Los Angeles Council District 2: Krekorian vs. Essel

Well, I got the main part of my prediction correct regarding the outcome of the 2nd Council District race.  The other…not so much.

With full results in:

Krekorian: 4,929 (34.1%)

Essel: 4,104 (28.39%)

Galatzan: 1,874 (12.94)

Upshot: we’ll have a runoff election on December between Paul Krekorian and Chris Essel, and I’m expecting Krekorian’s first-place finish (with room to spare) to encourage people to start considering the possibility of an open seat in the 43rd a little more strongly.  But as students of politics, what can we learn?

First, election day is no longer election day.  For the first time that I can remember in a campaign that wasn’t mail-only, more ballots were cast via absentee than in person.  Total turnout in this election was 11.74%, a total of 14,525 ballots.  And of those, 54.64% were cast by absentee.

With less than half the votes being cast on election day, the importance of GOTV weekend field becomes significantly diminished.  Instead, the election seems to become more about who can raise the early money and generate the early field operation to reach the absentee voters–a fact which Judy Chu made abundantly clear on May 19th.

Just like Chu did in May, Krekorian seems to have done that here.  While Krekorian finished up election day with a hair over 34% of the vote, he got over 39% of the absentee vote (you’ll have to trust me on that because that data isn’t available online right now and I didn’t cache it).  Galatzan, on the other hand, gained a couple of points, while Essel stayed in roughly the same place.

I think it’s about time for campaigns in special elections like this to realize that absentee ballot drop week is the new GOTV weekend. In CA-32, fully a quarter of the ballots were cast by absentee.  That seemed high at the time.  Now it’s over half in this election.  People just aren’t going to the polls any more for special elections, and that needs to be taken into account by any campaign that’s worth its salt.

Now, we have more than two months of campaigning left, but my initial prognostication says that Krekorian will win this in December.  First, turnout will be even lower than before, increasing the importance of the absentees.  Second, the election will be in December, which means that it could be cold or rainy, further depressing turnout in an electorate that skews older.  It wouldn’t surprise me to see 60% of the ballots cast in the runoff to come from absentees.

One last note:  Eric Hacopian is probably the hottest mail consultant in the state right now.  Fresh from engineering Emmanuel Pleitez’ head-turning campaign in CA-32, Hacopian turns around and gives Krekorian a handy victory in the 2nd Council District primary.  Nice going.

4 thoughts on “Los Angeles Council District 2: Krekorian vs. Essel”

  1. Actually, we’ve had a bunch of elections with greater than 50% turnout from absentee VBM, including some statewide elections.  The May 19 election, I believe, was more absentee than election day.

    I think the consultants are aware of this fact. It’s why you see the great bulk of mail dropping the week that the ballots drop.  And because you can see which ballots have come back, they cull the list to make mailings cheaper as that last month wears down.

  2. The problem with this line of thinking is that campaigns are using it as an excuse not to contact voters.  In most races with a lot of things on the ballot, even VBM’w tend to vote late.  In this race, nobody voted period.  If any candidate had done a significant GOTV effort on the last weekend, they would have made the runoff, but they were all to busy doing interviews with radio stations and “feel important” stuff like that instead of talking to voters directly.  When a Jack O’Connell can reach every house in his Assembly District the first time he ran, there is no excuse for council candidates not to walk to a significant percentage of the households in their district.

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