Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Predictions for the Allston-Brighton District 9 City Council Election

I am putting up this post a few minutes before the polls close tonight. This post does not represent any endorsement, preference, or bias. It is only my best guess at who will win this race based on past election overall results, voting trends by precinct, exuberance of voters, perception of how well candidates have connected with voters, etc. I am no expert on polls, precincts, get-out-the-vote-mobiles, and the like. I just talk to a lot of people, whenever I can, and try to see whose politics they latch onto.

If I haven't offered enough disclaimers yet, let me add another: I may become the silliest looking, ignorant goon after the results come in tonight. But I'll put my predictions out there because, hey, it's worth a shot. And you can all heckle me about my errors... until November 6.

Predictions for the Allston-Brighton District 9 City Council Preliminary Election

Summary: This election is going to be damn close.

Total Number of Votes Cast? There were a bit over 3200 votes in the 2005 municipal preliminary and 6000 votes in the 2005 municipal election, while there were around 3750 in Rep. Moran's district for the special primary election in 2005; Rep. Moran and Rep. Honan's districts roughly split City Council District 9 in half. This race has so much interest, I'd expect a good turnout of at least 5000 for this municipal primary election -- if not significantly more.

Wallingford Road. On Saturday morning, Mark Alford joined Patrick Galvin in planting a Greg Glennon sign on his front yard. Since I've never seen a Bill Galvin sign on Bill Galvin's lawn, I can't imagine its lack of a Glennon sign means anything. The Galvin-Alford-Galvin trifecta is signalling to the Wallingford Road voter bloc, as well as other long-term Galvin supporters in Brighton, which way to vote.

But Glennon was a no-show for two candidate forums last week, and no one could get hard confirmation where he was. The most common rumors were a fundraiser on one day and visiting Wallingford Road on the other, but I must emphasize that those are unconfirmed reports -- Glennon hasn't been answering his phone when I call. If the string-pullers are pushing Glennon, then why might he have been spending time over there working on the vote?

I am betting on no uniform voting-bloc coming out of Wallingford Road today. Instead, the elderly, mostly Russian Jews, are voting their consciences not their ward boss, breaking 65-25-10% for Glennon-Mark Ciommo-Tim Schofield. Schofield? Councilor Sam Yoon pulled 150 at-large votes in that precinct in 2005 (with 4-way voting), so Schofield may pick up half of them. Glennon is their comfortable choice because of his socially conservative views, particularly on gay rights and abortion, while Ciommo has been vocal in playing to the left in this campaign. The precinct delivered 420 and 631 District 9 votes in the 2005 preliminary and municipal election, but 858 for state representative in 2006 general election; expect at least 600 votes for this turnout-heavy precinct (Ward 21, Precinct 13) in a well-publicized race.

Institutional Expansion Vote. This voting bloc has firmed up into a strong contingent since this City Council seat was last open. The neighborhoods are well-informed and increasingly well-organized. Think of at least 300 activists (including spouses) involved near BC and 500 around Harvard, and you've got quite a bloc of educated, civic-minded people who have far higher rates of turnout than the general population.

Alex Selvig's "protest candidacy" might seem the odds-on favorite, but a little nugget argues otherwise: an online poll I had up in late July (until one candidate sent hordes of online voters to the polls for two hours, completely reversing the results) showed Schofield winning the internet-active crowd handily over Selvig. Rosie Hanlon picked up a handful of votes, but Ciommo and Glennon were nearly zero. Amongst this crowd, I hear Schofield's name mentioned most. Selvig's bump up and down the last few days won't change it much at all: his supporters are loyal, and virtually everyone had decided on their candidate well before this. Want to see if Schofield can trump Selvig among this crowd? Watch the results come in for Ward 22, Precinct 8 (BC neighbors) or 22/1 (Harvard neighbors and Glennon's home) -- and that Glennon won't carry his own precinct. I am betting 45-30-15-5-5 Schofield-Selvig-Hanlon-Glennon-Ciommo, where Glennon's votes mostly come from the Galvin-Alford-Galvin trifecta and their friends.

Irish Catholic Stronghold. The area near to the now-closed Our Lady of Presentation (aka Presentation School) consists of moderate, and educated, voters in a stable neighborhood of owner-occupied housing twice the A-B average. It was former Councilor Jerry McDermott's stronghold, and will be the primary battle-ground between Schofield and Ciommo. If Schofield can battle to a near-tie with Ciommo, look for Schofield to run away overall. Votes to watch are Ward 22, Precinct 7 (to the south) and 22/13 (to the north). Predict 55-45 Ciommo-Schofield. Note that Hanlon does well with the Catholic vote across Brighton, but this is hard to tell from individual precinct results.

