Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Can the GOP win the 16th Worcester MA House special election?

Massachusetts Republicans are hoping Carol Claros can pull off a repeat of Leah Cole's 12th Essex special election win in Peabody

On May 22, Worcester State Representative John Fresolo resigned. Secretary of State William Galvin scheduled a special election to replace Fresolo with a primary on August 13 and the special election on September 10. There are 5 candidates facing off in the August Democratic primary—Daniel Donahue, Khrystian King, Daniele Nanni, James O’Brien, and Joshua Perro. The Democratic winner will face off against Republican Carol Claros on September 10.

What are the chances of Republican Carol Claros to win over the eventual Democratic nominee? The Massachusetts GOP is hoping for some good news after a long series of losses. One recent  bright spot for the MA GOP was political newcomer Leah Cole's win in Peabody in a special election on April 2 to replace Democratic State Representative Joyce Spiliotis. Some Republicans are comparing the two races and candidates Cole and Claros, and hoping Claros can reproduce the Cole special election win.

However, there are key differences between the 12th Essex seat won by Cole, and the 16th Worcester seat being sought by Claros. While the results of the special election will depend on which Democrat wins the primary and the strength and strategy of the campaigns, it is instructive to look at how Republican candidates typically fare in the 16th Worcester district, and to compare with historical results in the Peabody-based 12th Essex district now held by Rep. Cole.

The 16th Worcester MA House District

The 16th Worcester Massachusetts House District encompasses much of the south side of Worcester from South Worcester, Vernon Hill, and Grafton Hill, down through Broadmeadow and Quinsigamond Village. The 2012 Presidential election returns for the district give the impression of an overwhelmingly Democratic electorate.

The score of each precinct, and the district as a whole, is calculated by averaging the margins of the Presidential and Senate races.

Chart of 2012 16th Worcester election results

President Obama averaged 71% of the vote and Senator Warren 63% of the vote for the district, and the average margin for all of the precincts is a 33.7 point advantage for Democrats. This is a solidly Democratic district.

The 12th Essex MA House District

The 2012 results from the 12th Essex District are quite a bit different. Five of the 15 district precincts had a higher average margin for Republicans than Democrats, and Scott Brown won the district with 51% to Elizabeth Warren's 49%.

Chart of 2012 12th Essex election results

While the scoring mechanism of averaging the margins gives a 7.4 point advantage to Democrats overall, we occasionally see this type of district being won by a Republican, as happened in the Leah Cole victory.

Chart of 2013 12th Essex special election results

Republican Leah Cole defeated Democrat Beverley Ann Griffin Dunne and Independent David Gravel (while Gravel ran as an Independent, he pledged during the campaign to caucus with House Democrats, if elected). Cole's final margin over Dunne was 73 votes. The three-way nature of the race may have played a role in the outcome—Cole's campaign acknowledged that they saw an opportunity to divide the Democratic vote between Dunne and Gravel as they both identified ideologically as Democrats.

Can Carol Claros win in the 16th Worcester District?

While Leah Cole emerged victorious in the April 2 special election, it is unlikely that Carol Claros can repeat this GOP success without a great deal of help and Democratic bad luck. There are numerous instances where Republican State Rep. candidates have won elections in slightly Democratic-leaning districts, but they are relatively uncommon. Moreover, I don't know of any Massachusetts Republican State Rep. candidate that has succeeded in a district that gives 34 point advantages to national Democratic candidates.

Republicans feel that they have a strong candidate with Carol Claros, but it will likely take a serious misstep by the eventual Democratic nominee to provide a GOP victory on September 10.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Boston mayoral poll shows Marty Walsh with strong regional support

The recent Suffolk University/Boston Herald poll of the race for Boston Mayor showed a race without a strong front-runner, with many candidates struggling for name recognition, and with 40% of the likely voters unwilling to choose a candidate to support. While City Councilor John Connolly was slightly ahead in the overall ballot test, State Representative Marty Walsh showed significant regional strength in areas in and around his district in Dorchester, in the South End, and also in Alston and Brighton.

The poll showed Walsh as the leader in Wards 7, 13, 16, 17, and 21, and tied for the lead in Ward 8. Walsh completely dominated wards 7 and 16, which significantly overlap his State Rep. district.

Areas of strength for Rep. Marty Walsh

Wards won by Rep. Marty Walsh

The challenge for Rep. Walsh will be to build on these geographic areas of strength and expand his support into other areas of Boston.

Rob Consalvo also has a smaller district-based geographical bump in his home Ward of 18, and Daniel Conley and John Connolly dominate Ward 20, which holds their West Roxbury neighborhood. It will be interesting to see if this geographic divide holds in subsequent polls, and how the seeming deep support of Walsh in the area of his district plays out against John Connolly's shallower, but geographically wider support.

Boston Mayor ballot test by Ward

Monday, July 1, 2013

Democrats Ed Markey and Elizabeth Warren followed different paths to statewide victory in Massachusetts

While the last two elections for U.S. Senator in Massachusetts resulted in a 10 point victory by Ed Markey over Gabriel Gomez and an 8 point victory by Elizabeth Warren over Scott Brown, Markey and Warren showed that Democratic candidates for statewide office in Massachusetts can follow different paths to victory while appealing to somewhat different constituencies. Elizabeth Warren's populist message resonated in lower income areas, while Markey did better, on average, in affluent communities. Geographically, Warren did better than Markey in Central and Southwest Massachusetts, while Markey did better in far-Western Massachusetts and especially well in his native Metrowest region.

The following map shows the margin between Ed Markey's and Elizabeth Warren's percentage of the vote in each of the Commonwealth's 351 cities and towns—green indicates area of strength for Markey, and blue indicates area of strength for Warren (click on the map to open an interactive version):

A regression analysis of various demographic and geographic factors points to per-capita income and geography as highly correlated with the Markey-Warren margin.

Per-Capita Income

Elizabeth Warren's populist message of creating an even playing field for middle class families through increased Wall Street accountability, worked particularly well in lower income municipalities, while Ed Markey's message focusing on gun control and women's reproductive health combined with his long-time work on environmental issues appealed to more affluent voters. The candidates' appeal to different income demographics is also apparent when looking at simple averages—the towns and cities where Elizabeth Warren had a larger margin that Ed Markey had an average per-capita income of $31,246, while Markey's municipalities had an average per-capita income of $40,172.


While there was significant correlation between a voter's county and the Markey-Warren margin difference, the most striking difference was in the Boston Metrowest and Middlesex County area. This is not surprising given that this was home to Ed Markey's congressional district and is the area where he had the greatest name recognition. The other geographic differences may have been more a consequence of the income demographic discussed earlier.

Towns with largest margin difference

The towns where Markey outperformed Warren the most are dominated by high per-capita income towns in Boston's Metrowest region like Lexington, Acton, Concord and Wellesley, with a sprinkling of more affluent Western Massachusetts towns.

Markey top towns vs. Warren

The areas where Warren out-performed Markey by the highest margins are primarily lower income towns in Southwest Massachusetts like Russell, Chicopee, and Springfield, with a sprinkling of Central Massachusetts cities and towns like Southbridge and Fitchburg.

Warrent top towns vs. Markey

Complete City and Town Listing

Here is a complete list of the Markey-Warren margins alphabetically by city and town.

Markey-Warren by Town