Thursday, January 01, 2015

Because of Sue Gunn (not Bud Blake), maybe an independent can win in the 22nd LD

When Budd Blake won a county commission seat in Thurston County after running without a party label, it got me thinking again about political labelling and political organizations. From what I can tell, Blake wasn't a true independent. He won with the backing of what really is the conservative organization in Thurston County, nominally Republican, pro-growth (building industry) and pro-property rights.

On the other hand, in a non-partisan race recently, another sort of independent won. Sue Gunn was pretty much an antiestablishment candidate. From what I found when I looked at her returns was a candidate that spanned both traditionally very liberal and very conservative voters.

Just some background reading before we get into the meat of this post:

Sue Gunn won uniting the non-establishment middle in Thurston County, traditional Republican voters who didn't like public subsidies for private business and traditional Democrats who felt the same.

This is pretty different than the type of voter that I see going for Budd Blake. Granted, there were a few traditional Democrats, but they were further in the establishment middle, the ones who were comfortable voting for a business friendly centrist against an environmentalist liberal.

But, now look at Sue Gunn's returns in 2013 when you narrow them down to the 22nd LD. Its a given that Gunn was running in a local only election in 2013, there was very little on the ballot that drove partisan leanings. But, she did eke out an 51 percent victory in the precincts that make up the 22nd LD.

And, if you assume that the current seat-holders in the 22nd are more like Jeff Davis (who lost to Gunn), you could see a roadmap of how a Gunn-like independent could win.

There's probably a lot more I could do with the data, finding out exactly how Gunn won how she did in the 22nd. Did she win over both traditional Republican and Democratic voters? Or did all of her support in the 22nd come from traditional Democrats? I'd assume if it was the latter, it would be harder to pull enough support in a partisan race.


Matthew Green said...

Gunn did better in strong D precincts and strong R precincts than in mixed/swing precincts. She appealed to voters unhappy with the status quo, whether for liberal or conservative reasons. She benefited from the fact that the status quo of the port was vulnerable to criticism from both a liberal and conservative perspective.

Blake won Republican votes like a Republican candidate. And he ducked the partisan label and portrayed himself as only slightly to the right of center, in order to coax some Democratic votes over -- I agree with your phrase "giving them permission to vote non-Democratic."

So in our thought experiment, let's try to combine the best of both to elect an Independent in the 22nd. First, pick up Republican votes by not being the Democrat. Go only slightly to the right of center as measured by the standard of the 22nd (which means "less liberal"), to attract slightly conservative Democratic voters who think Fraser et al are just a bit too far left. Plus advocate a few stridently left-wing issues that you can accuse the incumbents in the 22nd of not doing enough on, but that won't scare away conservatives (minimum wage, perhaps?).

So your target voters would be the non-establishment folks (as the "establishment" is defined in the 22nd) on both ends of the political spectrum.

There are several difficulties, of course. The legislature is seen as (and is) more partisan than the county or port, so voters may be more inclined to stick with Democrats just to support the Democratic caucuses. For legislators, incumbency is associated more with seniority and comparatively less with fossilization. And legislators are less often blamed for bad management decisions, compared to commissioners who hold both legislative and executive authority.

Whew, long answer. Might be fun to try, though.

Matthew Green said...

I phrased "stridently left-wing issues" poorly. I'm talking about issues that are important to liberal voters, especially strongly liberal voters, who generally support Democrats but who also consider most Democrat legslators to be too wishy-washy or inactive on those issues. Thus our hypothetical candidate's message is, "Unlike the incumbents, I will actually fight for these causes."