Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Election Precinct Analysis

A reader went through the runoff election results, using precinct data, from the 46th Ward and made some charts about what happened, who turned out to vote, and how each precinct voted.  Check them out here:
If you don't know the exact boundaries of all 47 precincts by heart (tsk! tsk!), a precinct map of the 46th Ward can be found here.


  1. This seems as good a topic as any to post this in.

    Here are my impressions of the 46th Ward race.

    It's a long piece, but worth reading if you're a wannabee political junkie.

    I use my "critic"al skills and look at both campaigns and a possible winning strategy that Phelan might have used.

    Thankfully, no one ever listens to me and Cappleman won. I am quite happy about that.

    Not as happy as I would be if Scarlett Johannsen were shacking up with me instead of Sean Penn, yet still more happy than unhappy.

  2. Thanks for this very useful and detailed summary and analysis by precinct and neighborhood. It can help us to understand our community and its concerns better.

    It's unsettling how few people in some of the precincts vote - the lowest turnouts being in Precincts 24, 5, 47, 13, 21, 28, 37, 14, 31, 40 and 44.

    Precinct 1 has perhaps one of the most convenient polling place, and usually has the highest turnout. Election officials there were actually disappointed that only 50% voted on April 5 - but that was still the top turnout in the ward (general elections often produce 80% turnout in Precinct 1).

    The low turnout precincts are spread across the ward and I can't find any one explanation for the low turnouts - any ideas?

  3. Low turnout for the southern most precinct may be due to the voters not understand they are part of the 46 ward. I have a friend that lives down there and thinks she is in Tunney's ward.

  4. IrishPirate, I enjoyed your analysis, and I think it's on the beam. One thing rang true for me (and I know the same is true for a lot of my neighbors):

    "JPUSA is disliked by a strong portion of the ward because of how they maintain their properties and run their shelter. Plus their ties to Shiller didn't help."

  5. Pirate, I liked your analysis. One thing the Cappleman campaign did right and that the Phelan campaign didn't take advantage of can be found in Sun Tzu's "The Art of War." He cautions to never disband a conquered army; instead, you should incorporate the forces into your own army, thereby making it stronger.

    So the week after the February 22nd election, Team Cappleman brought in additional paid campaign workers from Teams Nowotny and Stewart. They got the endorsements, and presumably the votes, of Teams Stewart, Baskin, Lam, Retta, McIntyre and Shapiro. They absorbed the defeated armies.

    Very wise -- someone was channeling Sun Tzu. One could argue that was the margin of Cappleman's victory.

  6. Oh, well, since we're all plugging our own work, I also did some stuff here:
    Voter Attrition

    Cappleman's Votes

    Molly Phelan's Vote Gains and Losses

    Did Marc Kaplan Help Molly

    Please suggest any other questions you might have. Put them as comments on my blog so I'll get an email alert.

  7. Interesting analysis, IP.

    One note I'd make is that the many of the most egregious Campaign Phelan mistakes (e.g., crazy negative mailers, Kaplan endorsement) came after the election was already lost. Clearly Team Phelan had enough cash to do polling and, once they realized they were going to lose, they decided to throw caution to the wind.

    As you touched on, the foremost problems seemed to occur becasue of very early choices -- whether the O'Brien support or choosing advisors (and money) via machine politics. But, such is the fate of a neophyte candidate wanting to gain traction. On the flip side -- that cash/advice was enough to propel the Phelan campaign into the run-off. Would she have been able to beat Stewart (or bleed off enough Cappleman voters) without that initial support in a crowded field? I'm not so sure -- the barrage of mailers probably gave her a big boost. But, once you get to the run-off, ya gotta dance with who brung ya.

    Cappleman was beatable, if only because he is a better policy wonk than politician. That said, his clear presence in the community over the past many years endeared him to many, many people who weren't gonna change their mind... so it wasn't going to be easy on whomever was running against him.

