Monthly Archives: November 2009

Swiss Referendum 2009

Switzerland held three popular referendums today, including a very controversial vote on a right-wing popular initiative on banning minarets in the country. The measures, supported politically only by the right-wing Swiss People’s Party (SVP) and smaller far-right outfit, was badly trailing in polls up till the vote, but there was a late massive swing in favour of the initiative, which led to a good turnout (53.4%) but a very strong vote in favour of the ban (57.5%).

YES 57.5%
NO 42.5%

The vote was narrowly rejected in only four cantons: Geneva (with nearly 60% opposed), the liberal Francophone canton of Vaud, Francophone Neuchatel and the urban city of Basel. Although it passed in the canton of Zurich, it was opposed by over 60% of voters in the city of Zurich and similarly opposed in Bern (with around 56% opposed). The Swiss Statistical Office breakdowns the vote by linguistic community: only the Francophones opposed it with 48.3% in favour. The Germans voted 59.7% in favour, and the Italians were massively opposed with 68%.

Really, the opposition to this measure is urban and liberal, as shown by its large rejection in places like Lausanne or Geneva. Rural Switzerland, even the more liberal rural Francophones, voted in favour. The breakdown of the vote shows the support of 54% of voters in urban areas, and 66% support in rural areas. Further breakdown shows the support was lowest in the largest urban centres, with only 39% support, and in wealthy urban areas, with 48% support.

The other interesting ballot measure was a left-wing initiative at banning the export of weapons, the third attempt since 1972 at such a ban. The measure was universally rejected.

NO 68.2%
YES 31.8%

The vote was only close in Geneva, where 48.2% voted in favour of the ban. It even almost broke 60% in the liberal Vaud.

There was a third vote on a measure which will give the revenue of aviation fuel to the aviation sector. It passed with 65% in favour, being rejected only in two mountainous districts of the Valais. Support was obviously lowest in rural areas.

Saint Vincent and the Grenadines Republic referendum 2009

Republicans in the British Commonwealth have been handed another electoral defeat with the clear rejection of a constitution which would have establishmed a republic in the Caribbean island of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines. The new constitution would have vested the role of head of state and government into the island’s Prime Minister, and not an executive President and required two-thirds support to pass.

The incumbent centre-left government of Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves supported the new constitution, but was opposed notably by the main opposition – the New Democratic Party (NDP).

NO 55.64%
YES 43.13%

98.81% valid votes and 1.16% invalid or blank votes. Turnout was 54%

The republican constitution was clearly rejected, with nearly 56% opposition, well short of the ≈67% approval required. Therefore, Elizabeth II will remain Queen of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines (among other things).

Romania President 2009

Romania voted for its President yesterday, on November 22 as well as in two referendums notably establishing a unicameral legislature with less than 300 members. In addition, this was the first presidential election held after a five-year term, instead of a four-year term.

In 2004, Traian Băsescu, as candidate of a shortlived alliance between the centre-right Democratic-Liberal Party (PD-L) and the National Liberal Party (PNL), defeated the Social Democrat (PSD) Adrian Năstase, running to succeed PSD President Ion Iliescu. Băsescu’s main campaigning theme in 2004 was the fight against corruption, but little progress has been made in that regard during his term, and he has also grown unpopular due to his confrontational nature, which led to the PNL falling out of the short-lived coalition between Băsescu’s PD-L and the PNL.

These elections are key to to reviving economic policy halted by a government crisis that has delayed aid from the IMF. Băsescu has campaigned on a continued fight against corruption and government graft, as well as better social protection and tax cuts. He faces the leader of the PSD, Mircea Geoană, a new-style and rather clean politician who modernised the PSD’s image, tainted by past corruption and incompetence. Most of his support is mostly opposition to Băsescu’s confrontational style and a desire for deeper social protection in bad economic times. The third contender is Crin Antonescu of the liberal PNL, who notably advocates a cut in the country’s flat tax (implemented by the PNL in government in 2004) from 16% to 10%. The other main candidates are Corneliu Vadim Tudor, leader of the far-right Greater Romania Party (PRM), who had come second in 2000 with 28% and third in 2004 with 13% of the vote. The PRM has since fallen off, though it did well-ish in the June European elections. The Hungarian party (UDMR) has nominated Hunor Kelemen, while the incumbent ex-PSD Mayor of Bucharest Sorin Oprescu is running as an Independent.

Here are the results, with 99.81% of precincts reporting:

Traian Băsescu (PD-L) 32.43%
Mircea Geoană (PSD) 31.16%
Crin Antonescu (PNL) 20.02%
Corneliu Vadim Tudor (PRM) 5.55%
Hunor Kelemen (UDMR) 3.84%
Sorin Oprescu (Ind) 3.18%
George Becali (PNG) 1.91%
Remus Cernea (Green) 0.62%
Constantin Rotaru (PAS) 0.45%
Eduard Gheorghe Manole (Ind) 0.35%
Ovidiu Cristian Iane (Ecologist Party) 0.23%
Constantin Ninel Potîrcă (Ind) 0.21%

Turnout was only 54%, notably very low in Hungarian areas (the lowest turnouts were in Hungarian-majority areas), thereby explaining the UDMR’s poor result (its results are usually between 4% and 8%, the Hungarian population is around 6.6% in Romania).

The first round was the easy part for Băsescu, but he now faces a very high-risk runoff against his Social Democratic rival Mircea Geoană. All polls in November so far have shown Geoană defeating Băsescu in the runoff with Băsescu’s polling numbers ranging from 46% to 48%. Geoană can count on the votes of the UDMR, whose voters split heavily in favour of the PSD candidate in the 2004 runoff, and also what I suppose to be PNL voters voting against Băsescu, who is pretty unpopular with the PNL.

There were also two referendums held yesterday. The first to create a unicameral legislature, which passed with 77.78% YES votes, and a second one to reduce the number of parliamentarians to a maximum of 300, which passed with 88.84%. Both were spearheaded by Băsescu’s PD-L, which held that unicameralism would make policy-making easier.

