Thursday, June 5, 2014

California Primary Election Post-Script Statewide Offices

Forgive me for being away for a day but I was recovering from the election. Don't worry. You'll get far too many posts analyzing the election. I don't want to get into the numbers yet, because the counties are still counting ballots. Yes, I know that some people think we're slow here, but there's a method to the madness. Every ballot will get counted. I'd rather not analyze an election that went 51%-47% when it could be 54%-45% when counting is done. I'll start with some towlines.

Turnout was low, very low. The final number will be in the low 20's, after regularly being in the low 30's. This can lead to unusual results, although for the most part any electorate will be a subset of the overall electorate. This election was less Republican than the last couple. That'll lead to the question of whether the primary and general electorates are moving closer or a sign that Republicans are worse off than they have been in the past.

Yes, I'm surprised at Neel Kashkari finishing second. Tim Donnelly had a ceiling that wasn't that high but he also had a floor that was in the low to mid-teens. I had Donnelly getting 15% of the vote and he's right now at 15% of the vote. I had Republicans getting 38% of the vote. Right now they are at 40%. Where I had Kashkari falling short was being able to consolidate the non-Donnelly vote. Well, he was able to do that. He got nearly 80% of the Republican got that didn't go to Donnelly. Were the polls that showed others doing well wrong? I don't know, but it may have been Kashkari's final month effort that gave him the recognition to finish second.

Donnelly blamed a lock of money for his third place finish. While money did help Kashkari, I'm not sure how a lot of money would've helped Donnelly that much. Republicans know him and he had strong GOTV efforts throughout the state. He got his votes. I suppose he could've gone negative on Kashkari to destroy him as an alternative to Donnelly.

Lack of money didn't hurt Republicans down ballot. The establishment picked Republican candidates for Lieutenant Governor and for the offices where there was only one Republican on the ballot. Republicans made different choices for Attorney General and Controller races. The establishment encouraged former state senator Phil Wyman to run for Attorney General at the last minute. Wyman wasn't the endorsed candidate for the state party and he neither had a lot of name recognition nor did he spend a lot on his campaign. So when the time came to choose a candidate, Republicans liked Ronald Gold over Wyman. Gold never filed a campaign finance report and raised no money. Why did he finish second? Ballot designation. Gold is a "Retired State Prosecutor." Wyman is an "attorney/rancher." Which one would you want enforcing the law in Sacramento?

Fresno mayor Ashley Swearengin was the handpicked candidate of the Republican party and got the state party endorsement. While she got into the campaign late, she managed to raise a little bit of money, more than Democratic rival Betty Yee. The other Republican on the ballot was David Evans. He didn't file a campaign finance report either. As or now, Swearengin only leads Evans 24.4%-21.7%. Why? Ballot designation again. Swearengin is "Mayor, City of Fresno." Evans is "Chief Financial Officer." The Controller spends our money. They wanted someone who was a "Chief Financial Officer. Had Swearengin not spent some money and gotten the endorsement, she might've gone the way of Wyman.

While I'm not going to analyze all the percentages now, the percentage breakdowns in statewide races were either 53%D-42%R, 55D%-40R%, or 55%D-40%R in the five races where incumbents or quasi-incumbent John Chiang ran. That's about what you'd expect for a Democratic incumbent. What's surprising is that Jerry Brown didn't run ahead of the other Democrats running. He's so popular that people expected him to get Republican votes. He obviously didn't get many. That probably means that predictions of Brown topping Dianne Feinstein's 62.5% are overblown and he, like the other incumbents, probably won't get more than 60%. That's pretty good, not historic.

The Secretary of State numbers were disappointing for the GOP. Even if we include Republican turned NPP Dan Schnur toward the Republican total, the GOP "lost" this race 52%-45%. That's not close enough to be competitive in November. The GOP did better in the Controller race, but didn't take a majority there either. And Swearengin's low percentage indicates she didn't do a lot to get Republican votes.

There are three more examples of money not meaning that much. I, like many of you, thought it did. So when unknowns David Kanuth and Fred Simon raised a ton of money for their races in CA-33 and CA-52 respectively, I thought they'd do well. I'm embarrassed to admit that I had Kanuth getting 10% of the primary vote and Simon getting 15%. Spending a lot of money can help against unknown candidates but against established experienced politicians who know how to campaign, and have oodles of volunteers, it doesn't mean much. They got 1% and 4% respectively. The third example is indicted state senator Leland Yee. He not only didn't spend money and didn't campaign, but he's been completely out of the public eye for three months. He still finished third at 9.7%.

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