survived, labor might have gotten seriously involved, rather than setting this election aside in favor of general election efforts.

Those general election efforts, by everyone, were just getting a good start in late August during the primary campaign, but were in full gear by late September. Opening day for early voting is next Monday and would have been last Thursday if not for the change in the election calendar that was part of the voter ID law. (As much as I hate losing 11 days of early voting, overlapping voting periods for two different elections are a logistical nightmare.) While the primary campaign was briefly able to draw focus, Tuesday's election truly felt like an afterthought.

Or maybe a preseason game?

One thing I got right after the primary: "Wills and Ralston both came close enough to be credible for a 2019 run, when four seats are up." Add Ann Freerks, with a first in the primary and a credibly close second Tuesday, to that statement. We may look back on City Election 2018 as just the opening round of City Election 2019.

Sunday, September 23, 2018

Clash in Debate - Literally.

"Candidates Clash in Debate" is way too common a headline, and I have way too often joked that the Clash in a debate would be a good thing.

Finally, someone really did it.

Beto O'Rourke's reference to side two, track four on London Calling has won him a permanent place in my heart.

"Working for the clampdown" is not the MOST radical Clash reference Beto could have made - the very next song asks "when they kick at your front door, how you gonna come, with your hands on your hear or on the trigger of your gun" - but it's not a weak "should I stay or should I go" joke either. The opening line neofascism reference is sadly even more relevant now:



(The most offensive Clash reference I ever saw in politics was Giuliani using "Rudie Can't Fail" as rally music...)

I always wondered if the line "kick over the wall, cause governments to fall" was "kick over the wall BEcause government is going to fall" or if "cause governments to fall" was an instruction to the listener to overthrow the government.

If you are lucky, a band comes along in your formative years that changes your life. I was lucky enough that when I was 16, Joe Strummer, Mick Jones, Paul Simonon and Topper Headon were there for me. I've gotten kicked a bit the last few years for being too pragmatist or too "establishment," but my roots, my catalyst that started me on the road I've been on now close to 30 years, are Clash. In the end I did cause governments to fall, in a small way, by knocking on doors and making lists.

By coincidence, I have been on one of my periodic obsessive kicks and for the last three weeks I have been listening to nothing but the Clash. I'm on a weekend road trip and on the way I listed to Sandinista, all the way through, uninterrupted. Even the biggest Clash fans know that's a true test of loyalty.

This morning I've prepped a quick primer for Clash neophytes who may want to work their way in. O'Rourke has offered the best starting point. Here's the order in which to learn the Clash.

1: London Calling - flawless from the iconic title track to the concluding hidden hit "Train In Vain."

2: The Clash (first album) US version - I may be a heretic here. But the US release cuts a few weak songs from the original UK version and adds some key singles including "Complete Control," "White Man in Hammersmith Palais," and "I Fought The Law." I cheated and homeburned a custom version that includes all the songs from both versions of the album, plus a few other early songs found on...

3: A good compilation such as The Essential Clash which includes the best of the other albums and some more singles.

4: Combat Rock, side one: the two biggest hits and two great album cuts, "Know Your Rights" and "Straight To Hell."

5: Sandinista. You needed the rest for a warmup. Sandinista requires commitment. Plenty of rewards but at 2 1/2 hours (six vinyl sides, two full CDs) it is literally marathon length.

6: The Clash, original UK version. If you survived Sandinista you're hooked and moving toward completism. Four songs here you don't have yet. Short and fast except for the breakthough cover of "Police And Thieves" (also on the US version).

7: Give `Em Enough Rope. The second album is a corporate-influenced attempt to crack the US market but the opening salvo of "Safe European Home," "English Civil War" and "Tommy Gun" is first rate. Also don't miss "Stay Free."

8: Side two of Combat Rock and/or the unreleased original mix of the album, originally titled and generally bootlegged as Rat Patrol At Fort Bragg.

9: Various compilations like Super Black Market Clash to fill in the pieces.

10: Mick Jones' solo work with Big Audio Dynamite.

11: Joe Strummer's Earthquake Weather (1989) and his late Mescaleros albums (three albums 1999-2003).