Glasgow North East (UK) by-election 200

Labour has won a surprisingly comfortable victory in yesterday’s Glasgow North East by-election, held to replace Speaker Michael Martin (Labour). Despite Labour’s low numbers nationally and regionally in Scotland, Labour fended off a strong SNP challenge in this safe Labour inner-city Glasgow constituency with little trouble.

Willie Bain (Labour) 59.39% (+6.07%)
David Kerr (SNP) 20.00% (+2.34%)
Ruth Davidson (Conservative) 5.22%
Charlie Baillie (BNP) 4.92% (+1.68%)
Tommy Sheridan (Solidarity) 3.86%
Eileen Baxendale (LibDems) 2.30%
David Doherty (Greens) 1.61%
John Smeaton (Jury Team) 1.25%
Kevin McVey (SSP) 0.74% (-4.2%)
Mikey Hughes (Independent) 0.26%
Louise McDaid (Socialist Labour) 0.23%
Mev Brown (Independent) 0.16%
Colin Campbell (TILT) 0.06%

Turnout was 33.2%, down 12.6% on 2005, marking the lowest turnout ever in a Scottish by-election. The previous Scottish record had been set by the Falkirk by-election in 2000, held shortly before Christmas…

The results are a clear victory for Labour, which has done remarkably well, as well as a deception for the SNP, which had hoped for a repeat of the Glasgow East 2008 by-election here. It wasn’t even close. The reasons for Labour’s strong victory vary, a lot saying that Labour was helped by leading a local campaign and campaigning as an opposition party to the SNP, a winning strategy also tried in Glenrothes. Others have suggested that Glasgow East voters had voted SNP in a real hope or aspiration for social change, but that voters in this very poor constituency had little hope that either Labour or the SNP would change anything, and resigned themselves to voting Labour. The SNP was also hurt by it’s candidate selection troubles earlier on in this campaign.

The Conservatives can breathe a sigh of relief as they save their deposits, do slightly better than they did here in the European elections (4.4%) and get a symbolic third ahead of the BNP, which was rumoured to be in third for most of the count. As for the BNP itself, a good result, but below the 5% threshold for deposits and behind the Conservatives, disappointing for them. However, as an observer, I’d just like to make a point of noting the stupidity of the talking heads taking the BNP’s ‘breakthrough’ with 4.9% of the vote in a 35%-turnout by-election as a massive shock and the equivalent of the election of the Nazi Party to power. In most countries with a strong far-right, most can only dream of the day when the far-right polls only 4.9%!

The Trot Tommy Sheridan, despite facing a perjury trial, came in a solid-ish fifth, though somebody on the BBC’s election night special noted that a few years ago, Tommy Sheridan running in a constituency like this would have come close to 20%. Though the man facing a criminal trial did do better than the LibDem candidate, amusingly enough. Little use in commenting further, though I will note the Green result is disappointing given that the Greenies came in third in the Euros, with 6.5% here.

Labour won due to a good local-opposition campaign, but that will be difficult to repeat in England in the 2010 election. This by-election will likely have little effect, especially south of the border in England.

Election Preview: Glasgow North East (UK) by-election 2009

Voters in Glasgow North East go to the polls today, November 12, to elect a new MP after  its MP, and Speaker of the House of Commons, Michael Martin resigned in the wake of the expenses scandal in June. Despite winning re-election in 2005 as the Speaker, and without opposition from the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats (as is the norm for speakers), he is a member of the Labour Party and was elected in 1979 in Glasgow Springburn (the predecessor, more or less, or Glasgow NE). Glasgow North East, one of Glasgow’s poorest areas, ridden by poverty, drugs and crime, is a Labour stronghold. Martin, standing for Labour in 1997 won 71.4% in Glasgow Springburn and won 53.3% standing as Speaker in 2005. Here are the 2005 results:

Michael Martin (Speaker [Labour]) 53.3%
John McLaughlin (SNP) 17.7%
Doris Kelly (Socialist Labour) 14.2%
Graham Campbell (Scottish Socialist) 4.9%
Daniel Houston (Scottish Unionist) 4.5%
Scott McLean (BNP) 3.2%
Joe Chambers (Independent) 2.2%

These results may give the wrong impression in some places, as third parties, which are often jokes in normal races, poll decently well in the Speaker’s constituency. The Socialist Labour Party, a Stalinist joke outfit, won 14.2% mostly due to voter confusion over the fact that its name included ‘Labour’ (and Martin was listed as ‘Speaker’, not ‘Labour’). The Scottish Unionists, a largely anti-Catholic unionist party, polled ‘well’, probably with usually Conservatives voters (the Conservatives poll crap here, only 4.4% in the 2009 European elections).

The Labour candidate and favourite is William Bain, who faces SNP candidate David Kerr. The Conservatives, LibDems, Scottish Greens, Solidarity, the BNP, Socialist Labour, Scottish Socialists, the ‘Jury Team’ are all fielding candidates, in addition to an Independent.

Labour polled 41.3% in the terrible Labour defeat of the June European elections, against 25% for the SNP and 6.5% for the Greenies. If Labour carried it so comfortably, it would indicate it is pretty safe. However, the Glasgow Labour Party’s by-election record is awful (see Glasgow East, another relatively poor Labour stronghold lost to the SNP in a 2008 by-election).

The count has started by now, and most rumours indicate a rather easy Labour victory. The full results remain unknown.

Canadian by-elections 2009

Four Canadian federal by-elections yesterday were held in four vacant seats: one in Nova Scotia, two in Quebec and one in British Columbia. Two of them had Bloc incumbents, one had an NDP incumbent and one was held by a formerly Conservative Independent. As a result of the by-elections, two are held by the Conservatives, one by the Bloc and one by the NDP. These elections were spectacularly under-the-radar, even more than usual (2007 had the Outremont-Mulcair thing, 2008 had the Bob Rae-Toronto Centre thing, but these were eerily silent).

