Posted by: sweeneyblog | November 6, 2013

Election Analysis: First Impressions

I am waiting for the next batch of results before I dig into the precinct by precinct analysis that I have done in years past, but I wanted to share some quick impressions because I know you, my loyal readers, in starving for some more insight.

First of all, how’d I do on my predictions? I called 8/10 races correctly, having missed one of the Port races and I-522. In terms of my numbers, I was far too cautious, it turned out to be a much stronger night for progressive candidates. But still, I’ll take my 80% and call it good.

Here is what stood out to me as the most interesting result of last night: All the county council races had nearly identical results. They all came down to a 45-55 split. That is very telling, it means that however voters might have felt about Ben Elenbaas or Rud Browne individually, almost everyone voted as a slate, with very few “ticket splitters”. In other words, this election, with low turnout, was decided by who could turnout the most people from their side, rather than who could persuade the most people in the middle.

The deciding factor this election

The deciding factor this election

On this front, the Whatcom Democrats were clearly superior. In politics, this is usually referred to as your field or ground game and it does not involve pretty mailers or radio ads. It means knocking on doors and making phone calls. The raw, personal contact between volunteers and people who probably agree with you, urging them to vote this year.

Once I have the precinct data I can confirm the turnout numbers but I do know this: While the Whatcom Republicans were putting paid employees in booths at the fairs and parades this summer, the Whatcom Democrats were recruiting volunteers and knocking on doors. While the Republicans were posting long articles on their multitude of conservative websites (Whatcom Works, Saturday Morning Live, Whatcom Excavator, etc), the Democrats were recruiting volunteers and knocking on doors. While the Republicans were pushing trumped up stories about party resolutions, the Democrats were recruiting volunteers and knocking on doors.

It isn’t a complicated strategy, but it is sometimes lost on people who follow the back and forth of electoral politics. Stay tuned later this week for a detailed breakdown of who voted and what campaign tactics worked or failed.

UPDATE: Ralph Schwartz echoes my analysis on the Bellingham Herald Political Blog today.



  1. I can;t believe we have just been had by another money-purchased initiative result. I’m so upset by this corporatist corruption of our democracy. Cascadian Farms parent General Mills just cemented my permanent boycott of their products. Effing liars confusing the stupid to maximise their profits. Why should we trust them to be honest about anything?

    • I am pretty disappointed about I-522 but consider the long game. Marijuana legalization and Marriage Equality went through several ballot measures failures before they succeeded. This is just the first battle, not the whole war.

      • There is a sort of nonsense at play here as well…one that I can only hope voters recognize.

        The argument was “522 will raise prices on groceries by increasing costs to farmers”. Huh?

        Monsanto spent $5.4M on defeating this initiative. (I’ll ignore DOW Agro-chemical and Beyer for now) Where does that money come from? From their profits? From their shareholders? How do they make that up on the bottom line? Oh yea, from raising the prices on their seed they sell to local farmers…and the result? INCREASING THE COST TO FARMERS!!!

        To quote Walter Sobchak “It’s like Lenin said, follow the money”
        “I am the Walrus?” “Shut up Donnie, you’re out of your element”. Sorry, so giddy from the Council race outcomes that I must quote movies…

  2. Are you giving away all the Dems secrets, Riley? Shhhhh!
    Can’t wait to see the precinct analysis. I’d bring you beer and look over your shoulder if I wasn’t under the weather.

  3. There were risks and potential backfires. Another major thing that happens with Whatcom, is that they follow the national mood a little, so the Ted Cruz effect may have at least temporarily soured some indies who could easily otherwise voted for the R supported team.

  4. Yes, hard work on the part of the candidates seems to have paid off.
    There are many other variables to consider though so I’m not willing to give ALL the outcome to the doorbelling and personal approach. The fact that Whatcom Wins came through as a slate for voting says something about the importance of organizing the campaigns. Cohesion, Cooperation, and Collaboration are the social glue that makes for good campaigning and for good political organizing at ALL levels. Deep analysis of the Demographics will also “pay off”. For the 2014 Elections we still have a lot of WORK to do! Not to say we can CELEBRATE the VICTORIES of 2013 now.

  5. I thought you did a fabulous job announcing the race and winners last night at the VFW. I’m sure you have NO voice today. Where was the PA system the Democrats own? It would have been so much easier on you to talk, and on those of us who were beyond your voice range to hear. Good job!

    • We brought one in but it was after all the big news came through. Bryna made me a little sign, halfway through the evening, saying “This is not a microphone.”

  6. Riley:

    Again great job of reporting last night i wish i could have been there. The results are the best medication i have had so far. Great job by all the Democrats and to
    my friend Barry one hell of a job you ran a great camapign. I look forward to
    working with a county council that will look accross the street and join us for the good of Bellingham and the whole county. What a high!!!!!

  7. The following is a BOLD FACE LIE: “I do know this: While the Whatcom Republicans were putting paid employees in booths at the fairs and parades this summer”. i worked in the booths and marched in those parades and did not receive a dime 9and neither did anyone else.

  8. When you get to analyzing the results of 522, compare it to how agrarian the county is. I’ve noticed some unusual splits, where non-farming Ferry county had roughly the same results as farming-heavy Skagit county despite being diametric opposites on nearly any other election, and Walla Walla county voted more against it than Spokane county, which in the past usually split the same direction on democrat/republican issues, but Walla Walla has a greater portion of the population involved in agriculture.

    Most farmers I know were against this, and it does look like it was a statewide trend.

  9. Thanks for the plug, Riley. I hadn’t read this until just now (Thursday), so I didn’t realize you had stolen my thunder! I’m working on a Sunday story to look at campaign strategies in more depth, too. I look forward to reading your deep look at things.

    • I’m really looking forward to your Sunday article. I just wanted to touch on this, since I was getting a ton of questions about it. No thunder stolen – just consider it a teaser for your article.

  10. […] However, the most likely battleground this year is over district only voting. Charlie Crabtree, chair of the Whatcom Republicans and confused newspaper reader, has made it crystal clear his priorities for the Charter Review – district only voting. As he wrote in his emails to disheartened Republicans after they lost control of the Council last year, […]

  11. […] it mean that the Whatcom Republicans have a better connection with their grassroots? The mighty ground game that flipped the County Council democratic is strong evidence that filled PCO slots does not […]

  12. […] out after the Democratic sweep last year, it was not the glossy WCV mailers that won that race but the efficient and well-organized ground game that turned out voters in South Bellingham. One would hope that that the County Republicans “screw their courage to the […]

  13. […] As I covered last year, smart political campaigns know that every dollar should be spent on voter contact. Of course you have to pay the bills, hire a campaign manager and throw a few fundraisers. But mostly you need to be conserving resources for ads and voter outreach. […]

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