Monday, February 23, 2009

The 5th Council Special Election post I had planned for Feb 18th . I was right on the outcome, but wrong on the turnout and winning margin

What follows is a possible scenario, not a prediction. I learned from the special election in December 2008 in the 6th Representative District race that special elections have more variables and fewer givens than a regular general election,so I am shying away from making a prediction. I will, however, offer some observations and offer one possible outcome, based on those obseravtions.
Republicans tend to vote in higher percentages than Democrats and Democrats tend to vote in higher percentages than Others from what I have researched in the previous special elections for state representative races in the 6th Representative District and the 7th Representative District within the last 24 months. After talking with some people who have a fair amount of knowledge and reviewing those prior numbers, here is what I think might happen.

Out of the 25,044 registered voters in the 5th Council District as of Jan 1,2009 I assume the turnout will be about a 10 % higher turnout among Republicans than Democrats and 5% higher turnout among Democrats than Others.
In this example,
(1)Republican turnout is 25% or 1755 out of 7,021 registered Republicans,
(2) Democratic turnout is 15% or 1689 out of 11,261 registered Democrats and
(3)turnout for Others is 10% or 676 of 6,762 Others.
If Lisa Diller wins the mathematical equivalent of 100% of the Democrats (1689) and Jamie Moulthrop wins the mathematical equivalent of 100% of the Republicans (1755) and Diller wins 60% of the Others (406) to Moulthrop’s 40% of Others (270) ,based on Others in a Democratic area trending Democratic, Diller wins 2094 to 2025. This would be a 51% to 49% victory for Diller.
Here are the actual numbers from what took place on Feb 19th:

Total votes cast 1,353

Turnout was 5.53%

Turnout was lower than I expected and the winning margin was higher than I expected.It appears likely Diller secured a higher percentage of Others than expected, secured enough Republican votes to take away the mathematical equivalent of Moulthrop getting 100% of the Republican votes or secured a combination of those two events.
It is possible that Diller got the overwhelming number of Democrat votes and Democrats turned out in higher numbers than Republicans. This data is not yet available,but that is another possibility.

Some Possible Reasons for such a low turnout in the 5th County Council Special Election Thursday, Feb 19, 2009

(1) It was on a Thursday when people are not used to voting for county council .
(2) It was in February when people are not used to voting for county council.
(3) A significant portion of the district lies within the boundary lines of the city of Newark and some Newark residents view municipal government as being more central to their daily life than county government.
(4) Election fatigue following one of the longest election cycles in history .
(5) Due to the faltering economy much of the current events focus of people & the media is on the federal government & its stimulus attempts and the state government as it deals with a budget shortfall that is unprecedented.
(6) Other than occasional posts on local blogs there was a virtual media blackout with minimal coverage between the announcement on Jan 12th that Stephanie McClellan was stepping down and the last couple days of the election when the candidiate profiles were published in the News-Journal . Local talk radio had featured on-air interviews with both candidates in the 6th State Rep race in Dec 2008,but this did not take place in the 5th County Council race 2 months later.
(7) Local volunteer groups that traditionally sponsor candidate forums did not sponsor one for this race. I assume this was due to the 30 day campaign cycle which prevented weeks of planning and publicizing needed for such an event to be successful.
(8) Although the issues & services county council deals with impact the lives of residents (libraries, parks, county police, land use & zoning, Licensing and Inspection , emergency medical response, etc), the range of issues it is empowered to address is more narrow than the range of issues the state legislature can address .This might partly explain why none of the last five state legislative special elections had less than an 18% turnout and the 5th county council special election had a 5% turnout.
(9) There was no precipitation ,but between 1:51 pm and 7:51 pm winds were between 17.3 mph and 29.9 mph with gusts over 30 mph reported every hour except 6-7pm. Even though temperatures that afternoon were in the 30-46 degree range, the wind made travel less pleasant than if it had been less windy.

