Saturday, January 10, 2009

State Rep Race in the 24th Could be Exciting in 2010?…or 2012? Or Not?

Republican Bill Oberle has represented the area outside Newark since 1976. Currently the district includes parts of Old Baltimore Pike , Kirkwood Highway and East Chestnut Hill. He represents Scottfield and shares representation of Brookside with Democrat John Kowalko of the adjacent 25th Representative District. There are other neighborhoods as well, but this gives you an idea of the area involved. As of 1-1-2009 the district registration tilts heavily Democratic with 6, 444 Democrats , 3, 057 Republicans and 3,132 Others among the 12, 633 registered voters.

Oberle has lasted for 32 years as a Republican in a heavily Democratic district in part by maintaining strong ties with labor unions and 2008 was no different. He was one of just three Republican candidates who received the nomination of the Working Families Party, which describes itself as “a grassroots, community and labor based political party”, in addition to the nomination of the Republican Party. Oberle also received contributions above the $100 amount which triggers mandatory reporting from several unions including the Carpenters, the United Auto Workers, the Teamsters and the Plumbers & Pipefitters.

2008 showed him his toughest election contest to date. It was also his first contested election in 20 years. His Democratic opponent Daniel Basara did not file prior to the July 25, 2008 deadline ,but was later appointed by the party. Since no other Democrat filed , Basara was appointed by the Democratic Party prior to the September 2, 2008 deadline. Oberle would have gone unopposed without the appointment.Oberle had paid his filing fee July 10, 2008,so had a 32 year incumbency advantage and a 2 month formal campaign headstart.

Oberle also got a headstart on fund-raising. Oberle started 2008 with $12,115.25 on hand according to his mandatory finance report filed 30 days prior to the Nov 2008 general election.. Between Jan 1st and Oct 1st Oberle raised $13,950.00 & spent $6,101. Between Oct 1st and Oct 27, 2008, the mandatory filing period ending 8 days before the general election, Oberle raised an additional $10,250.00 and spent $9, 720.70. Basara reports raising no money until Oct 1, 2008 . He raised only $2700 between Oct 1, 2008 and Oct 27, 2008 and spent $2,572.58 of that prior to end of the 8 day reporting period.

Since the reports are not yet available, we can not take into account money raised and spent in the days immediately before and after the general election. We can see that in the months leading up to the election Oberle outraised Basara $26,065 to $2700 or better than 9-1 and outspent him $15821.70 to $2,572.58 or better than 6-1.

The result was Oberle won by 602 votes (54% to 46%) and won 6 of 9 election districts. Basara won only 3 election districts, but in two losing districts he came close. In the 2nd of the 24th Oberle won 582 to 543 and in the 8th of the 24th Oberle won 695 to 683. This means that Basara won or seriously contested 5 of 9 districts. This may bode well for the Democrats in the next two to four years.

It is possible Basara or another viable Democratic may run in 2010 and start much earlier. With increased time to build an organization and raise money it is possible they may seriously challenge Oberle in 2010. I would say this is not overly likely without a lot of organization and 2009 preparation. 2010 will be an off year election ,so many of the more casual voters will not turnout.

Off year turnout could be more than 25 % less than 2008
Here are the turnout numbers for the 24th which has had the current boundaries since 2002:
2002 --35.3%
2004 --63.7%
2006 --37.7%
2008 –64.8%

The 25% that comes out during a presidential year may have been the voters that brought Basara this close in 2008 and are less likely to vote in 2010. If he is serious about serving he should run again to maybe win, but also (in case of a 2010 loss) to increase his name recognition for a run in 2012 after reapportionment. If Basara does not run or they find a more viable candidate, the Democrats in the 24th might consider another 2010 candidate who is willing run with the realization it might be a trial run.

My guess is the most likely chance the Democrats have, unless they very early develop a strong organization behind their 2010 candidate, is in 2012 after reapportionment. Considering they have a 6,444 to 3,057 registration advantage, the Democrats can not create a district that is more heavily weighted in their favor as far as registration. They can change what Democrats will be voting in what districts, so that Democrats used to voting for Oberle have a different set of choices in 2012.

If they maintain control of the House of Representatives and the reapportionment process does not change , the House Democratic caucus will draw the 2012 district lines. As best I could tell from looking at the maps on the County Board of Elections website, the 24th is adjacent to the 18th, the 25th and the 26th Districts. Each of these is now represented by a Democrat.The lines could be drawn to place parts of areas where Oberle is popular in 3-4 different districts, splitting them between the current 24th and the other three Democratically held seats. Because each of them would have only a portion of where he is popular, the impact would be somewhat neutralized to each of the Democrats while Oberle’s base of supporters would be dispersed across multiple district lines. I am neither supporting nor opposing such a plan, but pointing what might be possible during reapportionment.

If Basara does not run and the Democrats don’t find a viable candidate in 2010 or 2012, Oberle may be in Dover for quite awhile longer. After serving more than 30 years Oberle may retire in upcoming years, if the Republicans do not regain the majority and he tires of minority party status. I have not spoken with either of these gentlemen, so have no idea of their plans.
The 24th might be a district to watch in 2010 or 2012 or not.

Finance reports available at the Delaware Elections Commissioner’s website:


Unstable Isotope said...

Well, the 24th has not had a strong Democratic committee in the past. It's reforming, and the new chairperson is very committed to getting a good candidate to run against Oberle in 2010.

John Tobin said...

That sounds like good news for the Democratic Party and democracy with a small "d".
If the Democratic Committee uses 2009 to organize, select a candidate and raise money, they may be able to hit the ground running in 2010 and be competitive.