Small Business Owners. They just love Rosie. One after another tells of a story about how she helped them do a promo to drum up business. The problem is that there's just not that many votes available here, particularly since some live out of the district. There's no way to track this vote via precincts; we would need a true exit poll. There may be 200 votes here, and it'll break heavily for Hanlon.

Elderly / Seniors. Some of the senior vote is already accounted for in the Wallingford Road precinct, but there are still many more in the B'nai Brith housing area, as well as in houses they've occupied for 30-50 years (or more). Ciommo, Ciommo, Ciommo. If they managed to meet Hanlon, she has a shot at a good piece of the group. Look for 60-25-15 for Ciommo-Hanlon-Schofield in Ward 21, Precinct 12 -- which carries a number of likely voters second only to Wallingford Road in 21/13, so a big plus for Ciommo.

"Old-boys", but not quite seniors. Ciommo's base, and the ones who put up all those lawn signs in the first few days of the election, are 40-55 year-old guys who used to play ball with Ciommo. They can't imagine doing anything but voting for him. Three hundred lawn signs deliver at least 300 votes in this demographic. They are scattered all around town, but look for their votes in Ciommo's old stomping grounds in Ward 22, Precinct 11 in the vicinity of Hobart Park. The problem for Ciommo is that this kind of precinct -- parallel to A-B in general -- has been steadily moving out to the suburbs, leaving a demographic with a plurality of younger people (one-third) in the 25-34 age bracket. If Ciommo has trouble in 22/11, then he'll have trouble overall in A-B -- a direct result of the nature of our neighborhood's demographic trends working against his base.

Hispanic/Brazilian. This constituency is highly under-represented, since many of the Brazilians, for example, move to the suburbs once they naturalize and set down roots. If Selvig could find these voters, they're his because of his language ability. He must've had a flyer written in Spanish... but I never saw it. Probably a couple of hundred votes for Selvig if he is making a concerted effort to knock on doors and walk people to the polls. Sadly, I doubt the turnout side will happen. Hispanic residents are 14% overall in A-B, but look to a place like Ward 22, Precinct 2 for a higher concentration near 20%; note that the Hispanic vote will get mixed up with the institutional expansion vote in precincts like this one. (Note to everyone: I can't figure out where the largest voting turnout of Hispanic voters will be... I am only stabbing in the dark based on census data, which is not the same. So this is one subject on which I expect ridicule!)

Voter Exuberance. Schofield gets this because he is very appealing to the young crowd; no one else has made a dent in that constituency.

Well-Run Campaigns. Glennon stands out for an apparent organizational collapse in the last few weeks: two missed public events; phone calls not answered or returned, no phone number listed on his website, unlisted home phone number; useless push polling in the last couple of weeks, instead of real phone calling; sloppy campaign finance form indicating lack of organizational support; etc. Ciommo's organization -- even though apparently farmed out as consulting work at Sage Systems (i.e., 90% of his expenditures were for "consulting"), and being run in a professional manner -- showed a series of mis-steps across the spectrum: failing to buy his own web domain prior to sending it out on cards; taking three months to put up a website; making more problems than he solved while trying to put out fires on gay marriage and domestic partnerships; giving excessively brief answers to questions and questionnaires; pitching himself as a progressive while simultaneously trying to appeal to the conservative Russian Jewish elderly vote; etc. But they answer their phones, and make a lot of personal connections, so I expect organizational issues to be only a relatively small hit.

Schofield, on the other hand, has run a smooth and well-oiled political machine, and Hanlon comes in a close second. Selvig's organization improved as the campaign went along, but lack of visible supporters outside the first candidates forum, no manager until well into the campaign, the need to appeal to an online forum for warm bodies, etc., meant that he was catching up a lot of lost ground. "Protest candidates" aren't supposed to be about smoothly-run campaigns, anyway.

Conclusion: Schofield ekes out a small victory by 200 votes; watch his performance in the stable, owner-occupied neighborhoods as the bell-wether of his overall performance to determine if he squeaks past Ciommo or beats him soundly. Second-place is too close to call between Ciommo and Glennon, both in the neighborhood of 1500 votes. Glennon pulls off second-place (or a close third) if, and only if, Naakh Visoky decides to deliver a full voting bloc to him; otherwise, Glennon falls to third, if not fourth, because he's just not carrying strong votes in the more moderate areas (fought over by Ciommo and Schofield) and the institutional border regions (fought over by Schofield and Selvig). Hanlon comes in fourth with around 900 votes (or pulls off third if the Russians endorse or lean Ciommo). First-time candidate Selvig garners a respectable 400, a result of hard work in places many other candidates didn't tread, and thinks about running in a future election.

Catch the drift here? The Russian vote determines second place, not first. I'm not sure they're going to be happy when they realize they aren't in the driver's seat anymore in A-B elections.

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