Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Iowa CIty School Board Numbers

School Board: Crunching the Numbers

The Iowa City school district sees the highest turnout since the record set in 1995, and the highest in a year without a bond on the ballot since 1993. Big fields of strong candidates in local elections drives (relatively) high turnout. 6% in this case.

Here's the numbers.

Sarah Swisher is the night's big winner. The political veteran put together a strong message (that banner headline in the P-C about a pilot program for year round school got noticed) and get out the vote effort in her first bid as a candidate in her own right. It also didn't hurt that, in a 70% Obama county, she was the candidate most strongly identified with the Democratic Party.
(Aside: Contrast the first place finish of former JCDems chair Swisher with the last place finish of former Linn County GOP chair Jim Conklin in Marion. I'm just sayin'.)

Swisher won strongest at Twain (where equity was a winning issue) City High (her Longfellow geographic base) and on the progressive north side. Perhaps most impressive, Swisher finished first on the west side. She maintained dignity in fourth in Coralville but finished a poor fifth in North Liberty.

Tuyet Dorau, a likable candidate with a unique personal story, put on an impressive campaign for a relative political newcomer in second place. Dorau picked up a lot of second votes from Swisher supporters, but ran ahead of Swisher in Coralville, North Liberty, and (statistically insignificant) Hills. Not first anywhere, but not below fourth anywhere.

Incumbent Mike Cooper ran strongest in his North Liberty-Coralville base but held his own across the district for a solid third place re-election. Despite a mood of change, enough people gave him credit for effort (including fellow incumbent Michael Shaw who sent out a late endorsement). Cooper trailed on the east and north side but was first in Manville Heights, Coralville and Hills. One advantage of the higher name ID of incumbency: Cooper ran second to Swisher on the early vote.

Anne Johnson led the field with a whopping 77% in North Liberty (and helped boost turnout there to the highest levels in ages), but was perhaps identified TOO strongly with the North Liberty high school issue and fell about 300 votes short. Johnson ran poorly on the east and north sides, where Cooper maintained dignity.
(Tangent: My election returns pet peeve is the misleading reporting of percentages in contests where you vote for more than one. Adding up all the votes then dividing by the grand total tends to understate the candidate's real support. See this otherwise handy KCRG list for examples. 54% of voters marked a ballot for her, but Swisher's big win gets reported as a puny "21%".)

Jean Jordison, the most east side identified candidate, actually finished first at Lemme. At one point before North Liberty results came in she was running ahead of Cooper in third place. But she ran last* (not counting dropouts Kaine and Manthey) in Coralville, North Liberty and Manville Heights. She wound up just about 100 votes behind Johnson for a relatively respectable fifth.

The big surprise may be April Armstrong's relatively poor sixth place. She had a lot of signs co-located with Cooper and Johnson, and ran best where they ran best... yet well behind them in every precinct. Nearly 200 votes behind Johnson in North Liberty, fifth behind Dorau and Swisher in Coralville. And a dismal 10% at City High and 11% at Horace Mann.

Bullet voting was less of a factor than I'd guessed. The average voter cast 2.6 of the three available votes. I'd guess a lot of Swisher-Dorau-Blank and Cooper-Johnson-Blank.

Bullet votes loomed larger in Solon where Dick Schwab finished a strong first in his comeback bid after one year off. An average Solon voter marked only 2.2 out of three available votes. I was expecting people to vote all three choices to block their least favorite. Instead, I think Schwab got a lot of unique support.

Elected incumbent David Asprey is a comfortable second while appointee Liane Westcot gets a narrow third over newcomer Gene Lawson.

Clear Creek beats Amana. Big turnout spikes in North Liberty, Oxford, Cosgrove and Tiffin are met with no response from Amana (Western Hills basically is a non-participant in CCA elections).

Amana's horse in the race was District 2 incumbent Kathy Zimmerman, who was knocked off by Eileen Schmidt (a write-in last year). Zimmerman managed 84% in Amana but Schmidt won 80% in Tiffin.

In the at large race, relative newcomer Barbara Kounkel wins North Liberty but Aimee Pitlick carried everything else. Amana didn't seem to care about this one; a couple dozen people who voted in the Zimmerman-Schmidt race skipped it and, in what is probably a first, the Amana precinct had a one vote margin. Pitlick 51, Kounkel 50. Amana never, never, never splits its vote; it votes 97-3 or 99-1.

Mick Kahler nets almost all the votes in the all write-in District 4.

Lone Tree had a surprise. True, all three unopposed incumbents got re-elected, but SOMEbody tried a write-in campaign and pulled about a third of the vote. Turnout was respectable, so word of a stealth campaign must have gotten out. You can't keep a secret in Lone Tree. Believe me, I lived there.

Taxpayer rebellion fails to materialize as the Kirkwood levy carried Johnson County 71-29. Johnson cast about three times as many votes as Linn (no contests in Cedar Rapids), but Washington County may be the key: close to 3000 votes in the Washington school district as a high school bond fails for the fourth time, falling victim to the supermajority with only 52% yes.


Gark said...

Nice analysis John. I thought that Jordison might pull it out for the 3 spot until I saw the last three precincts left to report. Anne Johnson's campaign was the surprise, but I guess the folks at Pearson Education turned out.

Essential Estrogen said...

While Conklin did finish in last place in the local election, it's also worth noting that I really didn't see any evidence of him campaigning. No signs that I saw, no door knocking (in my neighborhood at least).

Despite this being a non-partisan ballot/election, it's also worth noting the demographics of the voters. That is, while the whole of Marion tends to trend Republican, you must remember that the city is split by two school districts -- Linn-Mar and Marion. Marion precincts, which are typically the older sections of town, are the ones that trend Democratic.