Union County Primary 2017: An Analysis

5–17–2017, [Lewisburg, PA] The 2017 municipal primary has come and gone, and us nerds are left to make sense of a bunch of data. In my opinion, the results in our own county reflect the national temperament. Locally, we saw a mixture of reduced Republican turnout, and a small increase in Democratic vote share shadowing the Comey firing and an unfolding constitutional crisis. That being said, the fundamentals of any election in Union County (outside of the Borough of Lewisburg), are that the Republicans hold an advantage. The question for the general election will be whether or not national Democratic momentum will be enough to make for some upsets.

I saw three main ‘take-away’ messages from this primary: 1. a stronger Democratic voteshare but a reduced turnout overall 2. intensity in the Lewisburg school board race and 3. the Republicans hold a slight lead in the East Buffalo Township Supervisors race.

1. Turnout tells a story: Dems on the move, but Repubs still dominate.

Voter turnout was low: 23.2%. The lowest I have on record (I’m missing some years). It’s always upsetting to see low voter turnout.

My next question is: who didn’t vote? I have statistics for the historical voter turnout for municipal primaries on file, but don’t have statistics for historical voter turnout for municipal primaries by party. So I tried to measure partisan voter turnout a different way — I took the number of votes for the first election on the ballot for each election (often it was a Supreme or Superior Court race), totaled the Democratic and Republican votes, and came up with a pretty accurate measurement to uncover what percentage of the voters were Republican and which were Democratic.

In column two of Table 1 (Below), is the historical voter turnout. In columns three and five, you will find Democratic and Republican voteshare, respectively. In columns four and six, the percent difference between that year’s Democratic and Republican voteshare, respectively, and the historical partisan voteshare.

Table 1

As you can see, the Democrats got 32% of the total vote, which is pretty good considering Bucknell was not in session. To place this, Hillary got 35% of the votes in Union County during the 2016 general election. The general trend is for Democrats to get a larger voteshare as time passes, and for Republicans to decrease. However, Republicans still hold a dominating advantage countywide.

2. LBG School Board race was heated, and reflected national partisan divide. Close race in November.

Let me first start by stating who won what.

Democratic Nomination for the 4 year term: Lisa Clark, Benita Kolmen-Solomon, Mary Ann Sigler Stanton, and Michael Drexler.

Democratic Nomination for the 2year term: Virginia Zimmerman and Mary Howe.

Republican Nomination for the 4 year term: Lisa Clark, Mary Brouse, John Rowe, and Angelo Kifolo.

Republican Nomination for the 2year term: Virginia Zimmerman and Lisa Clark.

As the Daily Item pointed out, only two of the candidates who cross-filed actually got both the Democratic and Republican nominations (Lisa Clark and Virginia Zimmerman). In addition, Angelo Kifolo got the Republican nomination even though he is a registered Democrat. Other than those exceptions, voters stuck to party lines.

In table 2, I compiled the total votes for each candidate. Remember, only the top 4 candidates will get to be school board directors in the November election. If these results are consistent with the results in November, the Democrats and Republicans will split the seats two to two. The wildcard will be Bucknell student turnout. Under the right conditions, I can see a Kolmen-Solomon, Sigler Stanton, and Drexler sweep.

Table 2 (Total votes for 4 year Term)

Table 3 is essentially the same graphic, but for the 2 year term. Lisa Clark and Virginia Zimmerman are the favorites to win in November, but Mary Howe is a fighter. Mary Howe came in fifth place overall in the 4 year term, and barely missed the Democratic nomination (by 7 votes!). She is a strong candidate who has a loyal backing. I wouldn’t discount the possibility of a Mary Howe upset win here.

Table 3 (Total votes for 2 year Term)

The real winner of the night was Lisa Clark, who got three slots on the November ballot. The likelihood of her not winning at least one of these races is low. Her victory was deserved — she spent significantly more money than any other candidate campaigning. Many voters in the district got one or more mailers from her campaign.

I think this race will get really heated as we get closer to November — this race seems to be existential for many voters.

Repubs hold slight edge in East Buffalo Township Supervisor race.

The race for East Buffalo Township is finalized: Char Gray vs. Tony Stafford. Both candidates are strong.

I’ve said this before, but it deserves to be restated: East Buffalo Township is the Ohio of Union County politics.

Below, in table 4, I have assembled the total votes from each party during the primary. The Repubs lead the Dems by 17%.

Table 4

This race still really has to take shape, so there’s not a whole lot to draw from these results, other than the fact that it will be competitive, and that as it currently stands, the Repubs have an advantage. A bright spot for the Dems was the proliferation of last minute ‘write-in’ candidates who were able to get on the ballot. This shows that the Dems are organized here and can get the vote out when they kick into high-gear.

Look out for more coverage of these races from me as November draws closer!

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