    Phelan proved pretty good in person and advocated her positions well. She sold her big visions and got people excited about the potential of Uptown. The 6,000+ doors that were knocked on surely helped. Molly also seemed to get stronger as the campaign wore on. I'd say she and James were even at the "Great Debate" (though James had a stronger closing statement) and that she was the victor in the Shiller/Tunny forum. Generally, she offered more consise and definitive statements. James had a bad habit of leaning back on "best practices" in 1 minute responses, which sound vague and "politiciany" (although, if you talk with him at length, these policy ideas can be quite reasonable). Also, as the leading candidate, it was probably a campaign strategy choice (and maybe his personality) to avoid giving the smackdown on some stuff that surely was asking for it (world music capital, pop-up art to bring in new business, dictator-like methodology for running the ward, etc.).

    If Phelan had another month in the campaign to continue growing as a politican and would have avoided the silly stuff (negative mailers, getting kaplan endorsements, not responding immediately to grainy videos, etc.), it may have been a lot closer in the end. Who knows.

    Since we'e on the topic of theoreticals, two final thoughts:

    1. I'm still surprised at how close Cappleman/Phelan/Stewart were in the 1st round. A little more time and Stewart could have probably closed that gap. Why such a poor showing from Cappleman in that 1st round? Overconfidence? Voter's voting for their second choice? The Phelan/Carrol/Nowotny triumverant didn't help him at all there -- it just bled votes from him, almost to his downfall.

    2. In a Cappleman/Stewart or Phelan/Stewart match up, you may have gotten a much tighter race. It surely would have been a different tone. I'd guess you'd have gotten a lot of the class warfare that was avoided with Cappleman/Phelan being the virtually the same, policy-wise.

  8. IP, with all due respect, I think you have so underestimated a major issue.. and it is large part because you are on the outside looking in...

    .. I can not begin to tell you how much Phelan pissed off the LGBTA community by the use of the word "preference", the robocalls and the aggressive moves made against one of Capplemans supporters. And Phelan refused to apologize or distance herself from any of it.. absolutely, completed refused to make any positive moves towards our community

    Although to a straight person that may seem a lot of mountains out of molehills. I can tell you as a very vocal resident and involved in the LGBTA community, that galvanized us in two ways.

    One, it got us to make sure we grabbed our friends, told them about how we were being marganalized by Molly and to vote against her.. and we made sure they voted.

    Two, Money. It moved the LGBTA community in this ward to donate a considerable chunk of cash towards James that may have sat on the sideline

    So, although I think much of your analysis is accurate, I think you have consistantly underweighted how pissed off and motivated that gay community was/is in this race. Frankly, a major deciding factor... I hope you can step back and take another look because, dare I say it IP, on this issue, you arw ((gasp)) wrong!

  9. IP, I like the impressions you put to words--like them very much. You are like a laser, even when fortified with fine Irish whiskey.

    And I noted several instances of phraseology that may possibly have originated on the keyboard typing this li'l note...if that is the case, it is good to know that what one writes resonates with a few people. Thank you, if those suspiscions are correct.

  10. I love the policy wonks and would-be political strategists in the 46th Ward – sincerely I do! I feel like I’m back in grad school Political Analysis 101 class – my professor was Michael Nacht, who went on to become the dean of the Goldman School of Public Policy at UC Berkeley, and he is one of the best political analysts I know.

    I agree with almost every point IP made (in fact, he stated these points almost exactly as I would have). I especially liked his picking up on the campaign’s aesthetics and subliminal aspects – things like Molly’s failed attempts to change her image, then changing it back which revealed a tin ear that heard only the sound of her own drummer and made many wonder whether she had a moral compass of her own. She often seemed easily led around by a political nose ring and demonstrated a thin political skin. Her disdainful “Mr. Cappleman” or “What Mr. Cappleman doesn’t understand….” shtick convinced the previously unconvinced that Molly really was the spoiled brat that some had already concluded she was.