12: Joe Strummer's late 80s soundtrack albums - mainly instrumental but a couple vocal tracks.

954: A bad Sex Pistols bootleg from after Johnny Rotten left the band

8321: A post-2000 Motley Crue album

22,038: Cut The Crap. Released in 1985 after Strummer kicked Jones out of the band and immediately regretted it, this is Clash in name only and the worst thing Strummer ever recorded. To be avoided.

If you want everything all at once (except Cut The Crap) there is a beautiful but expensive box set called Sound System personally designed by Paul Simonon that includes all sorts of fanzines and stickers and buttons like we had back then.

Even I don't own that one but considering how bad CBS ripped them off I'm sure a download would be morally justified... meanwhile my vinyl Sandinista is framed and on my wall, to remind me where I started. And the world is a lesser place without Joe Strummer, who we REALLY need right now.

Wednesday, September 05, 2018

Key numbers in Freerks/Teague wins

With all five candidates closely bunched between 15 and 27%, Tuesday's Iowa City special primary would have been a great test case for ranked choice voting

Here's something you rarely see: All five candidates won precincts, and all five candidates finised last in precincts. Of course some of those "wins" were with 10 total votes or with 24%.

First place finisher Ann Freerks ran just a little bit better than the rest more or less across the board. But the decisive number: Bruce Teague beat Christine Ralston with big margins in precincts 2 and 6, both with lots of seniors (Oaknoll in 2, Legacy Pointe in 6). Take away either precinct, and Ralston is in 2nd.

That 18 vote margin is close, but not recount close. The closet ever city primary margin was in 2009 when Jared Bazzell trailed Dan Tallon by 7 votes for the fourth and last slot. (Tallon and fellow student Jeff Shipley were competing for the right to lose to Terry Dickens and Susan Mims; 2009 got decided on filing deadline day. Where are they now: Shipley is the GOP challenger to Democratic state Rep. Phil Miller in Fairfield-based House 82. End of tangent.)

Brianna Wills was wiped out (low single digit percents) in lefty precincts 18 and 21 and in 20, mixed student/senior. Take away those three precincts, and she jumps from 4th to 2nd.

Yet Wills and Ralston both came close enough to be credible for a 2019 run, when four seats are up. But Ryan Hall is in a weaker position than he was, after winning 41% last year. In retrospect it seems clear that a lot of that 41% was votes against incumbent Susan Mims, rather than for Hall.

The first choice of both labor (Ralston) and the Chamber of Commerce (Wills) lost, so it will be interesting to see alliances shift in next 28 days.

Turnout was about 1000 more than I expected. I thought the compressed cycle and the shadow of the general election would lower turnout. But it appears that Iowa City wants to squeeze in a full-fledged city election cycle. The real loser may be the Democratic ticket as this city council vacancy sucks up a lot of energy in the most Democratic county.

Monday, September 03, 2018

Labor Day Roll Call


By popular demand I always post the list of which elected officials and candidates show up at the annual Iowa City Federation of Labor picnic.

Dave Loebsack made his appearance very very early, before I even arrived, before heading off to the Quad Cities and Burlington. Iowa City tends to take Dave for granted and thinks that the rest of the 2nd District is like Iowa City, forgetting that Trump carried the district. There are not a lot of Democratic members in Trump districts. So it was the right plan for Loebsack to spend most of his day elsewhere.

Working down the ticket we had state senators Kevin Kinney and Bob Dvorsky, Dvorsky's very likely successor Zach Wahls, and House 73 candidate Jodi Clemens.

The courthouse was well represented with all five supervisors - Mike Carberry, Kurt Friese, Lisa Green-Douglass, Janelle Rettig and Rod Sullivan - and county attorney Janet Lyness (who's unopposed for re-election after crushing a 2014 primary opponent).


All three candidates for supervisor were on hand as well: Rettig seeking re-election, Pat Heiden, who knocked off Carberry in the Democratic primary, and Republican Phil Hemingway. I'm supporting the Democratic ticket of Rettig and Heiden but I have to give Phil credit for being the only Republican candidate to show up at a labor event. He's been a regular for a few years and even got a labor endorsement one year running for the (non-partisan) school board.

