CA-Senate: Special Republican Turnout

Democrats feared that the odd timing of a California State Senate special election would hurt their party's candidate. They may have been right.
by | June 24, 2010

On Tuesday, I wondered whether the odd timing of a special election in California's 15th Senate District would produce a Republican victory. We still don't know who won, but the circumstantial evidence suggests that the timing of the race produced a strong Republican turnout.

As of right now, Republican Sam Blakeslee has 49.70% of the vote in the four-way race. Democrat John Laird trails in second with 41.34% of the vote (a Libertarian and an independent candidate split the remainder). More than 17,000 votes remain to be counted. If Blakeslee can pull above 50%, he'll win the seat. Otherwise, all of the candidates will be back on the ballot in August.

One reason for Blakeslee's strength was that turnout was proportionally higher in the more Republican areas than in previous races in the 15th District. I, of course, have a chart:

 California Senate District 15 Turnout

The counties that are red are the ones that went strongly to Blakeslee (they're also the ones that generally have voted more Republican in previous elections). The blue ones are the Democratic-leaning ones, which Laird won easily. In the purple Santa Clara County precincts, Blakeslee scored a tiny victory.

The main change from the previous elections was that (proportionally) turnout was way up in Republican-leaning San Luis Obispo County. It was down everywhere else.

These numbers don't prove that the timing of the election helped Blakeslee. It's possible that they simply reflect Republicans' general enthusiasm edge. Or, perhaps Blakeslee simply did a good job getting his supporters to the polls. But, they do show that something must have been going on compared to the 2004 and 2008 general elections. Blakeslee still would have finished in first if the county-by-county turnout numbers had been the same as those years, but the race would have been somewhat closer.

By the way, I do expect we'll have another election in August in the 15th District. Here's a look at the turnout proportions by county of the votes that have been counted and haven't been counted:

California Senate District 15 Counted

As you can see, the two strong Blakeslee counties made up 50% of the vote that already has been counted, but only 40% of the remaining vote. Santa Clara County, where Blakeslee wasn't taking 50%, has lots of uncounted ballots.

Even if there is a second election, though, Blakeslee should begin with a solid advantage. Laird may have trouble raising money. Donors will want to know why a second election with the exact same candidates wouldn't have the same result as the first one.

Josh Goodman
Josh Goodman  |  Former Staff Writer
mailbox@governing.com  | 

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