Thursday, December 27, 2007

Why Coaty Won & Cicilline lost

The Projo article by reporter Richard Salt (link in title) is the best summary yet on why the House District 75 race turned out the way it did - a big win for Coaty. Although the reporter neglected to mention the small voter turnout in the special Dec. election. A 63% of the electorate elected the new Representative with only 19% of the total electorate actually voting. Not exactly a commanding mandate. Turning out the vote was always the key component of this election. While this is always important, there was neither Presidential nor General Offices races to spur the electorate turnout on this cold, icy, snow-covered day.

The demographics of Newport, previously a Newport stronghold, have changed. This District covers most of Newport, but not all. Much of the northern end of Newport (near the hospital & the resevoir & the base) vote heavily Democratic, but this was not Cicilline's area, nor was the public housing area - Newport Heights & other low income Democratic strongholds (represented by Rice & Jackson).

An interesting link for Newport's changing demographics was found awhile ago on the Knowing Newport site. It is Examining the differences between Newport & Middletown provides some insight. The family income median for Newport is $40,000 whereas Middletown commands $50,000. This is signifanct along with the poverty levels. My interpertation is that Newport has had a recent influx of wealthy home buyers while also housing a significant poverty population. This makes for the sizeable median income disparity. Much of Newport's former stronghold- the middle class, is gone. You can thank rising home prices (& property taxes) and a dearth of good-paying jobs for this. Newport has become a dichotomy ot rich/poor. Anyone with knowledge of the real estate market now & in the past can tell you this.

Newport's middle class, always its strength, is almost gone. More and more of Newport (and Middletown, too) is home to re-locators. They are often conservative, wealthy retirees from other states and often in the dark concerning Rhode Island, let along Newport politics. Newport also has become a bedroom community for those fleeing from the high costs of other states - like Boston & Ct., & N.Y. You can still work in those areas while residing here.

"'With property values soaring and more affluent people and more retirees moving into such historic areas as the Hill and the Point, the city’s demographics are changing,' said state Rep. J. Russell Jackson, D-Middletown, Newport. 'I don’t think the nature of how Newport has evolved gives rise to that district being a Democratic stronghold … Newport, in some respects, is different than it was.'” Rep. Jackson (Coaty's business partner) gets it.

"'Those of us who watch the political races closely know that, particularly at the southern end of Newport, much like South County, the city is very conservative,' said Newport Democrat Teresa Paiva-Weed, the Senate majority leader."

Little attention has been paid to the strong late-term efforts of the State Republican Party here who supplied mailings, & GOTV assistance. The State Dems were either sleeping or not asked. Cicilline also missed an opportunity for coalation assistance from Ocean State Action which candidate Ferri in Warwick ably seized.

Also ignored in the post-game wrap-up are the results of a contentious Democratic Primary between Cicilline & Carlin. These things can get ugly & leave lots of bad feeling which this one did. Those Democratic votes for the loosing Primary candidate may be lost- period, from the regular election or may even result in votes for the other side. When I first saw the numbers posted, I noticed that the number of votes Cicilline lost by reflected, almost exactly, the votes his opponent had garnered in the Primary. Significant? Yes, since Cicilline's loss reflects that he did NOT win all of the Democratic vote in the general election.

Both Ferri's win & Coaty's could demostrate a trend toward voting out incumbents, but it's too soon to say if it has ANY meaning at all. Cicilline's message was not able to target his opponent's theme of "kick the Dems out- they spend too much." Campaign tactics have developed in the past 10 years since he held previously held office and he may not have taken advantage of this change, while his opponent had professional help in doing so. Or it may be that his previous General Assembly experience worked against him while his theme, "I can hit the floor running," was seen as a detriment or, perhaps, not specific enough . You tell me. Remember, I did not receive the mailings.

The Dems on many levels were asleep on this one. For all the rhetoric on how powerful they are, this challenges that basic assumption. In targeted races such as this one, relying solely on past history proved to be a real boo-boo. Relying too much on the Crowley-transference (the previous Rep.), certainly proves to have been a mistake. Ah, but hindisght is always 20-20, isn't it?

However, Coaty may find that holding onto this seat proves more difficult than the initial capturing of it. The theme of any election is to know your electorate, and then craft your campaign message around it. Coaty proved the winner this time.

Yep, it's going to be a very interest year up at the State House. I wish him & the other temproary residers there a lot of luck. They're going to need it.

Thanks to reporter Richard Salit. It's a shame that Projo no longer has an office here. Here is the Baskst' interview link.
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