Weather information source:

Sunday, February 22, 2009

3 out 6-- a number why Thurman Adams is still in office and an example of “all politics is local”

I grew up in Eastern Sussex County, but have dozens of relatives who have lived in Western Sussex County where my mother grew up. On Saturday I attended the funeral of my uncle, David Speicher, a lifelong Republican (as were many of the Speichers) and a former Republican state representative. One of the attendees was Democratic State Senator Thurman Adams.

It dawned on me that over the last 36 years since my grandfather died I had attended about 6 funerals in the Greenwood-Bridgeville area and Thurman Adams had attended at least three. Each of these funerals was in a small rural church with attendance of around 100 with maybe a couple dozen of friends and relatives who had moved away coming home to honor a loved one. So I would estimate about 75 people at each event were local residents (and I think they are likely voters or I would not be writing about it here)

While I may disagree with some of his politics, I have to admire that he has been there on these sad occasions for my family members. I mentioned to someone that he had been this consistent in attendance at my Republican relatives’ funerals and likely had been there to grieve with other families in the areas over the decades. The person pointed out he had also likely been there for the weddings and christenings as well. Those kind of bonds can be strong. If people have shared their joys and sorrows with him and broken bread with him on multiple occasions, it will take more than a political issue to sever that kind of tie.

This is not an endorsement, but rather a suggestion that part of what succeeds in local politics is local ties. I am thinking for anyone to beat Thurman Adams, whatever their politics might be , they are going to need to attend their fair share of weddings, funerals, chicken dinners,Lions Club shows and all matter of sporting events. People vote on issues and that is important, but in a complicated world people like to feel they have an advocate and knowing that advocate on a first name basis as a person with whom they have shared significant life events could easily be a comfort to a lot of voters as they maneuver through life’s complexities.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Lisa Diller ,Democrat, 5th County Council-My First Endorsement-Making an Exception for An Exceptional Candidate

I have taken a hiatus from posting due to the time constraints of working within the compressed schedule of a special election. In Delaware the special election is held 30 days from when the Board of Elections receives the writ of elections. In January Stephanie McClellan resigned from her position as 5th District County Council member to join the Markell administration. In the 5th County Council District in New Castle County the special election is February 19,2009.

The Democratic nominee is my wife Lisa Diller, a Newark area pastor and educator. To learn more information about Lisa or get involved in the campaign go to her website:

Lisa Diller brings a wealth of experience to the job. She has taught at the college level at the University of Delaware, Wesley College and Wilmington University for several years. She has been pastor at Christiana Presbysterian Church for the last two and a half years. For the five years before that she served as an administrator in the Delaware Department of Health and Social Services. She has also administered an Americorps project at the University of Delaware.

While many people focus on what elected officials say and that is important, I think some of the best politicians are the ones who are good listeners. To know what community needs are, elected officials need to seek out their constituents’ views. As a minister and educator, Lisa has developed into a skilled listener. At Christiana Presbyterian Church she has performed marriage ceremonies for church members, christened their babies and buried their relatives. These are all emotion charged life events and require listening skills. Though often less emotion charged, teaching requires similar listening skills. During this brief election campaign I have seen her handle calls from community organizations and residents. She has been thoughtful in her dealings with them and realistic in what can and can not be done given the current budget shortfall.

I have known Lisa for over a quarter of a century and we have been married for 18 years, so this may be my least objective posting to date. Even a more objective observer would concede that her experience places her in a position to create the kind of partnerships New Castle County will need as it moves forward. She has written, monitored and administered federal grants. She has served on teams that formulated presentations before the Joint Finance Committee of the General Assembly. She has engaged in coalition building in the nonprofit community with a particular focus on issues affecting families.
In the last several weeks she served on the the Transition Committee assigned to address issues affecting Children , Youth and Families for incoming Governor Jack Markell.

Lisa Diller speaks her mind,but she works well with others and both of these qualities will serve the residents of the 5th County County District and New Castle County well.