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Local voters unpredictable

Once again, Del Norte voters proved this week they have an independent streak.

There’s no doubt the county leans conservative, despite a nearly even split in party affiliation between Democrats and Republicans. That was clearly established when Del Norte bucked the national trend and went for McCain over Obama in the 2008 presidential election.

But take a look at the ballots counted so far, and you’ll find plenty of evidence from Tuesday’s election that Del Norters are unpredictable.

For instance, we went for Democrat Jerry Brown in the governor’s race in a big way, but went for Republican Carly Fiorina in the U.S. Senate race in an even bigger way. My instant analysis: the Senate race provided an easy chance to join the national protest against the perceived excesses of D.C. Democrats, while the governor’s race represented more complex issues surrounding the Sacramento budget mess.

Whatever the reasons, it’s nice to know we aren’t just voting along party lines for every office. Still, with the exception of Jerry Brown, most Democrats in partisan races fared poorly here. U.S. Rep. Mike Thompson barely outpaced his relatively unknown Republican challenger, and Assemblyman Wesley Chesbro got far fewer votes than his equally unknown Republican challenger. Both Thompson and Chesbro easily won re-election despite their Del Norte hiccups.

Then there are the local, supposedly nonpartisan races that always seem to take on a bit of party partisanship anyway, from district attorney to School Board. The county political parties endorsed slates of candidates that made it clear which of the locals were affiliated with the Democrats and which with the Republicans.

Again, voters proved willing to mix things up by electing candidates linked to both parties.

All of the preceding thoughts amount to post-game analysis, of course. But a local pollster had the guts to share his final survey numbers with the newspaper before any ballots were counted.

The final poll conducted by LifeStyles Research Company proved an accurate predictor in several races. In the auditor’s race, for example, it had Clinton Schaad at 55.3 percent and Jeff Leighton at 44.7 percent. With most ballots counted, the current tally in real votes is Schaad 57.7 percent and Leighton 42.3 percent.

While it was sometimes well off its margin of error of plus-or-minus 3 percent, the poll predicted the correct winners for City Council and three of the four School Board seats. It also had the city water defluoridation measure going down and correctly forecast a tight race for College of the Redwoods trustee.

In some other races, the Del Norte results bear little resemblance to the poll numbers. The poll had Garry Young far out in front for Harbor Commission and so far he’s in third place, although within striking distance of a second-place finish that would get him back on the commission.

In the highest-profile Del Norte race, the poll had Bob Drossel at 54.9 percent and Jon Alexander at 45.1 percent for district attorney. As of now, Alexander leads Drossel in the real count, 50.7 percent to 49.3 percent.

LifeStyles Research Company is owned by Bob Berkowtiz, who happened to be seeking re-election to the School Board. His poll showed him up over Donald McArthur 62.1 percent to 37.9 percent. The current actual count is McArthur 54.7 percent and Berkowitz 45.3 percent.

That result has to be doubly painful for Berkowitz. Still, he did have the courage to share his survey results in advance. They usually constitute proprietary information that he sells to candidates and campaign organizations, and by all accounts they have proven quite useful to his clients.

This time it was a mixed bag, one more testament to the unpredictability of Del Norte voters.


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