Thursday, September 19, 2013

Mr. Daley's decision has a ripple effect on Cook County judicial races

William Daley's decision to withdraw from the gubernatorial race will have a significant effect on judicial races in Cook County.

There is no presidential primary in 2014 to bring voters to the polls. A Daley-Quinn donnybrook near the top of the primary ballot would have increased the Democratic primary turnout. Now, however, in the Democratic primary, the major offices will be largely uncontested. No serious primary challenge is expected to Senator Dick Durbin. Gov. Pat Quinn may face opposition from former Cease Fire Director Tio Hardiman, but that is unlikely to energize the typically lethargic primary electorate.

Meanwhile, down at the bottom of the Cook County ballot, there will be several hotly contested judicial races. Many of these contests will pit highly-qualified individuals against each other (not that the Tribune would notice, or care) -- but there will be some candidates with fairly thin credentials. There always are. If voters aren't careful, some of these lesser candidates may win their primary races.

If form holds, there will be no Republican judicial candidates (except in the 13th Subcircuit, a presumed Republican bastion). That means, in nearly all cases, the winners of the Democratic primary races for judicial office in March can pretty much count on donning a robe on the first Monday in December.

Because turnout will be low, judicial candidates who have a core constituency they can get to the polls will have a decided advantage. That should be good news for the Democratic Party's slated candidates, at least to the extent that ward and township organizations can still turn out primary voters (and to the extent that the organizations remain faithful to the slate).

Long-time FWIW readers will recall that Dr. Albert Klumpp has generously supplied post-election analyses of various factors, including ethnicity, gender, slating and endorsements, that influence the outcome of judicial elections. Here is the table Dr. Klumpp supplied in the aftermath of the 2012 primary:
Female Name14.612.012.2
Irish Name11.411.19.6
Black Name7.18.06.8
Top Ballot Line4.46.78.5
Spending (per $10k above avg.)

Dr. Klumpp supplied a similar analysis after the 2010 primary.

In that earlier table, Dr. Klumpp offered a side-by-side comparison of the 2008 and 2010 primaries.

The figure that jumped off the screen at me was the extraordinary influence of a female name in 2008.

But there was an exceptionally high turnout in 2008, as Cook County voters came out to support Barack Obama's first presidential bid. Many people voted in the 2008 primary who did not vote in primaries before and have not voted in primaries since. It would not be surprising that random factors, like candidate gender, would be particularly influential in a year as voters determined to support Mr. Obama, but who did not necessarily have fixed opinions on other races, voted their way down the ballot.

We won't see a repeat of this phenomenon in 2014. Most of the voters in March 2014 will come to the polls from a sense of obligation -- not just Democratic stalwarts or activists -- but all those those who take their civic duty seriously. Non-slated candidates with exemplary qualifications may make inroads among many of these dedicated voters. But the real challenge for all judicial candidates will be to motivate their people -- most of whom are not regular primary voters -- their friends and family, colleagues, parents of their children's school friends, fellow members of their church or synagogue -- to actually turn out and vote. As many as three of four of these are likely to find something else to do on March 18. In a low turnout election, the value of each of these votes will be magnified tremendously.


Anonymous said...

I wish my last name was O'Brien even though I am asian

Anonymous said...

The 12th subcircuit has still had quite contentious General election judicial races.

Albert said...

Good point you make here. Last year there were no high-profile Dem contests and the number of votes on judicial contests was the lowest in 34 years. Next year, not only no high-profile Dem contests, but some Dem voters may be tempted to cross over and vote in what will be an active Rep contest for governor.

P.S. I attributed the high female vote in 2008 not to Obama's presence on the ballot, but to Hillary Clinton's.

Anonymous said...

What is a "black" name ?

Albert said...

Any of the names identified in census data as one of the 500 most common African-American surnames. It's not a perfect variable but it does a very good job of identifying voter reactions in African-American segments of the county (in the same manner as Hispanic, Polish, Jewish etc. names that get favorable reactions in their own areas).