Cumberland—Colchester—Musquodoboit Valley

A by-election was held in the rural Nova Scotian riding of Cumberland—Colchester—Musquodoboit Valley, located in western Nova Scotia. Cumberland—Colchester—Musquodoboit Valley (CCMV) is the most conservative area of Nova Scotia, rural and WASP territory at its best. However, being in Nova Scotia, its brand of conservatism is more in line with old Progressive Conservatism than the Conservative Party’s dominant Reform-Alliance brand. It’s a Red Tory area, some might say, and its former MP was just that. Bill Casey, first elected as a PC MP in 1988, defeated in 1993 by a Liberal, elected in 1997 for a second stint and MP since then, joined the Conservative Party after the PC-Alliance merger but he left the party in 2007 due to a rift over the Atlantic Accord. Massively popular, and facing weak Conservative and Liberal opposition in 2008, he was re-elected with a sky-high 69%, higher than what he had ever won running for the PC or Conservatives. He took not only the large majority of Conservative votes, but also a lot of NDP and Liberal votes (as well as Green votes, the Greenies, although irrelevant here, did not oppose him in 2008).

Casey resigned to become a lobbyist for the provincial government, vacating his seat. The Conservatives nominated Scott Armstrong, the NDP nominated Mark Austin, the Liberals nominated Jim Burrows, the Greenies nominated Jason Blanch and Christian Heritage Party leader Jim Hnatiuk also ran.

Scott Armstrong (Conservative) 45.84% (+37.01%)
Mark Austin (NDP) 25.73% (+13.41%)
Jim Burrows (Liberal) 21.32% (+12.87%)
Jason Blanch (Green) 3.30% (+3.30%)
Jim Hnatiuk (CHP) 3.19% (+3.19%)
Kate Graves (Ind) 0.61%

A predictable Conservative victory, but remarkably weak, despite what other say. Casey won over 45% of the vote in all elections since 1997, when he won 43.6% (and 14% for Reform). It might either be a result of low turnout (a whooping 35.7%, still second highest), lower results for non-incumbents lacking a personal vote, or real reticence by some to vote Conservative. The NDP and Liberals returned to better levels, gaining back votes which they had lost to Casey in 2008. Despite the seemingly good Liberal performance, it’s below their result in 2006 (already low), which was the last normal election in CCMV.


A by-election was held in the eastern Montreal riding of Hochelaga, one of the Bloc’s safest seats. The constituency covers some of the city’s poorest and most working-class areas, and the area, Hochelaga-Maisonneuve is often known infamously as the city’s ghetto. It’s very white Francophone, thus strongly nationalist. The Bloc has held this seat with huge majorities since 1993.

Incumbent Réal Ménard, who has represented the area since 1993, resigned to run (and win) in the Montreal municipal elections. The Bloc nominated, with some controversy, a rather right-leaning candidate in this left-wing district: former PQ cabinet minister Daniel Paillé. The NDP nominated former trade union leader Jean-Claude Rocheleau, who also ran for the party in 2008. The Liberals nominated Robert David, the Conservatives nominated Stéphanie Cloutier, the Greenies nominated Christine Lebel. The and Marxist-Leninist nominated candidates, and perennial candidate John C. Turmel chose to run here.

Daniel Paillé (BQ) 51.2% (+1.47%)
Jean-Claude Rocheleau (NDP) 19.5% (+5.06%)
Robert David (Liberal) 14.3% (-6.36%)
Stéphanie Cloutier (Conservative) 10.2% (+1.01%)
Christine Lebel (Green) 3.3% (-0.95%)
Gabrielle Anctil ( 0.7% (+0.2%)
Christine Dandenault (Marxist-Leninist) 0.5% (+0.12%)
John C. Turmel (Independent) 0.4%

The rumours of a massive discontent with the Bloc candidate and a subsequent massive switch to the NDP was nothing but the usual uneducated rumours spread around, since such things are unlikely to happen. Hochelaga is no Outremont. Bloc support here is solid nationalism or socialism.


A by-election was held in the rural Quebec riding of Montmagny—L’Islet—Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup (MIKR). The riding is located on the south shore of the Saint Lawrence, in the Bas-Saint-Laurent region, a rural region east of Quebec City on the opposite shore. The riding includes, amazingly enough, the counties (MRC) of Montmagny, L’Islet, Kamouraska and Rivière-du-Loup. The riding, very Catholic and French, is traditionally nationalist, but like most nationalism in this area, it’s a rather soft sentiment (and much more conservative than Bloc nationalism, which leans left) and the provincial Liberals hold all seats representing this area, including the seat of Rivière-du-Loup, the old seat of ADQ leader Mario Dumont. This is a conservative seat, but was not a Conservative seat. Its MP, the Bloquiste Paul Crête, resigned to run (and lose) in the Rivière-du-Loup by-election. The BQ nominated Nancy Gagnon, the Conservatives nominated well-known local mayor Bernard Généreux, the Liberals nominated Marcel Catellier, the NDP nominated François Lapointe and the Greenies nominated Charles Marois.

Bernard Généreux (Conservative) 42.7% (+12.07%)
Nancy Gagnon (BQ) 37.7% (-8.33%)
Marcel Catellier (Liberal) 13.2% (-2.15%)
François Lapointe (NDP) 4.8% (-0.65%)
Charles Marois (Green) 1.7% (-0.49%)

Turnout was highest in MIKR, a whooping 36.6%. The result is not all that surprising, if you look at the hard facts: the Conservative candidate was well-known locally, Mayor of La Pocatière, so one supposes he had a personal vote. He had the support of the provincial Liberals and all their MNAs in this area. The Bloc candidate was only some staffer or something to former MP Paul Crête, who reportedly had a large personal vote in this rather soft nationalist-conservative riding. The area is of course conservative and soft-nationalist, with aspects similar to Beauce (it’s right-wing economic views, in favour of free enterprise and the like). In addition, the Bloc’s vote against the scrapping of the locally unpopular Liberal government’s gun registry may have helped the Conservatives, who voted in favour of scrapping it, a position popular in this rural riding with some hunters.

