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As Long as We Remember...

September 19, 2006

Numbers Tell A Confusing Tale

George Wenschhof

The primary is over-so. So what do the results tell us? The rush is on by the survivors to tell us why their victory will propel them to victory in the General Election on November 7.

Locally we had an abysmal total turnout of around 29 per cent of the registered Democrat and Republican voters. Independents were not able to vote and they are about 20 percent of the total in Frederick County.

Let's take a look at some numbers from the county commissioner race. This contest to date has arguably focused on growth issues. Voters from the Republican and Democratic parties were asked to select the five candidates that would be representing their political party in the General Election.

On the Democrats side, only four candidates were on the ballot; so by default they all move along. But let us look at the numbers anyway and see if they tell us anything. Without including the absentee ballots, 13,259 votes were cast of the 45,580 registered voters, which is 29.1%

On the Republican side, with 14 candidates, their voters were making critical votes to decide which five candidates would represent them in November. There were 16,082 votes of the 56,735 registered Republicans, which is 28.3%.

The first observation is that 2,823 more Republicans voted than Democrats.

The second observation is that if each voter exercised their right to vote for five candidates on the Republican side the total number of votes would have been 16,082 X 5 = 80,410. There were 64,962 votes counted in the commissioner's race, which is 80.7 per cent.

If each voter on the Democrat side exercised their right to vote for all four candidates, the total number of votes would have been 13,259 X 4 = 53,036. There were 34,674 votes counted which is 65.3 percent.

So, there were more "under votes" by the Democrats in an uncontested primary than there were by Republicans in a contested election.

Now, let us take a look at the individual candidates who will be going on to the General Election and the number of votes they received from the total number of voters who went to the polls last week.

On the Democrat side:

                            Total Voters                 Candidate Total 

Jan Gardner 13,259 10,427 = 78.60 %

Kai Hagen 13,259 8,698 = 65.69 %

Richard Floyd 13,259 8,043 = 60.19 %

Ron Wolf 13,259 7,511 = 56.60 %

On the Republican side:

Total Voters Candidate Total

Mike Cady 16,082 7,173 = 44.6 %

John Lovell 16,082 7,169 = 44.6 %

John Thompson 16,082 6,946 = 43.2 %

Charles Jenkins 16,082 6,719 = 41.8 %

David Gray 16,082 6,689 = 41.6 %

Now the spin begins from the candidates and the Democratic and Republican parties.

The Frederick News-Post reported there was "Heavy Democratic Support" because fourth place finisher Ron Wolf on the Democrat side had received 338 more votes than incumbent Mike Cady, who had received the most votes on the Republican side. Alderman Donna Kuzemchak-Ramsburg, a Democrat, was quoted in the same article as saying: "It seems to me we have a great chance (to get a board majority)."

However, Republicans could counter that Ron Wolf only received 56.6% of the Democrat votes cast in an uncontested primary; so it would appear he has his work cut out for him in the general. Republicans could also argue that you can not compare apples and oranges in the vote count for they had a contested primary and also had over 2800 more Republicans vote than the Democrats. On all counts, they would be right.

The Republican primary did follow an old political rule of thumb which is that incumbents have an edge in a primary with a large number of candidates due to their name recognition. All three incumbents moved onto the General Election. Yet, first time Republican candidates Billy Shreve, Joan McIntyre, Micky Fyock, Edward Lulie, and Elaine Kessinger fared very well.

It is very hard to establish trends in a primary; but in this election it will be argued as to whether the candidates are "pro-growth" or "no- growth". On the Democrat side it will be said that all the candidates are "no- growth." On the Republican side, three candidates, Mike Cady, John Lovell, and Charles Jenkins tend to be associated with pro-growth positions while John "Lennie" Thompson and David Gray are associated with no-growth positions.

All four incumbents received the top votes from their respective political parties. Two are considered pro-growth and two are considered no-growth.

So, if this voting trend continues, the balance of the board composition would be determined by the fifth county commissioner elected by the voters. Republican Charles Jenkins is the lone pro-growth candidate out of the remaining candidates and I contend he will pick up votes with the success of Chuck Jenkins, Republican candidate for sheriff - same last name but no relation.

The aforementioned numbers were provided just to let you look at them in a different manner. Kai Hagen spent the most of any Democrat candidate in the primary; but he received only 66% of the vote and came in second, 13 points behind Jan Gardner. Does this indicate he is not connecting with the Democrat voters, or is it because of a non-contested primary? Perhaps some voters did not like the non-partisan approach Kai was taking as well.

It will also be interesting to see if any bi-partisan slates are developed for the General Election. The prospect of having non-partisan elections for county commissioners in Frederick County is a topic that is again receiving attention.

Many positions will be argued as to the results of this primary. However, the only thing we know for sure is that the next board of county commissioners will come from these nine candidates.

The number of Democrat and Republican voters will double for the November vote, with about a 60 to 62% turnout of all registered voters. Also the Independents (Declines here in Frederick County) will weigh in. Independent voting in past elections is about 40%. So the results in the general will not necessarily mirror the primary results.

Some theorize more liberal-leaning voters on the Democrat side and more conservative-leaning voters from the Republican side vote in primary elections. They say the vote will change dramatically in the general as voters come closer to the middle of the political spectrum.

Regardless of how a candidate or political party tries to spin the results of this primary for county commissioner, the decision as to how the next board is made up rests with the voters.

Voters need to elect five county commissioners who will work to bring all segments of the community together in planning the future of Frederick County. We need to put to an end the divisive "Us against Them" politics so obvious over the past four years. The residents of Frederick County deserve better.

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