New York’s Republican Primary and New York Politics, Part 2

This is the second part of two posts analyzing New York’s recent Republican primary. It will focus upon Republican weakness in New York City, as revealed by the primary. The previous part can be found here.

New York City in the Republican Primary

One of the more interesting things about American politics is the rural-urban divide. The weakness of the modern Republican Party in urban areas is quite astounding. Much of this has to do with the history of the American city, especially the way in which many cities have become reservoirs of poor minorities.

The Republican gubernatorial primary constituted a particularly powerful demonstration of Republican weakness in American cities. To illustrate this, let’s look at a map of turn-out in businessman Carl Paladino’s victory over former representative Rick Lazio:

Part 2

More below.

This map shows the vote cast by each county as a percentage of the total vote cast in the primary. Erie County, for instance, cast 46,054 votes in the primary. Since 442,608 people voted in total, the county cast 10.41% of the total primary vote.

The turn-out map reveals some fascinating patterns. The biggest counties in the Republican primary were in Buffalo and Long Island. High number of Republicans also voted in Rochester, Syracuse, and Westchester County (north of New York City).

On the other hand, New York City participation in the Republican gubernatorial primary was dismal. Fewer people voted in the five boroughs combined than in Erie County (Buffalo). More than twice as many people voted in all Long Island than in New York City. In the Bronx, 2358 people decided to participate in the Republican primary. This is in a place where an estimated 1,382,793 people live.

Compare these figures to 2008 presidential election:

Part 2

Here we see New York City punching at something closer to its actual strength. Like a giant magnet, New York City’s population pulls away influence from upstate New York and directs it to itself. Indeed, in the presidential election New York City is four times as important as it was in the 2010 gubernatorial Republican primary – constituting 34.23% of the total vote, compared to 8.58% in the Republican primary.

This really says something about the state of the Republican Party in New York City.

New York City in the General Election

The above two maps do not really hammer in the importance of New York City. Stating that five boroughs hold one-third of a state’s vote is one thing, but actually seeing it is another.

The previous post contained an image of New York in the 2008 presidential election. This map only reflected President Barack Obama’s performance in upstate New York, which he won by the high single digits. Here is a picture of said map:

Part 2

(Note: Edited NYT Image. This map underestimates Mr. Obama’s strength, since it doesn’t include a number of absentee ballots and provisional ballots. Both, especially the absentees, tended to go more Democratic than the national average in 2008.)

This looks good for Mr. Obama. There is a lot of blue here and not a lot of red. In reality, however, most of the territory mapped above actually does not belong to the Democratic base. In a close election, almost all of these counties would go strongly Republican. These are the places that generally voted for Carl Paladino.

The real area of Democratic power is in New York City. Let’s add New York City to the above map:

Part 2

Mr. Obama looks really good here; indeed, the blue margins are so large that it is hard to comprehend their magnitude.

Concluding Thoughts

All in all, the divide between New York City’s importance in the Republican primaries and its importance in the general election is quite amazing. It really points to what the Republican coalition of voters is like today. Cities are almost an afterthought; most Republicans assume they will vote Democratic anyways, and so they don’t even bother to compete.

In some states this can be a wise concession. In most states taking the suburbs and the rural areas – occasionally, winning just the rural areas – is enough to win a state election. Cities are not always necessary to win. On the other hand, they certainly are useful to win elections, especially in a state like New York.

Republican candidate Carl Paladino does not look like he will win the general election. Originally trailing Democratic Attorney General Andrew Cuomo 2-to-1, the Republican national wave has closed this to a high single-digit gap. This, however, will be hard to surmount – for much of the remaining gap lies in winning New York City voters, almost none of whom participated in the primary electorate which chose Mr. Paladino.

New York’s Republican Primary and New York Politics, Part 1

This is the first part of two posts analyzing New York’s recent Republican primary. It will focus upon the upstate-downstate divide revealed by the primary. The next part can be found here.

The 2010 Republican Gubernatorial Primary

On September 14th 2010 the Republican Party held its primary in New York. In the gubernatorial primary, party favorite Rick Lazio was defeated by the Tea Party Candidate: businessman Carl Paladino. Mr. Paladino won a comprehensive victory, with 62% of the vote to Mr. Lazio’s 38%.

In the long run, this primary does not matter much – if at all. By next month the primary will all but be forgotten by even the most politically intense folk. Most Americans probably weren’t even aware that there was a primary in the first place.