Christine Ralston has the city fed endorsement in Tuesday's Iowa City primary and was one of the few candidates who spoke (the others were Rettig, Heiden and Wahls). Ryan Hall, who has the endorsement of SEIU and their local chair Cathy Glasson (which is more than some candidates have gotten), was also on hand, as was candidate Bruce Teague.

Also from the city we had mayor Jim Throgmorton and council members Rockne Cole, Mazahir Salih, and Pauline Taylor, along with Meghann Foster and Mitch Gross from Coralville.

Saturday, July 21, 2018

The Last Post About Cathy Glasson

Today is the last time I am going to write about Cathy Glasson.

There are certain rules and norms in politics. One of the biggest of those is, if you run in a primary, you buy into the outcome, and if you lose, you endorse the winner. That's not ideological - it's simply common courtesy.

But one of the more disturbing trends in the "Movement," for lack of a better term for the left edge of the Democratic coalition, has been the normalization of sore loser-ism. It began with Bernie Sanders' refusal to recognize simple math and his insistence that a nomination was still winnable long after that was possible, and his half-assed token "endorsement" of the woman who defeated him.

Fred Hubbell won an absolute majority in a five* way primary. John Norris, Andy McGuire, and Ross Wilburn immediately congratulated and endorsed him. (* The endorsement of the guy I voted for is not welcome.) That's how it's supposed to work.

But Glasson never said the appropriate words, and demanded speaking time at the Iowa Democratic convention. That was the moment the endorsement should have happened - yet it didn't. I grumbled that day, then set it aside for a bit.

A couple weeks back I got word that Glasson was speaking at the Iowa CCI convention, being held today. At that point I thought: "one more chance." It would be an awkward stage, sure, as Vote For Fred was not a message the CCI audience would want to hear. That made it even more important to say.
"Aside from those two lines," wrote Pat Rynard, "Glasson’s address was pretty much no different than one of her campaign rally speeches." Later in the day, he added: "after November she plans on shifting to a focus on presidential candidates and pressing the 2020 hopefuls who come into the state on progressive policy ideas & messaging."

That plays into the theory floated by the Des Moines Register that the "campaign" was never really about electing Catherine R. Glasson as Governor of Iowa - but was it was an elaborate mailing list building operation to help SEIU be a player in the 2020 caucuses.

Later in the day keynoter Nina Turner, the high profile Sanders backer who has never won a contested election larger than a city council race, made this thinly veiled dig at Hubbell: “Folks are just flat out buying elections, even people who we like... We shouldn’t support candidates who can buy the election"

True, Hubbell had the most money. But Glasson had the second most money of the candidates who finished the race (virtually all from the coffers of SEIU). She could not match Fred dollar for dollar, but unlike Norris and Wilburn, she had enough money to be visible and to make her case. And she made it well and she did so at the appropriate time.

And the voters rejected it.

Much has been made of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and her defeat of congressional incumbent Joe Crowley on a "socialist" message. But Iowa is not the Bronx. Just weeks before, Cathy Glasson ran a much better funded campaign on a very similar message - and lost 55-20%.

What do you do when you lose 55 to 20%? You congratulate and endorse the winner. Refusing to endorse is not only rude, it's an insult to the majority of the voters. Primary night? Strike one. State convention? Strike two. Today? You're out.

Cathy Glasson has instead thrown in with those who think an 85% good Democrat is worse than a 100% bad Republican. Fortunately, most Glasson supporters I know have moved on and are ready for Hubbell to defeat Kim Reynolds.

Glasson's lack of endorsement will not harm Hubbell. The only damage is to her own credibility.

So today is the last time I will write about Cathy Glasson. She had a big stage today. It was  her last best chance to be a team player, and she refused.

Today is the last time I will write about Cathy Glasson - because through her own actions, she has made herself irrelevant to the 2018 general election.

