Breaking Down the Numbers

Breaking Down the Numbers

Brewster McCracken led Margot Clarke by more than eight points on May 3 -- but the run-off June 7 is bound to be much closer. Both candidates showed substantial strength in high-turnout boxes whose voters are more likely to come back for Round 2 -- Clarke in Central Austin and McCracken west of MoPac. McCracken's support in the city center is stronger than Clarke's on the fringe, which makes him still a narrow favorite -- but with turnout unlikely to top 8%, every vote will make a difference.

The map shows actual vote margins, not percentages -- the dark red and blue boxes are where McCracken and Clarke, respectively, won by more than 100 votes. Sometimes much more. Any successful strategy for a low-turnout, low-dollar run-off campaign would involve the candidates making personal contact with voters in those boxes -- which only contain about one in six of Austin's registered voters -- to get them to return to the polls.

In Clarke's favor, come-from-behind wins have become the norm in council run-offs. In the last decade, five council members (Eric Mitchell, Beverly Griffith, Bill Spelman, Willie Lewis, and Raul Alvarez) won run-offs after finishing in second place in the first round; only two (Bruce Todd and Daryl Slusher) managed the reverse. The last race to go to run-off, Alvarez's 2000 matchup with Rafael Quintanilla, broke out geographically in the first round in much the same way as this one, with Alvarez in the same position as Clarke is now. He went on to win the run-off by 201 votes.

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