The Challenge Facing Garcia

Published on Author Scott KennedyLeave a comment

The CBOE has updated their election results twice already to include valid late arriving vote by mail votes. They will update on March 10th with final numbers that will include any further late arriving VBM votes and any provisional votes that are deemed valid. There will be some more votes added in before these numbers are finalized and certified but not a huge amount. Here’s where the totals stand as of now:

Emanuel Garcia Wilson Fioretti Walls Total
217,118 159,600 50,604 35,241 13,190 475,753
45.64% 33.55% 10.64% 7.41% 2.77%

Using round numbers there were about 475K total votes in this race and just shy of 100,000 people (99,035) voted for one of the candidates that did not qualify for the runoff. Those votes are in play and we discussed them in detail the other day.

Let’s assume for a second that everyone who voted for each of Emanuel and Garcia last month votes again in April and for the same candidate. With that assumption Emanuel starts with a lead of almost 58K votes (57,518) that Garcia needs to make up, and obviously the most fertile ground to find those votes is among the people who voted for either Wilson/Fioretti/Walls because they’ve already turned out for an election once this year. Now let’s also assume that of the voters who voted for either Wilson, Fioretti or Walls back in February at least some of them decide to stay home in April because they just don’t favor either candidate in the runoff. There comes a point where if that number gets sufficiently large then Emanuel doesn’t have to win over any new voters to win the runoff, he could theoretically win the runoff by holding his existing coalition among an April electorate that has shrunk from the February electorate.

Garcia has to keep these Wilson/Fioretti/Walls voters in the April electorate and voting. If 42% of them don’t turn out in April then Garcia can’t win without expanding the electorate in other places. Even if the Wilson/Fioretti/Walls voters lean moderately to heavily anti-incumbent he has to win them over and turn them out, of those roughly 100K votes he has to get the first 58K and then do no worse than split the rest.

Other Options – Expand the Electorate

The next and possibly more difficult option is to try to expand the electorate. As we saw last week, historically runoff elections in Chicago have lower turnout than the February election. This is our first runoff election for Mayor in the modern era so perhaps this runoff will behave differently. If Garcia is going to be able to expand the electorate in his favor these are his most likely avenues:

  1. Natural Growth – there is a plausible theory that now that the Mayor’s aura of invincibility has been pierced voters who are displeased with his first administration but did not think their vote would matter will turn out this time around. There will also likely be a subset of voters who favor the Mayor who have the same rationale, however given the anti-incumbent mood displayed by the voters in February overall this likely favors Garcia. It’s impossible to know how large this natural growth could be and it will mostly be organic and not necessarily as a result of any particular GOTV effort by the campaigns.
  2. Hispanic Voters – Garcia’s strongest subset in February was with Hispanic voters so his best chance to expand the electorate in his favor for April is in this subgroup. Garcia faces two difficult challenges here: 1) Hispanics are generally registered at lower rates than other subgroups and turnout can often be mixed at best. Of the 10 wards with the fewest ballots cast in February 9 were majority Hispanic population wards. Of the 12 wards with the poorest turnout percentage in February 6 were majority Hispanic population wards, 5 were majority AA wards and the remaining one had no majority. 2) While Garcia won a majority of Hispanic voters in February Emanuel held his own (56-34). Even if Garcia wins the support of all of the Hispanics who voted for Wilson/Fioretti/Walls in February he’s still only netting 32 votes for every 100 new people he turns out. If he was going to try to make up his entire 58K deficit here he’d have to turn out 181K new Hispanic voters, only 73K people living in majority Hispanic census tracts turned out in February. The math here isn’t easy.
  3. Disaffected Liberals – According to Politico “Democracy for America and MoveOn.org, are partnering on field efforts, and the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, is raising money for the cash-starved Garcia”. Looking at the breakdown of February’s results by demographic data if large numbers of disaffected liberals exist it’s not easy to identify them based on demographic profiles. Emanuel won majority white census tracts outright and the higher an area’s income and/or the higher the percentage of college graduates the more likely that area was to support Emanuel. Perhaps these experienced groups have found the formula for identifying and motivating like minded individuals. More likely Garcia’s best hope for finding and turning out disaffected liberals is that DFA and MoveOn have lengthy member lists in the area and they can put an effective member to member contact program together.
  4. Organized Labor – it’s clear that the Chicago Teacher’s Union will go all out for Garcia, CTU appears to have taken a big step forward this cycle, and CPS is on Spring Break the week of the April election so they’ll have a tremendous opportunity to activate their members on election day. After that though, it gets a bit murky. The politically experienced Service Employees International Union was neutral in the primary and while they’ve publicly said they would reevaluate getting involved in the runoff they also seem to be going through some internal division within the union and it’s hard to predict what they will do. Then you get to the building trades and while the conventional wisdom is that the unions are generally united in opposing Emanuel many people forget that many of the building trades actually endorsed Emanuel. In February Emanuel did poorest with the less affluent voters and the unions are historically the best at member to member communications so the opportunity for Garcia here is real, it’s just not clear that organized labor is as united in opposing Emanuel as people seem to think they are.
  5. Others – Wilson did best with AA voters, almost 80% of his votes came from areas with AA majority population, so an endorsement from him could be a boost but somehow his endorsement has taken on a life of its own and become a bit of a side show. Fioretti appeared to do best with blue collar white voters, among voters living in majority white precincts with a median household income between $60,000 – $100,000 Fioretti’s support was twice as strong where less than 40% of the population had a bachelor’s degree than the areas where more than 40% had a bachelor’s degree. If Fioretti can be of any help to Garcia it’s likely among this group.

Garcia has momentum on his side and a mathematically plausible path to victory, but the math for him isn’t easy. Looking at his February numbers there is no one subgroup where he had sufficient support to have a clear focus, if he is going to emerge victorious it seems like it will require a multifaceted approach. If the size of the runoff electorate in April shrinks as has historically been the case then Emanuel moves closer to victory simply by holding his current coalition together. Garcia has to find the raw votes to make up that difference, either by winning over the supporters of other candidates or turning out new voters. Early voting starts two weeks from Monday, the clock is ticking.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *