Daily Archives: June 2, 2010

Alabama, Mississippi and New Mexico (USA) Primaries 2010

Alabama, Mississippi and New Mexico held primaries ahead of the US midterm elections this November. In Alabama, the offices of Governor and Senator were up, while in New Mexico the office of Governor was up. No Senate or gubernatorial seat is up this year in Mississippi.

Alabama and Mississippi

Incumbent Republican Governor Bob Riley (R-AL), elected narrowly in 2002 defeating Democratic incumbent Don Siegelman and re-elected easily in 2006, is term-limited. Despite continued support for Democrats of the Blue Dog-Dixiecrat type at the legislative level, the Republicans seem to have built a hold on the Governor’s mansion and they could even conquer the state legislature in November.

The race to succeed Riley on the Republican side is wide open with the top contenders being former State Senator Bradley Byrne (the most moderate candidate), socially conservative State Rep Robert J. Bentley, “Speak American” businessman Tim James and well-known “Ten Commandments Judge” Roy Moore. The Democratic field was an heavy race between Agriculture Commish Ron Sparks, who supports HCR-public option (though supported Hillary in 2008) and African-American Congressman Artur Davis (AL-7) who voted against HCR and won much ire from his black voters base in his effort to posture himself as a conservative ahead of November.

In one of the biggest upsets in Alabama history, Davis, who led polling and fundraising and was rumoured to have the support of the black machine (likely a majority of Democrats in Alabama), managed to lose epically 62-38. On the Republican side, Byrne came out on top ahead of Bentley and James, who are practically tied, while Moore got a paltry 19%. Byrne will face either Bentley or James in a runoff on July 13, the nature of his opponent being fully known once there’s a recount for second.

Ron Sparks (D) 62.4%
Artur Davis (D) 37.6%

    Bradley Byrne (R) 27.9%
    Richard J. Bentley (R) 25.2%
    Tim James (R) 25.1%
    Roy Moore (R) 19.3%
    Bill Johnson (R) 1.7%
    Charles Taylor (R) 0.5%
    James Potts (R) 0.3%

      A cursory glance at the Democratic map reveals the utter failure of Davis. He lost AL-7, his own district, lost the black belt quite badly (it really does prove that his conservative posturing and voting against the Obama agenda wasn’t the road to victory with black folks) and trailed very badly in white northern and southern Alabama. To be fair, Davis had bad relations with high-ranking black or white Democratic Party officials in the state, and the establishment did not support him. He only won generally urban or suburban areas, while Sparks raked up huge margins in northern and southern Alabama, parts of the black belt and even won Birmingham. A snippet from a Politico article is quite amusing in this regard:

      In Lowndes County, where 70 percent of the population is black, Sparks, who is white, won by 29 points. In Perry County, with a 67 percent black population, his victory margin was 44 percent.

      On the Republican side, it does appear that Byrne, the most moderate candidate, won the support of urban areas (winning the counties containing Birmingham, Mobile, Montgomery and Huntsville) while the more conservative other candidates split the votes in rural areas, except for Bentley who got a huge base of support around his home turf but little spread elsewhere, unlike James or Moore.

      Incumbent Senator Richard Shelby, in office since 1987 and a former Democrat (until 1994) is on the road to a landslide re-election, but he did face primary opposition from tea-bagger Clint Moser (Shelby is big on pork and patronage). Shelby won 84-16. In the race to lose the November matchup in a landslide, William Barnes, some attorney guy, won 61-39 against teacher Simone De Moore.

      In a big House race in the northern 5th CD, won by Parker Griffith as a Democrat in 2008, but which was ‘gained’ by the Republicans after Griffith crossed the floor, Griffith (R) was defeated badly by Madison County Commissioner Mo Brooks 51 to 33. He’ll face former Howell Heflin staffer Steve Raby in November. In AL-2, narrowly picked up by conservative Democrat Bobby Bright in 2008, Republican Montgomery City Council member Martha Roby (48.6%) will face prolific fundraiser-businessman Rick Barber (28.5%) in a runoff. In a race which Davis may regret he was not in (AL-7), there will be a runoff between lawyer Terri Sewell and the liberal left blogger’s pick Sheila Smoot. Sewell has 36.8% against 28.5% against Smoot. The Republicans also managed to find four potential candidates here, but nobody cares, though the Democrats are letting Republicans win by acclamation in districts 1, 4 and 6.