Saturday, July 14, 2018

Absentee Advice

Friendly advice from an election staffer: If you think you want to be part of a first day march to the polls on the first day of votingOctober 8, do NOT fill out a vote by mail request. Voiding out a vote by mail request slows down the line.
Also have realistic expectations. Your mailed ballot will NOT be in your mailbox October 8. That's the first day they can be mailed OUT - and because of the Columbus Day federal holiday they won't actually go out till October 9. (Columbus Day is the only federal holiday our office is open and I don't know of any auditors who will be closed that day - so you WILL be able to vote in person.)
Don't panic on day three and get scared about your ballot being "lost," and don't expect to see a mailed ballot in your box till the end of that week at best.
And don't fill out an absentee request just to make the staffer or volunteer happy if you have no intention of actually voting it and are thinking "I'll just go to the polls." That also slows down the line.
Personally I think in person early voting is a safer option for people who can. Vote-doesn't-count kinds of mistakes are not common, but when they do happen they are almost always on mailed ballots.

Monday, July 02, 2018

Johnson County Primary: Party Change Numbers

Iowa Starting Line took a look at party registrations in the just finished primary election.

‏Here in Johnson County, the Democrats are up 2132 active registrations through the end of June. The peak was even higher but invariably we see some double switchers every primary.

By percentage, Dems jumped from 45.69% on May 4, the Friday before voting started, to a peak of 48.32% on June 14 when voter history was updated. That's just short of the all time Johnson County Democratic peak of 49.26% after the 2016 caucus and primary cycle. Double-switches and new registrations have dropped the Democrat's share to 48.15% as of Thursday June 18.

When there's not a caucus or primary going on, new registrations, especially from the Department of Transportation, tend to default to No Party. I cannot remember the last time I saw a registration come through from the DOT changing from No Party to a party, any party. DOT changes are ALWAYS the other way around - from parties to No Party.

Republican registration in Johnson slipped from 20.17% just before primary voting started to 19.79% after primary, and even with double switching has continued to drop slightly.  (Most primary double switchers in Johnson were No Party to Democrat to No Party, rather than R to D to R.)

Also, a pet peeve: The Secretary of State's stats including the statistical category "Other" - when there is only one thing in "Other," the Greens.

Here's a full look at party switching in the People's Republic:


Party Absentee Polls Total
Democrat stayed Democrat 4396 10425 14821
No Party to Democrat 351 1518 1869
Republican to Democrat 110 301 411
Green to Democrat 10 21 31
Libertarian to Democrat 2 26 28
Democratic total 4869 12291 17160
       
Republican stayed Republican 220 1032 1252
No Party to Republican 20 110 130
Democrat to Republican 8 41 49
Libertarian to Republican 1 5 6
Green to Republican 0 0 0
Republican total 249 1188 1437
       
Libertarian stayed Libertarian 5 25 30
No Party to Libertarian 1 29 30
Democrat to Libertarian 5 10 15
Republican to Libertarian 1 8 9
Green to Libertarian 1 0 1
Libertarian total 13 72 85

Monday, June 11, 2018

Post-Primary Number Cruncher 2018

When you ask someone in Johnson County, "what's the turnout gonna be?" they say "I don't know. Ask Deeth."

The problem with that is I have no one to ask, and once the projections get beyond past records, I have nothing to go on.

It is literally my job to project turnout and I had predicted close to record turnout on the Democratic side - ballpark of 11,000 voters in Johnson County, tying the past record set in 2006. It was a similar political scenario - contested governor primary and a hot supervisor race (in 2006 as in 2018, an incumbent supervisor got knocked off).

But when the absentee numbers passed the 2014 final absentee number a week before the election, I started to fret.

Were people just voting earlier? Or was it a Great Leap Forward scenario like we've seen in other states where turnout breaks projections and records dramatically rather than incrementally? And if so, would it be across the board or would there be hot spots?

As it turned out with the turnout, it WAS a Great Leap Forward. Which is why they call us the People's Republic. And we saw some unusual hot spots.

For the first time in a very long time, it appears that a legislative race played a big role in boosting turnout - as percentages were noticeably higher in the precincts in Senate District 37. Given the outcome, it looks like non-typical primary voters were drawn to the polls by Zach Wahls. Throughout the election there were many questions about the district lines and many voters looking at their ballots and wondering where Wahls was (and to a much lesser extent his opponents). Late in the day I told Joe Bolkcom, the senator representing most of Iowa City, "a lot of people are really disappointed to be voting for you." He was amused.

