Monday, October 27, 2008

The 35th Rep District: Is it a Red District in a Blue State?

I am thinking Aaron Chaffinch has an uphill climb as the Democratic candidate for the 35th Representative District. The state representative seat is an open seat with the retirement of the current incumbent, Republican Ben Ewing, who has held the seat since 1987. Chaffinch is opposed by Dave Wilson, the current Sussex County Register of Wills, who has been elected 3 times countywide and has Ewing’s endorsement.

The 35th Representative District encompasses Bridgeville, Greenwood and some rural areas west of Georgetown. It has a Democratic registration edge (5,122 Democrats, 4,487 Republicans and 2,593 Others as of 10-1-2008) . In some places 2008 is perceived to be a Democratic year. However, a review of some numbers from the Election Commissioner’s website say it might not be a Democratic year in the 35th this year.

The two primaries held this year indicate that in the 35th District the Republican voters appear to be more energized than the Democrats. Below are the turnout numbers.

The presidential primary in Feb 2008 saw a 38% turnout statewide in the Democratic primary, but only a 27.6 % turnout in the 35th. In the Republican presidential primary there was a 28.0% turnout both statewide and in the 35th.

In the September statewide primary Democrats had a 27.8% turnout,but only a 23.1% turnout in the 35th. The Republicans had a 16% turnout statewide in the Sept 2008 primary, but the 35th had a 24.4% turnout. Five of seven election districts were involved in either the Sussex County Council District 2 or District 3 races to nominate the Republican candidates so these local races may have skewed primary turnout somewhat, but it still shows some energy since people went to the polls.

This is nominally a swing district. In 2004 Ruth Ann Minner (D) lost to Bill Lee (R ) by 1063 votes for Governor, while in the Lt Governor’s race John Carney (D ) won by 615 votes. In 2006 Beau Biden ( D ) lost to Ferris Wharton ( R ) in the Attorney General race in the 35th by 248, while Tom Carper ( D ) beat Jan Ting ( R ) by 2624 to 1439 in the US Senate race.

This is not an average Delaware swing district though. If you do further investigation on the Election Commissioner’s website, you learn that in the 35th District , Christine O’Donnell, who had lost the Senate GOP primary in Sept 2006 and intentionally positioned herself as the most conservative candidate in the Senate race as a write-in in 2006 , received 896 write-in votes in the 35th District. O’Donnell received 11,127 write-in votes statewide. 8.1% of her statewide total came out of the 35th District. As of 10-13-2006 the 35th represented 11, 518 of the state’s 557,703 or 2.1 % of all voters. A district that accounted for about one out of fifty voters statewide also accounted for about one out of every 12 votes cast by write-in for the most conservative candidate campaigning. This district was not only much more likely to vote conservative, they were committed enough to what they valued to take the extra steps write-in voting entails.

If he is looking for coattails at the top of the ticket from the Obama-Biden presidential ticket, he may not find it in the 35th District. In 2004 George W Bush ( R )crushed John Kerry (D ) 4581- 2440. The last time Joe Biden was on the ballot in 2002, he won his Senate re-election bid with 58.2% statewide. Joe Biden lost the 35th District to Ray Clatworthy 2499 to 2093. On top of this, Barack Obama lost the presidential primary to Hillary Clinton in the 35th by a 668-593 margin despite winning the statewide primary with 53.3% , so there may not be total party unanimity among Democrats.

Chaffinch’s puzzle strategically is how to run conservative enough to not totally alienate what appears to be a fairly energized conservative base without veering so far to the right he convinces whatever moderate to liberal voters that exist there that he is no different than the Republican candidate and they avoid the race altogether.

The News-Journal profile of the race appears to indicate both candidates are focusing more on constituent services and issues not necessarily owned by either the conservative or liberal camp like open government , education, senior services and public safety rather than focusing on obviously polarizing issues like abortion or gun control. Chaffinch’s finance report and the News-Journal article indicate he has ties to State Senator Thurman Adams, the senate president pro tempore who has represented the area in the Senate since 1972. Possibly with intense voter contact ( mailing & door-to-door) and Adams’ goodwill (if Adams continues to be perceived to be responsive to his constituents) , Chaffinch can make enough in roads to win.
As usual, I am not endorsing anyone (and have never even met either of these particular candidates), just trying to see if the numbers from the past can give us a hint of what will happen in the future.
I am thinking Wilson is more likely to win.

