Tuesday, November 14, 2017

3 Special Elections In Oklahoma Today-- Keep Your Hopes High... But Your Expectations Low

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"Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a harder battle."
-Plato
It's election day in Oklahoma today... well sort of. There are 3 special elections, 2 state senate seats and one state House seat. Some Democrats-- naive Democrats-- seem to think blue-leaning Virginia can be replicated in deep red Oklahoma. That's not likely. In fact, if the three Democrats were to win today, it would signal a massive anti-Republican revolution in their own heartland, a revolution that no one is predicting. On the other hand, Oklahoma Dems have picked up a couple of state legislative seats in special elections this year. The seat in the Oklahoma City metro (SD-45-- parts of Canadian, Cleveland and Oklahoma counties) is pretty red and last year the Democrats didn't even run a candidate against arch-conservative Kyle Loveless who quickly resigned for embezzling funds and committing perjury.

The race pits Republican Paul Rosino against Democrat Steven Vincent. As of the October 30 reporting deadline Rosino had raised $133,010 and Vincent $46,460. Normally, turnout is very low in these kinds of local special elections, which is good news for Vincent since he's running a highly organized campaign geared towards getting every possible Democratic and Democratic-leaning voter to the polls. If Rosino loses tonight, it will be clear that voters are extremely upset with the way the Republicans are running the state. Vincent appears to have done everything he could have done to win. If he doesn’t win in the current political climate, deep red districts like this in Oklahoma are still just a bridge too far.

The two other races are in the Tusla area. State Senate district 37 is southwest of the city and includes Sand Springs and Prattville. In 2016 Dan Newberry beat Democrat Lloyd Snow 17,671 (55.70%) to 12,729 (40.12%). In June, Newberry announced he was retiring to get a better job. Democrat Allison Ikley-Freeman is facing off against Republican Brian O'Hara today. The district has around 10,000 more registered Republicans than Democrats and Ikley-Freeman is running as an unabashed progressive. She is also an out-front lesbian and O'Hara, who worked as Deputy District Director for far right Congressman Jim Bridenstine, doesn't hide his right-wing extremism. O’Hara has outraised Ikley-Freeman $71,444 to $24,267. If she wins tonight it will be interpreted as the end of the Republican Party and, as one Oklahoma Democratic politician told me, "all political bets in the next year are out the window."

House District 76 is in a heavily Republican area in Tulsa County. State Rep. David Brumbaugh (R) died on April 15, after beating Democrat Glenda Pruitt last November 11,448 (68%) to 5,379 (32%). Republican Ross Ford, a retired police officer, is up against Democrat Chris VanLandingham, a school teacher. Ross raised $50,417 to VanLandingham's $1,014.

So the question is... are these 3 races impossible? Well... I wouldn't bet against the Republicans in districts this red. If the Democrats have run effective grassroots campaigns and Republican voters stayed home... maybe. NBC News did another look-back on Virginia Sunday meant to shed some light on what is possible for Democrats going forward. Nationally, it's very hopeful; for these 3 Oklahoma seats... not so much, not yet anyway. The NBC report contrasts "diverse and well-educated urban counties and their less populated surroundings."
The political power of one of those populous counties was vividly displayed in Virginia’s gubernatorial election on Tuesday, which saw Democrat Ralph Northam thumping Republican Ed Gillespie by an unexpectedly robust nine-point margin. While Gillespie largely matched Donald Trump’s 2016 shares in the state’s rural south and west, Northam’s margins in dense and affluent suburban counties exceeded even Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton’s successes there in the last two presidential cycles.

In fact, in Fairfax-- the largest of those wealthy Virginia counties-- Democrats have increased their presidential election advantage from a narrow loss in 2000 to a 36 point win in 2016. (Northam won the county by 37 points.) But, despite Virginia’s increasing embrace of Democrats in recent years, in the same period of time the Democratic share of the vote in the remainder of the state has increased just from a nine point deficit in 2000 to nearly an even tie with the GOP now.

At first glance, Virginia, with its rapid suburban population growth and deepening blue tint, may seem like the exception rather than the rule. But the pattern is one that’s been replicated across the country.

An NBC News analysis of voting and demographic trends in each of the lower 48 states shows that, since 2000, Democrats have improved upon their presidential election margins in the lion’s share of the most vote-rich and populous counties in America even as their share of the vote in the remainder of each state was stagnant, decreased or-- at best-- grew at a far slower pace.

The data seem to show two important trends since 2000.

