Thursday, June 16, 2016

Where an independent dies in Thurston County (part 1 of more than 1 hopefully)

One of my favorite all time posts here is the one I did wrote about a year and half ago about how Bud Blake won in Thurston County.

It's my favorite because it showed something new and interesting to me.

For one, it blew up my idea of political party labels and how voters use them. In fact, I could see, voters really did react to a relabelling of a conservative local politician. In recent years a lot of Republicans have taken well funded runs at sitting Democrats on the county council, but have come up short.

But, Blake won, mostly it seems because he decided to label himself as an Independent and not a Republican. The data seems to bear this out. In almost every precinct, from the most liberal to the most conservative, a portion of voters who would not vote for a Republican would vote for an Independent who happened to be conservative.

Since the start of the new campaign season, I've heard more than a few times from liberal folks up here that: "We won't be fooled again. This time we know Independent means Republican."

There are also two new Independents running for county commissioner who seem like they'd probably be Republicans in another setting. Obviously since one of them used to run regularly as a Republican.

So, my question is, how far out from the central, more liberal, part of Thurston County does this story need to travel before an Independent (really Republican) needs to lose.

Turns out, pretty far.

What I did here was sort precinct results by usually most liberal to most conservative (based on 2012 election results) and started replacing the vote totals from Bud Blake's 2014 campaign with an aggregate for a Republican in 2012.

That's a really rough experiment, but it was an interesting practice. I assumed that the map wouldn't extend much further than the main urban core of the county, but it really did pick up most of the peninsulas (if I can call those neighborhoods that) and some precincts in south county (mostly around and in towns though).

And, here is why I think I can do a lot better than this map. I think turnout is going to have a big part to play. Not only was Blake's party label a factor, but turnout dropped a lot in 2014. For the next post I'm going to play around with trying to find out how an increase in turnout this year will change the dymanic.

1 comment:

Steve S. said...

Emmett, this is an important line of inquiry. At the county level, Thurston has historically been more "purple" than commonly assumed. Sometimes that has played out in partisan terms, such as when the county commission was controlled by Republicans from 1993-1998. But even when the Democrats gained a majority on the three-person commission in 1999, Diane Oberquell and Kevin O'Sullivan were conservative enough to receive considerable support from Republicans. The commission didn't begin to turn liberal until 2003, after Bob McLeod achieved the relatively rare feat of defeating an incumbent.

It makes sense that you plan to next focus on turnout. That clearly influences county commission races -- although not always in expected ways. For example, in 1992 -- a high-turnout presidential election year -- the Democrats swept to power at the federal and state levels but the county commission went in the opposite direction. Republican candidate Judy Wilson even defeated Democrat George Barner.

I mention 1992 because we could see a repetition of that election's general pattern. If current conditions hold, Democrats appear poised to do relatively well at the federal and state levels while Republicans could very well retake the county commission (under the guise of being "independent" candidates). Like 1992, such an electoral anomaly will primarily be the result of big mistakes by the local Democratic party. How is it that the Democrats couldn't come up with an experienced candidate to run for Sandra Romero's seat when she decided to retire?