News-Journal profile of the race:

State Election Commissioner's website:

Friday, October 17, 2008

Some more thoughts on local races & turnout

The last post used examples from the Sept 2008 Democratic primary to make the argument that state legislative prmiaries might tend to drive up turnout in an area than a county council race, based on a small sample that was on the ballot in September.
The 4th & 6th State Senate races did have higher turnout that the 8th & 12th New Castle County Council district races, but there was an additional factor that might have caused this besides my contention that people may focus more on state related local races than county related races.
The 4th Senate races is for an open seat which is being vacated by State Senator Charles Copeland's run for Lt Gov. In the 6th state senate race, 2 Democrats (john McKenzie & Mike Terranova)vied to see who could attempt to unseat state senator Liane Sorenson in November, so there was no incumbent Democrat.
In both the 8th & the 12th county council races, an underfunded challenger sought to unseat a Democratic incumbent.
Maybe the fact that these seats had Democratic incumbents was a factor in keeping turnout low.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Not all local primaries are equal drivers of voter turnout.Some Context for Assessing Relative Voter Turnout Performance

My theory stated before the primary was that the presence of local primaries would possibly drive up the turnout in the statewide races in those districts that have local (state representative or county council,for example). It appears that may be on target with a couple qualifications.

It appears that within a Representative District at least 3 election districts (the voting unit in Delaware, often called a precinct in other areas) must be part of the local primary which is not always the case. A state senate district or county council district may overlap 4-6 state representative districts. In some it may encompass the entire district, for example the 6th Senate District takes in the entire 23rd Representative District, but takes in only one election district in the 25h Representative District.Turnout in the 23rd Representative District was 34.2% and turnout in the 25th Representative District was 24.6%.These are adjacent Newark Districts. Both are in the Christina School District.They appear similar areas in a lot of ways,but had 10% turnout difference on 9-11-08.
In Southern Delaware 2 adjacent districts in Sussex County further illustrate that local primaries can drive up statewide primary votes. In the 41st Representative District, where John Atkins seeks to represent a district as a Democrat he previously represented as a Republican, the 2008 turnout in the Governor’s race was 33.1%.Atkins won a primary to be on the ballot for his old seat. The 40th District, just to the west of the 41st, had no local primaries and had a turnout in the Governor’s race of 22.1%. Once again , adjacent district with a 10% difference in turnout and the one with higher turnout has a local state legislative primary.

It seems state legislative races (at least for the 2008 primary) were the local turnout drivers and not county government county council races in New Castle County,although the only Levy Court Democratic primary in Kent County had a turnout above the statewide 27.8 %. There were no Democratic primary county races in Sussex County which has a county council.

Below are some examples for New Castle County that illustrate:

The 15th RD has only a 23.3% turnout in the governor’s race despite having 6 EDs in the 12 th County Council District primary. The 9th RD had 5 EDS in the same county council primary and had 28.8% turnout ,so the race did not push RD turnout much above the average turnout

The 12th RD has 5 EDs that were in either the 4th or 6th State Senate primary and its primary turnout for the Governor’s primary was 36.7%.

Below is the turnout in each of the six local races for either the Delaware General Assembly or county goverment for the local races themselves
State Senate District 4:
10,778 Dems registered, 3854 voted, 35.8% turnout
State Senate District 6:
8,353 Dems registered, 2629 voted, 31.5% turnout
State Representative 41:
6,370 Dems registered,2033 voted,31.9% turnout
New Castle County Council 8thDst:
14,608 Dems registered,3456 voted, 23.7%
New Castle County Council 12th District:
18,576 Dem Registered,4693 voted,25.3%
Kent County Levy Court 3rd District:
4,245 Dems registered, 1427 voted, 33.6% turnout

Monday, October 13, 2008

No Local Primary Equals Lower Turnout or Average Turnout for Statewide Primary Except in Eastern Sussex

Voter turnout for the Delaware Democratic Primary was 27.8%. 18 of 41 Representative Districts had no local primaries. Voters statewide faced a ballot with only the Governor’s race, the Insurance Commissioner’s race and the race for the US House seat. Voters in New Castle County also had races for County Executive and County Council President.

Of these 18 districts, 12 had turnout in the Governor’s race under 27.8% with the 5th District and the 26th District ,both in the Bear area, having turnout below 20%. 3 Representative Districts had turnout over 27.8%,but less than 28.8%.
Three districts had turnout that exceeded 27.8% by at least 1 % point. All three of the districts that exceeded the average by more than a percentage point were in Eastern Sussex County: the 14th in the Lewes-Rehoboth area, the 37th which stretches from Lewes-Georgetown and the 36th which takes in Milton, Slaughter and Ellendale.

I have not had time to research the demographics, but the area has become a haven for large numbers of people from nearby states (Virginia, Maryland and Pennsylvania) which have a longer history of the use of primaries to settle political disputes. Delaware has only had statewide primaries instead of the Delaware Democratic Convention as the vehicle to determine who went on the ballot since the 1970s. It is possible these newcomers are more used to voting in primaries and so vote in higher numbers than native Delawareans. The validity of this theory may be easier to measure as more Census data becomes available.

