Stomach-turning turnout numbers | Slag Heap
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Thursday, November 5, 2009

Stomach-turning turnout numbers

Posted By on Thu, Nov 5, 2009 at 12:28 PM

Still trying to parse this election in digestible amounts -- i.e. amounts that don't upset my stomach. 

As we've noted before, perhaps the most important (and most overlooked) race in this election was for state Supreme Court. Which Democrat Jack Panella lost, to Joan Orie-Melvin.

What happened here? The P-G notes today that turnout was the big factor in these statewide races. Republicans showed up, Democrats didn't. Really, that's all there is to it. 

For example, compare the 2009 Supreme Court contest with the one in 2007, where Democrats won both of the seats up for grabs. And just to keep things simple, let's contrast the Orie-Melvin/Panella match-up to the top Democrat vote-getter in 2007, Seamus McCaffery, with the top GOP contender, Maureen Lally-Green. 

On paper, these would seem to be similar races. Lally-Green, like Orie Melvin, was a female Republican from the western part of the state. McCaffery is a Philly guy; Panella hails from that part of the state as well. 

But McCaffery crushed Lally-Green, whereas Panella lost. What gives?

Well, for one thing, McCaffery was a great candidate. Panella ... not so much. But in judicial races, actual qualifications are sort of beside the point. 

The big difference, as our story warned, was that Philly had a mayoral race back in 2007, and so lots of reasons for Dems to turn out. This time around, they had a transit strike.  In 2007, McCaffery got 205,000 votes in Philadelphia County alone. Panella, by contrast, got just over 93,000 votes.

That's 112,000 fewer votes coming out of Philly for the Democrat.

Orie-Melvin beat Panella by 113,000 votes. 

Yeah, Philly is an extreme case, but the pattern held true. Panella got just over 100,000 votes here in Allegheny County -- one-third fewer than McCaffery earned two years ago. (And this space has previously speculated that a lack of interest in local elections was -- just maybe -- something Republicans were trying to engineer.) Orie, by contrast, got only a couple thousand fewer votes than Lally-Green did.

There were drops across the state for the GOP candidates too. In 2007, Lally-Green repeated just under 995,000 votes. Orie, by contrast, is in the mid-930,000 range. But Dems just stayed home in droves, and we're going to be paying a price for years to come. 

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