Sunday, September 7, 2008

Bold Prediction-Better Funded Incumbents will defeat less well funded challengers in County races 9-9-08

The following post is a series of predictions, not endorsements. I am not saying who I think SHOULD OR SHOULD NOT win or how I personally will vote, only who I think will win . I base the predictions on several factors which include an advantage due to incumbency, a disproportionate amount of political resources and possible perceived negatives of the opponents.

County Executive-coons beats Gordon

Chris Coons has run in two previous countywide primaries over the last 8 years. Coons received 17,584 in 2004 in a 3 way primary in which 26,614 votes were cast. In 2000 received 7,520 votes of 15, 534 cast . Several thousand Democrats have twice voted for Chris Coons in an interparty contest .

No one has ever voted for Tom Gordon in such a contest. Tom Gordon has never run in a countywide primary. In 2000, in one of the two elections when he was on the general election ballot, Tom Gordon’s only opposition was a Green Party candidate. Voters have less of a history casting ballots for him than for Coons even though they have held elective office for 8 years each.

For Gordon to win he needs to not only convince several thousand Democrats to vote for him,but also to convince many who had voted for Coons in his two prior primaries to vote against Coons since Coons won 66% of the vote in 2004 and 48% in 2000. To get those people to vote against Coons at this point, they would have to perceive one of three things: (1) Coons turned out to be less than they expected which calls into question their own judging skills, (2) they made a mistake picking Coons twice which also calls into question their own judging skills or (3) Coons changed since becoming County Executive. I am thinking (1) and (2) are tough sells because people have to make a negative evaluation of their own decision making skills. On number (3) other than taxes being raised and some changes in service delivery to meet new financial circumstances, I think it might be a hard sell to convince voters that Coons has changed.

I assume Gordon may get the 18% Sherry Freebery got against Coons in 2004, since Gordon & Freeberry were the County management team for 8 years and are linked in the public mind for many New Castle County residents. Gordon would need to get the bulk of the votes Richard Korn received (16%) while running as a total county outsider, who had sued the county over accumulated surpluses which he viewed as a slush fund . Gordon also needs to cut into the 66% vote that Coons received.
Unless it is a different pool of voters this election than 2004 Gordon would have to get all of the votes Korn & Freeberry received (34%) and an additional 17% from former Coons voters which would be the equivalent of getting 1 out of 4 Coons voters to switch.
The other problem Gordon has is that he last ran in 1996 and 2000. As mobile as society is, many of the people casting votes that long ago have moved. And percentage-wise more of the people who voted in 1996 are dead today than people who voted in 2004 (Coons first campaign) which additionally diminishes Gordon’s prospective pool.

The political resources alluded to above are things like campaign finances and people committed to a particular candidate. While Gordon may have the endorsement of some public employee labor union locals, Coons has the endorsement from the New Castle County Democratic Party as well as some other unions.

The 8-17-2008 News-Journal article by Angie Basiouny described the distance between the two campaign treasuries as “Coons’ triple digit war chest dwarf’s Gordon’s”. Coons outraised Gordon over than 10-1 during the current 4 year election cycle and outspent him more than 5-1 during the first 8 months of 2008. On 8-10-2008 Coons had $127,907 on hand and Gordon had $3,617. Money can’t buy individual votes,but it can buy leaflets, postage, radio spots and billboards. Coons has the resources to make many more of those purchases than Gordon. In local politics more so than national elections that get wide media coverage, name recognition (especially presented in a way the candidate can control) can be crucial.
I think Coons has the edge in this contest and I don’t think it will be close despite Ron Williams’ News-Journal column today calling it a tossup. I predict Coons will win with at least 60% of the vote.

County Council President-Clark beats Dunn
Paul Clark has his share of detractors,but Bill Dunn’s campaign is “too little, too late”. Clark has billboards and has run countywide before. Clark has endorsements from the Democratic Party and some labor unions. Dunn has some endorsements,but it does not appear they are endorsements with much financial backing . Dunn had $1,749 on hand 8-10-2008 and Clark had over $36,000.
During the filing period prior to the 30 days before the primary, Dunn’s largest expenditure was not on self-promotion like fliers,but $1,675 to the County Democratic Party (which I assume was his filing fee). He also spent $120 on t-shirts,but had not other expenditures above $100 reported. By September 1st Dunn had pulled in another $1,380, but does not report any expenditures on things like postage or printing or media buys which I would assume a challenger would need to unseat an incumbent.
From 8-11-2008 to 9-1-2008 Paul Clark raised $16,925 and spent $14,268.35. In that 3 week period he spent $4,875 for Clear Channel Outdoor ( I assume billboards) and over $4,000 to two graphics companies which I assume is for fliers.
In a contest where name recognition is pretty central, Clark’s ability to get his name out more can offset negative publicity.
One of County Council’s major functions is land use zoning and Clark presides over County Council. His wife, Pam Clark, is an attorney who is active in rezoning issues.Some have said this creates a conflict.While Clark’s wife’s real estate zoning related legal practice has gotten a fair amount of press and the e-mail he sent with her firm’s e-mail address in it created some controversy, I think the average voter would need several months of relentless attention drawn to this issue for it to impact the outcome of this race. There may be an appearance of impropriety, but if it can not be presented in a way that casual voters will see it, Clark’s detractors will have a tough time unseating him.
I predict Clark will win with at least 55% of the vote.

County Council 8th District
It’s hard to unseat an incumbent. It’s even harder when you are outspent more than 16-1.
In his 30 day report and 8 day report John Cartier, the incumbent in the 8th, reports spending several thousand dollars on printing and graphics work to get his message out. His opponent reporting spending about $700 in the 30 day report which was field 8-1-2008 and zero expenditures made from 8-11-2008 to 9-1-2008. To spend nothing in the the first 3 weeks of the last month prior to the primary does not seem like a way to get a challenger’s message out.
I predict Cartier wins with at least 55% of the vote.

County Council 12th District
Current incumbent Bill Bell won his Democratic primary for the 12th Disrtict in 2004 over two opponents in which he received 1,660 votes and the other two received a combined total of 708.
He and Tom Scherer have each spent several thousand dollars on things like signs and printing.
Bell has more money on hand , four years incumbency and won his last primary better than 2-1.
I am less certain about this race than the others ,but I predict Bill Bell will win this primary.

Campaign finance balances
Chris Coons* $127,907
Thomas Gordon $3,617
Paul Clark* $36,108
William Dunn $1,749
John Cartier* $5,828
Carl Colantuono $350
Bill Bell* $4,178
Tom Scherer $206
Balances on hand 8-11-2008

News-Journal article about county campaign finance filings

Also used was the State of Delaware Election Commissioner's website which can be accessed through the state's website at:

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