      In a very much watched race for the Republican nomination for Agriculture Commish, Dale Peterson, of YouTube fame for his campaign video, is out of the runoff after getting 28% against 37% for John McMillan who’ll face yard-sign stealer and  “dummy” Dorman Grace (35%). Apparently the thugs an’ criminal who don’t give a rip about Al’bama won…

      In Mississippi, only House seats are up in November, making it quite off the radar. In MS-01, Republican State Sen. Alan Nunnelee will face Travis Childers after having won 51.8% against 32.8% for Henry Ross and a pitiful 15.4% for Sarah Palin’s Angela McGlowan. In MS-04, Congressman Gene Taylor (D) will face State Rep. Steven Palazzo in November, a strong challenge. Palazzo won 57-43 against a businessman.

      New Mexico

      The big race in New Mexico this year is the one to succeed term-limited Democratic incumbent Bill Richardson, a 2008 presidential contender. Lt. Governor Diane Denish was acclaimed on the Democratic side, while the Republican field was relatively wide open. Susana Martinez, an attorney, was the heavy favourite against former state party chair Allen Weh. Doug Turner, a political consultant and Pete Domenici Jr. (the son of former U.S. Senator Pete Domenici) were the also-rans. Amusingly he did lead a poll in February, but maybe assuming you’d roll to victory on your last name isn’t the best of ideas. Domenici’s candidacy never got off the ground, despite the name. Martinez won 50.7% against 27.6% for Weh, 11.6% for Turner and a ridiculous 7% for Domenici. Denish is the light favourite, but polls have shown the right to be quite tight.

      In NM-03, gained by the Democrat Harry Teague after the retirement of Republican incumbent Steve Pearce (who ran for Senate against Tom Udall and failed hard), is shaping up to be tight after Pearce won the right to contest for his old seat after squashing Cliff Pirtle 85-15. In NM-03, a lost cause for the Republicans, Paulite Adam Kokesh lost 71-29.

      Much more fun next week, June 8, with voting in California (in a Republican Senate primary between former HP executive Carly Fiorina and moderate former Congressman Tom Campbell), South Carolina (where Republican gubernatorial Niki Haley had an affair), Nevada or Maine (where nobody knows what’s going on) among others.

      Colombia 2010

      Colombia went to the polls to elect its new President on May 29 (first round) in a major election and turning point for the country’s political history. Indeed, after eight years in office, incumbent President Álvaro Uribe is ineligible to run for a third term, even though he did try (and was rebuffed by the courts). Even after eight years in office, the pro-American “democratic security” policy of Uribe vis-a-vis the FARC rebels and the drug war has earned him continuously high marks from the public, with his approvals still over 60%. Uribe’s tough policies against the FARC but also his belligerent attitude with Colombia’s neighbor, Chavist Venezuela, is very popular in Colombia. However, his wide coalition unraveled ahead of the elections. Overall, the Uribist coalition split three ways ahead of the presidential ballot.

      Uribe’s personal party, the so-called Party of the U (no prize for guessing what the U really stands for), nominated Uribe’s well-known former defense minister Juan Manuel Santos for President. Santos comes from an old wealthy family of the Bogotan elite which notably owned the newspaper El Tiempo and whose ancestors held high political office in the country in the past. Santos, who as foreign trade minister in the late 90s was responsible for a number of free-trade deals, won most fame as defense minister (2006-2009) for presiding over a military raid inside Ecuador to kill FARC leader Raul Reyes, the liberation of FARC hostages most notably former presidential contender Ingrid Betancourt and a number of scandals in the Colombian military. He is seen to be Uribe’s closest ally, and Chavez notably intervened in the campaign to describe him as a quasi-gangster and a threat to peace in the region. The Conservative Party, one of Colombia’s old parties, nominated former ambassador and 1998-2002 presidential contender Noemí Sanín in a primary over a closer Uribe ally, former agriculture minister Andrés Felipe Arias. The Uribist Radical Change Party, rumoured to be a front for the right-wing paramilitaries, nominated Germán Vargas Lleras.

