Sunday, November 08, 2020

The semi-rural breakwater in Thurston County politics

 I've oftentimes described the geographic nature of (mostly) partisan politics in Thurston County. 

If you are a Democrat or left of center, you try to drive up your margins in the areas close to downtown Olympia. Then you drive outwards in all directions and try to win as many other precincts as possible until you run out of time and money.

If you are a Republican or right of center, you start in South county and push in towards Olympia. 

There are exceptions to this rule. But these are usually non-partisan races where the typical left/right politics get subverted. Sue Gunn when she ran for port commission springs to mind.

In this simpler out from Olympia, in towards Olympia model, I have always wondered where the meeting point actually is. Where are the places where a normal liberal and Olympia-centered candidate could hope to win before they run out of steam?

It turns out, it is the corner of College and Yelm Highway in Lacey that acts as the lynch-pin to a series of dozens of precincts that are our true battleground. I came up with this by looking at how the two county commission races are finishing with such disparate results. Carolina Mejia is leading C Davis by a much larger lead than the difference in the Michael Steadman and Gary Edwards race. So, there are precincts that both Mejia (on the left and Olympia-centered) that Edwards (on the right and south county centered) are winning.

Below are the places they both won:

I also did a map showing the precincts that were both won by Republican Dusty Pierpoint and won by the two other Democratic legislative candidates, Sam Hunt and Laurie Dolan. There was about an eight-point difference between Pierpoint's loss and how the Republicans running against Hunt and Dolan.

So, starting from the Yelm Highway and College Street intersection, there is a wide band of precincts heading north all the way to Puget Sound. Then, along the south side of Yelm Highway, there is another line of precincts that stretch all the way to the Black Hills.

On first blush, these are largely incorporated precincts but are either close to or are in the cities' urban growth boundaries. They're also within the school district boundaries of the three large north county school districts. So culturally, these are not true rural "South County" areas. There are a couple (South Scott Lake and South Union) that probably qualify as South County.