Other hot spots included high-growth precincts in North Liberty, Tiffin, and Iowa City 24 on the east side - which is not surprising. More surprising was a spike on the southeast side at precincts 12, 14, and 15, and in the downtown precincts that included off-campus and non-student housing (11, 13, 20 and to a lesser extent 3). My bet is the governor's race drove those.

Interestingly, the places that usually turn out in high numbers for a Johnson County primary, the townie east side precincts, did NOT see a turnout spike. Rather, the rest of the county increased toward the usual east side levels.

We do turnout update calls at 9, 11, 3 and 6, and our rule of thumb built up over many years is: Turnout usually doubles from 9 to 11, from 11 to 3, and from 3 to close. (The 6 PM update is relatively new.) Usually, I start to worry at the 3 PM if a precinct has used more than 40% of its ballot supply.

At 3 PM Tuesday, 38 of the 57 precincts had used over 40% of their ballots.

From noon to about 8 PM it was one long game of Whack-A-Mole as we ran ballots around town and tried to stay a step ahead. We ran out of the standard pre-printed ballots briefly in a couple places but no one was delayed or turned away; a couple people had to vote on the "Express Vote" machine, the handicap-assistance device that prints a ballot. Luckily, we did not have a line of people all waiting to use the one Express Vote per precinct at the 9 PM close.

We ended up with 17,144 Democrats, about 6000 above my projections. Even the Republicans saw a spike with 1438 voters, almost twice my projection. For the first time in several low-key GOP primaries we did NOT have a precinct with zero Republican voters. We had little trouble running out of ballots on the GOP side, though; we had sent every precinct one pack of 50 Republican ballots and only one precinct (Shueyville) topped that.

Even the Libertarians, in their first primary, set records. Their 82 voters topped the Green's 48 voters from their lone primary in 2002. I REALLY had nothing to go on for projecting Libertarian turnout, but we didn't have more than four Libertarians in any one precinct. And does anyone know why, even though they had an actual contested two candidate primary, 7% of the Libertarian governor vote was write-in?

As for the Democratic governor's race, I had long predicted that, as in the multi-cornered 2014 Republican Senate primary, one candidate would get hot at the end. I had hoped that would be MY candidate, but we all know what happened there. (Nate Boulton winning his native Louisa County despite dropping out was the saddest and most bizarre factoid of the night.)

The candidate who got hot at the end, Fred Hubbell, seemed to benefit from Boulton's implosion. He was far enough ahead of the rest of the field that the dropout of the second-place contender seemed to be a catalyst for consensus. While normal voters are not especially aware of the 35% rule, most of the activist class was relieved to avoid the drama of a nominating convention - even if their candidate lost.

A lot of the party-regular activist class (as opposed to the Sanders-wing activist class) had come out for John Norris late in the game. I was surprised that the late boom for Norris did not seem to translate into support from rank and file voters, as he finished a poor third with just 11%.

In second with 20% was Cathy Glasson, and that figure illustrates the limits of the Bold Progressive rhetorical style and reinforces my argument that half of Bernie Sander's 2016 support, in Iowa and nationwide,  was simply opposition to Hillary Clinton in a two way race (or, as I usually put it, "I Hate That Bitch") and that the "язvolutioи" style alienates more voters than it attracts.  Boulton was polling better than Glasson with a similar platform presented in a less confrontational manner. The trick for Democrats is how to appeal to the hipster niche who are turned on by this style and who seem to be turned on by nothing but this style, without actually making their case in this style.

Glasson's one county level win in small Mills County was more of a statistical quirk than anything. Andy McGuire, thanks to Mike Gronstal's backing, had a relative hot spot in and around Council Bluffs, and her vote seemed to come almost entirely out of Hubbell's. John Norris also performed above average in Mills, as it's next door to his native Montgomery which he won with a whopping 69%. The split let Glasson carry Mills with just over 30%.