New Westminster-Coquitlam

A by-election was held in New Westminster-Coquitlam, a BC riding in suburban Vancouver. The riding is a traditionally swing riding, though it’s safe to say that it leans NDP. It is around 70% white, not very affluent but not poor either and not very working-class. It is largely residential middle-class, safe to say. The NDP has held this seat since 2006, the Conservatives having won the seat in 2004 primarily due to the fact that the Liberals still polled very well then. The NDP MP, Dawn Black, resigned to run (and win) in the BC provincial election held earlier this year.

The NDP nominated Fin Donnelly, the Conservatives nominated Diana Dilworth, the Liberals nominated Ken Lee and the Greenies nominated Rebecca Helps.

Fin Donnelly (NDP) 49.6% (+7.8%)
Diana Dilworth (Conservative) 35.8% (-3.0%)
Ken Lee (Liberal) 10.3% (-1.3%)
Rebecca Helps (Green) 4.3% (-2.9%)

The Conservative candidate seems to have run a poor campaign, thus this result. Of course, it could be caused by the 30% turnout as well. Unarguably, a strong win for the NDP in a rather marginal NDP area. The Conservatives, of course, did very well in BC in the 2008 election, pretty much maxing out according to most, so they probably had little room for even more growth. The Liberals and Greens did badly, and I suspect most of their lost voters (who did vote yesterday) voted NDP.

Overall, the Conservatives won 35.7%, the NDP 24.4%, the Bloc 20.8%, the Liberals 14.8% and the Greenies 3.1%. In 2008, the Bloc came on top of the overall vote. The numbers indicate a strong night for the Conservatives, who gained two seats, and also the NDP, which had an almost perfect night (except for a small loss in percentage in MIKR, but who cares they’d say). The Liberals and Bloc had a bad night. I would put emphasis on the bad night for the Liberals, who despite actually gaining a bit from their 2008 result in these seats (thanks to CCMV), did really poorly elsewhere, even in seat like New Westminster-Coquitlam where they had already done awful in 2008. It’s a poor reflection on Michael Ignatieff, the leader of the Liberal Party. Also a bad night for the Greens, but they always do poorly in by-elections, so no biggie. Though I do predict they won’t gain much in the next federal election, whenever it will be.

United States 2009: Results

Yesterday’s off-year elections were marked, overall, by a strong victory of the Republican Party overall and a defeat of incumbents and/or the Democratic Party. Notably, the two gubernatorial races were won rather easily by the Republicans, both of them had elected Democratic Governors in 2005.

New Jersey

In New Jersey, Republican attorney Chris Christie defeated incumbent Democratic Governor Jon Corzine by a surprisingly wide margin, around 49% to 44.5% or so. Here are the results with almost all precincts reporting (99.6%, data from the New York Times):

Chris Christie (R) 48.7% (+5.7%)
Jon Corzine (D) 44.6% (-8.9%)
Chris Daggett (I) 5.8%
9 other candidates 0.9%

NJ 2009The key to the Republican victory in New Jersey was a landslide win for Christie in traditionally Republican uber-affluent counties in the northwest of New Jersey, as well as the mildly affluent coastal counties of Monmouth and Ocean. Christie broke 60% in all but one of these, Somerset, where only Daggett’s 9% kept him under 60%. In addition, he benefited from Corzine’s underwhelming performance in the Democratic strongholds of Hudson, Essex and Union. What is somewhat surprising is that Christie won this race without Bergen County, the only 40%-Corzine county. While at the same time he won Middlesex County. An odd coalition.

Corzine’s county wins were fairly predictable: easy wins in Hudson and Essex (Jersey City and Newark, both with large minority populations), Passaic (Latino area and Paterson, a rather poor area), Mercer (Trenton), Camden (Camden), and Cumberland (a significant black population, poor). Bergen County was his narrowest win, probably due to Daggett’s extremely poor performance here. Bergen is usually a bellwether.

Also noteworthy is that Daggett underperformed by a lot compared to polls, the lowest of which placed them him at 8%, he won 5.5%. This is mostly the result that his poll support was probably quite soft, and a number of his centre-right supporters voted for Christie to prevent a Corzine win. And also vice-versa. His support was highest in affluent Republican areas, and most of his worst counties were won by Corzine. So go figure.

Before anybody makes a dumb comment that this was a vote on Obama, exit polls give him a 57% approval in the state and 60% didn’t vote based on him.

In the State Assembly, not much Republican gains – indicating that Christie’s victory was based on local factors and personal factors (the unpopularity of the incumbent). The Republicans gained one seat in District 4, which would make the composition of the new legislature as follows: 47 Democrats and 31 Republicans.


In Virginia, Republican Attorney General Bob McDonnell defeated Democratic State Senator Creigh Deeds in a landslide, with a larger margin than predicted by polls (which was already huge). Bob McDonnell replaces term-limited Democratic Governor Tim Kaine. Here are the quasi-final results (99% reporting):

Bob McDonnell (R) 58.7% (+12.7%)
Creigh Deeds (D) 41.3% (-10.4%)

VA 2009

The key to McDonnell’s stunningly wide landslide victory was, in addition to huge margins in traditionally Republican white rural Virginia, a strong performance in exurbs and suburbs which abandoned McCain in 2008. He won Fairfax County, Virginia’s most populated county in NoVA, an affluent-but-liberal county in which Obama broke 60%. This is probably the result of a smart campaign by McDonnell, which abandoned social issues (unsuccessfully brought up by Deeds in the summer) and focused on bread-and-butter issues, which proved successful with suburban voters who swung to Obama in 2008.

Deeds was hurt by the fact that he himself was a poor candidate who ran a lousy campaign, but also hurt by low black and traditional Democratic turnout. New Democratic voters (mostly black, but also young liberals) who enthusiastically voted for Obama last year were far from enthusiastic about pushing the lever for Deeds in 2009. I think the low black turnout is seen in Sussex County, 62% black but won narrowly by McDonnell (who didn’t do extremely well with black voters, atleast for the typical Republican). Deeds’ only wins were in liberal NoVA (Alexandria, Arlington and Falls Church), college towns (Charlottesville and so on), black areas (Richmond, Petersburg and so on) and finally the dark red counties out there in the Shenandoah Valley (Bath and Alleghany Counties), which is where Deeds is from and is part of his Senate district. Amusingly, he outperformed Obama and Kaine by far here. However, he only narrowly won his own Senate district.

