Gotham Gazette http://www.gothamgazette.com/component/tags/tag/1965 Mon, 18 Dec 2017 14:42:09 +0000 Joomla! - Open Source Content Management en-gb webmaster@gothamgazette.com (Webmaster) Small Number of Votes Likely to Carry Harlem Special Election http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6745:small-number-of-votes-likely-to-carry-harlem-special-election http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6745:small-number-of-votes-likely-to-carry-harlem-special-election nyc boe photo voting machines cropped

photo: NYC Board of Elections


When City Council Member Rafael Salamanca Jr., a Bronx Democrat, was elected in a special held on February 23 last year, only 3,764 ballots were cast and he received 1,455 of them. There were five other candidates in the race.

In 2013, almost exactly four years ago, Donovan Richards was elected to represent Queens’ 31st Council District. Eight candidates ran and 9,147 people voted. Richards received 2,646 votes, closely beating out Pesach Osina who got 2,567 votes.

Special elections for City Council are fairly rare, almost always low-turnout, and much more important than people may realize. Not only do specials, like any election, change the course of the candidates lives and careers, but they determine local representation for district residents and larger policy contributions that winners may make to the city.

In just a few days -- on February 14 -- nearly a dozen candidates will be on the ballot for a special City Council election in Harlem to replace former Council Member Inez Dickens, who was elected to the state Assembly in November. But the especially large slate of candidates is unlikely to mean there will be strong voter turnout. Special elections tend to draw far fewer people to the polls than regularly-scheduled primary and general elections, which themselves typically host unimpressive turnout in New York.

“It’s twice as hard, if not more, to get people to vote in a special election,” said Steven Romalewski, director of the Center for Urban Research’s mapping service at CUNY Graduate Center. “People aren’t used to voting in February.”

“The challenge with a special election,” said Romalewski, “is that not only do candidates and supporters need to make the case for why people should vote for them, but they also have to cross the threshold of getting people to know that there is an election. During the general, you don’t have that issue.”

Special elections in New York City are nonpartisan, meaning that there are no party primaries and candidates do not run on the typical party ballot lines. Instead, they create their own party name and can appear on the ballot if they collect the requisite number of valid petition signatures from district residents.

Including those that elected Council Members Salamanca and Richards, there have been six City Council special elections between 2010 and 2016. Although each was held in different circumstances, and there’s no easy apples-to-apples comparisons to be made, some factors do hold true. For instance, specials scheduled the same day as the general election see higher turnout, in part because of increased awareness among voters and votes cast down party lines.

Voters have the “ingrained” habit of going to the polls in November during general elections, Romalewski noted, and if a special is held the same day, people may cast votes along party lines. Then even an unopposed candidate could receive a substantial number of votes that are mostly unavailable during a special election held in, say, February.

As of April 1, City Council District 9 -- the Harlem seat home to this month’s special election -- had 96,797 active registered voters, according to the New York City Board of Elections. This includes 79,482 Democrats, 3,108 Republicans and 11,241 unaffiliated voters.

In the September 2013 Democratic primary election for the seat, 18,412 votes were cast, 12,878 of which were for Inez Dickens, who was running for re-election and had only one opponent. In the general, Dickens ran unopposed, but received 23,454 out of 28,647 votes cast.

This next vote for the Council member from District 9 will not be on primary or general election day, though. It will be February 14, and turnout could be exceedingly low. With eleven candidates on the ballot, a winner may prevail with fewer than 2,000 votes, if that. The candidates are State Senator Bill Perkins; Marvin Holland; Charles Cooper; Donald Fields; Pierre Gooding; Athena Moore; Todd Stevens; Larry Blackmon; Cordell Cleare; Caprice Alves; and Dawn Simmons.

Aside from the eleven who did make it, two other candidates were kicked off the ballot by the Board of Elections on Tuesday, one for having submitted ballot petitions past the deadline and another for attempting to run on the Democratic Party line in a nonpartisan election.

Two recent “special” elections, in Staten Island’s District 51 and Queens District 23, were held on November 3, 2015, the day of the general election, to fill vacancies created from the separate resignations of two City Council members. Owing to technicalities in election law, based on the timing of the vacancies the District 51 race was considered a special election and the other was an “off-year” election, which involves different rules.