Glasson did NOT win here in her home county, the most progressive in the state, losing to Hubbell 44-30%. In fact, Hubbell won 96 counties, all but the three exceptions mentioned above.

Precinct-level results are hard to analyze since the absentee vote (28% of the Johnson County total but much higher in some precincts) is not broken out by precinct. Hubbell had a strong absentee ballot program that included multiple mailers (expect more of that in the fall) and he led the early vote over Glasson 50-24%.

Glasson managed a near-tie in the election day vote in Iowa City proper, losing just 38-37% and by less than 100 votes. But Hubbell won by about a dozen points in Coralville and North Liberty, and ran even stronger in rural areas.

John Norris ran ahead of Hubbell (but behind Glasson) in a couple of the more lefty Iowa City precincts but was below average in student areas. It seems older activists who caucused for Jesse Jackson in `88 remembered Norris fondly, but he did not reach younger voters. His hot spot was in Cedar Township at 37%. Ross Wilburn ran fourth in the county where he was once Iowa City's Biking Mayor, with his hot spot on the southeast side near his old neighborhood.

What might have been: The Des Moines Register ran its Boulton "me too" story the afternoon of May 23. Through the close of business that day 1520 Johnson County Democratic ballots were turned in. Boulton ended up with 339 absentee votes - which is 22% of 1520. (However, he also got 216 Election Day votes, so no assumption is going to be perfect.)
 
My vote DID count for something, though, as Andy McGuire finished dead last in the county.  She did run (barely) ahead of Boulton statewide.




Me and Zach on Caucus Night
Time and time again I have emotionally invested in young candidates, only to get my heart broken by the voters. Despite our massive young population, Johnson County did not have an Anesa Kajtazovic or a Stacey Walker or an Abby Finkenauer or a Chris Hall to call our own.

Until now.

On Tuesday, a 20something finally got a win in Johnson County, but it took someone so extraordinary that he's already an Iowa City and generational icon to do it.

Zach Wahls, who at age 19 passionately defended his two-mom family in front of a hostile legislative committee and shot to overnight viral video fame, is now near-certain to return to the capitol at age 27 (next month) as my state senator.

Wahls' landslide (60-35%) win indicates that voters were ready and eager to support him, and merely needed a little reassurance that he was ready for the job.

If he wasn't, there was a good backup plan. Retired diplomat Janice Weiner ran a much stronger race than expected in terms of fundraising and message, and in the process made Wahls a stronger candidate. Her only mistake was choosing the wrong race at the wrong time, a mistake she also made when she joined the 2016 special school board election late, after everyone had already chosen sides.

In a way, running the wrong race at the wrong time was also Jim Mowrer's mistake in the secretary of state's race. And like Weiner, Mowrer faced an opponent in Deidre DeJear who excited the activist base. There needs to be a place in the system for Jim, and there needs to be a place in the system for Janice. It'll be harder for Mowrer, who now has his third loss in a row.

The issue differences between Wahls and Weiner were minimal and this was a race about biography: rising star vs. resume.  Retiring incumbent Bob Dvorsky and ex-Iowa Democratic Party chair Sue Dvorsky did not formally endorse in the race, but virtually their entire network of local support (of which I'm a small part) was with Wahls, as was the core of an increasingly organized Solon activist base. Wahls also had an unusually high number of high school volunteers, cutting their teeth on their first campaign.

Weiner kept the race positive and there was a positive core to her coalition: old friends from the neighborhood and the synagogue, veterans of the 2016 Democratic HQ where she staffed, and assorted Women's March/League types.

But Weiner also drew some negative support -  though she didn't ask for it and it had little to do with her. Some supporters hurt Weiner more than they helped. A few Iowa City old guard types were anxious to shoot Wahls down now, before he becomes a threat for higher office. Other people attacked "insiders" and "machines" and nursed grudges against the Dvorskys over who they supported in races past and present. And the far left was mad about Wahls' very prominent 2016 support of Hillary Clinton - because no one gets forgiven for endorsing Hillary except Cathy Glasson.