Unlike in New Jersey, the Republican landslide affected downballot races as well: the Republicans easily held the Lt. Governor and Attorney General seat which they held, and had a net gain of 4 in the House of Delegates, which gives them about 57 seats by my count (out of 100, plus 2 Independents caucusing with Republicans). Most Republican gains (6 in total) came in affluent suburban areas, but also in southwestern Virginia-Appalachia, an old coal mining area with an old Democratic vote (Obama did poorly here). The Democrats gained two seats in the House of Delegates.

New York City

For a race which was not supposed to provide much suspense, it did provide a lot. While incumbent Mayor Michael Bloomberg (Ind-R), who had removed term limits to give him the right to a third term, still won against Bill Thompson (D), it was a narrow win. Here are the results:

Michael Bloomberg (R) 50.6% (-7.8%)
Bill Thompson (D) 46% (+7.0%)
Stephen Christopher (C) 1.7% (+0.6%)
5 others 1.7%

A map of results by Assembly District or even by voting district is provided by the New York Times. It’s a great mine of information.

Bloomberg won narrowly, despite facing a little-known incumbent who received little support from the Democratic Party and the fact that Bloomberg spent a fortune in this election. Voters were clearly peeved at him removing term limits, finding him arrogant. In addition, he was hurt by the resurgence of the Latino-Black Democratic coalition in a majority-minority city. He had won a landslide in 2005 due to a lot of black support, black voters not liking the then-Democratic nominee, Ferrer (a Latino). Now, with Thompson, black himself, as candidate, they massively swung to the Democrats while Latino kept voting Democratic though most areas which swung to Bloomberg are predominantly Latino areas. Bloomberg won white Catholics (Italians and the like), other white ethnicities (Russian), affluent whites, Jews and generally dominated Asian voters.

The Borough Presidents of all 5 boroughs were re-elected. All are Democrats except for Staten Island. The Democrats also won Public Advocate and Comptroller with 76-77% of the vote against Republican and third party opponents. In the City Council, which was composed of 47 Democrats, 3 Republicans and 1 Working Families (a third party aligned with Democrats) in 2005, the Republicans gained two seats in Queens (Flushing Bay, College Point, Bayside area) from retiring Democrats. The Working Families incumbent in a safe Democratic district was re-elected after also winning the Democratic ballot line.

New York’s 23rd CD

In a surprise, it was the Democrat Bill Owens who won the special election in New York’s 23rd CD, defeating Conservative Doug Hoffman who was supposed to be the runaway favourite after the withdrawal on October 31 of the Republican nominee, the liberal Dede Scozzafava. However, Owens defeated Hoffman by a narrow margin. Here are the results, with a few precincts in various counties outstanding. I am not using the AP’s count, which apparently has issues.

Bill Owens (D) 48.76%
Doug Hoffman (C) 46.11%
Dede Scozzafava (R) 5.13%

NY 23

There remains a few technical issues in the count which will probably reduce the margin a bit but they don’t really put Owens’ election in danger unless there’s something major going on (which there probably isn’t).

This is a significant consolation for Democrats after losing NJ and VA, especially since this win highlights divisions in the Republican Party between hard-line conservatives and moderates-to-liberals like Dede. In addition, this reduces the NY Republican Party’s caucus in Congress from a grand three seats (out of 29) to a staggering two seats. Also, parts of this district (the northernmost parts along the Canadian border) haven’t been represented in the House by a Democrat since the Reconstruction (or, in some cases, the Civil War) so it’s a little symbolism the Democrats will undoubtedly enjoy.

California’s 10th CD

The Democratic Lt. Governor of California, John Garamendi won a seat in the House representing the Bay area seat of CA-10. He defeated Republican opponent David Harmer and third party opponents in a general election after having won an open primary (as did Harmer) in September. Although affluent, it’s a liberal area and Obama won 65% of the vote here as did its former incumbent, Ellen Tauscher in 2008. Here are the results:

John Garamendi (D) 52.98%
David Harmer (R) 42.69%
Jeremy Cloward (G) 1.85%
Mary McIlroy (PFP) 1.34%
Jerome Denham (AIP) 1.15%

Republicans will like the gains they made here in the general election. With a campaign focused on fiscal issues in an affluent economically right-wing district, as well as an unpopular Democratic candidate, the Republicans were able to reduce the Democratic margin here from 34% in 2008 to just 10%.

Maine’s Question 1

Supporters of gay marriage were handed another major setback when Maine voters overturned a law allowing gay couples to marry. Here are the results:

Do you want to reject the new law that lets same-sex couples marry and allows individuals and religious groups to refuse to perform these marriages?
Yes 52.81%
No 47.19%

Maine 1Despite having much more money on hand and having a larger army of volunteers, opponents of the repeal were unsuccessful since the demographics played against them, or they relied on too small of a voter base. The opponents of gay marriage won in rural Maine, most of which is usually Republican, but it’s best county was Aroostook County, a ‘populist’ Catholic-French Canadian county which is traditionally Democratic, but certainly not due to its liberalism. The Yes vote broke 65% in almost all communities of Aroostook. It also won easily in Somerset and Piscataquis Counties, which are empty rural areas. Anyway, all of the aforementioned places voted in favour of repealing an anti-discrimination gay rights measure in 2005 (which narrowly failed state-wide). It is notable, however, that the measure passed easily in the old industrial (textile mills) town of Lewiston (Androscoggin County) and even broke 60% there. This is an old Democratic area, but one which voted against the anti-discrimination repeal in 2005. The No side needed to appeal to the Democratic working-class to win. It only won in yuppie or affluent areas along the coast of Maine, areas like Portland (over 70% against), Cape Elizabeth, Brunswick, Oguinquit and Bar Harbor. These are all areas which you’d expect to vote like they did. The No side probably relied too much on these places to  put them over the top in the end.