Yet, whatever its long-term importance, the primary constitutes a valuable tool for exploring New York’s electoral geography. Mr. Paladino’s victory revealed two interesting facts of New York politics. This post will explore the first one.

The Upstate-Downstate Divide

Picture the state of New York, and most Americans will think of a certain city. This fact has long frustrated the many folks who live in upstate New York – which contains more than seven or eight million people, depending on how one defines upstate.

New York state politics have thus been dominated by the divide between upstate and downstate. Upstate generally votes Republican on a local level; downstate votes heavily Democratic. The divide is also apparent in the battle over whether resources are to be spent upstate or in New York City.

On the presidential level, this pattern is relatively hard to discern:

Part 1

A look at upstate New York in the 2008 presidential election shows President Barack Obama dominating. While downstate New York casts an extremely Democratic ballot,  upstate New York also votes for the blue side.

Indeed, Democrats have actually won upstate New York for the past five elections. This table indicates how New York has voted in several recent elections:

Part 1

Only in 1988 does Governor Mike Dukakis lose the upstate vote, and even then Mr. Dukakis does fairly respectably. (Note: This table includes suburban Westchester and Rockland County as part of upstate; an alternative definition may not do so). Thus, it is somewhat difficult to find a difference between upstate and downstate New York when looking at presidential elections.

This was not the case with New York’s Republican gubernatorial primary. Here is a map of the results:

Part 1

This is a tremendous regional divide. Upstate New York votes overwhelmingly for Mr. Paladino, while downstate gives Mr. Lazio a strong vote, despite his overall poor performance. Indeed, in Erie County (Buffalo) Mr. Paladino actually got 93% of the vote. On the other hand, Long Island Suffolk County gave his opponent two-thirds of its support.

Not surprisingly, Mr. Paladino’s home is located in Buffalo, while Mr. Lazio represented a congressional district in central Long Island. Mr. Lazio was also born in Suffolk County. His long history with downstate New York led to considerable discontent upstate, and constituted one factor behind its landslide rejection of Mr. Lazio.

There is one final thing that must be noted, however. While Mr. Paladino definitely looks like a winner under the map above, the 3:2 split may look strange to seasoned observers of New York politics. Mr. Lazio, after all, is winning both New York City and its suburbs. Manhattan, Brooklyn, and Queens are supporting him by double-digits – while he is running very strongly in Long Island.

Democrats have won New York with similar maps. Here is one such map:

Part 1

As it turns out, Mr. Lazio would have indeed done a bit better under general election circumstances. That is, if Mr. Lazio had won the same percent of the vote in each county in the 2008 presidential election, he would have gained 40% of the vote. This is not an enormous change, but in a close election it means the difference between victory and defeat.

This seeming contradiction lies at the heart of another interesting truth that New York’s Republican primary revealed: namely, that Republicans do not exist in New York City. The next post will explore this strange phenomenon.

No Sleep till Brooklyn: Why Bill Thompson isn’t Mayor(-elect)

A few threads back, there was a lively discussion about voting patterns in Brooklyn, and how that impacted the 2009 mayoral race.

Thanks to David who worked his lawyerly Freedom-of-Information magic, we got some precinct results to look at.

I compared Thompson’s performance to Obama’s performance, and the results are pretty stark as to where the areas of relative strength are for each candidate.

So the baselines first:

Obama beat McCain by 59.27%; he earned 79.34% to McCain’s 20.07%. 2,613,944 total votes were cast.

Thompson lost to Bloomberg by 4.38%; he earned 46.33% to Bloombo’s 50.71%. 1,154,505 votes were cast, meaning turnout was 44% of 2008 turnout.

Maps (what else do I post here?) and more over the flip.

So here are Obama and Thompson’s absolute performances in the city.

Obama’s performance we already knew about, but a few striking aspects of Thompson’s performance:

  • Upper East Siders lurve them some Bloombo.

  • Whites in the Bronx voted for Bloomberg.

  • Hispanics voted mostly for Thompson (though not to the levels they voted for Freddy Ferrer, I would posit).

  • Blacks stayed strongly loyal to Thompson, with slight drop-offs visible in Brooklyn and East Queens.

  • Staten Island stayed Staten Island.

More interestingly, here is a comparison of Obama and Thompson’s absolute performances. A more intense blue indicates a stronger Obama performance; a deeper red indicates a stronger Thompson performance.

