County elections 2014 – A case of Koch

Remember those news reports about the “Honoring our veterans” rally at a local motorcycle dealership in early June? Kinda? Vaguely?

Maybe you glossed over it, thinking, “It’s just another veteran’s group and just another post-Memorial Day celebration? Well, think again.

The event was staged by an “organization” called Concerned Veterans for America. If the reporters had bothered to Google that name and its operatives, they would’ve found that it’s just another ultra-right-wing 501(c)(4) front for the Koch brothers’ massive propaganda empire. It’s not an accident they turned up here, nor that the featured local speakers were hometown Tea Party favorites Ted Yoho and Susan Baird.

CVA targeted our area for a reason: the Koch brothers care about Ted Yoho and are keeping an eye on his district. If Democrat Marihelen Wheeler’s campaign begins to pose a credible threat to Yoho’s reelection, expect to see some outside intervention on Yoho’s behalf, just like CVA is doing elsewhere.

 Related links & further reading

Gainesville Sun article, “Support for local veterans coalesces at rally

Washington Post article, “The Players in the Koch-Backed $400 Million Political Donor Network (investigative journalism site) report on the Koch brothers’ propaganda empire (also click on its links to related articles)

Wikipedia articles on CVA operatives Pete Hegseth, CEO, and Gary Berntsen, regional organizer

Also see Florida CVA director Stephen Flanagan’s post on an ultra-right blog for CVA/Tea Party connections

Still not convinced there’s a Koch-a-Yoho connection?  Check this out.


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County election 2014 – Primary post-mortem

Sorry for not posting anything earlier about yesterday’s primary elections, but they were just too boring for me to get motivated. Anyway, here’s my post-mortem on the county commission and congressional races.

Harvey Ward sailed into office with the backing of the local Democratic Executive Committee’s political steamroller. OH, WAIT! That’s NOT what happened! How can that be???!!!!

First off, Ward may not have crossed the electability threshold I’ve described elsewhere. But more importantly, he completely ignored the first rule of running against an incumbent: you have to give voters a reasonable doubt that the incumbent should automatically be returned to office. Unless you do that at the outset, nothing else matters. Period.

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Here’s what I’m working on and will be posting soon:

  • County Commission candidates and contributors
  • Am I the only one who remembers the trolley?
  • The stalk of the town
  • Plum Creek? Plumb crazy!
  • Veterans concerned for billionaire super-villains
  • ACPeds as a hate group: Smarter than the average bore-hole

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City election 2014 – Just the facts

The purpose of this post is simply to present my data summaries of the 2014 Gainesville City Commission campaign and elections.  (All downloads are in PDF format.)

This isn’t the raw data – you can get that at the Supervisor of Elections website. And that was where I started.

As for the election results, I grouped the precincts by the four city commission districts.  That wasn’t hard and it makes the voting patterns much clearer.

March 11 primary election results

April 8 run-off election results

On the other hand, I put in a lot of work on the contributor reports, as I hope  you’ll see.  Contributors are grouped by family and/or business interests, and ranked by their total amount contributed.  The reports also show a cumulative total of the amount of money contributed, so that you can see, for example, how much was the total contribution from the top 20 donor groups.

To my knowledge this has never been done before locally, or at least not made publicly available.

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New dogs, old tricks

Yes, as if to prove my point in the previous post about  “puppyhood and high turnover,” TV20 already has a new litter of puppies and they seem to be fresh from the shelter.

One of the whelps was assigned to the City Commission’s swearing-in ceremony. He reported that new, just-sworn-in commissioner Craig Carter was designated Mayor Pro-tem. (Had no clue that that never happens to a commissioner who hasn’t sat through even one complete meeting yet, nor, apparently, can he tell the difference between Craig Carter and Todd Chase, the real Mayor Pro-tem.)

And just today (5/30) on the “Nooze at Nyoone” (that’s really how they say it) another newborncaster read about a man who’d been charged with “lewd and luh-vay-shus” behavior.  (I have to write it phonetically since it’s not a real word.)  She exuded the same innocent self-confidence as a puppy that’s just peed on the carpet.  Wow.  Sad.  And funny.  At the same time.

Ahhh, puppies.  So cute.  How can anyone be mad at them?


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City election 2014 – The wrath of sour grapes

Here’s how TV20 anchor Paige Beck began the local newscast April 24: “A small group of politically active supporters of Gainesville Commissioner-elect Helen Warren found a legal way around Alachua County campaign finance limits just before her runoff election.” (The emphasis is in her reading – see for yourself.)

Cut to serious reporter Trent Kelly: “This is all legal, David and Paige, but this money maneuver involved one county commissioner who is also campaigning to reform these same PACs.”

In the next five hyperventilating, self-important minutes we learn that South Forward, a political action committee based in South Carolina, received about $6,000 from Gainesville donors and spent the money on mailers and robo-calls urging voters in eastern Gainesville to support Helen Warren over Annie Orlando.

About mid-way through the report we get the incisive synopsis: “It’s a way for people with money to wield more influence.

Unfortunately, this report and The Gainesville Sun‘s desperate “me, too” follow-up utterly failed to see the forest for the low-lying shrubbery.

And I’ll prove it.

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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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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?

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