For various combinations of these reasons, the No To Everything faction (who editorialized that Wahls should drop out simply because he is male) was with Weiner.  But they may have helped Weiner a little in Newport Township, which she almost carried - Wahls was in the 60%+ range in the rest of northeast Johnson County.

Wahls won the Coralville core of the district with 66%, and his best showing was 75% in Iowa City 8, where Weiner now lives (her roots are Coralville) but also where Wahls grew up and where The Moms still live. (One of the best parts of Zach's campaign for me was getting to know Jackie Reger and Terry Wahls.)  Weiner won Cedar County and Scott Township in Johnson; Wahls won the city of Wilton, the one Muscatine County precinct.

There were two other candidates in the race and both ended up as asterisks. Eric Dirth got some positive reviews for his forum answers but there wasn't a lane for a second 26 year old man, one who didn't have magic internet money and a life story that is literally a best seller. As for Imad Youssif, he ran an even weaker race than his last place run for Coralville city council last year, and he seems well on his way to perennial candidate status.
 


After disposing with token opposition from the Libertarians (Republicans may just let this one go), Wahls will go to the Senate with a high profile and high expectations, and if Fred Hubbell falls short Wahls will be the most prominent new face in the Capitol period. Zach has been an in-demand stump speaker for three cycles already, and has proven that he is a fund-raising magnet. In his new role as de facto senator-elect you can expect to see a lot of Wahls on the trail this year.




It's a big deal when an incumbent loses a primary in Johnson County. The last supervisor to lose a primary was Mike Lehman in 2006, and the last incumbent period was auditor Tom Slockett in 2012. (I still like saying that.)  Now Mike Carberry is out after one term. A story that resurfaced exactly when voting started about Carberry's dismissal from a prior job may have played a role.

There was a lot of grumbling about dissatisfaction with the Board, but it seems not to have affected Janelle Rettig, who finished in a strong first. With the high turnout, Rettig set a new record for most votes in a contested primary at 10,826.

That was about 1900 votes ahead of second place Pat Heiden, who had been about 300 votes short of the third and final nomination in 2016. The former Oaknoll director had never really stopped running and had worked hard to build her Democratic Party bona fides in the intervening two years. She'd been attacked as a "stealth Republican" in 2016 even though her Democratic donor record dates back to 2006.

Heiden's win sets up the first-ever female majority Johnson County Board of Supervisors, with Heiden and Rettig joining holdover Lisa Green-Douglass. It's not a first in state history, but it's believed to be the only one now. (While this was just the primary, the Republicans have no candidates, and no Republican has won a general election for supervisor since 1958.)

Rettig finished first in every precinct in Iowa City and Coralville and in most of North Liberty. Heiden won high growth North Liberty 6, the west part of the city, and carried most of the rural-rural precincts (Rettig carried some of the small towns and the suburban-rural precincts). Carberry's strongest showings were second places in the core Iowa City lefty precincts, 18 and 21, on the southeast side in 12 and 15, and in scattered rural precincts.

Going into the election it seemed like each of the three candidates had their own unique coalitions, and there was a lot of thought that voters would cast strategic "bullet" votes, using only one of the two available votes.

Using my patented Votes Per Voter statistic, we see that the average voter cast 1.58 votes for supervisor. That means on average 42% of voters cast only one vote in this race - and even more among people who voted for supervisor at all, because X number of people skipped the race entirely and just voted for governor or in the state senate race.

That tells me that this contest was not a concerted effort to get rid of any one person. You need to vote for two to do that. Rather. people voted for their first choice but held off on a second choice, worrying that their second choice might push their first choice into third place.

Greg Morris, a Hawkeye football equipment manager, had made some noise about getting into the race in March but didn't file. Days before the election, he announced a write-in effort. A total of just 249 write-ins were cast, and even if they were all for Morris (they weren't - I was told I got one vote) that would be below the 5% that would require his name to be included in the canvass. There was a noticeable bump in write-ins for supervisor in greater metro Solon, where Morris lives.

The biggest dud of the night would have to be Ginny Caligiuri's write-in campaign for the Republican congressional nomination. Caligiuri filed in March but was knocked off the ballot by a challenge.

