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Monday, November 30, 2009

Lehigh County Election Analysis: Why GOP Won

I was walking down the street, minding my own business, when a Lehigh County election analysis suddenly fell from the sky and hit me on the head. The raw data, which I've attempted to load as a spreadsheet, is quite informative. It lists election results both county wide and then district-by-district.

* In November's election, Republican turnout was 27.7%, nearly 10% higher than the 18.3% figure reported for Democrats. In fact, Republican turnout was higher in each of the five Districts. It was highest in District One (31.0%), where Democrat Jeanne McNeill waged a last-minute negative campaign against Tom Creighton. That may have backfired. It was lowest in District Four (25.0%). where Dan McCarthy won an easy vicory over Mike Welsh.

* Without Allentown's vote, Lehigh County Executive Don Cunningham would have lost to political newcomer Scott Ott.

* Every Republican County Commissioner candidate received more votes than there were Republicans who voted in their districts. Every Democrat County Commissioner candidate received fewer votes than there were Democrats. At the same time, Democratic County Executive Cunningham received close to or slightly more votes than there were Democrats who voted in each of the 5 districts. This means Democrats were either splitting their ticket and/or were simply unfamiliar with individual County Commissioner candidates.

* The total number of voters this year was 44,474 (19.9% turnout) vs. 57,623 (28.6% turnout) in 2005.

* The breakdown for 2009 and 2005 is as follows:

R = 21,321 for 27.7% turnout
D = 20,547 for 18.3% turnout
I = 2,606 for 7.6% turnout

R = 26,613 for 33.2% turnout
D = 27,081 for 30.2% turnout
I = 3,929 for 12.6% turnout

* In 2009, the under vote for County Commissioner was 821 (40,491 total votes cast for County Commissioner candidates vs. 41,312 total votes cast for County Executive candidates). This compares to an under vote of 17,749 in 2005.

* The under vote for the Democrat County Commissioner candidates was 3,402 (17,692 total votes cast for Democrat County Commissioner candidates vs. 21,094 total votes cast for Democrat County Executive candidate).

* The Republican County Commissioner candidates had actually had an over vote of 2,581 (22,799 total votes cast for Republican County Commissioner candidates vs. 20,218 total votes cast for Republican County Executive candidate).

* The over vote for the Republican County Commissioner candidates occurred in each of the 5 districts (including those with first time candidates). Earned media, i.e. blogs and newspaper accounts, as well as a targeted direct mail campaign, obviously helped the Republicans. Cunningham's campaign on behalf of two Democrat candidates may very well have backfired.

2009 Results - Lehigh County (General - Turnout)


Anonymous said...

Don should send Tony Phillips, Lou Hershman and Joe Brudnak a bottle of wine, without Tony, Lou, and Joe on the ballot democratic turnout would have been about the same as Bethlehem's numbers.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Good point.

Anonymous said...

I think we deserve the wine.

Allentown Democrat Voter

Chris Casey said...

I told everyone who would listen that the initial raw data would show turnout this low for Democrats. This is what happens when people win an election (in 2008) and rest on their laurels (in 2009)

Anonymous said...

Lehigh County voter here. Folks took lots of time this fall to cast their ballot. We can't call those ugly new stalls, voter booths. We want the old ones back. But, while voter turnout was low, those who did vote seemed to care about each office holder selection chosen.
We did.

Anonymous said...

We think the issue of national health care and the wars is on the minds of many.

Marc Grammes said...

In northern Lehigh County, the elections were driven by people voting for township supervisor races. Candidates waging write-in campaigns for township supervisor races in Washington and Lynn Township after having lost in the Republican primary brought out more Republican voters in those townships. The Washington Township write-in was the sitting Board Chairman and was well funded. He lost by nine votes in the primary. In the case of Heidelberg Township, one supervisor candidate who also narrowly lost in the republican primary, was on the ballot as the Democrat in November, again bringing more of the republican base out to vote.In the Borough of Slatington, a very popular republican mayor was running for re-election. In my opinion, mailers and bloggers had little to do with the turnout or results up our way...it was driven locally, and some republicans who might have stayed home,including those who stayed home in the primary, came out. Up our way, the County Exec and commissioner race was more of an appetizer to the main course of supervisor/mayor races. But a local candidate like Tom Creighton certainly was helped by the write-in situation, much more than any McNeill mailer. I know of many republicans who voted for Cunningham, but the D's on the other hand, just were not interested.

Anonymous said...

Two points:

Republican core voters represent a higher percentage of their overall vote than do Democrat core voters. This core never misses an off-off-year primary, let alone any big general.

2) Ds have such a large registration edge, a party switch is a very quick way to avoid more crowded D primaries. In other words, the local Republican parties contain a large number of philosophical Ds a.k.a. RINOs. It's not surprising that Rs remain numerically competitive - if not philosophically.

Anonymous said...

Many longtime D's in the Valley are remnents from the unionized labor ranks. they were never liberal but understood the Republican Party is the Party of the big businessman.
These Dem's voted overwhelmingly for Reagan and other R's if they think they are decent and not over the top. They will also not vote for D's if they think they are too liberal on things like welfare and crime.

So it is easy to see how despite a numerical edge, in a conservative area like the Lehigh Valley, Republicans can often do quite well.

Anonymous said...

Good point. Reagan and Ritter used to get lots of D votes from social conservative Ds, and ethnic European Ds who liked their anti-communism.

Anonymous said...

Bernie can those percentages be correct for 2009?

Bernie O'Hare said...

So far as I know, those percentages are dead on.

rylock. said...

Hey Bernie,

I was looking forward to your post on health care! That still in the works?

It's going to be difficult the longer you wait, because the Senate has much better cost-containment measures than the House does -- and if they combine the right parts of each bill, people will be much better off.

Anonymous said...

Rylock, you came here thinking you can have an intelligent discussion. Unfortunately this is the Ohare-Angle Circus, where it is all about their ego's.

If you are looking for an issue oriented, fair and open debate, this is not the place.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Rylock, My post on health care is still in the cooker. I was quite impressed by your own post, and to be honest, I like much of what I see in the Senate's version. Instead of just writing what is bad about Pelosicare, I think I have an obligation to state very specifically what features I like, and why. You and I are much closer to agreement than you may think. I apologize for dragging my feet.

rylock. said...


Interesting! I'm with you. I also think the Senate does much more on cost-control than the House did. For example, if the final bill keeps things like the subsidies from the House bill and things like the excise tax and the extension of CHIP in the Senate bill, we could be pretty well off.

I'm looking forward to your post, whatever/whenever it comes!