In the Staten Island race, there were 13,002 votes in total, of which 9,111 went to now-Council Member Joe Borelli, a Republican Assembly member at the time. (Borelli was on the ballot again in 2016, running in an “off-year” election for the last year of the term.) The Queens “off-year” election, on the other hand, involved a party primary in September 2015, in which Barry Grodenchik won the Democratic nomination with 1,942 votes out of the total 7,196. On November 3, he received 6,156 votes out of 11,305 cast, beating his Republican opponent by 2,000 votes.

Similarly, in 2012, Andy King was elected to the City Council from District 12 in the Bronx, in another special election held with the general election. King received 35,580 votes out of 58,505 votes cast in the nonpartisan race. He had five competitors.

Two special elections held in 2010 also bear the same pattern -- much higher turnout when held in conjunction with the general election. When Brooklyn’s David Greenfield was elected to the District 44 seat in March of that year, he received 7,242 votes of the 12,762 cast. Later in November, on general election day, when Ruben Wills ran for District 28 in Queens, he received 6,145 votes but 22,428 people voted.

By law, the mayor must call for a special election within three days of a vacancy occurring and the election must take place on the first Tuesday at least 45 days after the vacancy. This helps avoid prolonged periods without community representation, but leads to specials on seemingly random Tuesdays.

“In November, most voters know about the election.” said political consultant Jerry Skurnik, co-founder of Prime New York. In specials held during the rest of the year, he said, candidates have two necessary tasks to perform. “You’ve got to convince people to vote and then convince people to vote for you,” he said.

Skurnik did point out that the range of turnout in special elections is usually between 10 to 15 percent, trending towards the lower end, implying that there is a dedicated base of voters that will cast a ballot regardless of the timing of the election or even the weather on the particular day. The difference, though, comes down to the race and the candidates. “It’s driven largely by how competitive it is and how active candidates are,” Skurnik said.

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by Samar Khurshid, City government reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

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Small Number of Votes Likely to Carry Harlem Special Election Thu, 02 Feb 2017 05:00:00 +0000
With De Blasio Appearing Vulnerable, Heightened Examination of Paths to Defeat Him http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6480:with-de-blasio-appearing-vulnerable-heightened-examination-of-paths-to-defeat-him http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6480:with-de-blasio-appearing-vulnerable-heightened-examination-of-paths-to-defeat-him de blasio balcony

Mayor Bill de Blasio (photo: Ed Reed, Mayor's Office)


Mayor Bill de Blasio often says he doesn’t put much stock in public opinion polls; he believes they’re about as accurate as weather predictions. When asked, he didn’t express much concern after a Quinnipiac University poll released August 1 showed that 51 percent of New York City voters don’t think he deserves to be re-elected in 2017. But even if de Blasio didn’t care, his critics and potential opponents surely did, and are likely buoyed in their belief that there is a way to beat an incumbent Democrat who has been arguably the most progressive mayor in the city’s history and overseen dropping crime, growing jobs, and a record tourism.

As polls show de Blasio’s relative weakness, some voices have grown louder calling for his ouster, and potential opponents weigh jumping into the race, one key question is the best path to defeating him. In an overwhelmingly Democratic city that saw 20 years of Republican dominance of the mayoralty before his election, it’s not immediately clear where de Blasio is most vulnerable.

As can be expected, political consultants are divided on the prospect of de Blasio’s re-election. Republican consultants believe he can be beaten if an opponent uses the right strategy, aptly highlighting the mayor’s weaknesses, while many Democrats are certain the chances of that are negligible at best.

“[De Blasio’s opponents] need to make it a referendum on his competence and his management,” said Evan Siegfried, a Republican strategist. “That includes Democrats, especially in the primaries.”

“An incompetent mayor can lose,” he added.

It is the competence argument that is already being made by the loudest voice to thus far openly declare intention to defeat de Blasio in 2017 - that of consultant Bradley Tusk, who ran former Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s third successful mayoral campaign, in 2009. Tusk has said, though, that he believes the most likely path to defeating de Blasio in 2017 is through the Democratic primary. He’s currently waging a public relations campaign to damage the mayor while he attempts to recruit the strongest candidate possible.