I think it is notable that the 36th & 37th ,adjacent districts in Sussex with 3 offices on the ballot each had at least 10 % points more turnout than the 5th,18th,24th, and 26th districts in New Castle where there were 5 offices on the ballot.

In case you are thinking this stuff is an abstract discussion, here are what these districts did in the Governor’s primary:
5th Rep District Carney won by 91 votes
18th Rep District Carney won by 1 vote
24th Rep District Markell won by 75 votes
26th Carney won by 80 votes
36th Markell won by 307 votes
37th Markell won by 257 votes
In a race where 1,737 votes was the winning margin, having a 10% higher turnout in areas where Markell was strong may have been pivotal.

(Bear-Glasgow)5th RD-------18.3%--no local primaries
(MOT-near C&D Canal)8th RD-------21.9%-no local primaries
(Rehoboth-Lewes)14th RD------29.1%--no local primaries
(Stanton-Christiana)18th RD------22.0%--no local primaries
(Stanton-Newport)19th RD------28.7%--no local primaries
(Kirkwood Hwy-Rte 7)21st RD------28.5%--no local primaries
(outside Newark east of Salem Church Rd)24th RD------17.4%--no local primaries
(Bear-Christiana)26th RD------19.2%--no local primaries
(Kenton-Cheswold)29th RD------24.6%--no local primaries
(Harrington-Farmington)30th RD------21.2%--no local primaries
(Magnolia-Frederica)33rd RD------23.8%--no local primaries
(Camden-Wyoming)34th RD------23.5%--no local primaries
(Bridgeville-Greenwood-Georgetown)35th RD------23.1%--no local primaries
(Milton-Slaughter Beach-Elendale)36th RD------30.2%--no local primaries
(Lewes-Georgetown)37th RD------33.1%--no local primaries
(Ocean View-South Bethany)38th RD------28.6%--no local primaries
(Seaford-Blades)39th RD------24.1%--no local primaries
(Delmar-Bethel-Hardscrabble)40th RD------22.1%--no local primaries

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Omission correction to the last post

I had not yet placed whether each of these districts had local Democratic primaries in September when I posted on 10-10-2008.
Please note that some of these polling places may comprise more than one election district since sometimes election districts are merged during a primary. For example in 2006 there were 436 districts in the general election, but only 330 districts in the primary.

28th RD------25.8%- 4 EDs in 3rd District Kent County Levy Court( 4 of 9 polling places)
31st RD------24.4%-2 EDs in 3rd District Kent County Levy Court (2 of 6 polling places)
32nd RD------20.9%-2 EDs in 3rd District Kent County Levy Court (2 of 5 polling places)

Friday, October 10, 2008

Turnout Percentage in the 2008 Delaware Democratic Primary for Governor and the Prevalence of Local Primaries in Representative Districts (RDs)

RD=State Representative District
ED=Election District (the smallest voting unit in Delaware, sometimes called precincts in other places)

1st RD-------40.1%-- Eds 8&10(8th county council)/EDs 1-9 &11 (Wilmington Mayor ,pres city council,local city council races)
2nd RD-------29.6%(mayor,city council pres & 7 of 16 EDS had local city council district races)
3rd RD-------24.3%(mayor ,president city council, and 2 of 7 polling places –local city council district)
4th RD-------38.7%-2nd,11th &16th ED(4th senate), (Mayor,city council president ,5 city EDs had local city council)
5th RD-------18.3%--no local primaries

6th RD-------29.1%--6th & 7th ED(4th Senate)/1st-5th & 8th –12th Eds (8th county council)
7th RD-------37.2%--1st,9th & 14th ED (4th Senate)/ 4th-8th Eds (8th county council)
8th RD-------21.9%-no local primaries
9th RD-------28.4%--1st, 3rd-5th & 7th –10th Eds(12th county council)
10th RD------27.5%--1st,2nd,6th-8th EDs (4th Senate)/4th,5th, 9th-11th Eds (8th county council)
11th RD------34.4%--3rd, 4th, 6th-11th Eds (4th Senate)/ 12th-14th Eds (8th county council)
12th RD------36.7%-- Eds 4,7, 10 & 11 (4th Senate)/8th ED (6th Senate

13th RD------25.9%--ED3(City councilPres & Mayor-Wilmington)

