Monday, June 01, 2015

Anchorage Mayor Election - Review Of The Numbers And What They May Portend

As the Republican majority caucuses in the state house and senate act [fill in the blank], it's probably useful to look back at the April general election  and the May runoff in Anchorage, and consider what they might mean for future elections.

There are some interesting numbers to ponder.

First,  more people voted in the runoff than in the general election.  I thought that this was a first, though I'm not sure now.  The Municipal election results page which goes back to 1991, shows two runoff elections prior to 2015.  In 2009 there were a lot fewer voters in the runoff.  But 2000 isn't as clear.  The runoff election tally on the Muni website lists two different sets of totals.  One is less than the general election total (62,406) and one is more. 

You'd think the higher one might include absentee ballots, but election totals have lots of strange numbers so I'm not jumping to any conclusions.  Amanda Moser runs the Municipal Elections. She also believed that the prior runoffs had lower turnouts when I talked to her earlier today.  In fact, she pointed out that the Municipal Code only requires there to be as many ballots as in the regular election. 
“28.40.010 - Form.
For each runoff election the municipal clerk shall ensure that the number of ballots prepared equals at least the number of voters who cast ballots in the election requiring the runoff election.”
Fortunately she didn't stick with the minimum and ordered more for the May election. 

The table below shows the results of the general runoff elections.

Gen Election April 5, 2015 Runoff May 5, 2015
Candidate # of Votes Percent # of Votes Percent
KERN, 62 0.11%

SPEZIALE, 36 0.06%

AHERN 406 0.71%

BAUER 223 0.39%

BERKOWITZ 21,189 37.03% 42,869 60,75%
COFFEY 8261 14.44%

DARDEN 609 1.06%

DEMBOSKI 13,796 24.11% 27,705 39.25%
HALCRO 12,340 21.57%

HUIT 124 0.22%

JAMISON 48 0.08%

WRITE-IN 128 0.22%

Totals 57,222 70,574 +13,352

Second,  there were 13,352 MORE votes in the runoff than in the general election.

ThirdBerkowitz won by 15,164 votes in the runoff.

Fourth,  if you subtract the additional 13,352 votes in the runoff from Berkowitz' total, he would have had 29,164 votes, only 2,212 more votes than Demboski.  The percentages would have been
Berkowitz 51.5% to Dembosky 48.5%.  A much closer vote. 

So, what does this all mean? 

We have to be careful about reaching conclusions.  I'm speculating here.  But my sense of elections for the last ten years or so, has been that there is very low turnout and the only way Democrats have a chance to win when there are more Republicans is to get more people to vote. People who have just given up on the process or don't think their vote counts.

While we don't know how people who voted in the general election voted in the runoff, we do know that there were  13,352 more of them in the runoff than the general and that Berkowitz won by 15,164 votes.

Conservative v Liberal Showdown?
The runoff pitted a 30 something female candidate against a 50 something male.  She identified herself as the most conservative candidate in the general election and he identified himself as socially liberal and fiscally conservative.  She promised to veto a gay rights addition to the Municipal anti-discrimination ordinance and was strongly opposed to abortion.  He was pro-gay rights and pro-choice.  Gay rights hadn't done well in prior elections in Anchorage.  (But then again times are changing.)

We don't know if it was the ideological stands, the name recognition, past experience, preference for a male candidate, or personality, or campaign styles that made the difference here.  Probably different things for different voters.  But we do know that a liberal trounced a conservative in the biggest city in a generally red state.

My guess is that the extra voters who came out in the runoff made all the difference.  And if the Left can get them out again in the future,  the state could see big changes.

November 2016 Election Implications

My sense is that the House and Senate Republicans, who have been acting like the trolls who lived under the bridge during our current budget crisis special session,  exist in a giant echo chamber.  The leaders are told by the oil and construction and other major industry lobbyists how wise and powerful they are.  They're told they're doing the right thing and to stand tall because the people of Alaska are behind them despite what the biased media report.  And they apparently believe that.  Or the lobbyists are making them offers that the public simply can't match. 

Now, the 2000 Census redistricting resulted in enough gerrymandering that a number of districts are safely Republican (and safely Democratic.)  But in Anchorage, all but sixteen precincts went for Berkowitz, most of those in Demboski territory in Eagle River or Chugiak.  That means most Anchorage precincts voted for the more liberal (and also well known candidate).  I think this election tells us that with strong candidates, Democrats can win in most of Anchorage, just not the Eagle River/Chugiak area.

Despite the gerrymandering, there are 23 Republicans, 16 Democrats, and one non-affiliated who caucuses with the Democrats.  Rural Democrats have traditionally been lured into majority Republican caucus with the promise of pork for their districts if they join and the threat of legislative castration if they don't. Three of the current rural Democrats are part of the current Majority Caucus.

But given this Anchorage election, and the anger that the Republican majorities in the House and Senate are stirring up now, the Democrats could pick enough seats House seats to tie the Republicans.  If this happened the three renegade Dems along with the non-affiliated representative from Ketchikan, would likely join.  It won't be easy, but if the Democrats had three strong candidates in marginally Republican districts, and could get people who normally don't vote to vote, they could do it.  Of course, they would also have keep all the seats they presently have.

People think 2016 is too far away for people to remember, but I doubt next year's legislative session will be much prettier, even if the price of oil shoots back up.  And people need health care and they want good schools for their kids.  And they see the oil companies being protected in the budget fights while Alaskans are being told "it's time to make hard decisions." 

Just some thoughts I had after renewing the Anchorage mayoral election numbers.  

[NOTE:   When I first went to get the numbers from the Muni election site, I had some questions.    I talked to the MOA elections official Amanda Moser, but the numbers she was looking at were different from the ones I had on my screen.  It turned out there were different pages on their website linking to different (but very similar) results.  They've made some changes since this morning to fix that, but after the phone call, I found other inconsistencies in the numbers and emailed that information.  The runoff information I had originally found is now (as I write) gone.  Amanda emailed me the numbers and said she'll get the website fixed in the next couple of days.  As a blogger, I recognize how hard it is to keep updating old pages and how easy it is to miss bad links, so I'm not too concerned.  My dealings with that office over the last few elections have convinced me they're working really hard to keep things as accurate and transparent as possible.  You can get the general election (April) numbers at the Municipal Election Results site.  Here are some others tallies which may not be linked any longer (or may not be linked yet):

[June 2, 9am Update:  I found the original Municipal page with the 2015 election results (it showed up in my history):]

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