Breaking Down the Boxes

Doing the math on the run-off

Click <a href=http://www.austinchronicle.com/binary/ba71/pols_feature2.jpg><b>here</b></a> to view a larger map
Click here to view a larger map

When one's opponent is less than 4 percentage points away from a majority – and you trail her by 13.5 – the writing might seem to be on the wall. Looking at who won where, some insights can be gleaned that Randi Shade had to weigh as she decided to work another month to try to keep her job away from challenger Kathie Tovo. See map at left.

Why Shade Should Stay in the Race

Looking at the map, it's clear that Shade's strength is in West Austin. That's a plus, because West Austinites have the highest turnout and the strongest political motivation – good things in a run-off, when too many people won't return to the polls unless there's a gun to their heads. If you think 7.3% turnout in the first round was pathetic, prepare to be really depressed on June 18.

Notice the precincts with the bold outlines: Those are the power boxes, the Top 25 vote-producing precincts in the city. See how many of them neatly coincide with boxes where Shade beat Tovo?

In a low-turnout run-off, those precincts will be even more crucial. It's no longer about issues and ideas – there won't be any more debates or forums. With every vote being precious, it comes down to which campaign machine wears out the shoe leather getting out the vote. There is historical precedent for this: In 2005, Margot Clarke led Jennifer Kim 40% to 27%, but Kim swung it the other way a month later to become Shade's Place 3 predecessor.

Why Shade Should Have Given Up

Yes, Shade has strength where it counts – a much better situation than, say, Perla Cavazos in 2009. She dominated southeast Austin against Chris Riley, which looked really impressive on a map – until one examined the vote totals for those neighborhoods.

Unfortunately for Shade, Tovo also has strength in the power boxes – more than Shade, in fact. Tovo took nine of the Top 13 precincts and 15 of the Top 25, including outright majorities in 10, with percentages up to 69% and margins of up to 260 votes over Shade. By contrast, Shade barely got more than 50% in her best boxes, and only box 347 (Hill Country Middle School) gave her a margin of 100 votes or more. Tovo averaged a 110-vote margin in her winning boxes.

If Tovo can just get a sizable percentage of her first-rounders back to the polls, it should only take a few Max Nofziger and Kris Bailey voters to put her over the top.

And again unfortunately for Shade, those Nofziger and Bailey voters are where the Jennifer Kim analogy breaks down. In the 2005 Kim vs. Clarke race, Place 3 was an open seat, so both enjoyed equal footing. Shade, on the other hand, is an incumbent. Presumably, people only vote against an incumbent for one reason – they are dissatisfied with her performance and want her gone. By that logic, Shade lost by a better than two-to-one margin. Every vote for Nofziger and Bailey was a vote against Shade, and it's highly unlikely many of their supporters will change their minds and switch to Shade for the run-off.

Voting Results

Voting Results
PLACE 1 Early Voting Election Day Total Vote
Chris Riley 8,819 64.0% 11,323 67.4% 20,142 65.9%
Roger Chan 3,412 24.8% 3,958 23.5% 7,370 24.1%
Josiah James Ingalls 1,008 7.3% 925 5.5% 1,933 6.3%
Norman Jacobson 532 3.9% 602 3.6% 1,134 3.7%
Total votes 13,771 16,808 30,579
PLACE 3
Kathie Tovo 6,230 43.3% 8,616 48.9% 14,846 46.4%
Randi Shade 4,881 34.0% 5,649 32.0% 10,530 32.9%
Michael “Max” Nofziger 2,211 15.4% 2,351 13.3% 4,562 14.3%
Kris Bailey 1,058 7.4% 1,011 5.7% 2,069 6.5%
Total votes 14,380 17,627 32,007
PLACE 4
Laura Morrison 9,579 70.4% 12,449 74.8% 22,028 72.8%
Eric J. Rangel 2,852 20.9% 2,868 17.2% 5,720 18.9%
K. Toby Ryan Hill 1,183 8.7% 1,333 8.0% 2,516 8.3%
Total votes 13,614 16,650 30,264

The Power Boxes

The Top 25 vote-producing precincts in the May 14 election
Precinct Tovo Shade Ballots*
342 415 58% 215 30% 716
347 179 27% 307 47% 657
332 371 69% 111 21% 539
256 190 38% 249 50% 495
242 279 58% 135 28% 482
236 285 60% 129 27% 473
253 164 35% 242 51% 472
231 162 35% 219 47% 466
135 222 48% 171 37% 459
239 295 68% 91 21% 437
354 182 43% 150 35% 425
136 249 59% 139 33% 421
152 206 50% 157 38% 409
262 142 35% 192 48% 404
250 179 45% 175 44% 402
251 167 42% 173 43% 402
273 208 54% 130 34% 387
367 125 33% 142 37% 381
237 141 37% 190 50% 378
278 175 48% 160 44% 367
249 157 43% 147 40% 364
345 86 24% 185 51% 361
421 244 68% 86 24% 359
238 133 38% 159 45% 354
336 241 69% 63 18% 350
Totals 5,197 47% 4,117 38% 10,960

* including Nofziger and Bailey

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KEYWORDS FOR THIS STORY

City Council election, Randi Shade, Kathie Tovo

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