Conventional Wisdom Wins in California June Election
This is the second open primary that California voters faced, and what I, personally, have learned from it is that voter behavior was pretty much like in a regular primary.
♦ Name Recognition Matters Greatly
Incumbents and candidates with generic names did particularly well. My guess is that Helen Foster‘s 2nd placing in the Alameda County Superintendent race was due greatly to her name. Similarly, there can be no explanation for either Leland Yee or Mary Hayashi placing third in the races, ahead of other candidates, beyond name recognition.
♦ Ballot Designation Matters
The best explanation for why unknown Republican candidate David Evans is currently in a three-way-tie for second place in the Controller’s race with Democrats John Perez and Betty Yee, is that his ballot designation was as “Chief Financial Officer”. His generic name probably helped as well. Indeed, Helen Foster might also have been helped by choosing the ballot designation “Teacher” rather than the “Educator” chosen by two of her losing competitors.
♦ Don’t Neglect Your Ballot Statement
I’m betting that Assembly Speaker John Perez’ poor showing in the Controller’s race is due to his lack of a candidate statement in the voter information pamphlet. For many voters that’s the only source of information about a race.
Incumbents, even those who faced well-funded and/or well-known opponents, fared very well this June. It’s probably correlated with a low-information electorate.
♦ Republicans will vote for Republican candidates and Democrats for Democratic candidates
While there has been much speculation about moderate Republicans and Democrats crossing party lines to help elect candidates with closer views to their own or just to play games, this doesn’t seem to have happened. Only in districts with very high Democratic registration are we seeing 2 Democrats face each other in the general election. Thus the prediction that you would have 2 Democrats in the CD 11 and 15, AD 16 and 25 and SD 10 races did not come to fruition.
♦ You have to be a Democrat or Republican to win (added)
With the rise of declined-to-state voter registrations in California, and an open primary that allows the top-two candidates, regardless of party, to advance to the November general election, there was much speculation that independent candidates finally got a chance. Voters made it clear that they don’t. Dan Schnur a former Republican strategist and head of the FPPC, took a chance by listing himself as NPP or “no party preference” in his run for Secretary of State and he came out below Leland Yee despite endorsements from major newspapers. All the buzz behind spiritual author Marianne Williamson and her high name recognition still could not overcome her running as an NPP.
♦ Negative Campaigning and Lying About Your Opponent Works
The research says otherwise, but all the dirty campaigning we saw in Alameda county seems to have worked.
♦ Polls are Wrong
Not many polls were released around here, but the ones released in the CD 17 race had Mike Honda capturing a much smaller percentage of the vote. Swalwell did not release his polls, but given that and the fact that he went after his Democratic opponent Ellen Corbett viciously, one can speculate that they didn’t have him winning by such a large margin either. Mary Hayashi claimed she had a poll that showed her getting the majority of the votes, though that was before her shoplifting video was released.
You and many others have repeatedly under-estimated Swalwell’s intelligence, campaign skills and political savviness. You have done this once again. Far more likely is Swalwell’s polls showed the Corbett was running a weak second. He sought to make sure she finished a weak second. And his critical ad and mailing piece was so effective that Swalwell may have his ideal match up for November – running against a Republican. Swalwell saw an opportunity and jumped on it – just as he saw an opportunity two years ago when he became the first Democrat to challenge Stark in decades. Swalwell takes calculated risks – and works incredibly hard – bringing him tremendous success.
Stephen, don’t get me wrong. I think Swalwell is the ultimate campaigner. He has one goal and one goal only, to be in Congress. And he is unincumbered by either ethics or an actual political philosophy, so I would say that he is a campaigning machine. That said, those very strengths of him can be weaknesses – and I think you will see them exploited by whoever challenges him in 2018.
Because Swalwell is a good campaigner, I have no doubt that if the polls showed that Corbett was that weak he would have released them. That would have further weakened her campaign, labor won’t put money and effort into a candidate that has no chance and her volunteers and voters would have been discouraged. He could have further help bolster the Republican candidate – though I imagine he feared he couldn’t do that, without putting himself at risk. In any case, Republicans got a 38% share of the vote in 2010 vs a 26% share this time.