      The main opposition to Uribe’s re-election in 2006 (he won 62.4% in the first round) came from the Alternative Democratic Pole (PDA), a socialist party which is widely thought of as Chavez’ party in the country. It nominated Gustavo Petro. The Liberals, which were, with the Conservatives, the other major party for most of the twentieth century, and now oppose Uribe, nominated Rafael Pardo, an Uribist-turned-anti-Uribist.

      Standing outside the old Uribist and anti-Uribist dichotomy was Antanas Mockus, the candidate of the new Green Party. Mockus, a former two-stint mayor of Bogota and the son of Lithuanian immigrants, was well known for his clownish personality as mayor (dressing up as a superhero, hanging a carrot around his neck) but his policies were very successful in cracking down on crime and poverty in the capital. Mockus, who is far from a conventional Greenie (his political idol is Angela Merkel), says that his party’s main goal is the fight against corruption (to be fair, anti-corruption has been a major guiding point for Colombian Greens, most notably Betancourt in 2002). He is not anti-Uribe per se and does not support any deal or prisoner exchanges with the FARC, though he did condemn the 2008 military raid to kill Raul Reyes. Chavez said that he did not know much about Mockus. Mockus’ candidacy quickly gained ground in the polls and was narrowly ahead in either the runoff or both rounds thanks to his success in the debates, his flashy personality and his centrist middle-ground views. What happened next wasn’t as great.

      Juan Manuel Santos (Party of the U) 46.56%
      Antanas Mockus (Green) 21.49%
      Germán Vargas Lleras (Radical Change) 10.13%
      Gustavo Petro (PDA) 9.15%
      Noemí Sanín (Conservative) 6.14%
      Rafael Pardo (Liberal) 4.38%
      Jairo Calderón (Liberal Aperture) 0.23%
      Róbinson Devia (Voice of the Conscience Movement) 0.22%
      Jaime Araújo (Afro-Colombian Social Alliance) 0.1%
      blank votes 1.55%

      turnout 49.24%

      2010 was not a good year for Colombian pollsters, who messed up on practically every aspect of this race. Something went quite wrong for Mockus, who was polling 32-38% right before the vote. His GOTV effort was likely weaker than Santos’ effort, who commands the Uribist machine. Furthermore, there might have been a swing at the last minute by voters close to Mockus who thought that his clown-like attitude might not have been fitting for the President of Colombia. In addition, he should have been tougher against Chavez’ intervention in the election to come out to the Uribist base as clearly anti-FARC and anti-Chavez. Chavez obviously doesn’t command much approval in Colombia.

      Mockus is likely dead on arrival for the runoff, which is turning out to be a formality for Santos, likely Colombia’s next President. Seeing the wind change in Santos’ favour, the nominally anti-Uribist Liberals switched their support to Santos. The Conservatives and Radical Change are also strongly behind Santos. Some had hoped that a Mockus victory could have ended the stranglehold of personalist politics, of which Uribe is a leading member of, in Colombia. However, the victory of the Uribe name with Santos with his renewed alliance with the patronage machine (Liberals and Conservatives) has made that a lost cause. Not much will change with Santos in power, and Chavez’ attitude towards him isn’t exactly a good sign.

      Isère 4th (France) by-election

      Isere's 4th covers most of the south of the department (source: geoelections)

      The first round of a legislative by-election in Isère’s 4th constituency was held on Sunday, May 29. The by-election came as a result of the nomination of its long-time incumbent PS deputy, Didier Migaud, to the presidency of the French Cours des Comptes, by President Nicolas Sarkozy.