    You already know what I think of Phelan’s venture into the realm of homophobia, but candidly, I don’t think Molly was personally or overtly homophobic, but more stubborn and unwilling to consider the feelings of others besides herself and her chosen advisers. When members of a large constituency tell you that you are using questionable language that has the potential to offend them, a smart person says that was not their intent and that, of course, her campaign will not tolerate homophobic tactics or messaging. Instead, Phelan showed political immaturity by attacking anyone who might have felt offended as “overly sensitive” or alleging that they were misquoting, misinterpreting her, or whatever. Sometimes, just acknowledging that you didn’t realize that what you said might be interpreted as offensive is all anyone wants from a verbal offender. Think of Joe Biden and his comments about Obama being articulate and clean…. Biden profusely apologized, admitted he had not considered how his words might be construed, and promised to avoid using similar language again. People got over Biden’s gaffe because he seemed sincere sorry for being a frequent word and thought bumbler. It would have been a different story if Biden had told people that objected to stop being overly sensitive. This is what the Phelan camp virtually told gay voters, adding yet another stereotype - “overly sensitive” - to several the ones she had, inadvertently perhaps, already hurled at gays – decorators, pansy-planters, “soft” on crime, etc. Phelan’s refusal to consider the offense of her language was worsened by her stupid use of the always ill-advised and usually pejorative phrase, “sexual preference,” when she spoke at the Truman College forum. Phelan could not have chosen a setting where voters were more tuned in to politically correct terminology, and turned off by her ignorance of it.

    I don’t believe that Phelan knocked on 6,000 doors in the ward. I’m around too much during the day, and never ran into her. Also, the number of doors she claimed she had knocked on at one point in the campaign mushroomed from 6,000 to 7,000 doors in less than 5 days, days when she clearly had not been out doing much knocking. It made people feel Phelan’s advisers had just rehearsed her, like Sarah Palin’s advisers tried to rehearse Palin, and had just given Molly a new number to cite. She, or her advisers, seemed to buy into the Karl Rove’s playbook that says if you repeat a lie enough, not only will you start to convince people it isn’t a lie, but you’ll start to believe your own lies. No one that I know in my building of almost 700+ voters got their door knocked on – not even once.

  11. It did not surprise me that Cappleman tied at 20% with Phelan in February. At Phelan’s Feb 22 victory party when early results gave Molly a few votes edge over Cappleman, her staff went into juvenile elation mode, shouting how much Cappleman must be “shitting his pants” at Phelan’s couple of votes margin – oddly, at Cappleman’s camp, no one really cared. This told me that Phelan’s camp were not steady or seasoned enough for a long-haul campaign and run-off. Cappleman’s team took the plodding, steady, plan-following tortoise as their mascot (Richard Thale and Lauren Peters surprised me at how well they understood and stuck to the calm big-picture political marathon mindset). The Phelan camp wanted to be the Hare – and often Phelan’s Hare seemed to have an attention deficit disorder, jumping around from this issue to that and from this alleged Cappleman campaign-sinking infraction to another (income reporting, Kinetic playground bakesales, etc.). Phelan’s campaign seemed to have only one gear – overdrive - and a sprint, but not a marathon, strategy.) Not enough has been said about the lessons learned by Cappleman (and Thale) from their loss to Helen four years ago. The Cappleman campaign relished the chance in this election to redo every mistake they made and re-take every opportunity not seized to full advantage in the 2007 election.

    Cappleman’s 20% share on February 22 was good enough. In a field of 11, where many had impressive credentials and long-established friendship, family and support networks in the ward, I think the best Cappleman could have done on February 22 was maybe 25-27%. I was surprised that Nowotny and Baskin did not do better than they did, because they truly had some history in the ward.