Also on the ballot, Maine voters voted 58.7% in favour of expanding medical marijuana laws.

Other Elections

In Washington state, a referendum asking voters to approve or reject an extended gay domestic partnership measure appears to be narrowly passing, though not all the results are in yet. ‘Approve’ seems to have received 51%.

In mayoral elections across the US, there were a few interesting result. In Houston, a lesbian city controller, Annise Parker (D) came out on top of a divided field and will face black Democrat Gene Locke. If Parker wins, she’d be the first lesbian mayor of Houston and Locke would be the first black mayor. In Atlanta, there will be a runoff between Mary Norwood and Kasim Reed. In Pittsburgh, the young Democratic incumbent Luke Ravenstahl easily won against two Independents. In most major New York cities (Albany, Buffalo, Rochester), the Democrat easily won. In Charlotte, NC, the Democrats picked up the city from a retiring Republican incumbent but the Republicans picked up Greensboro, NC from the Democrats. Finally, in Seattle, the environmentalist Mike McGinn seems to be ahead of former businessman Joe Mallahan by a narrow margin. In Boston, Democrat Tom Menino has won another term in an office he’s held since 1993.

Overall, it was a good night for Republicans, but I would be careful before getting any major trends out of a low-turnout off-year election which was often fought on local and personal issues rather than on national issues, such as approving or not of Barack Obama.

United States 2009: Projections

Polls have closed in Virginia, New Jersey and New York in important off-year elections covered in the post just below this one in more detail. So far, the result and World Elections’ projections.

Virginia: The networks have projected a Bob McDonnell (R) victory. It’s a landslide of epic proportions, McDonnell is currently standing at 60.1% with around 86%. However, he’ll probably drop to 59% or so with remaining votes being concentrated in areas which the Democrats should still win (black areas in the southeast, Fairfax County in NoVA, and Roanoke City). Still, a massive win for McDonnell. The Republicans also sweep the Lt. Governor and Attorney General race, but no major gains in the House of Delegates yet.

New Jersey: Around 30% of the votes are in, and nobody is calling it yet. Chris Christie (R) stands at 51.5% against 42.2% for Governor Corzine (D). Daggett (I) is at 5.5%. From the results in yet and the swings compared to 2005 and 2008, I’ll be brave (or foolish) and go out on a limb to project a Chris Christie (R) victory before anybody else. And with more results, more obvious that Corzine is done.

Maine: The main race is the vote on Question 1 (gay marriage). With only 11% in, No (favouring gay marriage) stands at 53%. It’s too early, and I don’t know where these votes are from, so I won’t make an official projection but I lean towards a ‘No’ win.

New York City and NY-23: Few results in yet, but I will still project the re-election of Michael Bloomberg (I-R) in NYC and the victory of Doug Hoffman (Con) in New York’s 23. Not too hard to do, it’s what most people predict. But it will still be fun to watch.

Polls far from closing in the Pacific states, but it’s not foolish to project the victory of John Garamendi (D) in California’s 10th special election. As well as the victory of ‘approve’ in Washington’s R-71, which would approve a law extending gay domestic partnership rights.

Update at 22:00EST: With new NY results, I am retracting BOTH projections. NYC and NY-23 are too close to call. More tomorrow.

Election Preview: United States 2009

Odd-numbered years are generally not very big election years in the United States, with only a few races and the like, but this year’s been a bit more interesting. The major races to watch in the November 3 off-year elections in the US are two gubernatorial races: New Jersey and Virginia, a mayoral race in New York City (practically a gubernatorial election), various referendums and initiatives including on gay issues-related votes in Maine and Washington State, and finally two special elections in two congressional districts: NY’s 23rd and California’s 10th. Here’s a preview of the races to watch on Tuesday.

New Jersey (Governor)

New Jersey, despite the negative stereotypes, is an affluent state (second most affluent after Maryland) including some very affluent New York suburbs. However, certain areas of New Jersey are poorer, are the stereotypes stems from poorer areas such as Newark, Trenton and Camden. Despite its wealth, New Jersey is not a right-wing stronghold and has a strong Democratic lean since the ’90s, due to the moderate nature of upper-middle-class suburbanites (out of touch with a Republican Party which is more and more of a Christian right Southern party), student towns (Princeton) and an ethnically diverse population, around 14% Latino and 15% black; with large minority enclaves in Newark, Paterson, Jersey City, Trenton and Camden. Obama won New Jersey by a 15.5% margin in 2008, and the last Republican candidate to carry the state was George HW Bush in 1988.

New Jersey last elected a Republican Governor, Christine Todd Whitman, who held office from 1994 till 2002. Jim McGreevey, a Democrat, won the 2001 election but resigned in 2004 following a scandal, but he resigned later than planned to prevent a special election in 2004. Jon Corzine, a former US Senator and businessman, won the 2005 election defeating Republican incumbent Doug Forrester.

Jon Corzine (D) 53.47%
Doug Forrester (R) 43.02%
8 Others 3.51%

Faced with rising unemployment and the endemic corruption of New Jersey (in particular the NJ Democrats), Jon Corzine faces a tough race for re-election. He faces Republican Chris Christie, a former US Attorney and Independent centrist candidate Chris Daggett, former head of the EPA in New Jersey. Christie, although socially conservative, has made ‘change’ and economic reform the hallmark of his campaign. He was also the more moderate candidate in the Republican primary, in which he defeated conservative-libertarian (especially on economic stuff) candidate Steve Lonegan. Chris Daggett, a former liberal Republican and former regional head of the EPA, has achieved significant success in polls as a centrist-environmentalist Independent. It is thought that most of Daggett’s support in polls is ‘soft’ and is a protest vote for people dissatisfied with Corzine but uneasy with Christie, who has also had his share of controversy (some of it silly, like his obesity).