As Tusk and others, even Republicans, acknowledge, the voter registration numbers don’t lie. They also see that while de Blasio’s approval rating is low, he still has fairly strong support among Democrats, especially African-Americans.

In order to beat de Blasio, “Republicans and independents will have to appeal to disaffected Democrats and have to bring in pretty much every constituency,” said Siegfried. “Bill de Blasio is absolutely beatable only if you run a good and strong campaign with a solid candidate...They should aim to peel off the pork from where de Blasio is strong, particularly the African-American community.”

On the Republican end, there are already a few candidates who’ve indicated they may run against the mayor, including Queens City Council Member Eric Ulrich; billionaire businessman John Catsimatidis, who lost in the 2013 Republican primary; real estate developer Paul Massey; and former professional football player and Harlem pastor Michel Faulkner. The latter two have officially declared their runs.

Republican campaign consultant Jessica Proud of The November Team, who is working for Massey’s campaign, believes there is a path to victory against the incumbent mayor. “Clearly de Blasio has not been able to inspire the confidence of voters,” she said. “He has not shown himself to be a good manager of the city.” Proud said Massey’s appeal is that he’s not a politician. “He’s not an ideologue, his approach would be one of good management,” she said, with an implicit nod toward a Bloomberg-esque technocrat and citing Massey’s top priorities in the campaign: public safety and quality of life issues, housing, and improving city schools.

The management issue is a common refrain and relates directly to competence. Even though crime is down, Republican consultants point to polls that show the perception of crime remains skewed. Many people believe other quality of life issues, like street cleanliness, are getting worse even if there is evidence to the contrary. The Quinnipiac poll released August 1 showed that 49 percent of New York City voters disapproved of how the mayor is handling crime, compared to 42 percent who approved.

George Arzt, a Democratic consultant, said, “[De Blasio is] vulnerable to a challenge but not from a Republican.” He said that contenders like Massey or Catsimatidis don’t have the same level of resources as Bloomberg did, and that they definitely don’t have the political skills or organization. “There were circumstances that cannot be duplicated as we see now,” he said of Bloomberg’s election as a Republican candidate. “It’s doubtful that anyone even with money can make a go of it.”

Another Democratic strategist, Hank Sheinkopf, said a Republican candidate could only be elected if the city were to undergo a serious crisis, say a crime wave, massive corruption, or another recession. De Blasio's administration and campaign allies are being investigated on multiple fronts by state and federal law enforcement officials - the results of those investigations could shift political dynamics drastically, of course. Short of major indictments, Sheinkopf did point out early indicators of problems -- certain crimes have increased, like rape, but overall the crime rate is at historic lows; school test scores may be improving but the schools are underperforming in general; violence in the city’s jails; and future budget deficits despite the city being flush with cash.

Even with those considerations, Sheinkopf said, “A fusion candidate will have a better chance,”  referring to a candidate who runs on multiple party lines. “They have the Republican line and other lines which makes it easier for people to vote for them.” An effective Republican challenger would have to draw crossover votes from traditionally Democratic voting sections of the population, as Siegfried also suggested and any Republican candidate or consultant must understand.

Democrats’ immense voter registration advantage is simply a reality that all involved in New York City political campaigns must recognize. However, one caveat to the voter registration numbers are the voter turnout numbers, which are often quite low. If a certain candidate, incumbent or otherwise, can motivate more people to vote in a significant mass, an election can be swung.

As of April 1, there are more than 4 million active registered voters in the city, of which 2.75 million are Democrats and only 414,478 are Republicans. However, that advantage isn’t necessarily borne out by history, a fact pointed to by Steven Romalewski, director of the mapping service at the Center for Urban Research at the CUNY Graduate Center. In an interview with Gotham Gazette, Romalewski said, “The enrollment advantage doesn’t necessarily tell you much. It matters less than personality of the candidates and the issues. If everyone turned out to vote who is registered to vote and voted the party line, a Democrat would win. But that doesn’t always happen.”

Romalewski noted that a 2013 general election analysis showed that in certain districts, de Blasio received fewer Democratic votes than the total votes cast by registered Democrats, indicating that some may have voted for his Republican opponent, Joe Lhota. In other districts, de Blasio received more votes than the total Democratic votes cast, meaning he had support from outside the Democratic party as well. There were six major qualified parties and 14 minor parties on the general election ballot, with de Blasio holding the Democratic and Working Families Party lines.