Obviously, most of the map is some shade of blue, since Obama’s margin was 63.65% greater than Thompson’s. Even given this, there are still two visible clusters of red in Brooklyn: Williamsburg and Borough Park. Thompson still lost these precincts by a decent margin, but he improved over Obama despite the tide moving 64% in the other direction. I took this as evidence of the Hasidic Jewish community’s growing dislike of Bloomberg, which had been mentioned a few times before the election.

On the flipside, as you would expect, Manhattan and Brooklyn Heights are home to the Obama-Bloomberg voters, especially on the Upper East and West Sides, in Midtown, and down in the Financial District.

The lighter shades of blue are in East Queens and Central Brooklyn – mostly majority-black precincts that went strongly for both.

Another interesting cluster of these, though, is on the South Shore of Staten Island; Thompson’s performance didn’t fall all that much off from Obama’s (admittedly already weak) performance there. It seems there, though, that the voters are more reflexively Republican than those in Southern Brooklyn, where Obama seemed to be a particularly bad fit. (backup evidence: Stephen Cymbrowitz and Carl Kruger are elected from those areas in Brooklyn. Southern Staten Island elects two Republicans to the Assembly/Senate, Lou Tobacco and Andrew Lanza).

Alternatively, this can be shown in graph form. Obama’s margin on the x-axis; Thompson’s on the y-axis.

Now any monkey could have told you generally a stronger Obama performance is correlated with a stronger Thompson performance, but the exceptions to that general rule are evident here as well. The large cluster of green on the bottom right are those previously mentioned Manhattan precincts, while the dispersed red dots towards the middle and lower left are the Brooklyn precincts in which Thompson actually improved. (Incidentally, yellow represents Staten Island, orange for the Bronx, and blue for Queens). The bright green line is the even-performance line.

Now two more maps of interest, each candidate’s performance relative to their citywide cumulative total (Obama first, then Thompson).

Obama did well throughout the city, a strong Obama performance was the norm. You don’t see many places darker than light blue, simply because you can’t get more than 100% of the vote! Where Obama underperformed, he really underperformed. You see this in Suburban Queens and also Middle Village/Maspeth, and of course Southern Brooklyn and Staten Island.

Thompson’s performance really varied much more. He overperformed in many places, and underperformed in many places as well; these deviations are of much more equal magnitude. Again, as we’ve realized, Thompson’s weakest area was the Upper East Side.

So all this poses the question, what happened?

Well, in three words, Thompson’s turnout problem.

Conventional wisdom dictates that minorities (who are actually a majority in NYC) turn out less in general. While this may or may not be true, I normalized and considered 2009 turnout as a percentage of 2008 turnout.

The results, first at the precinct level. The same color codes apply as before for borough. Turnout as a percentage of 2008 turnout is expressed on the x-axis; the Thompson-Bloomberg margin on the y-axis. (Turnout dropped most in the Bronx, in case you’re wondering.)

You see a general effect of center left to lower right, suggesting stronger Bloomberg performances being correlated with greater turnout. This effect is even more pronounced when we consolidate to an assembly district level:

It’s not pretty. For you stats geeks out there, the correlation on that bad boy is -0.77. Ouch.

Incidentally, that one AD with the lowest drop-off? None other than Dov Hikind’s 48th AD. Turnout there was lower there in 2008, but those that voted in 2008 were most likely to have voted again in 2009.

As a parting thought, take solace (or anguish) in this: if turnout had dropped to the 44% figure I mentioned at the start equally across the city, Thompson would have won, 49.16% to 48.00%.

Having arrived at Brooklyn, I’m going to sleep. I realize I owe you a proposed set of New York Senate districts. I just need to write the diary. I’ll get around to it…eventually.

New York City runoff thread

The runoffs for New York City Comptroller and Public Advocate take place tomorrow. Up for election are John Liu and David Yassky for Comptroller and Bill de Blasio and Mark Green for Public Advocate. Who are you voting for and why?

I plan to vote for John Liu, despite some misgivings based on Yassky’s campaign, which has accused Liu of lying about various things:

Yassky, who came in second with 30% of the vote in [the] four-way primary, cited Liu’s disputed claim that he caught the MTA using two sets of books.

He also knocked Liu for saying he returned questionable campaign donations and toiled in a sweatshop as a child – which was contradicted by his own parents and others.