    If Kaplan had not been in the race, Stewart would have probably beaten Molly in February and would have been in the runoff against Cappleman (this was also the assessment right after February 22 of several key Cappleman advisers). Why Stewart did so well – besides the benefit of the endorsements of both the Trib and Sun-Times – involved several factors. First, she is a very impressive person and a decent candidate. Many of us were inspired by her personal story of having been reared in Uptown by a loving single mom, having a grandfather who obviously provided her with wisdom and told her that she could achieve whatever she set her sights on. Many voters look for a Horatio Alger candidate – a candidate who proves that she can achieve great things against great odds. Stewart’s academic credentials were impressive. She exuded smartness, but with none of Phelan’s odious aura of entitlement. Stewart was the Sonia Sotomayor of the race (I’m tempted to say that Phelan was the Harriet Myers). I also think a number of people felt that voting for Stewart mitigated their subconscious pangs of liberal guilt over detesting Shiller so much because of Shiller’s singular fixation on the poor to the exclusion of the rest of us. Stewart also represented a treasure trove of diversity for many of us who consider these things when we vote – young, female, credentialed, articulate, part African-American and part Asian-American and openly lesbian. She would have added a perspective and a voice similar to that promised by Ameya Prawar. However, beyond these surface issues, it was the fact that Stewart actually had good and consistent ideas and made you believe that she could turn them into reality that sealed the deal for many Stewart voters. In some ways, Stewart’s story was the antithesis of Scott Baskin’s story. She was not scion of a notable and long-successful upscale family business dynasty and she was not a resident of the premier corporate establishment block of our ward (Hutchinson Street). Stewart’s Uptown-to NYU-Northwestern Law School story was as much a plus for her as Baskin’s Vassar-to-corporate MBA polish might have been for him. Plus, Emily had the best and most sincere smile of all the candidates – she seems authentically to enjoy living her life!

  12. Why did Phelan do so well on February 22? First, there was money. Phelan also had good ballot position and many activists were familiar with her because of her work on Wilson Yards. She also had some pluses for being female and having a classic Irish first and last name. Many of us, when faced with a large field of candidates that we can’t possibly know well, look at some factors that are probably silly. For example, when faced with a slew of judicial candidates about which I know little, especially if there are conflicting recommendations from legal organizations that I respect, I am ashamed to admit that I will sometimes choose the female candidate, or the Jewish candidate or the Irish candidate. I’ve been conditioned to assume that these candidates may have a better judicial temperament because these are the kids I grew up with around Chicago whose life-long goals were to become a respected lawyer or judge. I realize this is rather ridiculous, but it is nevertheless still part of the psychology of many of lakefront voters when faced with multiple choices and indistinct differences.

    A number of Phelan’s accumulated political chits were useless to her. Her association with O’Brien and Berrios and Brendan Reilly did nothing but lose her votes and arouse suspicion. She couldn’t even use the O’Brien and Berrios associations as official endorsements because of the negativity associated with them. These Phelan associations also prompted several major endorsers of Cappleman to double their effort to defeat Phelan (calls from Schakowsky and Steans and Stewart absolutely helped Cappleman win older voters, women voters, some minority and traditional liberal voters). Phelan handled questions about Cappleman’s endorsements in the worst possible manner. When Phelan alleged that these political heavy weights had endorsed Cappleman only because he had given them past campaign contributions, it really pissed these endorsers off. Add that to Phelan supporters’ attacks on these endorsers’ integrity (and several Phelan supporters sour-grapes bad-mouthing of Schakowsky’s husband) and you virtually had an undeclared war by Phelan’s side against the lakefront’s political goliaths. Frankly, the insults to Cappleman’s endorsers may have eliminated Phelan’s chance of ever having a political future on the lakefront.

