November 10, 2011

From 3-2 to 2-3: A tale of three races

When I first started writing this blog in 2003, Republicans had just locked up a 5-0 hold on the Town Board with a roughly 3-2 victory. People on the west side felt hopelessly locked in because the east side was so Republican.

I didn't think that reversing that in eight years would be possible.

Tuesday night, though, saw about a 3-2 victory for Democrats (though happily it doesn't yield a 5-0 board). One of Nine is complaining that the southwest corner is just too Democratic for the rest of Town.

How did this happen? I'd like to suggest that it's a combination of issues and increasing willingness to vote for Democratic candidate across the Town.

What makes me think that? Well, here's a table listing Republican candidates for Supervisor in the hotly contested 2003, 2007, and 2011 races, their vote total, and the change in totals between 2007 and 2011.

DistrictDescriptionTrumbull (03)Nelson (07)Shickel (11)R Gain, Nelson to Schickel
1West Dryden14611715538
2Freeville area196203196-7
6Village of Dryden280209202-7
7E and N of Dryden29921923718
8Snyder Hill / Rt 799883841
9Ellis Hollow Creek8471710
10South Central 2171631696
11Dryden Lake250197174-23

I expected Bruno Schickel to outperform Cheryl Nelson across the Town. I was wrong. He barely improved on her numbers, with substantial gains only in two west side districts (1 and 5), and in Dryden 7, the only district he won by more than fifty votes.

(Right now the 2011 totals are unofficial and don't include absentee ballots. I'll fix that when final results are in, but I don't expect much change in direction.)

Meanwhile, how did the Democratic candidates do? Mary Ann Sumner won in 2007 with about 317 more votes than her predecessor, but she won this year with 642 more votes than that. Not only that, but she won more votes across the Town - racking up 50 or more additional votes in 8 of 11 districts, and declining from 2007 in none.

DistrictDescriptionVarvayanis (03)Sumner (07)Sumner (11)D Gain, 2007 to 2011
1West Dryden9212918253
2Freeville area11311917556
6Village of Dryden8713718952
7E and N of Dryden7515016111
8Snyder Hill / Rt 79211246358112
9Ellis Hollow Creek24028036181
10South Central8612419874
11Dryden Lake79110213103

Sumner's gains in the southeast of Dryden, districts 10 and 11, are especially striking. I'll have more data when the Board of Elections gets all of these things recorded, but I'm pretty sure those totals mean that more than a few Republican voters crossed party lines. Sumner carried both of those districts and the extremely Republican northeast District 3, something I couldn't have imagined back in 2003.

You can see how this translated to overall percentages in the next table, which just shows what percentage of votes Democratic candidates for Supervisor managed to get in each district in each of those years, and again shows the change from 2007 to 2011 in the last column.

DistrictDescription2003 % Dem2007 % Dem2011 % DemDem Gain, 2007 to 2011
1West Dryden39%52%54%2 points
2Freeville area37%37%47%10 points
3McLean14%32%51%19 points
4Varna67%72%80%8 points
5Etna46%59%54%-5 points
6Village of Dryden24%40%48%9 points
7E and N of Dryden20%41%40%-0.2 points
8Snyder Hill / Rt 7968%75%81%6 points
9Ellis Hollow Creek74%80%84%4 point
10South Central28%43%54%11 points
11Dryden Lake24%36%55%19 points
Total41%52%60%8 points

I'm not sure what happened in Etna, but otherwise it's clear that Republicans were sailing against the wind.

I'd tell a story of a popular candidate with strong local roots who got involved because of zoning, who set his hydrofracking opinions because of his take on zoning, and who then found himself stuck with an unpopular position on hydrofracking. Zoning details never became a particularly central issue, and the budget story the Republicans tried to tell seemed like last-minute desperation to a lot of people.

Meanwhile, the incumbent candidates took a popular position on a key issue that mattered tremendously to many voters, and didn't create other major problems. That works pretty well as a political strategy.

Posted by simon at November 10, 2011 10:09 PM in
Note on photos


gary rith said:

Not sure about Etna either, except that a few independents probably just swung toward repub this time. Excellent info Simon! And wonderful to think that SW Dryden is super progressive....and much of the rest of the town can be too :)

Hilary Lambert said:

Hi - What kind of numbers did the "Protect Dryden" party produce? Have you added those in to Dem totals?

Can we tie in the personal door-to-door, leafleting, etc efforts that candidates made in particular areas (at least this year) and voting totals?

Protect Dryden is included in the Dem totals here, and were usually 10-20% varying by district of the total. In 11/Dryden Lake, though, they were like 5%.

However, I think we saw a different dynamic this year. It wasn't, say, Republican voters willing to pull for one candidate and using the third party line to do that. I suspect - though I can't yet demonstrate it and likely can't "prove" it - that a lot of Republicans just plain crossed over and voted Democratic.

The votes for the slates are much more similar than usual, and 10 and 11 seem too far out of whack for me to explain it otherwise. We never should have won 11 in particular, and we only got 9 PD votes there.

Connecting it to candidate door-to-door directly is difficult. I'd need a complete map of both parties' activity.