Sunday, July 25, 2010

2008 Dem. Primary offers new examples of locals drawing more votes than Insurance Commissioner & these are in swing districts

The legislative districts I had looked at last week in assessing whether the local legislative races drew more voter activity than the statewide row offices were mostly Democratic strongholds. The 5th ,the 13th,the 16th the 17th state rep districts all have lopsided Democratic registration edges . The 1st, 2nd and 3rd rep districts have lopsided registration edges and have not been held by a Democrat at least since Nixon was president.

I began to wonder if this theory held true in swing districts that did not have a recent history of having a Democrat elected and where there was not an overwhelming Democratic regsitration edge. I looked at the 4th State Senate primary and the 6th State Senate primary, since they each qualified. The 4th had been held since the 2002 reapportionment by Republican Charlie Copeland and the area had been served prior to that by Republican Dallas Winslow. The 6th State Senate seat had been held by Republican Liane Sorenson since the 2002 reapportionment and the parts of the district in Newark not served by Sorenson prior to reapportionment had been served by Republican Steve Amick ,who saw his district shift southward following redistricting.

Here are the registration figures for each district in September 2008 the month of the primary:
4th State Senate
Democrats ---10,613
Republicans --13,291
Others -------7,454
Total --------31,358

6th State Senate
Democrats ---8,267
Republicans --7,580
Others -------5,768
Total ---------21,615

Some voters in each of these districts seem to have voted in the Governor's primary, skipped the Insurance Commissioner's primary and then voted in the state senate primary.

4th State Senate
Turnout Governor's primary----------------- 4,260
Turnout Insurance Commissioner's primary----3,618
( 15% dropff from the Gov. race)
Turnout state senate primary----------------3,854
(9% dropoff from the Gov. race)
This indicates about 6% (or 1 out of 16 voters) skipped the Ins Comm race,but voted in the State Senate race.

6th State Senate
Turnout Governor's primary ----------------2,830
Turnout Insurance Commissioner's primary---2,353
(16% dropoff from the Gov. race)
Turnout state senate primary---------------2,629
(7% dropoff from the Gov. race)
This indicates about 9% (or 1 out of 11 voters) skipped the Ins. Comm race,but voted in the State Senate race.

Among the struggles facing the statewide row office candidates appears to be the task of not only getting voters to the polls,but making sure their race is not skipped by voters who take the "act locally" part of the "think globally, act locally" motto literally.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

It's Not Just off-year elections when the locals get more attention than some statewide races-a 2004 example-the insurance commissioner primary

I have heard the assumption that some of the diminished turnout for the U.S. Representative Democratic primaries in 2002 and 2006 relative to the state representative races might have been due to an assumption on the part of many voters that Mike Castle would not face serious opposition no matter who won and that this assumption created voter apathy for that primary race.

I decided to look at the 2004 Insurance Commissioner's statewide primary and focus only on the state rep districts where there was a local state rep primary in the hope this would offer insights into whether voters might have voted more in the Insurance Commissioner's race in relation to the state rep races since both candidates, Matt Denn and Karen Weldin Stewart, were serious contenders for elected office.

Karen Weldin Stewart lost the 2004 primary,but had gotten 47.1 % in the 2000 general election for the same office in a bid against then incumbent Republican Insurance Commissioner, Donna Lee Williams. Stewart would lose the primary to Denn in 2004,but in 2008 would win the Democratic primary and the general election . She now serves as Insurance Commissioner.

Matt Denn ,a former state senate candidate, won the 2004 primary and general election. After serving one term as Insurance Commissioner, he was elected as Lt Governor in 2008, a post in which he continues to serve.

I looked at the 9 state rep districts that had local state rep primaries and in 8 of 9 the state rep race had more votes cast than the Insurance Commissioner's race. In four of those 8 districts the dropoff from state representative to Insurance Commissioner was 5% or more.

I plan to look at the 2008 primary for the same office to see if the same trend applies, but the 2004 Insurance Commissioner's Democratic primary seems to provide another example where the local state rep race attracts more voter interest than a statewide office.

2nd Rep District
state rep race ---1820 votes cast
ins.commissioner-1638 votes cast
over/under -182 more votes were cast in state rep race than were cast in the ins comm. race.
10% dropoff from state rep to insurance commissioner


state rep race----1428 votes cast

ins commissioner-1389 votes cast
over/under-39 more votes were cast in state rep race than were cast in the ins. comm. race

2%dropoff from state rep to ins commissioner


state rep race----1,149 votes cast

ins commissioner--1,167

over/under-18 more votes cast in the ins commissioner's race than the state rep race.

