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Runoff precinct analysis, At Large #2

One of Santa’s election elves came by on Friday with a delivery of Harris County precinct data for the 2011 runoff elections. You can guess how I spent some of my weekend. Before I launch into the numbers, here are a few caveats about them. First and foremost, this is the first election under the new Council districts, so comparisons to prior elections are dicey propositions. That won’t stop me from making them, of course, just remember that the districts in question are different now, so be even more careful about the inferences you draw. Unlike the 2009 runoffs, the spreadsheet I got did not indicate what district the precincts were in. I had to figure that out as best I could by fitting that sheet next to the regular election data, for which I must first filter out the non-Houston precincts. I got it maybe 98 or 99 percent lined up, but I know it’s off a little because the numbers derived from the districts don’t total up exactly. And of course, this is all draft data, meaning it hasn’t been officially canvassed and may not include provisional ballots that will count later. Oh, and it’s Harris County only, too. In short, take all this as an approximation of the truth, as best I can put it together.

With all that said, here’s how the numbers look for the At Large #2 race between CM-elect Andrew Burks and Kristi Thibaut. Thibaut won the Harris County portion of the city by a small margin, but lost the Fort Bend portion by a slightly larger margin, making Burks the winner. Since Burks was also in a runoff in 2009 for this seat against outgoing incumbent CM Sue Lovell, I thought I’d put those numbers in as well.

Dist Thibaut Burks Thib% Burks% Lovell Burks Lovell% Burks% ================================================================== A 2,535 2,180 53.8 46.2 8,953 5,571 61.6 38.4 B 1,703 4,042 29.4 70.4 3,128 7,773 28.7 71.3 C 5,834 2,922 66.6 33.4 12,427 5,962 67.6 32.4 D 2,183 4,802 32.2 68.8 8,015 11,974 40.1 59.9 E 2,478 2,370 51.1 48.9 7,659 6,834 52.9 47.1 F 851 655 56.5 43.5 3,967 2,966 57.2 42.8 G 4,441 3,696 54.6 45.4 12,963 8,770 59.7 40.3 H 1,385 1,214 53.3 46.7 7,235 3,721 66.0 34.0 I 981 775 55.9 44.1 3,625 3,036 54.4 45.6 J 957 617 60.8 39.2 K 2,192 2,248 49.4 50.6

Bearing in mind that these districts are different, the results aren’t all that different. The main exception is District H, where Lovell nearly doubled up Burks while Thibaut squeaked past him. I wish I had an easy way of knowing which precincts were in the old districts, but not only are the districts different, there are differences in the individual precincts as well. Nonetheless, that one comparison stands out like a sore thumb.

Looking at these numbers, there’s not much there to change my mind about how this election played out. Burks did just well enough in the African-American districts to outweigh Thibaut’s advantage everywhere else. Alternately, you could say Thibaut did not do well enough outside the African-American districts to overcome Burks’ lead there, even though she did reasonably well in them; you’ll get a clearer picture of that when I show you the At Large #5 data. Robert Miller wrote on Friday about how Burks was finally able to win on a coalition of African-Americans and westside Republicans, which was visible to him at a fundraiser held for Burks at the home of Republican Fred Zeidman:

In attendance were Democratic elected stalwarts Judge Zinetta Burney, Constable May Walker and State Rep. Ron Reynolds; and Republicans Harris County District Clerk Chris Daniel and former Judge Levi Benton (Burk’s treasurer). Mayor Annise Parker was the Special Guest. Burks announced that he had hired Sandra Strachan from the Greater Houston Partnership as his Chief of Staff, and former Council Member Mark Goldberg as an Executive Advisor — two strong hires.

I’m curious to know what Burks’ supporters here think of that. Is this the Council member you thought you were getting? I personally will be eagerly awaiting Burks’ January finance report, to see who has hopped on the late train for him.

Be that as it may, the question is whether this coalition can be successful in a normal-turnout election, or if it’s an artifact of the unique conditions that a runoff like this one entails. I continue to believe that Burks will be vulnerable in 2013 in a way that freshman Council member usually aren’t, but I have no more history or precedent to go on than anyone else does.

One other interesting aspect of this race was the undervote, which was considerably higher than the undervote in At Large #5. That’s not surprising, since clearly AL5 was the marquee race, but I’ve heard several disappointed Thibaut supporters grumble about how that affected the outcome. Here’s how the non-votes went by district, for both At Large runoffs:

Dist Thibaut Burks Under Under% AL5 UV AL5 UV% =================================================== A 2,535 2,180 826 14.9 152 2.7 B 1,703 4,042 622 9.8 112 1.8 C 5,834 2,922 623 6.6 58 0.6 D 2,183 4,802 641 8.4 51 0.6 E 2,478 2,370 450 8.5 31 0.6 F 851 655 101 6.3 19 1.2 G 4,441 3,696 800 9.0 36 0.4 H 1,385 1,214 196 7.0 34 1.2 I 981 775 145 7.6 15 0.8 J 957 617 108 6.4 25 1.5 K 2,192 2,248 332 7.0 42 0.9

Clearly, Thibaut left some votes on the table in District C, but then so did Burks in Districts B and D. Again, this was the pattern for him from 2009 – far fewer people vote for him in the African-American districts than for Jolanda Jones, or any other such candidate. I think that may hurt him in a normal election, assuming he doesn’t gain some polish and add a professional campaign to address these shortcomings, but it’s hard to say that the dropoff in voting helped or hurt either candidate in this race. I don’t think you can make assumptions about who the non-voters in the Republican districts would have chosen if they had bothered to do so. I’m certain quite a few of them made the deliberate “none of the above” choice. Will those voters, presumably mostly Republicans, be part of a Burks coalition in 2013? His re-election likely gets a lot harder if they aren’t. On the other hand, if he does enough to merit their support (and keep out a Helena Brown type from his race), how much does he lose from the Democratic side? It’s going to be fun to watch, that’s for sure.