Christie had a commanding lead throughout the summer, but questions over the substance of his plans and also a massive campaign by Corzine including an event with Obama (still popular in the state) have allowed Corzine to close the gap, but have allowed Daggett to poll double-digits, up to 14% or so. Daggett has fallen off a bit, down to 6-10% recently, and the race between the top two contenders remains very close. Pollster’s rolling average of all polls shows a narrow Corzine lead, which I have adjusted to be 41.3% vs. 40.4% for Christie (Daggett: 12.6%) after exclusion of partisan polls. CQPolitics rates this as too close to call.

New Jersey’s first ever Lt. Governor will be elected, as a running mate for the Governor-elect. Christie’s running mate is Kim Guadagno, Corzine’s running mate is Loretta Weinberg while Frank J. Esposito is Daggett’s running mate.

All 80 seats in the NJ General Assembly, the lower house, are up for re-election. The Democrats hold 48, the Republicans 31 and there is one vacancy. There are 40 districts, each electing 2 Representatives. Amusingly, none of these districts have split their Representatives 1-1 this session. The Republicans will pick-up atleast 1 or 2 seats. Two State Senate by-elections are being held in safe Democratic districts.

Virginia (Governor)

Virginia has seen some important political movements since the 1960s. Like most of the South, it used to be dominated by the conservative (and racist) Dixiecrat organization (the Byrd Organization in Virginia, named for Dixiecrat Senator Harry F. Byrd Sr.). However, it was never the Democratic stronghold like the Deep South states were, though the only post-Reconstruction presidential elections in Virginia won by the Republicans were 1928 (anti-Catholic vote against the Catholic Democratic nominee), 1952 and 1956 (Eisenhower’s victories). The Republicans first broke through in the rural areas of the Shenandoah Valley in western Virginia and rural non-mining area in southwestern Virginia. The most Dixiecratic/Deep Southern areas were in south-eastern Virginia (which also have significant black populations), though these areas switched to the Republicans in response to the Republican’s southern strategy. The state has been won in presidential races by Republican candidates in all elections since 1964, helped by a Republican base in rural, white Virginia and affluent exurban areas in Northern Virginia (NoVA). However, Obama won the state by a 6.3% margin, due mostly to the growth of NoVA and NoVA’s movement towards the Democrats in response to the Republican’s rightwards drift.

Despite the state’s Republican lean nationally, Virginia has elected two Democratic Governors in a row. Mark Warner, now a US Senator, won in 2001 and he was succeeded in 2005 by Tim Kaine, now DNC chairman. Virginia also elected the first African-American Governor in the nation, Douglas Wilder, a Democrat, in 1989. Virginian Governors are term-limited, so Tim Kaine isn’t eligible to run for re-election (and neither was Warner, despite his massive popularity). The 2005 results are below:

Tim Kaine (D) 51.72%
Jerry Kilgore (R) 45.99%
Russell Potts (I) 2.22%Write-ins 0.08%

The Democrats face a tough fight to retain Virginia. State Senator Creigh Deeds, the most conservative candidate in the Democratic primary, defeated former Hillary Clinton campaign chairman Terry McAuliffe and former State Delegate Brian Moran, the most liberal candidate, by a large margin in the primary. Attorney General Bob McDonnell, who defeated Deeds in a very close race for Attorney General in 2005, won the Republican nomination without opposition. There are no third party candidates.

Deeds has led a pretty poor campaign, a far cry from Corzine’s campaign in NJ and has been massively outspent. He has trailed McDonnell by an ever-increasing margin since early June. While Deeds had a brief upswing when he leaked a controversial thesis written by McDonnell when he was attending university, this has pretty much backfired on Deeds with McDonnell successfully killing the issue and spinning it to blame Deeds of negative campaigning. Deeds trails around 54-42 and is likely to lose by a large margin. CQPolitics rates this race as Republican favoured. I could even say Safe Republican myself.

Incumbent Republican Lt. Governor Bill Bolling (VA’s Lt. Governor is elected separately) and Republican Attorney General candidate Ken Cuccinelli are favoured to win their respective races. All 100 seats in the House of Delegates are up for grabs: as of dissolution, the Republicans held 53, the Democrats 43 and there were two Independents (caucusing with Republicans) and two Democratic-held vacancies. The Republicans are favoured to increase their majority by a few seats.

New York City (Mayoral)

New York City, with its population of 8,363,710 is larger than a lot of states, so it’s Mayor is obviously a major political player and the office holds prestige. New York City, with its large multi-cultural population, its liberal-artsy population and its affluent liberals in Manhattan, is a Democratic stronghold with the only Republican holdouts being Orthodox Jewish, Italian or Russian areas in Queens, and more conservative white-Italian Staten Island. Obama won NYC by a large margin, breaking 70% in Queens and Brooklyn and 80% in the Bronx and Manhattan. John McCain won Staten Island.

However, New York has elected a Republican Mayor since 1993, when it elected liberal Republican Rudy Giuliani. Democrat-turned-liberal Republican Michael Bloomberg, the very wealthy incumbent Mayor narrowly won the 2001 election against Democrat Mark Green and was re-elected in a landslide over Democrat Fernando Ferrer. Bloomberg’s winning coalition in 2005, by view of a map, appears to be the traditional Republican base, in addition to traditionally Democratic-voting whites and a good showing with blacks (who didn’t like Ferrer). Bloomberg has since registered as an Independent, leaving the Republican Party.

Bloomberg was successful in removing the two-term limit in favour of a three-term limit, allowing him to run for a third term, which he is favoured to win. Since New York’s election law allows fusion, aka a candidate appearing on the ballot under two party etiquettes, Bloomberg won the nomination of the Republican Party and the centrist Independence Party. In 2005, he had won the Republican, Independence and Liberal (the Liberal Party is now dead)  ballot lines. He faces African-American City Comptroller Bill Thompson, the Democratic candidate as well as a flurry of minor candidates including Conservative candidate Stephen Christopher and Green candidate Billy Tallen.