1% dropoff from Insurance Commissioner to state rep race


state rep race--- 1,151 votes cast

ins commissioner-1,149 votes cast

over/under-2 votes cast in the state rep race that were not cast in the ins comm. race

0% dropoff


state rep race----1,985 votes cast

ins.commissioner--1,818 votes were cast

over/under-167 more votes were cast in the state rep race than the ins comm. race

8% dropoff from the state rep race to the ins. commissioner race.

state rep race-----1,511 votes cast
ins. commissioner--1,435 votes cast
over/under- 76 more votes were cast in the state rep race than ins comm. race
5% dropoff from state rep to insurance commissioner

state rep race-----981 votes cast
ins commissioner---874 votes cast
over/under---------107 more votes were cast in the state rep race than ins comm.
10% dropoff from state rep to ins commissioner

state rep race----629 votes cast
ins commissioner--620
over/under-------9 more votes cast in the state rep race than the ins comm. race.
1% dropoff from state rep to insurance commissioner

state rep race----392 votes cast
ins commissioner--368 votes cast
over/under--------24 more votes cast in the state rep race than the ins comm.race
6% dropoff from state rep to ins commissioner

Total votes cast in state rep races with a Democratic primary-11,046
Total votes cast in the ins comm primary in those districts---10,458
over/under---588 more votes were cast in the state rep races than the ins comm.
Cumulative 5% dropoff from state rep race to insurance commissioner race.

Monday, July 19, 2010

4 Districts near Newark & the C&D Canal may have a bigger impact than usual due to local State Rep primaries,but some voters may skip statewide races

I think two districts in the Newark area (the 24th & the 27th state rep districts) and two in the C&D Canal area (state rep districts 8 & 9) are likely to have a greater than usual impact on overall countywide turnout & statewide turnout due to local state representative primaries.This affects only New Castle County-the 8th overlaps with 4 election districts in Kent County & 8 election districts in New Castle County,but Kent has no countywide primaries this election cycle. I looked at a few other off-year (2002 & 2006-nonpresidential election years) suburban Democratic primaries for comparison. The sample size is small due the limited number of primaries in Delaware,but may give us some ideas.

The 5th Rep District in the Bear-Glasgow area did not have a local primary in 2006 and out of 7,163 registered Democrats only 197 (2.75%) cast ballots in the primary on a ballot that included only New Castle County Register of Wills and U.S. Representative. 193 voted in the Congressional race and 192 voted in the Register of Wills race.

In 2002 Melanie George defeated William McMurray 376-33 in the 5th rep district,newly created after the 2002 reapportionment. Although 409 of 6,391 registered Democrats(about 6%) voted in the state rep race, only 360 voted in the Congressional primary. About 11% of the primary voters cast a ballot in the local state rep race and declined to vote in the U.S. Rep race.

2002 saw a primary in the reconfigured 16th rep district which is comprised of parts of the New Castle area and the Southbridge section of Wilmington. Former State Rep Herman Hollway, Jr attempted to unseat incumbent Bill Houghton and only lost by 30 votes in a contest that drew 1,696 votes. The U.S. Representative race only drew 1,420 votes for a voter dropoff at the top of the ballot of about 16% or 276 votes,There were 7,645 registered Democrats in 2002,so turnout was 18% for the U.S. Rep race with a 22% turnout in the state rep race.

In 2004 long time labor union activist James "JJ" Johnson won the 16th primary against Holloway,following Houghton's retirement.Johnson did not face a primary in 2006 and it appears the lack of a local primary impacted overall turnout.503 of 8,255 registered Democrats (6.09%) voted in 2006 in the 16th district. 455 of them voted in the U.S. Representative race which had fewer votes than the Register of Wills contest which drew 486 votes.

John Viola, state rep in the 26th rep district, did not have a primary in 2002. 153 votes were cast in the U.S. Representative primary that year. There were 5,842 registered Democrats in 2002,so the 153 votes would be about a 2.0% turnout. Viola had a primary in 2006 and won it 381-270 over Charles Tucker. While 651 people cast ballots in the state rep race, only 593 voted in the U.S. Representative race or a 8% drop off. 655 out of 6,276 (10.44%) voted, but only 4 of them did not vote in the state rep race .601 votes were cast in the Register of Wills race in the 26th, 8 more than the Congressional primary.

These examples would seem to indicate that the 8th,9th, 24th and 27th which have not held Democratic state rep primaries in recent years could easily see a doubling of the usual Democratic primary voter turnout in 2010 and that the state rep races might be more the beneficiary of the turnout than the countywide and statewide primaries. It also appears possible that more votes could be cast in the New Castle County Sheriff’s race than the State Treasurer’s race and Auditor’s race ,since in two of these three examples the Register of Wills drew more votes than the U.S. Representative race. Maybe this is more proof that “all politics is local”.