14th RD------29.1%--no local primaries
15th RD------23.3%--Eds 1,3,4,7,8,9 (12th county council)
16th RD------30.0%-Eds 1,10 & 11(12th county council) ED 6 (city council pres,district 4 &mayor-Wilmington)
17th RD------27.7%EDs 1-4,6 & 8 (12th county council)
18th RD------22.0%--no local primaries
19th RD------28.7%--no local primaries
20th RD------34.4%--13th (4th Senate), 12 th (6th Senate)
21st RD------28.5%--no local primaries
22nd RD------33.1%--1st(4th Senate)/ 2nd, 3rd, 5th, 10th, 13th & 14th (6th Senate)
23rd RD------34.2%-all Eds (1-10) in the 6th SenateDistrict primary
24th RD------17.4%--no local primaries
25th RD------24.6%--1st ED in the 6th senate district primary
26th RD------19.2%--no local primaries
27th RD------22.0%--Eds 7& 10 (12th county council)
28th RD------25.8%
29th RD------24.6%--no local primaries
30th RD------21.2%--no local primaries
31st RD------24.4%
32nd RD------20.9%
33rd RD------23.8%--no local primaries
34th RD------23.5%--no local primaries
35th RD------23.1%--no local primaries
36th RD------30.2%--no local primaries
37th RD------33.1%--no local primaries
38th RD------28.6%--no local primaries
39th RD------24.1%--no local primaries
40th RD------22.1%--no local primaries
41st RD------33.1%-all Eds 41st Rep District primary

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Relative Turnout and Performance by Representative District in the 2008 Democratic Primary for Governor

Explanation of chart terms:

% of votes= the percentage of votes cast that each RD contributed in the 2008 primary of the statewide total.Of votes cast statewide, this is the percentage cast from each district.

% of DelRegDems= the percentage of registered Democrats each RD represents of the total number of Democrats statewide.Of the Democrats registered statewide,this is percentage from each district.

turnout= the percentage of Democrats within a Representative District that voted in the 2008 Democratic Primary

The more the % of votes cast in the statewide primary exceeds the % of registered Democrats statewide in any district, the higher that district performed. It means the influence exerted by that district on the outcome exceeded its proportion to the voter pool. For example- for the 1st Representative District, the 5.2% of the votes casts statewide means that the district exerted more influence on the outcome than if it accounted for the 3.5% of the registered Democrats, if district turnout was identical across the state.

Rep District----% of vote-----% ofDelregDems-----Turnout

1st RD-----------5.2%-------------3.5%----------------40.1%
2nd RD-----------3.4%-------------3.2-----------------29.6%
3rd RD-----------2.8%-------------3.2%----------------24.3%
4th RD-----------3.9%-------------2.8%----------------38.7%
5th RD-----------2.0%-------------3.0%----------------18.3%
6th RD-----------2.8%-------------2.7%----------------29.1%
7th RD-----------2.8%-------------2.1%----------------37.2%
8th RD-----------3.0%-------------3.3%----------------21.9%
9th RD-----------2.9%-------------2.9%----------------28.4%
10th RD----------2.5%-------------2.5%----------------27.5%
11th RD----------2.8%-------------2.2%----------------34.4%
12th RD----------2.8%-------------2.1%----------------36.7%
13th RD----------2.4%-------------2.6%----------------25.9%
14th RD----------3.4%-------------2.9%----------------29.1%
15th RD----------2.9%-------------3.5%----------------23.3%
16th RD----------3.5%-------------3.2%----------------30.0%
17th RD----------2.7%-------------2.7%----------------27.7%
18th RD----------1.9%-------------2.4%----------------22.0%
19th RD----------2.3%-------------2.2%----------------28.7%
20th RD----------2.5%-------------2.0%----------------34.4%
21st RD----------2.3%-------------2.2%----------------28.5%
22nd RD----------2.3%-------------1.9%----------------33.1%
23rd RD----------2.5%-------------2.0%----------------34.2%
24th RD----------1.4%-------------2.2%----------------17.4%
25th RD----------1.6%-------------1.8%----------------24.6%
26th RD----------1.8%-------------2.6%----------------19.2%
27th RD---------1.9%--------------2.3%-----------------22.0%
28th RD---------2.3%--------------2.4%-----------------25.8%
29th RD---------2.2%--------------2.4%-----------------24.6%
30th RD---------1.6%--------------1.9%-----------------21.2%
31st RD---------1.9%--------------2.2%-----------------24.4%
32nd RD---------1.4%--------------1.9%-----------------20.9%
33rd RD---------1.8%--------------2.1%-----------------23.8%
34th RD---------1.9%--------------2.2%-----------------23.5%
35th RD---------1.6%--------------1.9%-----------------23.1%
36th RD---------2.6%--------------2.4%-----------------30.2%
37th RD---------2.3%--------------1.9%-----------------33.1%
38th RD---------2.4%--------------2.5%-----------------28.6%
39th RD---------1.4%--------------1.6%-----------------24.1%
40th RD---------1.6%--------------2.0%-----------------22.1%
41st RD---------2.8%--------------2.4%-----------------33.1%