Tuesday, July 22, 2014

HoCo Board of Education Primary Election - By the Numbers

Warning:  the author of this blog used to peruse the Baseball Encyclopedia, a massive tome, in the early and mid 80s in a quest to learn #allstats (with apologies to a one “M.G.” for using a derivative of her famous hashtag).

So prepare yourself for a cavalcade…a cavalcade of numbers!

As you are no doubt aware, Cindy Vaillancourt secured the greatest number of votes in the June primary election (15,851), followed by Sandie French (14,688), Bess Altwerger (12,733), and Dan Furman (11,880). 

In this election cycle, the top four vote getters in the general election will be elected to four-year terms on the Howard County Board of Education.   So finishing in the top four in November is a Big Deal.  [Note: In presidential election years (since 2008 anyway), only the top three candidates are elected to the Board. The joys of staggered terms of office].

But enough of these Captain Exposition digressions, let us return to the recent primary official returns…Dr. Zaneb Beams (10,042), Christine O’Connor (8,477), Allen Dyer (7,724), and Mike Smith (6,730) secured the fifth through the eighth positions and will also advance to the general election ballot.

Looking at the precincts:

Vaillancourt placed first in 71 of the 118 Howard County precincts (excluding the absentee, provisional and early voting center votes). Sandie French won in 42, followed by Bess Altwerger (3), Christine O’Connor (3), and Dan Furman (1).  In case you were counting, and I know you were, there were ties for first-place in two precincts.

Vaillancourt and French also finished second in 39 precincts apiece.  Altwerger was second in 28, followed by Furman (7), O’Connor (6), Dyer (2), Olga Butler (1), Leslie Kornreich (1) and Smith (1).

So what does this all mean?  Understanding that the general election electorate tends to be substantially larger than (and significantly different from) a primary election electorate, it tells us a couple of things:

Barring a major shake-up, it is likely that the two incumbents seeking re-election (Vaillancourt and French) will be successful.  In 2006, Frank Aquino and Sandie French were the top two vote getters, respectively, in the primary election.  They maintained those positions in the general election.  The same outcome occurred in 2008 with Janet Siddiqui and Ellen Flynn Giles.  In 2010, French secured the greatest number of votes in the primary election, followed by Aquino.  They flipped positions in the general, with Aquino obtaining a plurality with a 1,005-vote margin over French.  The earlier 1-2 pattern was revisited with Siddiqui placing first and Ann DeLacy second in both the primary and general 2012 elections. 

So while both Vaillancourt and French need to expand their bases, considerably, in order to return for another term, recent history would seem to indicate they are better positioned for a top-four finish than the other six candidates.

As non-incumbents, Altwerger (3rd) and Furman (4th) will have to hustle to maintain their in-the-money positions.

Third place finishers in recent Board of Education primary elections have a mixed track record.  Winners include Patricia Gordon (third in both the primary and general election in 2006) and Giles (also third in both elections in 2012).  Both were also incumbents.  On the other hand, challenger Diane Butler placed third in the 2008 primary…only to finish fourth (behind Dyer) and thus failed in her election bid.  Another then challenger and now BoE nominee Larry Walker secured the third position in the 2010 primary, but finished eighth in the general election. 

Those who place fourth in “modern era” BoE primaries have (generally) fared well.  The roster of the victorious includes Lawrence Cohen (fourth in both the primary and general in 2006), Dyer (fourth in the primary but making the cut-off with a third place finish in 2008), and Brian Meshkin (fourth in the 2010 primary; third in the general election of the same year).  In 2012, Jackie Scott held the fourth position in the primary, but went on to the finish sixth in the general.

Pardon as I slip into editorial mode; but I voted for Beams in the primary and I am inclined to cast a ballot for her in November.  From a geographic perspective, Beams tended to perform consistently.  She finished in the top eight in over 100 precincts but finished no higher than third in any precinct. 

I am also taking a good look at Christine O’Connor’s candidacy.  She has more of an identifiable geographic base, securing first or second place finishes in nine eastern HoCo precincts.  

Both Beams and O’Connor will need to build broader coalitions to have any hope of winning a seat this time around.

I am concerned that Dyer will be able to trade off of his relatively high name identification and wind up finishing fourth, or even third.  This author finds that scenario unpalatable. 

Beyond having an easy-to-pronounce last name and a distinctive affinity for alternative neckwear options, I don’t see Mike Smith placing any higher than seventh, sixth on a freakishly good day.

Looking at those who did not advance to the general election:

Kornreich is entering the realm of frequent (dare I say “perennial?”) candidate although, in all fairness, she came close to eighth place and a ticket to the Big Show.  My thoughts on Corey Andrews and electoral politics are fairly well known.  Tom Baek seems like a good, thoughtful person but I don’t believe he possesses a fantastic candidate skill-set.  Not a criticism, just a personal opinion that he is not a Natural politico.    

I believe that Olga Butler and Maureen Evans Arthurs ran decent campaigns and should consider seeking public office down the road.  

But back to 2014, I project that the real action will be for the third and fourth positions and we are going to see a dogfight involving five candidates for those two slots: Altwerger, Furman, Beams, O’Connor, and Dyer.  With slightly over 100 days to go until Election Day, it will be a delight watching this race evolve.

Now where did I put those encyclopedias?

Stay tuned, as more will follow.

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