Numbers will tell the story

Published 12:00 am Monday, April 3, 2006

Andy Damiani hosted all seven candidates running in competitive city council races yesterday for a taping of his television program, “Roundtable Talk.” Robert Pocklington, his regular cohort, was unavailable, so he asked me sit in with him.

I had no idea what to talk about so early Wednesday I spoke to a very nice lady at the voter registration office who sent me some voter data. It was interesting.

Most of the talk about the upcoming council election is about issues such as the tax rate, King’s Highway Bridge, the road takeover, etc. As important as those may be, after looking at the numbers I was given yesterday, I suspect they will have little impact on the vote, except perhaps in Chuckatuck where the bridge is such a huge issue and the race is kind of wide open.

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First, let’s look at the numbers of registered voters.

There are 6,571 registered voters in Holy Neck, that’s up from 6,040 in 2002, the last time a City Council election was held there, that’s an 8.79 percent increase.

In Chuckatuck, the number of registered voters has soared by nearly 27 percent, from 5,978 to 7,567.

In the Suffolk borough, and this surprised me, the number has actually fallen 2.33 percent from 5,201 to 5,080. I thought there was a downtown boom? Someone needs to organize a drive to get all the restaurant workers registered, I suppose.

Cypress, where Charles Brown has no opposition on the ballot, has grown 4.22 percent from 5,665 to 5,904.

Based on these numbers, and vote totals from the 02 race, I’ve come up with the following predictions, or guesses, if you will:

I think Councilman Calvin Jones is going to have the toughest re-election go of it. Not because of anything he’s done on City Council or the fact that nobody from Holy Neck has been re-elected since the modern city was created 32 years ago. In the 2002 election, a four-way race, 33 percent (1,999) of the registered voters went to the polls. Jones garnered 35 percent (705) of the vote. Assuming the same percentage of turnout for 2006, that would mean 2,175 Holy Neckers will vote. For Jones to win a two-way race, he would have to get approximately 1,088 votes. So Jones’ challenge is to hang on to his 705 votes from 2002 and persuade 383 more people to vote for him. This will be people who did not vote in 2002 or did and voted against him. That seems like an uphill battle to me. He would have had an easier time of it with two or three challengers.

This is not to say that challenger Jeff Gardy can expect to waltz to City Hall,

just that things are set up well for him at the starting gate. He still needs to convince folks to vote for him and not against Jones.

The numbers are in a lot better alignment for the incumbent in the Suffolk Borough, Mayor Bobby Ralph. The 2002 turnout there was 22.53 percent, or 1,172 people. Running against Willie Floyd Gary, Ralph garnered 868, or just a hair under 75 percent of the vote.

Again, assuming a similar turnout in 06, Ralph could actually lose 295 votes and still win a majority. Further, I don’t think people are apt to abandon the person they voted for before. So the challenge for challenger Charles Parr is to mount a huge get-out-the-vote effort.

Say for the sake of argument that the Mayor loses 10 percent of those who voted for him last time, which may be a stretch. That would mean that for Parr to be able to win, there would have to be a 33 percent increase in turnout, this in a borough that is losing voters. That’s an uphill battle.

In Chuckatuck, who knows? It appears to be wide open. My numerology does not apply for a couple reasons. First, then-Mayor Dana Dickens ran unopposed in 2002. Turnout was only 8 percent, or 482. We can likely assume that a 3-way race, like we have between incumbent Joe Barlow, Mary Hill and David Gray, will result in a turnout somewhere between 20 and 30 percent turnout. If 25 percent of the people turnout in Chuckatuck, that would be 1,891 voters. In a three-way race, the winner would have to get at the minimum 631 votes, though likely more since the vote won’t be evenly split. And, of course, who can guess the impact of the bridge situation on this race? All three candidates told Damiani they were open to having a private party look at fixing up the dilapidated span and operate it until a new one is built.

This is all mostly guesswork, of course, on my part. I’m not a statistician, political analyst or even much of a husband or father, for that matter.

Anything can happen between now and election day to tilt these races one way or the other. All the candidates I saw interviewed by Damiani Wednesday appeared to be bright and capable and I think it will be an interesting race to watch.

Incidentally, I didn’t mention much about Cypress because Councilman Charles Brown is unopposed. He ran unopposed in 2002, also. It was interesting that even then, he garnered only about 78 percent of the vote, with write-ins making up more than 22 percent of the total. That would seem to indicate that an aggressive, well-managed write-in campaign in Cypress could still pop up and mount a decent challenge. Stay tuned.