One, Barack Obama’s candidacy and presidency blew open the partisan voting divide between the most urban counties in states and the rest of their population. The 2008 election seemed to be a watershed in the split.

Two, the changes that followed 2008 were not just about the minority vote in urban centers. In 2016, without the first black president on the top of the ticket, the gaps between these counties and the rest of the states widened more.

In 39 of the lower 48 states, Democrats significantly increased their vote share in presidential elections from 2000 to 2016 in each state’s most populous county. And in all but two of those states, Democratic margins outside of the most populous county failed to increase at similar rates, widening the partisan gap between each state’s more urban center and its surroundings.

Viewed as a whole, the numbers suggest a common urban political culture is rising out of the country’s big cities that overrides the nation’s regional differences so that the political identity of Atlanta has more in common with Milwaukee or Denver or even Miami than it does with the rest of Georgia.

Combining the votes from 2000-2016 in all of the contiguous United States shows how the Democratic share of the vote in each state’s largest county rose from a cumulative 18.6 percent in 2000 to 31.4 percent in the last election. Subtracting those votes from the total shows that, on average, Democrats only won the remainder of U.S. counties once in the past four presidential elections-- in Barack Obama’s 2008 landslide.

In fact, in half of the mainland U.S. states between 2000 and 2016-- in places as politically divergent as Alabama, Kansas, Indiana, Maine and Wisconsin-- Democrats saw both a significant increase in their margins in each state’s most populous county and a significant decrease in the party’s performance in the remainder of the state.

Take, for example, Birmingham’s Jefferson County, Ala., home to banking and medical centers, a thriving arts community and the University of Alabama at Birmingham.

As recently as 2000, Birmingham still favored Republicans in presidential elections. But since the election of Barack Obama, Jefferson County has seen increasing margins for Democratic White House candidates, even as the remainder of the state has become significantly more conservative.

The changing landscape in Alabama provides a vivid example of how self-sorting-- particularly by education and race--— is widening existing divides between urban centers and rural outskirts.

In 2000, 24.6 percent of Jefferson County’s 25 and older population had a college degree, while the college-educated population of the remainder of the state stood at 18 percent. Sixteen years later, that 6.5 point gap has edged close to double digits, with 33 percent of Jefferson County adults holding a bachelor’s degree or more, while 23.4 percent of the remainder of the state does.

Jefferson County has become more diverse faster than the remainder of the state as well. Its white non-Hispanic population fell from 57.4 percent in 2000 to 50.1 in 2016, while the remainder of the state’s share dropped more modestly from 72.6 percent to 68.2 percent.

Race is also one of the driving factors in the particularly dramatic polarization in other Southern state: Tennessee. While Nashville’s Shelby County has long been a reliable source of Democratic votes, the last 16 years have seen a double-digit increase in Democratic margins there even as their share in the rest of the state steadily sunk.

The phenomenon is not unique to the American Deep South, where Democratic and Republican labels have been particularly fluid since the Civil Rights movement.

Similar trendlines appear in many states with dense urban centers and far-flung rural areas, from Minnesota (where the gap between Democratic margins in Hennepin County and the rest of the state has widened by 28 points since 2000) to Oklahoma (where the gap has grown by 37 points.)
And, alas, the 3 Democrats running in non-urban areas of Oklahoma County and Tulsa County today are on the wrong side of that 37 point gap. I guess Trump can say something insane between now and when the polls close... or maybe Roy Moore will rub off on the 3 Republicans. Short of that... tough row to hoe in these 3 districts.


UPDATE: Republicans Lost A Red Senate District

Paul Rosino beat Steven Vincent quickly-- 2,564 (56.78%) to 2,144 (43.22%). In Tulsa, vote counting took longer and was more dramatic, at least for the state Senate seat. After a little see-sawing Allison Ikley-Freeman beat Brian O'Hara, 2,234 (50.35%) to 2,203 (49.65). Unbelievable! The state House seat, though, was a massacre. Republican Ross Ford beat Democrat Chris VanLandingham by a landslide, 1,544 (68.35%) to 715 (31.65%) And, remember-- Trump won that Tulsa area state Senate district by 40 points last year.

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3 Comments:

At 8:29 PM, Blogger John Skinner said...

So happy to see Allison Ikley-Freeman win, proving once again that running as a progressive isn't a terrible thing.

 
At 1:02 AM, Anonymous ap215 said...

Huge victory for Team Blue keep it up guys.

 
At 1:49 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I suppose I'll be asking Satan to turn up the heat soon so I can watch airborne pork without shivvering?

 

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