Friday, November 20, 2009

Influence of Wilmington Rep Districts in the 2010 Democratic Statewide primary may depend on low turnout statewide and local primaries

Four state representative districts have Democratic legislators who reside in the City of Wilmington. They are rep districts 1-4. A substantial portion of each of these districts is within the city borders. For the purposes of this discussion they will be viewed as Wilmington districts with the realization that they may contain election districts outside the city limits.

The 13th and 16th representative districts have small portions of the city, an election district each.They will not be considered here ,since the impact is so small.In the 2008 city council president's race 9,601 votes were cast citywide. Only 280 of these votes were in the 13th & 16th which are represented by suburban residents and whose districts are geographically primarily suburban districts.

Here is the breakdown of the current Democratic registration of rep districts 1-4 & the state:

1st Rep district --10,000 (3.5% of statewide Democrats)

2nd Rep Distritct-9,251 (3.2% of statewide Democrats)

3rd Rep District--8,959 (3.1% of statewide Democrats)

4th Rep District--7,728 (2.7% of statewide Democrats)

1st-4th RepDists--35,938 (12.6% of statewide Democrats)


Below is the impact of the city districts on some statewide Democratic primaries since the current district boundaries came into existence in 2002. I intentionally did not choose the 2008 primary for Governor between Jack Markell & John Carney because that drew several thousand people who did not vote in the Insurance Commissioner's race or US Rep race. These voters are not as likely to vote in an off-year election without a marquee matchup (two opponents each of whom has a substantial treasury and/or long standing name recognition in a major race). I liken these voters to people who follow baseball only during the World Series or football only during the Superbowl.

2008 Insurance Commissioner's Race-66,062 votes cast statewide
1st Rep District--3,249 (4.9% of votes cast)
2ndRep District-2,149 (3.3% of votes cast)
3rd Rep District-1,725 (2.6% of votes cast)
4th Rep District-2,451 (3.7% of votes cast)
1-4 Rep Districts-9,574 (14.5% of votes cast)

2006 US Representative Race-15,768
1st Rep District-1,537 (9.7% of votes cast)
2nd Rep District-773 (4.9% of votes cast)
3rd Rep District-869 (5.5% of votes cast
4th Rep District-1344 (8.5% of votes cast)
1-4 Rep Districts-4523 (28.6% of votes cast)

2004 Insurance Commissioner's Race-31,799
1st Rep District-2,232 (7.0% of votes cast)
2nd Rep District-1,638 (5.2% of votes cast)
3rd Rep District-1,389 (4.4% of votes cast)
4th Rep District-1,667 (5.2% of votes cast)
1-4 Rep Districts-6926 (21.8% of votes cast)

2002 US Representative Race-17,223
1st Rep District-1,735 (10.1% of votes cast)
2nd Rep District-1,292 (7.5% of votes cast)
3rd Rep District-773 (4.5% of votes cast)
4th Rep District-848 (4.9 % of votes cast)
1-4 Rep Districts-4638 (27.0% of votes cast)

When statewide turnout was higher in 2004 & 2008, the city amounted to less of a percentage of the statewide total. When turnout was less in 2002 & 2006 the city's impact was several percentage points higher.

One reason is that city residents are much more used to voting in primaries and that in some districts the Democratic primary is, in effect , the election because the Democratic registration edge over the Republican is so overwhelming (more than 7-1 in 1st , 2nd & 3rd Rep Districts) , that in the general election the Democratic candidate runs unopposed or against minimal opposition.

The existence of local primaries may also drive up particpation in the statewide primaries in the city.Some people may come out to vote in the local primary and vote for the statewide races as well, is one possibility.

In 2006 there were 3 Democratic State Rep primaries not in the city of Wilmington, but all four state rep districts represented by a city resident had a primary. In each of the state rep primaries more people voted than in the US Rep primary: 1795 in the 1st, 815 in the 2nd, 1,013 in the 3rd and 1486 in the 4th.

In 2002 the 1st, 2nd and 3rd Rep Districts each had a primary for state rep and each of these also had more votes cast than in the US Rep race. In the 4th Rep District in 2002 there was no local state rep primary and the turnout of 848 was significantly less than the 1344 who voted in the US Rep race in 2006 when there was hotly contested 3 way state rep race that included 2 sitting city council members, Gerald Brady ,who won, and Loretta Walsh.

It is early to gauge what turnout will be in 2010,but I would assume it would be closer to the 2002 & 2006 numbers than the 2004 & 2008 numbers. Even with multiple statewide primaries, it will be an off-year election. Unless there is a change in the makeup of the US Rep race or US Senate race which creates a situation in which two high profile ( in terms of cash, organization and/or name recognition) Democratic candidates go head-to-head, I don't expect turnout to be especially high statewide. This could mean the Wilmington districts could have an impact way beyond the 12.6% they represent of registered Democrats.

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