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Tim Myers: Too many puzzle pieces for Boydston to win this April

Posted: January 22, 2010 5:17 p.m.
Updated: January 24, 2010 4:55 a.m.
When many people object to my election prognostications wherein I take the safe road and predict victories for incumbent office-holders, they state that I could not possibly know what will happen in any particular election. I agree with that assertion.

I cannot possibly know the final vote count. However, from looking at the results of past elections I can form predictions concerning what must happen for a single non-incumbent to best one of the incumbents, and then draw conclusions concerning the likelihood of that.

So let us examine the elections of 2002 and 2006, when our three incumbents — Marsha McLean, Frank Ferry and Laurene Weste — were reelected.  A few interesting things to note, but first a few explanations:

In a City Council election, one can divide the votes between those cast for incumbents and those cast for nonincumbents when all the incumbents seek reelection.

So arithmetic dictates that a challenger can only win if:

* The incumbents receive fewer votes as a group

* The challengers receive more votes as a group

* The strongest challenger polls a higher percentage of the votes cast for non-incumbents

The 2006 election contained 11 names on the ballot (the same number contained on the 2010 probable ballot) while the 2004 election contained 12 names.

In both elections the three incumbents received vote amounts to approximately 50 percent of the votes cast.

Now the similarities begin to break down. In 2002, Jan Heidt, a former founding City Council member, came in fourth by polling just under 500 votes fewer than the third-place finisher. Heidt polled 29 percent of the votes not cast for incumbents.

In 2006, though they actually received fewer votes than in 2002, the incumbents secured a stronger victory since Mark Hershey, a local sheriff’s deputy, came in fourth by just under 1,000 votes, polling 26 percent of the votes cast for nonincumbents.

Also, the incumbents in 2006 split their votes nearly equally, so no weak incumbent exists for targeting.

So let us examine some models for a TimBen Boydston victory. First scenario: The vote counts replicate from 2006 and Boydston fights it out with the other nonincumbent candidates for the nonincumbent votes.

In this scenario, Boydston needs 5,500 votes to win a seat, or 34 percent of the non-incumbent vote. This marks an 18 percent increase in share of votes over a former long-serving City Council member, hardly the most likely thing to happen.

Scenario Two: Last August when I ran into Boydston at Legoland, he told me “many people” were dissatisfied with the incumbents.

So let’s say the incumbents poll a combined 1,000 fewer votes. In this case, Boydston needs 5,200 votes to win, still 31 percent of the non-incumbent votes, or a 9 percent increase over the close finish by Heidt.

Scenario Three; The incumbents poll 1,000 fewer votes and the challengers either receive those votes or find 1,000 new voters. In this case TimBen can win with 5,200 votes but with the increased poll needs 29% of the nonincumbent votes, equal to the accomplishment of Heidt in 2002.

Scenario Four: The incumbents not only receive 1,000 fewer votes, but the challengers steal those votes and get 1,000 new votes into the mix. In this case, Boydston’s 5,200 votes needed for victory constitute only 28 percent of the non-incumbent votes — within the realm of possibility but certainly still difficult.

Now how likely can the challengers achieve this result of moving the vote totals in their favor?

Despite the many complaints concerning the incumbents, I do not get the vibe that the complainers are not the 50.3 percent who did not vote for them in 2006 anyway. This leaves the possibility of expanding the turnout.

Nothing the current candidates do reveals anything extremely creative in this area. Boydston allegedly holds meet-and-greets at supermarkets, where best estimates would indicate running into a registered voter who actually votes in city elections at one in 20.

David Gauny started a business survey initiative utilizing the e-mail list from the SCV Chamber of Commerce and claiming a seat on the Chamber’s Economic Development Committee, but folks favoring the incumbents started a whisper campaign downplaying this involvement with the soft slander they only tolerate Gauny’s presence.

I will stick by my prediction that the incumbents will sweep back into office and this race will turn into a question of who gets Bob Kellar’s seat in 2012. More on that next week.

Tim Myers is a Valencia resident. His column reflects his own views and not necessarily those of The Signal. “Myers’ Musings” appears Sundays in The Signal.


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