      Isère’s 4th constituency took its current shape in 1986, when the immediate southern working-class suburbs of Grenoble were removed from the seat, which covers a large and diverse areas including Grenoble’s exurbs, parts of the plateaus of the Vercors and Trièves, an old mining and industrial basin (La Mure and La Romanche) and ski resorts. This varied sociological makeup makes for a constituency which is traditionally a swing seat. That is, quite amusingly, well concealed since 1988. Indeed, only Didier Migaud has represented the constituency since then. A moderate and pragmatic Socialist, he built a strong personal vote since 1988 and was one of the few survivors of 1993 and won re-election in 1997, 2002 and 2007 with huge majorities (62.8% in the 2007 runoff). The constituency is far more Migaudienne than it is Socialist. At the presidential level, however, it remains far more divided. Jospin won it narrowly in 1995 but Sarkozy carried it with 50.7% in 2007. The UMP, however, did particularly badly here (comparatively) in 2009 and 2010, likely the result of the rapid erosion of UMP votes in two major sociological categories dominant in the constituency: the suburban middle-class and the working-class. The Greens have a base here like in most of southern Isère, and environmental issues related to highway construction are big issues here. The Greens won around 22% in the European elections and fell to roughly 19% in the regionals. The FN won around 11% in 2010, up from 8.8% for Le Pen in 2007. It performed particularly well in Linet-et-Gavet and Oulles, two old mining towns in La Romanche.

      The UMP never had much of a chance here, and its bench is rather weak. It did nominate the strongest candidate possible, Fabrice Marchiol, mayor of the old mining town of La Mure and who commands an impressive personal vote in a traditionally left-leaning village. The PS nominated Marie-Noëlle Battistel, a close confidante of Migaud and mayor of the small village of La Salle-en-Beaumont. The Greens, FN, Left Front and the Liberal Alternative all nominated candidates.

      Marie-Noëlle Battisel (PS) 39.31% (-7.27%)
      Fabrice Marchiol (UMP) 32.93% (+1.23%)
      Anne Parlange (Europe Ecologie) 12.63% (+8.94%)
      Mireille d’Ornanon (FN) 7.4% (+4.02%)
      Laurent Jadeau (FG) 6.81% (+4.75%)
      Arnaud Walther (AL) 0.92% (+0.92%)

      turnout 29.85%

      This is a nice example of a by-election with no real winners. The PS, obviously, never had much of a chance to stay at Migaud’s high levels and its fall from 46.6% in 2007 was to be expected. The PS’ result is the worst percentage-wise since 1997, and its raw vote total is lower than in 1993. Of course, Migaud does mess things up a bit. On the positive side, it does stay ahead of the field even with a strong-ish UMP candidate and a weak-ish candidate of its own. The UMP’s result, while superior to its regional results, could have expected far better with the Marchiol candidacy and its strong base in La Mure (where he won roughly 53% or so), but its 33% result is very weak for the party, even in this climate. The Battisel campaign wasn’t very good and the UMP could have capitalized on that and its strong candidate, but it utterly failed to do so. It does only narrowly better than the party’s paper candidate had done in 2007. While Europe Ecologie seems to be well implanted in the region and the local political scene, it has seen its share of the vote dwindle from 19% in March to only 12.6% today. Whether that is the effect of low turnout, the sign of the beginning of the “fall of the Greens” from 2009 or just a local result based on local factors is up to you. The FN’s result is down from a high of 11% in the regionals, but the reason behind this, whether it be low turnout games or a real decline in the FN overall is up to you. FG’s vote is narrowly down since the regionals as well, but it can be pleased with its result. No comment on the joke candidacy, though I’m surprised it won up to 0.9%.

      The left weighs 58.75% (against 57.96% in the regional runoff) against 33.85% for the right (41.25% with the far-right). The right alone was worth 29.95% in March. The low turnout gives the UMP a reason to hope for a victory they know they won’t get, but assuming turnout stays the same (I can’t really recall a legislative by-election with a major turnout boost over both rounds), the left is favoured to win a strong victory, with anywhere from 58% to 61-62%. It would be quite funny if the PS won a larger victory than Migaud did in 2007. That would be bad for the right.