Monday, November 24, 2003


The Memphis City Council District Five race was decided while I was on hiatus and as suspected it went to Carol Chumney, the vapid Democrat grind. (You remember grinds from school, don't you? The humorless drones who studied real hard every day, read all the textbooks, aced all the tests, never spoke up in class, never had an original thought but could repeat everything they'd learned? Yeah, Chumney.) The election result was as expected, but there are some fascinating things to note in the numbers.

Over on Blake's Blog, he made some predictions that largely were ill-founded, and I addressed them briefly in his comments. I'll expand those thoughts here.

If you look at the results of the October election, Democrat Chumney got 6578 votes to Republican Flinn's 5207, or 59% to 41% (leaving out votes for the other three candidates for the moment). But the number three finisher, with 4479 votes, was fellow Democrat Jim Strickland; the next in line after him, with 528 votes, was environmentalist Mark Follis.

Although it's an over-broad generalisation, we can not-unreasonably assume that Strickland's and Follis' voters are far more likely to fall to Chumney than to Flinn. Flinn's appeal is largely based on three things: his personal charm, his Republican affiliation, and his "outsider" populist image. None of those would seem to hold strong sway to the voters who must now redecide their vote in the runoff.

So, assuming -- again I don't think unreasonably -- that Chumney got even 80% of the Strickland/Follis voter set, she would have something like a 63% to 37% edge over Flinn. (10,582 out of 16,792 votes) That's what you should expect to see on November's results.

The actual final runoff tally was 6524 to 5314. That's a stiff drop-off in voter turnout; such is the case in weak elections like these. But the ratio turns out to be 55% Chumney to 45% Flinn! What happened? Chumney's 26 point theoretical became a 10 point reality. Clearly, she lost ground.

Yes, you can assume that a lot of the Strickland/Follis voters just stayed home. But then that means, in the head-to-head tally, Chumney's October 59% still dropped, to 55%. When you should expect her voters to turn out solidly, and for her to pick up some of the others, she didn't! Even in raw numbers, Chumney lost 54 votes between elections, while Flinn gained 107. Nearly double!

I hope Flinn's people have parsed these numbers, as I think there's a good, hopeful note in them for Flinn's future in politics. While I wouldn't want him for my City Councillor, I think he has a place in the local elected political structure. I hope he continues on and finds it. I think the message is clear that Memphians do seem to want him.

I also hope we see both a credible black female challenger and a solid Republican in the next District Five race. The black female will split a lot of votes off Chumney's base, opening up a chance for the Republican. We'll see. I just hope we survive the next four years of Chumney's dull earnestness.

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