Wednesday, June 27, 2007

factoids on the fall election

Just some basic history relevant to the announcement that there is now officially a Republican candidate for Mayor. Common wisdom says it is impossible for someone other than a Democrat to win in the city of Pittsburgh. Is it one of those possible impossibles, a kind-of sort-of impossible, or more an impossible impossible?

One could argue about whether even-year elections are a fair comparison, but consider this as a benchmark: in November 2006, 40,899 voters in the city voted a straight Democratic Party ticket. So they didn't care about picking a non-Democrat in any race, they just pushed the Democrat button and that was that. This was out of 101,005 total votes cast in the city. Even in the unlikely case that the same number of voters come out in the fall (unlikely), you start out being spotted 40 percentage points. It's worse than that in a sense. Those core party-line voters have a high probability of voting, certainly a higher probability of voting than the remaining 61K voters. Take that into account and it is entirely possible that straight Democratic party voters will be a majority of all votes cast. If true, a candidate who is not a Democrat loses before the election begins.

Other relevant historical factoids:

In 1985 then Mayor Richard Caliguiri defeated Republican Henry Sneath. 76-22%.

1993: Tom Murphy had 66% while republican Kathy Matta actually came in third with 14% behind Duane Darkins who had 15%. If you presume the Darkins vote would have split evenly between the other two you get a 73-22 D-R split.

1997: Tom Murphy over Harry Frost: 77-21%

2001: Tom Murphy over Jim Carmine 74-23%

2005: Bob O'Connor over Joe Weinroth 67-27%

and if you look at the results for County Executive. Within the city of Pittsburgh, then incumbent Jim Roddey received ~27% of the vote in 20023. In that race at least Roddey had the power of incumbency, plus a well funded and organized campaign. Yet in the end he did about the same as Joe Weinroth who had neither. Makes you question whether the campaign itself matters if Frost, Carmine, Roddey and Weinroth differ by just a few inconsequential points.

Thus the really amazing thing about those numbers is just how consistent they are. If you really strain to discern a trend, realize that Frost's numbers were low because the media apparently reported he was going bankrupt a week before the election. Overall the Republican candidates have been a diverse group. Men and women. Older and younger. High profile candidates and some who seemed to come out of nowhere. The obligatory lawyers, a philosopher and if you include Roddey you have a business background. Immensely different personalities and different circumstances over several decades. Yet no matter what, the fall results were virtually identical. Any variation was probably more an artifact of turnout more than anything else.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've always wondered exactly how many people vote straight Democratic in Pittsburgh. Thanks for the stat.

Recent mayoral general elections could also be interpreted as Republicans slowly but surely loosening the Democratic stranglehold. Not surprising, given the Republican dominance at the state and federal level over the past decade, and the media drumbeat that the Democratic "machine" is broken and change is called for. And now, we've got an inexperienced incumbent mayor getting a lot of bad press, a Democratic committee that appears to be in disarray under new leadership, and a relatively well-known, intelligent Republican challenger. Certainly Luke won't lose, but the final count will surely be closer than O'Connor's 40 point spread.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007 7:46:00 PM  
Blogger C. Briem said...

Here is another way to look at it. I would not suggest he take anything for granted, but the Nate Harper nomination for police chief has gone a long way building support for LR within the African American community. and in general elections the African support can easily be 90+% for the Democrat. If you don't believe me, take a look at page 16 of this:
which shows that by my calculation the breakout of African American votes in the first AC executive race was 97% for Wecht over Roddey. 97.5% actually! Think about that and realize that is a big part of the electorate in the city. Does Desantis have some pull in that community that Roddey didn't? Is 4 months enough time to build that support? This isn't to knock him, but your average middle age white republican has quite a challenge to earn that vote.

and for reasons I have talked a bit about in earlier posts, I think LR has a near lock on older voters. If you know an older voter who does not fit that mold, I would suggest it's not a representative sample for the city as a whole.

Take just those two factors and let's say Desantis gets every single White voter under the age of 50 who shows up to vote in November. What does that get you? I say its about 25%. That is not an exageration.. it's just the way the numbers work out.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007 11:16:00 PM  
Blogger Jonathan Potts said...

Didn't Dawida more or less punt the African-American vote in the final commissioners' election, costing his running mate a seat and giving Cramner and Dunn their majority?

Thursday, June 28, 2007 8:43:00 AM  
Blogger C. Briem said...

I actually thought of writing "unless you pull a Dawida"... but I thought it a little over the top. But that was a rare case, based on specific comments by him, that again more proves the rule. There was talk at the time it might lead to long term shifts. but again, the Roddey-Wecht results show that it was more a personal rejection of Dawida. Thus why I said it would be a mistake for LR to take anything for granted.

Thursday, June 28, 2007 8:55:00 AM  
Blogger Jonathan Potts said...

The Dawida experience would seem to demonstrate how powerful the African-American vote can be in this city, given that we have a smaller black population than many other cities.

I covered Brentwood for the Tribune-Review from 1996-1997, and I know a lot of people there believed that Cramner's call for a full investigation into the Jonny Gammage death was motivated by his desire to get black votes for his commissioner run. (Cramner had been Brentwood Council president.) If memory serves, Gammage died in October 1995, and the election was a month later, right?

Thursday, June 28, 2007 10:49:00 AM  
Blogger C. Briem said...

I am not going to speculate on motivations, but the Cranmer role following what happened to Johnny Gammage probably did give him the edge to be elected county commissioner, which then put in power Larry Dunn, which then resulted in all sorts of things (assessment ruling among others) that could have easily been the edge in the home rule charter movement (which only barely passed) which impacts just about everything in local politics to this day.

Wasn't there an old BBC show that connected points in history in ways people never would have guessed?

Thursday, June 28, 2007 5:54:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The old "exception that proves the rule" again, eh?;~>

Interesting take on Cranmer. I wasn't in town when Mr. Potts was exposing the dark underbelly of the near-South Hills, but I do have some experience with Brentwood. Let's at least give Bob credit for standing up to racism, whatever his alleged underlying political motives.

Thursday, June 28, 2007 8:39:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wasn't County Executive in 2000, and 2004, not 2002? And what were Roddey's city numbers in 2000? The the election he actually won.

Friday, June 29, 2007 11:03:00 AM  
Blogger C. Briem said...

it should say 2003 which was when the election was. I have never worked out the city-only results from 1999, but overall it was a very close race 51-49 or less and Roddey certainly did much better in the suburbs than the city. He certainly came in under 40% in the city.

Friday, June 29, 2007 11:25:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Even though it's not by many points, it's interesting to note that Republican mayoral candidates' numbers have been going up.

In 8 years Weinroth managed to up it 6% and his campaign was woefully underfinanced & there was virtually no campaign staff assisting him.

This is even more remarkable in that he ran against the unstoppable O'Connor.

Four months may not be a long time to campaign, but if LR keeps up with the missteps, it may be just long enough for Mr. DeSantis to make a real dent.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007 8:14:00 PM  
Blogger C. Briem said...

I'd be careful of trying to straightline that. If you take a SWAG and say the bad publicity at the worst time for the Frost campaign cost him just a few points, that trend evaporates.. and I bet Frost had even less money than Weinroth. If money or campaign organization mattered then Roddey would have done better.. It will be interesting to see how much MD spends compared to how many more votes he gets above what JW got.

Thursday, July 12, 2007 1:38:00 PM  

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