Bloomberg leads Thompson by a large margin: Bloomberg has around 53% against 38-42% for Thompson. While Bloomberg’s margin will probably be slightly smaller than his 2005 margin, there’s no doubt that he’ll probably win a comfortable victory.

New York’s 23rd CD special election

New York's 23rd CD

A special election is being held in New York’s 23rd congressional district following the nomination of incumbent Republican Representative John M. McHugh as Secretary of the Army by President Barack Obama. NY-23 covers most of northern upstate New York, touching the Canadian border and Lake Ontario and including the cities of Watertown, Plattsburgh, Oswego, Oneida, Massena and Ogdensburg. The district is largely rural with a few outposts of small industry, mostly struggling paper mills along the St. Lawrence waterway. Tourism is also an important source of income for Watertown, close to Ontario, as well as the tourist spots in the Adirondack Mountains. The district is largely Republican, though the brand of Republicanism in upstate New York is largely old moderate Yankee Republicanism. The Democrats tend to be strong at the federal level in the district’s northernmost counties, bordering Canada. It gave George W. Bush 51% of the vote in 2004 against John Kerry, and Obama carried the district  with 52% against 47% for John McCain. Representative John M. McHugh won 65% of the vote against token Democratic opposition in 2008, and this area hasn’t elected a Democrat since the 1870s. Normally, one would expect the Republicans to hold this district easily and making this special election a typical boring done-deal. But no. It’s now one of the most interesting races.

The Republicans nominated State Assemblywoman Dierdre Scozzafava (Dede), who represents AD-122 (parts of Jefferson and St. Lawrence Counties). Scozzafava is a far cry from the Republican Party of 2009: not only is she pro-choice but she also supports gay marriage. She received, due to fusion voting, the endorsement of the Independence Party. The Democrats, originally tapped to nominate State Senator Darrel Aubertine nominated Plattsburgh attorney Bill Owens, who is pretty much a Blue Dog conservative Democrat, and probably to the right of Scozzafava, atleast on social issues. The Conservative Party, a semi-relevant third party which operates in New York thanks to fusion voting and it’s usual endorsement of Republicans (given that they’re right-wing enough for them, the CPNY is quite right-wing), obviously were not pleased at Dede’s nomination and businessman Doug Hoffman, defeated by Dede in the Republican primary, won the Conservative nomination.

Hoffman’s candidacy got off the ground with the endorsement of the staunchly neoliberal Club for Growth and he received the endorsements of a number of Republican big-wigs, including the crazy contingent (Sarah Palin, Michele Bachmann, Steve King, Jim DeMint, Rick Santorum and all the talk radio guys) and saner conservatives including Rick Perry and George Pataki. He went from 19% in polls in September to 35% in late October. At the same time, Dede fell to third in polls while Owens gained from the division of the right to win a plurality first place in most independent polls.

Then today. Scozzafava announced that she was suspending her campaign without making an endorsement. While she’ll remain on the ballot and still pull a respectable share, like 5-10% or so, this race is effectively a Democratic vs. Conservative race. It is suspected most of Dede’s support will flow to Hoffman, making him the new favourite to win. He will caucus with the Republicans if elected.

A Twitter status update from PPP (a pollster)  just now has said that they’re finding that Hoffman is now polling 45-46%.

California’s 10th CD special election

California's 10th CD

A general election will be held in California’s 10th congressional district after the nomination of Democratic Representative Ellen Tauscher to the office of Undersecretary of State for Arms Control and International Security by President Barack Obama. CA-1o is located in San Francisco Bay area, including the cities of Fairfield, Antioch, Livermore and a part of Concord. It is a largely old affluent suburban district, with a population split between older suburbanites and young professionals. Although slightly economically conservative, its social liberalism and environmentalism makes it a Democratic-leaning district, and Obama won 65% of the vote in the district. Republican Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger did win the district with 56% in his 2006 re-election bid. As per California law, a free-for-all open primary was held in September in which Lt. Governor John Garamendi won the Democratic nomination. He faces Republican attorney David Harmer, Green candidate Jeremy Cloward, American Independent (yes, George Wallace’s party) candidate Jerome Denham and Peace and Freedom candidate Mary McIlroy. The Peace and Freedom Party is a socialist party operating only in California, and the AIP, George Wallace’s party in 1968, maintains ballot status only in California as a right-wing conservative outfit.

While Tauscher won 65% of the vote here in 2008 and the Democratic candidates won a combined 65% in the open primary; Garamendi is having a tougher time due to a controversy over his residence, which has been judged to be outside of CA-10. In addition, while this district is socially liberal, favouring the Democrats, it is closer to the Republicans on fiscal issues and Harmer’s campaign, focused on fiscal issues is a smart bet. A SurveyUSA poll, the only independent poll here, shows a 10-point lead for Garamendi: 50-40, with 6% for other candidates (Green, AIP, PF) and 4% undecided. Still, Garamendi should have an easy win though with a smaller margin than Tauscher had in 2008.

Maine’s Question 1 and Washington’s Referendum 71

Two homosexual-related issues are up for a vote on November 3. In Maine, voters will be asked whether or not the new law recognizing same-sex marriage should be rejected (A Yes vote would reject gay marriage, a No vote would keep it). The race seems rather close, but No has been leading very narrowly in most polls, probably due to their better campaign. The Yes campaign has been mostly scaremongering, and dominated by the idea that a No vote would mean that ‘they’ would ‘teach’ gay marriage in Maine schools, whatever that means.

Washington holds a referendum on Referendum 71, which asks voters to approve or reject the new law expanding domestic partnerships, which is pretty much gay marriage without the word marriage. A vote in favour would approve the law, and a vote against would reject the law. So, the opposite of Maine. The Approve R-71 has had a pretty safe lead, and Washington will probably approve the law. Maybe a large part of the reason the vote in Washington is having a easier time is because it doesn’t include the hot-button words ‘gay marriage’, which makes a large number of people flip out.

Other local elections and initiatives are on the ballots in a number of states on November 3 in the US, but there are the main issues.