The city also has nearly 800,000 unaffiliated voters, often called “independents,” which adds another facet to the Democrat-Republican enrollment imbalance.

“In 2017, I think the same kind of analysis holds,” Romalewski said in an email. “If none or just a small number of Democrats vote for de Blasio's opponent, he'll do ok.  But if his challenger can persuade enough Dems to "defect," he'll be in trouble.”

But de Blasio’s great strength, as Romalewski pointed out, is that he “not only did well and much better than the prior three Democratic candidates [for mayor] but also did well in areas where Bloomberg did well. He kinda combined the traditional Democratic base -- Black and Hispanic areas -- with liberal white areas.” De Blasio won a dominant 73 percent of the general election vote against Lhota in 2013.

Critics point to the fact that only 26 percent of registered voters cast ballots in that election, which indicates some combination of apathy, recognition that de Blasio had a huge polling advantage heading toward Election Day, and limited enthusiasm for Lhota from Republicans and independents.

A Republican would have to have a “cache” of progressive politics combined with the skills of a good manager, Romalewski said, to cut into de Blasio’s voter base. “The conventional wisdom is that it’s unlikely [de Blasio will] have effective challengers,” he said.

Most observers assume that the mayor will only face a stiff challenge in the Democratic primary, due to the aforementioned factors and no obvious other big name Republican or independent waiting in the wings. And a tough Democratic primary is only possible, some say, if a single strong candidate runs against de Blasio instead of multiple candidates who could split the anti-de Blasio vote. “If two or three Democrats challenge the mayor, he’s going to win,” said Bill Cunningham, managing director at DKC and former communications director for Bloomberg. “If only one runs, there’s a chance to coalesce the people who view [de Blasio] unfavorably and give them a place to go vote.”

One other path some experts float would be for a strong African-American candidate to enter the race - someone like Congressional Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, for example - who would chip away at de Blasio’s deep African-American base, and one strong white candidate - someone like Comptroller Scott Stringer - who could pick up as many other disaffected Democrats as possible.

Cunningham said for a competitive race, “You need a message, a messenger and you need to be able to deliver that to the public. There’s no mystery to what the recipe is. The trick is finding a candidate who is intelligent and can campaign effectively and has the money to deliver the message to the voters.” Bloomberg had those qualities, he pointed out, but the current crop of contenders don’t. Along with Stringer, Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. is currently seen as the other most likely Democratic challenger to the mayor.

When asked about potential opponents, de Blasio has repeatedly said he’s ready to take on all comers, at times mentioning the pillars of his term: universal pre-kindergarten, affordable housing, and low crime. At one point last year de Blasio discussed his "record of achievement" and said of potential 2017 opponents, "come one, come all."

A spokesperson for de Blasio’s campaign, Dan Levitan, emailed a statement about the prospects for 2017, saying, “Crime just hit another all-time low, jobs are at record highs, the City is building and preserving affordable housing at a record pace, while graduation rates and test scores continue to improve. That is Mayor de Blasio's record and that is what next year's election will be about.”

Even Tusk, who is arguably de Blasio’s most vocal opponent right now, acknowledges that he’ll be hard pressed to find a candidate who fits the bill of a Democrat with appeal among Republican voters. He recently indicated to the New York Times that a successful candidate could run on a third-party line in the general even if they lost the Democratic primary; or a candidate could possibly skip the Democratic primary altogether and run on an independent line.

As CUNY’s Romalewski notes, in the 2009 general, Bloomberg did well in areas where he consistently won votes in the prior two elections -- much of Queens, the Upper East Side, Upper West Side, Downtown Manhattan, South Brooklyn, and almost all of Staten Island. His Democratic opponent at the time, Bill Thompson, made it a close race, losing by less than five points. Thompson, who is black, won large blocks in Southeast Queens, Central Brooklyn, Harlem, and the Bronx. Unfortunately for him, though, turnout wasn’t as high in these areas as he needed for a victory. De Blasio upended the pattern in 2013, pulling votes from constituencies that voted for both Bloomberg and Thompson in ‘09.