I honestly thought that that Caligiuri might be able to pull off a write-in win. The circumstances were perfect for it: low Republican turnout, an actual campaign with money and stuff, and a Republican base not in love with 2016 candidate Christopher Peters, a small-l libertarian who has run in the past as a big-L Libertarian.

But the message must not have gotten out beyond the inner circle, as only 12.5% of the vote was for write-ins period. So instead of a social conservative with full party backing and the enthusiastic support of a governor from the same home town, Dave Loebsack faces the same opponent he bested in the bad 2016 cycle.

Now the biggest question I have left is: What's turnout gonna be in the fall?

Monday, May 28, 2018

Thoughts on the governor's race


1) As you all know I supported Nate Boulton for governor and voted for him on opening day. Since I have already voted, I do not see the point in making a Plan B endorsement. After a long weekend I do have some thoughts.

2) I am not ready to discuss the #MeToo issues surrounding Boulton and I may never be. I still hurt too much and it’s all personal. A week ago I thought the guy who was my high school doorknocking volunteer could be governor. Now, I’ve lost not just my candidate but my vote.

3) The only thing that’ll make me feel better is if my candidates in other races win. Given how Boulton worked out you may consider me a poor judge of character, but I still want to put in a good word for my friends Zach Wahls and Janelle Rettig.

4) I’m also not going to get into the “who was behind the story” question because it doesn’t matter.

5) Now, as for the governor’s race itself. The Register tried to dismiss it in their editorial endorsing another candidate, but I believe that Andy McGuire‘s incompetent leadership of the Iowa Democratic Party is disqualifying to consideration of her as governor.

6) This isn’t just about me being petty about being left off the caucus review committee; that exclusion was just one more example of McGuire’s overall poor leadership.

7) I voted for Ross Wilburn a couple times for Iowa City council, and voted against him once for a no-chance opponent out of my obsession with the 21 bar issue. He’s a good guy, but he is not going to be a factor in this race.

8) As for Cathy Glasson. This is the hard part because every time I criticize Glasson I get personally attacked by a bunch of no-names with red roses in their handles. That’s exactly part of the problem.

9) The confrontational, “bold” style of the Glasson campaign wins over some hipsters and members of the grad student proletariat who would probably vote third party or not at all otherwise.

10) Yes I said “hipster” on purpose. There’s a hybrid cross-breed of Rand Paul-Bernie Sanders cat who will probably vote Libertarian over any non-Glasson Democrat, because they’re too dumb to know the difference between libertarian and socialist. Revolution, dude!

11) And I said “grad student proletariat” on purpose because a lot of leftists remind me of me when I was 25 and I am embarrassed for my former self.

12) But within the actual “working class” the ideological lefty style alienates more voters than it wins over, and the effect is a net loss of votes.  It’ll be tough going whoever is nominated – but Glasson is unelectable and will cause downballot damage.

13) As evidence, the issue difference between Boulton and Glasson was narrow but Boulton was presenting it in a way that was much more appealing to voters, as seen by his 20-13 lead over Glasson in the poll taken days before his collapse.

14) The Glasson style is more than rhetoric – it’s the glee many Glasson people showed before Boulton even dropped out, and the immediate, bullying pressure on us Boulton supporters to switch to Glasson. (Monitor responses to these tweets for more evidence of the bullying style.)

15) I have reports that Glasson was personally calling key Boulton backers within hours of his dropout. Our tears weren’t even dry yet.

16) That's in keeping with the style they showed at our county convention when Norris supporters offered a delegate deal and Glasson backers responded only with demands for them to switch to her. As always: it's their way or no way, which is a dangerous approach to politics.

17) I’m sure a lot of people who chose Sanders over Clinton will point out that I ranked the two female candidates lowest. In the four contested races on my ballot (one a vote for two) the gender split of my personal choices was 3-2.

18) That leaves us with John Norris and Fred Hubbell.  Both are good men who could do the job. Both have paths to victory, though those paths differ in some ways.

19) I will of course support the nominee but I think Hubbell and Norris are the choices with the best chance to win. This is not an endorsement of either. But I voted for Boulton so what do I know.