Tuesday, June 26, 2018

The Importance of Voter Turnout -The Huge New York House District 14 Upset

New Yorkers voted in US House primaries today.  There was a huge, upset in District 14.  Does it tell us anything about other races, including the Alaska House race?  (Spoiler:  probably not.)

From the New York Times tonight:

Candidate                       Votes Percent
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez 15,897 57.5%
Joseph Crowley
11,761 42.5

27,658 votes, 98% reporting (440 of 449 precincts)

Joseph Crowley has been in Congress since 1998 and was fourth in line among Democrats in the House.  Ocasio-Ortiz is a 28 year old who has not held office before, but she was a key player in the Sanders campaign in her area.

This is an upset that the reporters are saying no one expected.  Crowley had a good shot of replacing Nancy Pelosi as speaker of the House.

Note:  Congressional districts in the US after the 2010 Census should have a population of about 710,767.

This district is made up of part of the Bronx and part of Queens -  a heavily Democratic district.   Democratic presidential candidates regularly get over 70% of the vote.  The Bronx has 553,000 active registered Democrats and 29,000 active registered Republicans.  Queens has 735,000 registered Democrats.  So it's taking parts of both counties, there could be 600,000 active registered Democrats in this district.  Though that number seems high given that the district would have a lot of people under 18.  And, I may have the numbers for the district wrong - the state offers party registration by county.  I couldn't find numbers by House district.

But ball parking this, with those numbers I had, the turnout was less than one percent, even if you doubled the turnout! [UPDATE June 27, 8:30am:  I shouldn't do math in my head in the evening - it's really closer to 5%] Rachel Maddow's guest (in video) points out that there are two Democratic primaries in New York - one for the governor's race and this one for Congress.   So that would also work to keep turnout low.

Here is the demographic breakdown of the district as reported on Wikipedia:

  • 18.41% White
  • 11.39% Black
  • 16.24% Asian
  • 49.80% Hispanic
  • 0.45% Native American
  • 3.71% other
A well organized candidate with a good grass roots team to get voters to the poll could pull off an upset like this in a large urban district with very low turnout.  They really only needed 1000 votes or less even to win.  She won by 4000 votes.

So does this tell us anything about other primaries and fall elections?

I doubt it.  With very low turnout, anything can happen.  And this is a district whose boundaries have changed a lot since Crowley was first elected.  Whites are now under 18% and nearly half the population is Hispanic.

Should Alyse Galvin (I) or Dimitri Shein (D) take hope about knocking off Don Young in the fall?  The upset does show that the unexpected can happen and that turnout and getting your voters to the polls is important.

But in a district you could easily walk across in a day, it is a lot easier to get your voters to the polls than in a district you could walk across in maybe 6 months if you're super fit and could trek across roadless land and mountains.  Or you could dog sled across in two weeks if you trained for the Iditarod.

One of these two candidates will meet Don Young in the general election, not the primary.  And Alaska's  been a pretty red state for a long time.  But upsetting a powerful incumbent is a precedent all challengers take inspiration from.


  1. Still, better this news than that of how the US Supreme Court has ruled 5-4 recently. Republican Senate hard-ball worked in getting their associate justice, and they know it. Trump knows it, too.


  2. The Democratic Party needs to ‘want’ to win Don Young’s seat. They give precious few resources to whoever is running against him. The ads Steve Lindbeck ran last time were just painful to watch (nothing says you are not an old fashion politician like sitting behind a desk and waving papers around like an old fashion politician), it must cost them a couple hundred bucks to put those together. If you look Young’s percentage of the vote is at its lowest ever for the last two elections. This might be a good years to go all out and try to knock him off.


Comments will be reviewed, not for content (except ads), but for style. Comments with personal insults, rambling tirades, and significant repetition will be deleted. Ads disguised as comments, unless closely related to the post and of value to readers (my call) will be deleted. Click here to learn to put links in your comment.