Romalewski’s analysis of the 2013 election also notes areas de Blasio lost to Lhota, including the traditionally Republican-leaning Upper East Side, Middle Village and other areas in northeast Queens, a few orthodox Jewish communities in Southern Brooklyn, and most of Staten Island. In general, these areas were dominated by white New Yorkers who have been increasingly critical of de Blasio. The mayor overwhelmingly won communities dominated by African-Americans and Hispanics, who continue to support him. The Quinnipiac poll noted as much, finding that in hypothetical match-ups whites largely favored Comptroller Scott Stringer and former City Council Speaker Christine Quinn over de Blasio, who maintained huge margins among African-Americans and Hispanics. (The poll did not include possible Republican candidates.)

In terms of approval rating, 63 percent of black voters and 50 percent of Hispanic voters approve of de Blasio’s handling of the job, while only 25 percent of white voters felt the same. The Democrat-Republican divide is even greater, with 55 percent of Democrats giving de Blasio a thumbs up and only 9 percent of Republicans doing so. Among independents, 30 percent approved of the mayor.

On Tusk’s “NYC Deserves Better” podcast, Democratic consultant and pollster Jefrey Pollock pointed out that despite the mayor’s weakening numbers, he has enough support among African-Americans and Hispanics for a strong showing in the Democratic primary. Pollock noted, and Tusk reiterated, that popular adage that almost every political expert and consultant says of the mayoral race -- “You can’t beat somebody with nobody.” Pollock said independent groups support an opponent of de Blasio, if an effective one were to emerge.

“That is the great challenge,” Tusk said.

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by Samar Khurshid, City government reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

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With De Blasio Appearing Vulnerable, Heightened Examination of Paths to Defeat Him Sun, 14 Aug 2016 04:00:00 +0000
Can Trump Win New York? Inside the Numbers http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6449:can-trump-win-new-york-inside-the-numbers http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6449:can-trump-win-new-york-inside-the-numbers Trump Pence GOP 2

Donald Trump & Mike Pence (photo via @GOP)


Donald Trump’s nomination for President at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland was the culmination of a primary campaign that overturned precedent and defied expectations of the political class. Now, as he shifts his attention the general election, Trump has set his sights on another lofty goal, one which has been out of reach for Republicans for over two decades: winning New York, his home state.

Recent polls, voter enrollment data, and primary turnout patterns indicate that defeating presumptive Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton in New York would require near-unanimous support from both Republican and independent voters—a feat that Trump does not seem poised to accomplish.

Trump’s campaign announced in May that it will focus on 15 states in the general election, including traditional swing states like Ohio, Michigan, and Virginia, as well as Democratic strongholds like California and New York. Since then, Clinton has maintained a comfortable double-digit lead in New York polls, with the most recent from Quinnipiac University released on Tuesday giving her a 47 to 35 percent advantage - a slightly smaller margin than the prior poll, however. Election-modeling publication FiveThirtyEight gives Clinton a 97.1 percent chance of winning here.

But Trump and other members of his party seem undeterred by polling trends, instead touting his overwhelming win in the New York primary in April as evidence that the state is in play for the general election. Trump is clearly not to be underestimated, they say, and there are months until Election Day.

“If we carry New York by the margin we should, we will have changed American history...If you can break the city then you have the state,” former House Speaker Newt Gingrich said on Monday at a breakfast for the New York Republican delegation in Cleveland. Along with his primary success across the country, including in New York, Trump’s New York pedigree and presence in the city’s public life for decades appear to be giving him and his supporters added confidence.

“The win in New York really helped set the momentum,” Rep. Chris Collins, a Republican who represents the 27th Congressional District in Western New York and was the first member of Congress to endorse Trump, told State of Politics. “New York is in play.”

Collins refers to Trump’s decisive victory in the New York Republican primary, in which he received 60 percent of the vote and won every county but Manhattan, Trump’s home turf, which went to Ohio Governor John Kasich. This was a slightly larger percentage than Clinton - who also calls New York home - won in the Democratic primary, where she earned 58 percent of the vote while facing just one opponent (there were four Republicans on the ballot: Trump, Kasich, Ted Cruz and Ben Carson, who had dropped out before the vote).

