City election 2014 – Last-minute prediction

As I described in my first look at the City Commission races, based on the electability scores I came up with over two decades ago, it’s highly likely both incumbents–Todd Chase in District 2 and Susan Bottcher in District 3–will continue in office. 

Chase has done almost nothing that would have eroded his initial support, while his opponents have mounted only token challenges.

Bottcher faces a well-funded opponent in Craig Carter, but if he were to prevail it would represent an almost unprecedented upset for someone with so low an electability score.  Even if you take the 2010 Cynthia Chestnut/Susan Baird County Commission race as comparable, it should be noted that Chestnut actually carried the precincts that make up Bottcher’s district.  A Carter victory would be a strong message for change, but it’s more likely Bottcher will at least squeak by.

That brings us to the at-large race, effectively a two-person race between first-time candidates Annie Orlando and Helen Warren.  With neither having a decisively higher electability score, there’s no strong indicator favoring either candidate.

Therefore, any prediction has to be based on other factors.  Drawing on my own experience studying precinct voting patterns over the last five decades (I’m not going to speculate on the mood of the electorate), I’d give the edge to Orlando.

How did I arrive at that conclusion?

Let’s look at the four districts. Remember: District boundaries are based on areas of equal population, not equal numbers of voters.  And two city districts have only the at-large race to vote on, so that will dampen their turnout.

District 1, currently represented by Yvonne Hinson-Rawls, contains the predominantly black precincts and several student-oriented precincts.  This district would be expected to favor Warren, the Democratic Party establishment’s candidate.  But because there’s no black candidate to draw black voters, and because student turnout in city elections is traditionally miniscule, the turnout for this district as a whole is likely to be almost a no-show.

District 4, currently represented by Randy Wells, contains the predominantly white precincts of central Gainesville.  The traditionally liberal precincts here–5, 7, and 27–are likely to give Warren her highest margins.  The other three precincts in this district have large student populations, which would also help Warren, should they bother to turn out.  But since they won’t, this district’s over-all impact will be about half what it could be.

This leaves the two districts that actually have their own races on the ballot.

Bottcher’s voters in District 3 can be expected to favor Warren as well, since both stand for preserving the City Commission’s status quo.  But this district also contains several densely populated student-heavy precincts where turnout will be slight, along with a couple of Republican-leaning suburban precincts where turnout will be high.  If Carter carries this district, it will be because of the double-whammy of these precincts and Annie Orlando’s coattails.

That brings us to District 2, where Chase will win by a landslide. These relatively affluent suburban precincts will have the highest percentage turnout in the election.  And Chase’s voters will be Orlando’s voters.

So because the voting strength of District 3 stands to overwhelm whatever advantages Warren might have in the other districts, the city-wide victory margin will go to Annie Orlando.

It’s a numbers game.

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