Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Council District 4 Special Election Preview, Part Two

The last election was tough but instructive. Here's a brief summary of what happened.

After Council Member Marilyn Praisner’s unfortunate passing, the first three candidates got into the race by the third week of February: Board of Education President Nancy Navarro, civic activist Steve Kanstoroom and Action in Montgomery co-founder Pat Ryan. Don Praisner got in at the end of the month and quickly consolidated support from four County Council Members and County Executive Ike Leggett. Navarro wrapped up the endorsements of nearly all the county’s unions, the Chamber of Commerce and progressive hero Donna Edwards. After Navarro’s splashy campaign kickoff and Mr. Praisner’s entry announcement with Ike Leggett at his side, the race effectively became a two-way contest.

Mr. Praisner was a grieving widower for a popular former County Council Member. That conferred on him a critical advantage: immunity to attack from the other candidates. Navarro, on the other hand, was criticized by her competitors for her association with school union contracts, campaign contributions from developers and a disastrous attempt by Superintendent Jerry Weast to line up union support on her behalf. She was also the only candidate to be attacked by illegal negative robocalls. Navarro had a superior campaign operation, more door knockers and much more money than Mr. Praisner but the above problems along with the Praisner name proved difficult to overcome.

In our wrap-up post last year, we summarized the geographic distribution of Mr. Praisner’s narrow victory this way:

Council District 4 has 45 precincts. Of that number, Mr. Praisner won 22, Navarro won 21, Praisner and Navarro tied in 1 and Steve Kanstoroom won 1. (We predicted Kanstoroom’s win in Precinct 13-11 a week ago. Keep reading this blog, people!)

The precincts won by Mr. Praisner reported a combined turnout of 12.9%. Navarro’s precincts reported a combined turnout of 9.1%. That difference of 3.8 points contributed to Mr. Praisner’s margin of 348 votes.

But there’s more. Mr. Praisner won all five precincts reporting the highest turnouts, including Precincts 13-54 and 13-69 in Leisure World. Of the eight precincts reporting the lowest turnouts, Navarro won seven and tied with Praisner in the eighth.

The two Leisure World precincts had combined turnout of 20.5%, 9.3 points ahead of the district total. They reported 476 votes for Mr. Praisner (47% of their total), 323 votes for Navarro (32%), 166 votes for Kanstoroom (16%) and 45 votes for Ryan (4%). Leisure World by itself gave Mr. Praisner 44% of his victory margin.

Turnout was correlated with demographics. District 4 has seven precincts in which the Hispanic population topped 20% in the 2000 Census. Navarro won all seven. These precincts cast 267 votes for Navarro (50% of their Democratic total) and 179 for Mr. Praisner (34%). However, their turnout was only 7.6% - a full 3.6 points below the district’s total turnout.

District 4 has eleven precincts in which the black population topped 30% in the 2000 Census. Navarro won seven of these and Mr. Praisner won four. These precincts cast 583 votes for Navarro (47% of their total) and 509 for Mr. Praisner (41%). Navarro’s victory here is notable since Mr. Praisner’s biggest endorsement came from County Executive Ike Leggett, Montgomery County’s most prominent African American resident. These precincts reported a turnout of 8.4% - 2.8 points below the district’s total turnout.

District 4 has fifteen precincts outside of Leisure World in which the white population was at least 60% in 2000. Mr. Praisner won eight of these, Navarro won six and they tied in one. These precincts cast 1,016 votes for Mr. Praisner (44% of their total) and 936 votes for Navarro (40%). Turnout was 10.9%, almost equal to the district’s total turnout (11.2%). In the end, these precincts plus Leisure World accounted for 233 votes of Mr. Praisner’s 348 vote lead, or two-thirds of his margin.
This time around, the issue matrix may be different. The school unions have already given up their cost of living adjustments after Navarro said they could not be afforded. Developer contributions may not be as easy to lay at Navarro’s feet if Delegate Ben Kramer (D-19), a long-time commercial property owner, claims an endorsement from the Montgomery County Chamber of Commerce. And the poor state of the county’s economy may just swamp all other issues.

Most importantly, the candidate lineup is different this time. We’ll look at the candidates and assess their chances of winning in Part Three.