(Source: “Controller hopefuls John Liu, David Yassky sling mud in debate”)

My main problem with Yassky relates to his campaign’s behavior toward me. I have detailed two attempts to persuade me to vote for him, in the guise of supposed opinion polls. I haven’t yet mentioned the constant barrage of emails (I mean just about every day and sometimes multiple emails a day) that I’ve gotten – unsolicited – from Mr. Yassky’s campaign, with titles such as “[x] Days to Victory.” I’m truly unsure of how his campaign got my email address but would strongly suggest to any politician or campaign worker who’s reading that politicians not send emails to non-constituents who never contacted them. (Sending an email through an organization they belong to is fine, though, so that if, say, wants to support a candidate and that candidate sends an email explicitly through MoveOn to MoveOn’s members, they can take it or leave it but have little reason to be perturbed with the candidate.) Because of these personal experiences, I find it very difficult to get past the feeling that Yassky is overly power-hungry and given to sleazy and overly intrusive campaign practices, but I can understand why someone might consider such a highly-endorsed man a superior candidate.

Breaking away now from personal comments, here are some from Mr. Liu:

Liu then hurled some mud himself, bashing his opponent as “three-headed Yassky” for changing positions on key issues like term limits.

“People who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones,” Liu said.

Yassky originally opposed Mayor Bloomberg’s bid to have the Council let him seek a third term, but then cast a crucial vote in favor of it.

For the record, I am opposed to all term limits as undemocratic, though the process by which the City Council annulled the results of two referenda is objectionable and certainly a legitimate issue. But if it’s OK for Yassky to go back on his word in regard to term limits, is it really important whether the labor Mr. Liu did as a child was in a sweatshop or not? I’m not sure which of these things might be really important in predicting either candidate’s performance and honesty as Comptroller.

As for Public Advocate, I believe my choice is simpler, in that Mark Green has already served in the role and I felt that he did a good job in it. I have nothing in particular against Bill de Blasio except that I’m not so sure a member of the City Council is generally best to serve in that job. Rather, it seems to me that whoever is good at using a bully pulpit for the benefit of the people – and not for the benefit of the Mayor or City Council, who can already advocate for themselves – is really the best candidate for Public Advocate. I don’t mean to suggest that a member of the City Council couldn’t be the best candidate for the job or do well in it, but neither do I see an important reason not to vote for Mr. Green, and Mr. de Blasio’s City Council membership seems to me a weak additional argument against him, in a situation in which I think I’ll probably approve of either man’s performance if elected.

That said, I understand the argument that Green may be seeking the job of Public Advocate in order to try to win the Mayoralty through the back door, and my feeling is that the solution for this is to make the City Council President next in line for Mayor. It’s a much more similar job, although not subject to city-wide election. I’m not even sure that Public Advocate is an important enough position not to abolish, but given its very circumscribed powers, it certainly is poor preparation for Mayor.  

New York County District Attorney Race

Here in New York City, we’re being deluged with direct mail, not only for Mayor (why doesn’t Bloomberg just save his money, since we all know him, and he’s gonna win, anyway?) but for lower offices, such as Comptroller and DA. This diary will be about the candidates for DA.

There are three candidates in the Democratic primary for New York County DA: Cy Vance, Richard Aborn, and Leslie Crocker Snyder. Amazingly, no-one is running on the Republican line.

Cy Vance, the son of the former Secretary of State under Carter, is endorsed by the New York Times, apparently the Daily News (“Vance stands well above his rivals”), and an array of New York City politicos and activists, including Caroline Kennedy, former Mayor David Dinkins, Gloria Steinem, and Congresswoman Nydia Velazquez, but probably most importantly, the legendary outgoing DA, Robert Morgenthau, who calls him the “best qualified” for the job.

Richard Aborn, endorsed by Bill Bratton – the former brilliant NYPD Commissioner, hired early in Giuliani’s administration and eventually forced out because his extremely successful crime-fighting ways made him too popular for Giuliani’s liking – and my congressman, Jerry Nadler, among others, is making reforming the Rockefeller Drug Laws (here’s a critical look at them) his main campaign plank. In his direct mail, he calls for:

treat[ing] substance abuse as a public health problem, not just a criminal one[, providing] drug treatment for non-violent offenders who have a substance abuse problem[, and…]providing retroactive sentencing relief to non-violent offenders still incarcerated under obsolete laws[.]

He doesn’t make clear in the mailing or in the relevant section of his website how he would be able to reform laws as New York County DA, but it seems clear that he would use his “judicial discretion to divert non-violent, low-level drug offenders into treatment programs rather than sentencing them to state prison.”

Finally, there is Leslie Crocker Snyder, a former Judge of the New York City Criminal Court (appointed by Mayor Ed Koch and reappointed by David Dinkins) and New York Court of Claims (appointed by Republican Governor George Pataki) and longtime attorney.