Winning a vast majority of New York Republicans, however, will not be enough to secure a Trump victory here. Even though he won a higher percentage, Trump won half as many raw votes in the primary as Clinton, securing 525,000 to her 1 million. Had he secured 100 percent of Republican primary voters, Trump would still have trailed Clinton in New York primary votes.

As of April 1, there were 5.8 million Democrats and 2.7 million Republicans enrolled across the state, according to the New York Board of Elections, with New York City voters comprising 3.1 million of the Democrats and 460,000 Republicans. There are another 2.5 million “unaffiliated” registered voters, otherwise known as independents, and another 705,000 voters registered with smaller parties, like the Green Party or the Independence Party.

Trump statewide via CUNY graduate centerA total of 2.9 million New Yorkers voted in the presidential primaries this year (2 million Democrats and 922,000 Republicans). For a glimpse of the increase to anticipate in November, the last time there was a non-incumbent presidential election, in 2008, 7.6 million New Yorkers voted in the general election (4.8 million voted Democrat and 2.8 million voted Republican).

The Democratic enrollment advantage is expected to continue to favor Clinton this year as voter turnout surges for the general election, though Trump supporters are planning to attract many voters not registered as Republican. According to Steven Romalewski, mapping service director for the Center for Urban Research at the CUNY Graduate Center, the last time there were both Democratic and Republican primaries in New York, in 2008, the number of Republican voters jumped from 670,000 to 2.75 million between the primary and general elections, while Democratic voters lept from 1.9 million to 4.8 million voters.

Clinton statewide map via CUNY graduate centerRomalewski said the increase in voters between the primary and general election was especially prominent within the New York City area. This does not bode well for Trump, who, according to the Quinnipiac poll, leads among upstate voters 48 to 36 percent, but is behind among New York City voters 63 to 20 percent. Trump and Clinton are neck-and-neck among suburban voters.

“If the turnout surges even by half the amount [it surged in 2008] from the primary to the general on the
Democratic side, it’s going to be really hard from a number of perspectives for the GOP side to overcome this,” Romalewski said in a phone interview with Gotham Gazette.

To win New York, Trump will likely need at least 2 million more voters than the 2.75 million Republican Senator John McCain received here in 2008—a total that Romalewski said would require winning all Republican-registered voters as well as nearly all independent voters. As of April 1, there were about 2.5 million unaffiliated, or independent, registered voters in New York, and new voters will be able to register until Oct. 14.

Trump and Clinton could, however, face a radically different electoral map than McCain, in part because of the unpredictable nature of this year’s election.

“It’s especially hard this year to look back for similar situations in presidential campaigns and kind of use those examples to predict or expect what might happen this time,” Romalewski said. “On the other hand, when you look at the math, it seems highly unlikely that the Republican candidate will be able to pull it out.”

To predict election outcomes, FiveThirtyEight uses an algorithm that weighs polling trends and demographic data. Its New York forecast begins with a strong Clinton lead indicated by polls which is then slightly widened when demographic data is taken into account. The website now predicts that Clinton will win about 54 percent of the vote in New York and that Trump will win 37.5 percent.

Currently, Trump’s progress to unite the bulk of non-Democratic New Yorkers has wavered according to polls. Trump performs poorly with independents in New York, as evidenced by Tuesday’s Quinnipiac Poll revealing a 41 to 35 percent advantage for Clinton among independents (most respondents said they did not know enough about Libertarian nominee Gary Johnson or Green Party nominee Jill Stein to support or oppose them).

Further, Trump has not yet won unequivocal support from Republicans—nearly 10 percent of Republican New Yorkers do not support him; five of the state’s 10 Republican U.S. Congressional Representatives have endorsed his bid for presidency. By contrast, all 18 Democratic Representatives and both Democratic Senators from New York have endorsed Clinton.

The last time a Republican presidential candidate won in New York was 1984, when incumbent President Ronald Reagan defeated Walter Mondale -- Reagan won every state but Mondale’s home state of Minnesota that year.

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by Aaron Holmes, Gotham Gazette

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Can Trump Win New York? Inside the Numbers Thu, 21 Jul 2016 04:00:00 +0000