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.

Posted on November 6, 2009, in California, Maine, New Jersey, New York, Referendums, Regional and local elections, U.S.A., Virginia, Washington. Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. While you are probably right that it was not directly an anti obama vote, many of the issues which led to republican successes tie in with Obama’s policies. If the Republicans can succeed in bridging the disconnect in people’s minds between Obama the pop-culture phenomenon and the things that Obama, Reid and Pelosi are doing, then he could have a much rockier re-election campaign than most people think.

    The NY 23 isn’t a massive shock either. Don’t forget that when Scozzafava pulled out she endorsed Owens, not Hoffman. It was always going to be close, and it was. More interesting will be to see the type of candidate the GOP run next year, and whether they take the seat back.

  2. I wouldn’t read too much into these results for a number of reasons:

    First, it’s been over two decades since either NJ or VA have elected a governor of the same party as the incumbent President.

    Second, Corzine was an unpopular governor of a state Democratic Party that is mired in corruption; Obama’s relative popularity and the NJ’s Democratic leanings kept things close.

    Third, Deeds was a weak candidate who ran a terrible campaign; progressive voters and Democrats in general were uninspired by him and would have been far more galvanized by Moran or McCauliffe, and he only won the nomination because everyone remotely left-of-centre within the state Democratic Party was divided between his two opponents. The Democrats didn’t do enough to paint McDonnell and Cuccinelli for the nuts that they were. The primary attempt I can remember, by Jim Moran, while an accurate metaphor of their opinions, was so clumsy and histrionic that it hindered Deeds (the “Taliban Ticket” remark) far more than it helped him.

    Last, the seat up for grabs in the Bay Area was originally gerrymandered to be its only GOP seat and is the region’s most conservative area. The Democratic who ran was well to the left of her predecessor and was facing a GOP machine that was far more galvanized than its Democratic counterpart. All thing considered, she did extremely well.

    As for NY-23, across the border from my hometown in Ontario, the circular firing squad that defined the GOP’s attempts to hold the district was such a sorry thing to watch that it bodes very poorly for the party’s attempts at building a workable coalition to beat back the Democrats in 2010. There was no reason for the right to lose this stronghold, and the clusterfuckery that want on there will remain the stuff of legends.

  3. Connie Cowboy, you’re seriously saying this was a good set of elections for the Democrats. A popular meme on the left blogs in the USA like 538, but not credible I’m afraid. Unless you do believe that the only thing people in NJ/VA think about in governor elections is who’s in the White House.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: