Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Council At-Large Geography, Part Three

MCEA’s Apple Ballot had a lot of success in 2006, beating both the Post and Gazette endorsements on win rate in contested races. What impact did it have specifically on the at-large race?

Last time, incumbent George Leventhal and challengers Marc Elrich and Duchy Trachtenberg were listed on the Apple Ballot. Incumbents Nancy Floreen and Mike Subin and a host of lesser challengers were not.

Here are the vote totals of the above five candidates in 2006.

Leventhal: 52,364
Elrich: 47,574
Trachtenberg: 46,975
Floreen: 44,580
Subin: 38,896

And here are the precinct vote totals for these five candidates. While MCEA does mailers on behalf of its endorsees, the Apple Ballot’s main effectiveness comes from its distribution at polling places.

Leventhal: 46,073
Elrich: 41,778
Trachtenberg: 41,334
Floreen: 38,973
Subin: 34,066

The above data illustrates that Leventhal finished first by a comfortable margin, Elrich and Trachtenberg were virtually tied after him, and Floreen trailed those three but beat Subin significantly. The Apple Ballot was just one factor in this performance, but it was a factor. Consider that the Post endorsed Leventhal, Floreen, Subin and Bo Newsome while the Gazette endorsed Floreen, Subin, Newsome and Reggie Felton.

The key to understanding the Apple Ballot is knowing that is not equally effective in all areas of the county. To gauge its effectiveness, we calculated the combined vote totals of its three at-large endorsees – Leventhal, Elrich and Trachtenberg. They ran three very different campaigns. Leventhal stuck to the same pro-growth positions that he had as a member of the 2002 End Gridlock team and had lots of money. Elrich and Trachtenberg ran on platforms of limiting development. Elrich had lots of volunteers and little money. Trachtenberg had lots of money and few volunteers. The only thing that all three shared was their support by many labor unions, and more specifically, presence on the Apple Ballot. We calculated their combined votes as a percentage of all at-large votes cast to serve as a proxy for Apple influence. This is an admittedly imperfect statistic, but it does produce some interesting results.

Following are the combined precinct vote percentage of the Apple at-large candidates by Congressional District, State Legislative District, Council District and locality.

Overall, Leventhal, Elrich and Trachtenberg combined to receive 44.0% of all votes for at-large candidates cast at polling places, but there are WIDE disparities across the county. The Apple’s popularity was greatest in Downcounty areas like Takoma Park (58.3% of at-large votes), Downtown Silver Spring (48.9%), Kensington (47.7%), Bethesda (46.0%) Chevy Chase (45.6%) and Potomac (45.2%). These are mostly politically liberal areas where education is usually the number one issue.

Takoma Park is an outlier because of the popularity of former City Council Member Marc Elrich, who was a strong supporter of Trachtenberg in 2006 as well as today. (If Vladimir Putin ran on a slate with Elrich, he would win in Takoma Park). What makes Takoma Park’s respect for the Apple in the at-large race even more remarkable is that the city voted to eject Apple-endorsed Senator Ida Ruben in favor of Jamie Raskin even as it led MoCo in Apple fealty at the county level.

The Apple was weakest in Upcounty areas like Burtonsville (37.0%), Clarksburg (37.7%), Germantown (37.8%), Laytonsville (38.5%), Poolesville (39.6%), Montgomery Village (39.7%) and Damascus (39.8%). Non-coincidentally, Nancy Floreen and Mike Subin tended to perform well in these areas. Upcounty is more politically moderate than Downcounty and a few precincts even lean to the right. This should be cautionary information for MCEA’s efforts to elect Craig Rice to Council District 2.

The Apple’s skewed success rate is going to have an impact on the 2010 at-large race. We’ll explore that further as we analyze the individual candidates later in the series.

Tomorrow, we’ll present the overall precinct results for the four at-large winners in 2006 as well as Mike Subin.