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Ballot position and the Republican races

Inspired by a comment JJMB left on the previous post about the effect of ballot position on the judicial races, I went and looked at the Republican results to see what I could see. Here’s what I found.

– Though there were the same number of races on each ballot, the Republicans had far fewer contested judicial primaries than the Democrats had, a total of sixteen if you include the Supreme Court and Appeals Courts, all of which were unopposed on the Democratic side. By comparison, there were 30 contested Democratic judicial primaries. The reason for fewer multi-candidate GOP races is simple: the vast majority of them featured incumbents, who generally went unchallenged. On the one hand, having fewer contested races probably saves on brainpower, since you had fewer things to pay attention to and have fewer decisions to make. On the other hand, you still have to slog through all of those uncontested races, and having those fewer decisions to make may well be more boring and glazed-eye-inducing. I have no way to evaluate that, so I’ll leave it to you to decide if that makes voters more or less likely to find a shortcut.

– Skipping the two Supreme Court races, there were nine contested primaries for Appeals Court or District Court. The candidate listed first won twice, lost six times, and made it to a runoff once. I should note that of the six candidates who were listed first but lost, three of them were taking on incumbents – Evelyn Keyes, Mike Massengale, and Lynn Bradshaw Hull. I would not consider those races to be relevant to this conversation, as incumbents will have a higher level of name recognition, and presumably access to the needed resources to run a real campaign. I don’t get Republican mail so I can’t verify that, but I sure did see plenty of Mike Massengale signs in people’s yards. On the other hand, one of the top-spot candidates who won was a District Court incumbent (Sharon McCally) who took on a sitting Appeals Court incumbent (Leslie Brock Yates) in what turned out to be a rather nasty race. Again, I don’t think this is a relevant example.

– There were five contested races for County or Probate Courts. Four of the five candidates listed first lost; the exception was Don Smyth. One of those losing candidates, Charles Coussons, had withdrawn from the race between the filing deadline and the election, but too late to have his name removed.

– Finally, we come to three non-judicial races, for District Clerk, County Clerk, and Tax Assessor. Paul Dwight, Stan Stanart, and Don Sumners, respectively, were listed first for each, with Dwight losing and the other two winning. Given the track record of candidates listed first up to this point, I can’t claim that it helped Stanart or Sumners. At best, I’d say any effect was inconclusive, since their results were atypical. I’d probably make a stronger case for Stanart being helped than Sumners since I think the Tax Assessor race was higher profile, and featured an incumbent to boot. But again, I’m generally not on the business end of Republican campaigning, so I can’t accurately assess that. All I can tell you is what I’ve laid out here, and you can make of it what you will.

– Finally, reader Gwen sent me a spreadsheet, which I have made available as a Google doc, which contains a basic model that predicts the winner in the Democratic judicial primaries based on ballot position and the Chron endorsement. You are welcome to play around with it and see if you can build on what it does.

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