Posted by: sweeneyblog | November 18, 2011

Election Analysis: What does it take to win a County Seat?

Hello Loyal Readers,

How are we holding up? Sick of maps and charts yet? We are coming down the final stretch. Last posts, I examined the Lynden Suburbs, and before that the Louws/Ericksen race. Today, I am examining Christina Maginnis‘ race where she failed to prevail over ethically-challenged incumbent Sam Crawford.

On paper, it looks like a serious uphill battle for Christina Maginnis. She is a Department of Ecology employee which can be a negative factor in the County, and she is running against an eight-year incumbent, the chairman of the county council and a rallying point for many conservatives. But Christina had a few aces in her pocket. First, her race was made one of the top priorities of both the Whatcom Democrats and the Washington Conservation Voters. Both those groups did mailings and get out the vote efforts on her behalf.

The other thing she had going for her, is that she is Christina Maginnis. She worked her power-suit off doorbelling, holding events, talking to voters and campaigning up a storm. Her message about strong emergency services to rural areas resonated, while Sam Crawford was dogged by his own ethical missteps. While Maginnis didn’t quite pull it off, she came very very close. Let’s see the maps.

Maginnis in Bham

Maginnis in the County

As always, you can click on the maps to view them closer. The conventional wisdom is that a Democratic candidate running for a county-wide seat has to pull 2/3rds of Bellingham and hold a 1/3rd of the county. Well, Maginnis did that. She pulled 65% of the city vote, and 40% of the county. Not bad at all. She did especially well in the Foothills area. Where she lost votes was the I-5 corridor outside of Bellingham. She needed a better showing in Ferndale and Blaine to bump off Crawford, and that didn’t quite happen. It was still darn close. For comparison, let’s take a look at someone who did pull it off: Pete Kremen.

Kremen in Bham

Kremen in the County

For all the maps in this post, I kept the color scheme consistent, so you can at a glance see the difference. While Pete Kremen did not do quite as well in the City as Maginnis, he did MUCH better in the County. Pete Kremen got an average of 63% in Bellingham, but pulled a whopping 44% in the County. Look at the Lynden Suburbs, he is pulling 40% in Lynden, and a dead heat in Ferndale. Most of the rural county, he is only trailing Larson by 6-8%. That adds up quick. He actually won Blaine, hands down.

So what does this mean? Basically what we already knew. You cannot win a County seat based on Bellingham alone, you have to at least be competitive. On the flip-side, conservative candidates have to defend the small cities AND make inroads in Bellingham to hold on to their edge. Without his 37% in Bellingham, Larson would have been trounced badly.

A few more nuggets. It looks like Pete Kremen’s handling of the Lummi Ferry negotiations were pleasantly received, as he got plenty of votes from those areas. Also, neither Tony Larson nor Sam Crawford did as well as they should have in the South Fork, probably as a result of their efforts to gravel mine the area.

Take a look at the maps and let me know if I missed anything. As I said in some of my earlier posts, you can look at the data, but not into the reasons behind voter choices. For that, all you have is speculation.





  1. Regarding fleeting theories about why someone got votes…

    A factor I like to point out about the Louws, Kremen, Linville, and Crawford victories, is that the newer, younger, less experienced person who tried negative campaigning, fell short of winning.

    Could be that the negative campaigning actually helped and brought the losing candidate much closer to an even match? Perhaps without the mudslinging, they would have performed much lower?

    Louws, Kremen, and Linville were also the clearly moderate choice against the much more pigeon-holed candidate. We have many independents who prefer middle of the road.

    • I would like to say that Christina Maginnis ran a positive campaign that was issue-based. The Washington Conservation Voters were the one’s that brought up Sam Crawford’s unethical behavior (as well they should). Just worth a mention that Maginnis did not go negative.

  2. A small factor: While Lummi Islanders were grateful to finally get a lease, I don’t think it is fair to say they were all that pleased with the County’s failure to assert the existing right-of-way and the exorbitant fare increases thus necessitated.

    Kremen’s island success might better be attributed to the rock quarry’s proposed expansion and Larson’s position on mining. Just a guess.

  3. When you look at the Crawford/Maginnis race with 61,616 votes cast, compared to the Larsen/Kremen total of 64,102, the falloff between the two races has enough votes lying around to have swung either way. The polarization in the race came from the WCV and the ruckus over the Gateway coal terminal.

    If the linkage between falloff and polarization is what’s going on in county-wide races, then WCV may have brought Maginnis some votes, but cost her the election in terms of falloff. The WCV campaign was strongly targeted at Bellingham voters and that may have cost Maginnis votes in the county.

    At 59%, this was a low turnout election. As usual, liberals lose when the turnout is low because liberal wins are dependent on a fickle and sulky base. Compare this to the conservatives, who regularly turn out. There’s a moral here somewhere, but it eludes me.

    • There’s actually three morals that can be drawn:

      1) Efforts to suppress turnout aid conservative candidates and hurt liberals and should be viewed with this lens
      2) Liberals need to do what they can to turn their base into more reliable voters
      and . . .

      um .. . .

      3) Department of Transportation.

  4. […] agencies and even approved by the voters – since it was one of the deciding factors in the Larson versus Kremen race last year. Riley Writes an Open Letter to County Executive Jack […]

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