In any close race, it’s easy to point at this factor or that as a key to the outcome. I think it’s equally fair to say that if Thibaut had done a better job driving turnout in the Anglo Dem areas she could have won as it is to say that if Burks had run an actual campaign he’d have won more comfortably. After all this time, and with the precinct data in hand, I still don’t know what to make of this race. Greg has more.

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7 Comments

  1. paul kubosh says:

    The troubling thing to me is his actions right after the election. I rumor is he said he was going to do whatever the mayor wanted. I don’t think he realizes the mayor didn’t want him to win. The mayor holding the fundraising is troubling.

    Ben, if you are there. What are your thoughts?

  2. paul kubosh says:

    One last thing. If I am wrong someone correct me but was Sandra strachan (whoever that is) or mark Goldberg (who I personally like) involved in the campaign?

  3. joshua bullard says:

    I attended the fundraiser in river oaks,i spoke with the mayor in person,i kept reflecting back to what charles kuffner kept saying-wondering what andrew c burks specific platform was,as i sat back and listened closely to cm elect andrew c burks speech-I WAS WORRIED,this was far from the andrew burks that i have seen.Its was truly the analogy of the “deer caught in the headlights”burks was “reaching”for sentence structure,looking gazed,fatiqued,it was as if i was traveling back to the eighties when i saw buster douglass knock tyson out with multiple combinations,i kept thinking maybe burks has been campaigning for so many years,he is able to give off the apperance to be the perfect campaigner but may be lackluster as a actual elected council member-to kuffners credit,theres reason to be alarmed-or keeping a close eye on burks is warranted.

    as for the mayor=theres one rule in life”he or she that has the gold,makes the rules” i suspect that the mayor wants to ease the adversity she showed during the camp by offering a “peace offering” if you will,i would suspect that she is responsible for advocating for some funds to go his way,i would nt be alarmed in this area, burks knows she was agaist his election, this offering from her was just to level the playing field- no worries-paul-andrew c burks jr will never be a rubber stamp for the mayor-she just didnt want him mad at her, thats all.

    district c-i can see thousands of you betrayed me-i made damn sure the people in c were delivered ellen cohen on a diamond plated platter and every last one of you knew i wanted andrew c burks elected and you stabbed me in my back and went kristi.shame on you district c for taking from both sides of the isle.shame on district c.if i would have known this i would have given you brian cweren.

    if district c needs assistance- pull it from your district council member cohen,leave burks to the rest of the city,district c has really let me down.

    legally, the voters in c should be punished
    joshua”ben” bullard

  4. joshua bullard says:

    you know what i love most about democrats-as long as your for there canidate,they love you, but the second your not,they attack and begin to want to cry “foul”,andrew c burks had it coming,period,it was his turn,in addition he would have went to the run off as a canidate for the next twenty additional years and i wasnt having that-what some people didnt want to except was you either put andrew in now or he will be on the run off ballot in 24 months,i am happy for him and his camp,i wish him well and hope that he finds his legs at city hall.

    as for the mayor-i have a number of projects that are going back to her desk in 2012,these items pertain to making it a class c violation to smoke ciggaretes in vehicles with minor children on all city roadways and city property.

    making a single designated area a smoking area at all city of houston parks and a class c violation outside of that area.

    and my “sidewalks in sunnyside” project needs to be underway,i need a lot of sidewalks put in blueridge/reedwood on scott and reed road,for the kids to walk to reynolds elementary school.

    lets hope the mayor is able to sort it all out-”paul”i am a big believer in the fresh slate approach,the mayor knows she messed up alot in her first term,the people voted her in on a second go at it-like it not,so for me, i take a step back and wait and see approach,when i was homeless in the nineties she was the city council member that used to stop what she was doing and listen to my concerns,even when she went off to become the controller-she always made time to listen to what ever i was upset with,so i hope she will do better for the kubosh brothers this term, as i matter of fact i am going to make a public request to the mayor right now.

    Mayor parker please do your best to not upset the kubosh brothers this term,they where very upset with you on your first go,if you get some time, please call them on the phone and let them know that you will try to do better at keeping the peace,i would like for you and them to try to work together to keep this city one of the best in the country,thanks mayor

    happy holidays
    “bullard ben joshua”………………………………2011

  5. Mainstream says:

    My sense is that most of the undervotes are conservative voters who never would have voted for Thibault, but also were unhappy with what they knew of Burks. So I don’t think fewer undervotes would have benefitted Thibault.

  6. Mainstream says:

    Startling to see that Districts A and B with run-offs did not have larger numbers than districts C , D or G, and the shocking low numbers from F, H, I, and J show the high level of non-participation by Hispanic voters, and/or the high level of non-citizenship in Hispanic/Asian communities.

  7. […] in B and D, and hold his own in the Republican districts, which was his formula for victory in the 2011 runoff. Burks’ problem is that he’s never been good at maximizing turnout. The undervote in […]

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