Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Historic perspective on the Gonzalez-Danielson race

UPDATE 9/29/12: A few smart folks took a close at the precinct level numbers and came up with some pretty solid evidence about race based voting patterns. I stand by my take below, but this research is much more significant and relevant to the election.

Since State Supreme Court Justice Steve Gonzalez won a full term last week, there have been questions about how Bruce Danielson -- who didn't raise or spend any money in a campaign -- was able to get more than 40 percent of the vote.

Initially mentioned by Eli Sanders, there have been claims that Gonzalez didn't get more of the vote because of racist tendencies of rural Washington voters against candidates of Hispanic background. Here are clips from Tacoma News Tribune, Seattle Times and the Everett Herald that show some of the discussion.

It may very well be true that a certain percentage of people voted against Gonzalez because they don't like minorities, but this doesn't necessarily bear out against historical context. In two other state Supreme Court races in 2000, candidates that spent no money at all got at least 38 percent of the vote.

Here is a spreadsheet that puts these three races (two in 2000 and Gonzales vs. Danielson this year) in terms of vote percentages and campaign expenditures. Just a side note, these two 2000 races were the only two when one literally unfunded candidate opposed a well funded candidate in a state Supreme Court race.

One of the 2000 races, Jim Foley lost to Tom Chambers, but received over 43 percent of the vote in the November general election.. Similar to Danielson, Foley was ranked as not qualified to serve on the bench. But, in a sort of opposite name phenomena of Gonzalez-Danielson, the scuttlebut in 2000 was that Foley did so well because voters confused him with former Spokane congressman and Speaker of the House Tom Foley:
Chambers, 57, who raised more money, $355,947, than any of the other candidates, said he at times found himself hard-pressed to compete with Foley's familiar name. 
Although he beat Foley by a wide margin, he said he wished the margin had been even greater.
"It would give me greater comfort," he said. 
When Foley ran unsuccessfully against Faith Ireland in 1998, he said he had a "million-dollar name" because voters mistakenly link it with former U.S. House Speaker Tom Foley, to whom Jim Foley is not related.
Here is another Seattle Times story that discuss the dynamics of that race.

In the other race (the deciding vote took place in the September primary), Bobbe Bridge defeated a Tacoma lawyer Scott Schweiger. Like Gonzalez, Bridge has earlier been appointed and had already been serving on the court when she won. She also spent $153,000 in a race that ended months before November because she was able to knock off her only opponent in the primary. But, despite her opponent not raising or spending any campaign funds, Schweiger received 38 percent of the vote, very close to Danielson's total. This article indicates that there was little, if any, discussion at the time how Danielson finished so well against a well-funded candidate.

A significant difference between the 2000 races and Gonzalez-Danielson is the lack of a statewide voters pamphlet. It is hard to gauge the impact of the lack of this information had on voters this year, but you also can't discount information available now more readily available from the internet and from newspapers.

What we should be able to take from this information is that there seems to be a floor that literally unfunded state Supreme Court candidates won't fall below. And, Danielson performed within the normal range of similar candidates in recent years.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Amazon attacks Olympia! edition (after a long summers break) of Olyblogosphere links

1. One particular slice of the Return to Evergreen features Morty the Dog. Sweet.

2. Does anyone want to help out with Olynews.org? I like Olynews.org, but like a lot of small web projects around here, it suffers from people like me who fail to have a lot of energy. So, if you have energy and no particular project, why not right?

3. Accidental Naturalist reflects on the closing of Fireside Books. Or, rather, "Amazon Attacks Olympia!" MWWWAARG!!!!

From the post:
This wonderful, small, independent bookstore in downtown Olympia has been owned and operated by Jane Laclergue since 1995. Jane has many fans and friends in town, many dedicated readers, grateful authors, and fabulous staff--many sang her praises at farewell/retirement party of Jane Wednesday night. Her passion for books, her charm, her personal approach to book buying has made Fireside a favorite place of mine to buy books over the past several years. 
Though Jane is of retirement age, the closing of the Fireside Bo
okstore comes at time when fewer people seem to consider reading a priority pastime and more readers are acquiring digital books or ordering from online distributors such as Amazon.

...

Every book we buy on Amazon or other online booksellers is one less book sold at a bookstore. At the end of the month there will be one more empty store in Olympia, one less place to visit. Is Orca Books next? Our only remaining independent bookstore? What about the other used book stores tucked into our downtown? What about Barnes & Noble, our only remaining chain bookstore in the great Olympia area? Oh, and what about all the other stores that offer products that could be acquired online?

While I agree that its sad to see a local bookstore (or any type of local store) close, I don't necessarily blame ebooks. While the newspaper column that AN links to doesn't spell out whether Fireside has lost money (does say the recession has been hard), it does point out that Fireside lacks an even basic website.

Not to get into a long response on a link post, but I'm more inclined to believe that people who read ebooks are more likely to buy more books overall (so the one ebook for one local book think doesn't stand up).

4. This is a very old post from a looks like dead blog, but it is so so very epic: "San Francisco Street Bakery and the Problem with the Left." Bam!

Read on:
When I walked through the wide open door of the brightly lit establishment I was greeted by no one even though several people were scurrying about doing baker-type things. It wasn’t until I had walked across the room and taken the cream cheese from the refrigerator that a fellow with a stupid indie rock beard and wearing the tight black uniform of a Northwest leftist/anarchist/post hippie type finally took notice of me. It took him a second, seemingly, to muster up the wherewithal to tell me in his passive/aggressive way that, “Um, sir, the bakery’s not open for another half hour.” What he meant was: 
Hey weirdo, what’s wrong with you? Get the fuck out of here.
No, really what he meant was that the place wasn't open for business yet. Eh, anyway. This post is a great example of the Olympia vs. everyone else culture shock thing. Read the entire post.

I'm not saying I've never been annoyed by bad customer service in Olympia, but I'm just as likely to get bad service in Yelm or Lacey or Shelton. Those aren't homes of leftist hippy types, right? Anyway, bad service is bad service, so don't chalk it up to people's politics or culture.