Based on her direct mail, her campaign seems to be an attempt at frightening people into voting for her. In 2005, she tried to beat DA Morgenthau by arguing that he was too old and she should replace him almost just because she is younger. It seemed that everyone who knew and worked with him said that he was extremely sharp mentally and worked long hours tirelessly, so Snyder’s strategy backfired, and she was heavily defeated. Now that the position is open, she appears to consider Cy Vance her main opponent, and seems to be once again trying to get in through sleazy methods. She is sending a 4-page direct mail brochure. On the first page, there is an ugly, mirror-image photograph of what is supposed to look like New York in the bad old days. The text on top of the page says as follows (in all caps):


On the second page:


On the third page:


The brochure details two of the criminals he defended, as if their crimes reflect badly on him as a defense lawyer. This is demagogic in the extreme. As Vance said to Snyder in an excerpt from a debate that took place on New York 1 TV (I didn’t hear the whole debate):

I believe that everybody in this country deserves the right to a fair trial, particularly those who are presupposed guilty like the individual in the Sudafed case. I took on that case in a court-appointed capacity. I believe that is the job of a defense lawyer to protect people and to make sure the government proves its case. Now if you believe otherwise, you shouldn’t be running for this job.

My inclination is to vote for Aborn, based on his strong position on the drug laws, which have caused almost incalculable waste in money and human lives, but if I find out that this is really a two-person race between the other candidates, I will vote for Vance without hesitation in order to keep Crocker Snyder out.

I’d welcome your opinions about this race, and any polling data you may have come across.

Did Democrats peak in the NYC suburbs?

Until 20 years ago the suburbs around New York City were strongly Republican. Now they are strongly Democratic. In the area I would consider the NYC metro area there are 30 Congressional Districts. These are NY-(01-19), NJ-(04-13), and CT-04. (I know, it’s debatable what is and what isn’t.) Only 5 of the 30 are represented by Republicans: NY-03, NJ-05, NJ-11, NJ-07, and NJ-04. Amazingly, there are 6 districts in this area that have a PVI of D+30 or better.

All across the country, suburbs are trending Democratic. Older suburbs are now reliably Democratic. However it looks like some of the suburban areas around New York City may have peaked in around 2000. Some of these “traditionally Republican” areas may be trending Republican again.

For a reference to the names of counties, see this map provided by Wikipedia.

The Bad News

County 2000 2004 2008
Staten Island 50/42 43/56 48/52
Nassau County 56/36 52/47 54/45
Suffolk County 52/39 49/49 53/47
Rockland County 54/37 49/50 53/47
Bergen County 55/42 52/47 54/45
Sussex County 37/58 35/64 39/59
Monmouth County 50/46 45/55 47/51
Ocean County 47/49 39/60 40/58

The Good News

County 2000 2004 2008
Westchester County 57/35 58/40 63/36
Orange County 45/47 44/55 52/47
Fairfield County 52/43 51/47 59/40
Essex County 71/26 70/29 76/23
Somerset County 47/50 47/52 53/46
Morris County 43/54 42/58 45/53
Hunterdon County 38/57 39/60 43/56
Mercer County 61/34 61/38 67/31

Some of the biggest Democratic losses at the presidential level from 2000 to 2004 came from the suburban counties around New York City. It’s tempting to dismiss these as short-term losses, and blame them on September 11. But we did worse in some of these counties in 2008 than in 2000, so this could be the beginning of a long-term trend. If we don’t take it seriously it could eventually cost us elections.

NY-13 and NY-03 currently have PVI‘s of about D+1. After they are recalculated to consider 2008 results, they will probably be about R+4.

Of the 5 Republican-held districts, we should strongly contest these 2 in 2010:

NY-03 will be an open race in 2010. Its Republican incumbent, Peter King, will vacate the seat in order to unsuccessfully run for the Senate. This race is a toss-up, depending on what the political situation is like in 2010. It’s tempting to take it for granted, because Tim Bishop and Steve Israel were able to flip NY-01 and NY-02 earlier this decade. If we win it’s because we had an excellent candidate and and excellent campaign that earned every last vote.

Meanwhile, Republican-held district NJ-07 is trending in our direction. NJ-07 was designed to be Republican, but now it’s a swing district that Obama won. I’m on the record stating we should try again in 2010 to win NJ-07.

Cross-posted to Daily Kos.