    There were times that I thought Phelan’s adviser Dave Clarkin was trying to run a Jerry Orbach-style campaign – full-on bulldozer machine tactics, including voter challenges, non-responsive ivory towers of condescension to voters questions and concerns, plastering the ward with signs and dumping negative literature in voters’s mailboxes. Clarkin didn’t understand that the ward isn’t on the old Southwest side, it isn’t what it was in the 1980s when Orbach last ran (and lost to Shiller) and Molly is not Jerry Orbach – particularly since her roots in the ward, as opposed to Orbach’s, struck many as contrived.

  13. Rob,

    I may be underestimating the level of anger in the gay community regarding Campaign Phelan. Campaign Phelan and Candidate Phelan proved largely unwilling to adjust strategy/tactics or admit mistakes. That being said I don't think any ONE issues cost her the election. An eleven point spread is a huge defeat.

    To steal a line from Phelan's attack dog "Yellow Dog Democrat" that's not even close.

    Campaign Phelan's primary mistake was in the strategy they decided to run with back even before she announced. From that point on her defeat was almost preordained.

    Again, they should have largely ignored Cappleman and ran against the "status quo". She should have used the credibility Fix Wilson Yard gave her to portray herself as a Molly of Arc. Instead we got Molly of Burke.

    As a firm believe that Cappleman was the better choice I'm glad Campaign Phelan was run so badly, yet I still recall shaking my head at some of the stupid moves they made.

    As I somewhat stated the $1500 check from Ed Burke should have been hand delivered to an exorcist, burned on the altar at Holy Name Cathedral and the ashes taken to Japan and put into a nuclear reactor.

    The focus on inconsequential differences or minor issues was maddening. The endorsements of Kaplan and JPUSA were desperate moves that likely cost more votes than they garnered. The flyers suggesting Cappleman wanted to close down all shelters citywide were vile. Calling them "shameful shit" doesn't do them justice.

    The truth is after those flyers came out nearly anything that had any tangential ring of truth was fair game to use against Campaign Phelan.

    I found their protestations against the "unfair tactics" amusing. They brought a butter knife to a gun fight and were electorally humiliated because of it.

    Cappleman didn't even need to go negative to win. He did need to do it to show he was tough enough to do it. That put the kabosh on the meme certain Phelan supporters were trying to sell that he was too "meek" to be alderman.

    I suspect they were genuinely surprised when his negative flyers came out. After all he's "meek". They believed their own bullshit and it was the difference between an 11 point loss and maybe a 5-6 point loss.

    This last election was a minor revolution for Uptown.

    Vive la Resistance!

  14. Bear,

    I'm unsure of the phrases or ideas you speak of, but it's entirely possible or even probable that I got those ideas from you or someone else.

    At its best Uptown Update serves as an incubator for thoughts and ideas. Sorta like an Old Country Buffet where the refuse is tossed into the composter to fertilize the neighborhood for change.

    The general idea that Phelan should have run against the machine is something I had well over a year ago. The other ideas probably came from reading UU, watching the campaigns unfold, and just thinking about the whole splendid absurd thing.

  15. IP - wonderful analysis that I think is spot on - although maybe one word can sum up why Molly lost - ARROGANCE.

  16. One more thing that may support what Rob mentioned about the final importance of the gay vote and its assessment of the impact of Phelan's refusal to amend her approach and language on gay issues, or to acknowledge that there could be a problem with her approach. I think Rob may be on to an issue of which, though I was involved in it, I hadn't really considered its electoral impact.

    I learned this evening that the original article about these issues in Windy City Times had a phenomenal number of "hits" in the final weeks of the campaign from readers from all over the area - literally thousands of "hits". I also spoke recently to several who cited the coverage of these issues in WCT, which was also picked up locally by UU and the Wells Park Bulldog (and alluded to in the Sun-Times) and nationally by the Huffington Post and the Advocate, etc. and their perceptions of Molly's reaction as a reason that they donated to Cappleman in the last weeks of the campaign. Anecdotal to some extent, but interesting.

    Who knows what really brought out the vote, but every issue apparently had its own draw for certain groups of voters and contributors.