Yesterday over at Hot Air, I ruminated on what to look for out of the results from yesterday’s round of elections. There’s one bit of good and a whole boatload of ugly that came out of last night, including something I didn’t quite foresee that should shake my side to its core.
The one bit of good came from the 12th Senate district, where the number of votes for winner Kim Simac (11,301 votes according to the Associated Press) and Robert Lussow (7,767 votes) came very close to the 19,255 signatures that Simac and her group gathered to force the recall election of incumbent Democrat Jim Holperin. Among what can be fairly described as the “anybody but the incumbent” crowd, that 99% “retention” rate from the recall to the election is the second-best of any effort.
The percentages were not nearly as good in the 22nd Senate district, where the votes for winner Jonathan Steitz (5,981 votes, again according to the Associated Press) and Fred Ekornaas (3,369 votes) totaled under 55% of the 17,138 signatures gathered by the recall group. That is the worst “retention” effort of the bunch, even worse than Democrat Nancy Nusbaum’s 59% “retention” rate last week or David VanderLeest’s utter failure against Sen. Dave Hansen in the 30th last night, with a 71% “retention” rate.
That leads me to the 30th Senate District. The 66% (once write-ins are considered, something the Associated Press did not track) of the vote Hansen received went above the 65% “trouble” level I set based on a DailyKos/PPP poll that had Hansen beating VanderLeest 62%-34%.
More troubling than the percentage is the raw number of votes Hansen received. Special elections, which is what a recall election is, are “turnout” elections. The 22,052 votes Hansen received is nearly 88% of the 25,192 votes fellow Democrat Tom Barrett received in the gubernatorial election last November. It is also greater than the number of votes either Supreme Court Justice David Prosser (20,536) or challenger JoAnne Kloppenburg (18,706) received in April, and far greater than the 15,540 signatures VanderLeest’s group gathered to force the recall election.
I toyed with the idea of titling this “Big Trouble in Little Suamico” because the results from that town in Oconto County and the 30th Senate District perfectly illustrates the current enthusiasm gap. In November, now-Governor Scott Walker beat Barrett 1,115 to 554. In April, Prosser beat Kloppenburg 549-348. Yesterday, Hansen beat VanderLeest 520-385.
That is not, to say, all is lost. The two challengers to the incumbent Democrats still under election threat who I consider to be stronger won last night. As we found in both November 2010 and April, a “max effort” from the Left can be beaten; however it takes a “max effort” on our part. We also know, thanks to the Supreme Court election, even a belated “max effort” can carry the day. In this regard, I am (almost) thankful John Nygren screwed up on his nomination papers – we know there is an enthusiasm gap and there is just under three weeks to counter it.
Revisions/extensions (9:34 am 7/21/2011) - Craig Gilbert took a different tack on turnout, looking at total turnout versus “opposition” turnout. While he noted that none of these races were expected to be competitive, he also noted the one serious precedent, the recall of George Petak down in Racine County after he flipped on the Miller Park tax vote, saw a turnout of estimated 37% of voting-age-population.
Assuming the Democrats actually had a “max effort/near-max turnout” in the 30th, Hansen would have been in trouble had turnout been 34% instead of 25%, may well have lost had turnout been the 37% it was in Racine in 1996, and would have lost had turnout been the 42% it was in November.