Here is a link to start with to research past primaries:

Here are specific links for the races discussed:

The New Castle County Board of Elections website does not offer voter registration figures for 2002, so the numbers used are the general election number from the 2002 Age,Party, Group report from the Delaware State Elections Commissioner’s website. The number used may not be exactly how many voters were registered on primary day since the general election is two months after the primary, but I believe it is fairly close and is the best available figure I could find on the web at this time.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

City Impact may be lessened in state/county primaries due to lack of local primaries and contests involving two elected officials

Traditionally, the City of Wilmington, where the Democratic primary is often the deciding election, has enough registered Democrats and higher percentage points in turnout than suburban and rural areas to be a major deciding factor in statewide Delaware Democratic primaries and countywide primaries in New Castle County.

Wilmington will definitely be a factor in the 2010 statewide and countywide primaries,but I think it's impact will be lessened due to fewer primaries in the state legislative districts that have a city resident as a representative ( State Representative Districts 1-4) . The only state senate seat on the 2010 ballot with a city resident as incumbent, the 1st state senate district, has Harris McDowell running unopposed. In the 1st and 4th district Dennis Williams and Gerald Brady are each unopposed. Incumbent Hazel Plant is being opposed in the 2nd district by city council member, Stephanie Boulden and in the 3rd district incumbent Helene Keeley faces Robert Bovell in a rematch of their 2006 contest in which she won 600-413.

In 2006 each of these four representative districts had a primary for state representative .The 1st State Senate district which includes 7 election districts in the 1st ,2 election districts in the 3rd and 7 election districts in the 4th also had a primary. Harris McDowell won with less than a majority in a four way race in which one of his opponents was city council member Charles Potter. Williams, Plant and Keeley each won in fields with no opponent with experience as an elected official and each won with 60+% of the vote. Brady, then serving as a district city council member, won in a three-way race in which his closest competitor was at-large council member Loretta Walsh ,who Brady beat by 70 votes.

In 2002 McDowell won a primary contest against Thornton Carroll with 63% of the vote. Williams beat former Wilmington police chief Charles Pratcher 1,423 to 540 and Keeley defeated challenger Linda Cannon 685-192. Hazel Plant ,in her first election contest since winning a special election in Jan 2001 and running in a district altered by the 2002 reapportionment, had a tougher 5 way race beating her closest rival,State Representative Arthur Scott, who lived in the same district following redistricting, by only 12 votes. Also among her opponents was former city council member Gary Hutt.

It is a small sample to draw a conclusion from ,but in looking at the turnout in the U. S . Representative Democratic primaries in 2002 and 2006 I am wondering if there might be a pattern impacting voter turnout.When two elected officials go head-to-head it seems to bump up turnout overall,although much of the turnout is focused on their race and not the whole ballot.

I noticed that in 2002 when Plant had two opponents who had successfully won election in the past, Scott and Hutt, voter turnout in the U.S. Representative race was 17% (1,292 out of 7,264 Democrats voted). 1,576 voted in the 2nd state rep race, 284 more than the Congressional primary which is about a 18% droppoff from state rep to U.S. Rep.

In 2006 when she defeated a community acitivist had never held public office , Don Farrell, the turnout in the U.S. Rep race was only 9% (773 voting out of 7,953 registered Democrats). 815 people voted in the Plant-Farrell primary.The 42 people who did not vote in the U.S. Rep,but did vote in the state rep race represents about a 5% dropoff.

In 2002 when there was no primary for state rep in the 4th rep district turnout in the U.S. House primary was 12 % ( 848 out of 6,762),but when Brady and Walsh , both sitting elected officials, faced off in 2006 turnout increased to 19% (1,344 of 6,780) in the Congressional primary. This was an increase of 496 votes cast even though there were only 18 more registered Democrats! The 4th state rep primary drew 1,486 votes cast,meaning about 9% of those who voted for state rep passed up voting in the Congressional race.

McDowell's 2002 race against Carroll only turned out 2,179 voters. In 2006 2,984 voters turned out in a race in which Councilman Charles Potter was his closest opponent by several hundred votes.This represented a 21% turnout (2,984 of 14,166 registered Democrats) in an election in which countywide Democratic turnout was 8.39%.13,734 Democrats voted countywide and 21% of them voted in this state senate race.I am thinking the fact that two sitting elected officials, with name recognition,organizations and experience running campaigns, were in the race had something to do with this turnout being out of proportion to the rest of the county.

If this theory has validity where it might show an impact is the 2nd rep district where some of people who have seen Plant & Boulden on the ballot multiple times may skip other races while voting in the state rep race. For the statewide and county row office candidates it may very well be not just a matter of getting people to polls,but giving people a reason to vote in their particular race.