Monthly Archives: April 2014

City election 2014 – Wrapping up

The real story of the 2014 Gainesville City Commission election, unreported except for here, consists of a major theme and minor variations.

The major theme is the startling role played by a handful of big-money special interests in funding three of the campaigns (Carter, Chase, and Orlando), echoing the familiar pattern of developers versus environmentalists in local elections.

The minor variations consist of how that pattern was muddled in one race by a strange mixture of issues and alliances.

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City election 2014 – Follow the money #3

The essence of the contributions to the runoff election between Annie Orlando and Helen Warren is a distilled version of the contributions to the primary election.  Orlando’s contributor list is top-heavy with a small number of interests funding the bulk of her campaign with multiple $250 contributions.  And Warren’s isn’t.

The Orlando Magic

The Gleim family (publishing and investments) gave 10 contributions of $250 each! George “Cotton” Fletcher‘s interests (real estate, development, and construction) gave $1,500.  Doug Wilcox (real estate and construction) and his businesses gave $1,000.  Realtor PAC gave $750, as did Rocky Justice and his businesses (real estate and retail).

Other familiar names in the $250-$500 range include the Tea Party Bentons, Kevin and Carol Daly, Charles Goston (the “impartial” campaign forum moderator), Perrys (Keith and Charles), Rob Zeller, and Mac McEachern.

Further down the food chain we find a sprinkling of environmentalists and neighborhood activists among the business owners and Republican activists.

Warren, the gulf

Overall, Warren’s runoff campaign raised just over three-quarters the amount of Orlando’s, $19,300 versus $25,300. Only a small fraction came from repeat large donors.

The Alachua County Democratic Executive Committee reported an in-kind campaign support valued at $108 and a check for $650.  Susan Bottcher and her husband gave $750.  Paula DeLaney and her husband gave $500.  Solar energy businessman Barry Jacobsen and his wife gave $500.  A couple of PACs, the Central Labor Council and Ruth’s List, gave $250 each.

The remainder of Warren’s funding came mostly from academics and social and environmental activists, among them several current and former city and county commissioners.

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What – me a culpa? No, you’re a culpa!

Okay, I admit, at first glance it looks like I only got one out of three right in my last-minute predictions.  But let’s zoom in for a closer look, shall we?

District 2

On the plus side, I did predict that incumbent Todd Chase would win by a landslide.  Nailed it!

On the other hand, my initial impression that Cheri Brodeur would get the “dead man vote”  was somewhat off.  At the time, Brodeur promised an aggressive door-to-door effort, while candidate #3 was MIA.  That other candidate–her name escapes me, as it did most of the voters–actually accomplished the non-feat of getting 30% of the vote.  (Somebody had to.)

District 3

I predicted that incumbent Susan Bottcher would eke out a narrow victory.  I made it clear that my prediction was based on the Electability Score system I’ve perfected over several decades, but that sometimes an “unelectable” candidate wins, which happened this time.   When that’s the case, it’s universally labeled an upset, as it was here.

Is that an imperfection in the model?  I don’t think so.

Such upsets–an “unelectable” beating an incumbent–occur about once every 10 years.  There’ve been only 5 or 6 of them out of about 160 elections since the late 1960’s.

In retrospect, the common thread of such upsets is hubris–incumbents who overestimated their invincibility and underestimated their opponents.  I remember seeing a clip on the news on election night showing Bottcher waving a sign for Helen Warren in the at-large race, rather than her own.  And after the votes were in she was reported to say she “felt sorry” for Gainesville for having elected her opponent.

I don’t think it’s my model that’s at fault when candidates are their own worst enemies and manage to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.


That brings us to the city-wide race.  I gave “the edge” to Annie Orlando, and she actually came in second, albeit in a virtual tie with Helen Warren (44% vs. 45%).

I’d expected the also-rans to be lucky to poll 5 percent among the three of them, and they surprised me with about 11% of the total.  Perhaps that represents a “none-of-the-above” sentiment among voters.

But let’s look at the details I outlined.  I predicted District 1’s turnout to be miniscule.  With an over-all turnout there of 7.55%, that was indeed accurate.

As to District 4, I predicted precincts 5, 7 and 27 to give Warren her highest margins, and the other precincts of the district to be no-shows. That’s precisely what happened there.

In Districts 2 and 3, Orlando’s votes were almost identical to Chase’s and Carter’s, as I predicted, with the vote of the heavily student-populated precincts of District 3 being almost non-existent.  Again, that’s precisely what happened.


What does all this mean for the run-off election for the at-large seat?

The keywords are turnout and polarization.  The precincts of Districts 1 and 4 heavily favor Warren, while the precincts of Districts 2 and 3 (with only a couple of exceptions)  heavily favor Orlando.  Whichever campaign succeeds in dragging its precincts’ voters back to the polls will prevail.  It’s really up for grabs.

Here’s the map of Gainesville City Commission Districts
Here’s my spreadsheet of the March 11, 2014 election results


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