Friday, August 06, 2010

Loose leaves from yesterday's local election

Meandering personal reflections on the Pruitt-Turner results (see post update below) that, thanks to today being Friday, I have failed to put into a smooth narrative. I'm treating this stream of bullets as open, so I may add more as the day goes along:
  • State House District 58 Rep Mary Pruitt can and probably will be beat the next election (assuming she runs). While Steven Turner did not get nearly as many votes as Pruitt's previous challenger, Jason Powell, he did eat into her win margin. Pruitt's base is shrinking and she has no one but herself to blame.
  • Steven Turner was no stronger than Jason Powell as a challenger. There is no evidence that I can see that Turner's GOTV was stronger than Powell's. 2006 and 2010 races were Pruitt's to lose.
  • Turner's enthusiastic support of the Music City Center may not have hurt him, but it sure didn't help him in a district that expressed ambivalence about MCC. In this case, what didn't help him get around 200 votes hurt him.
  • Turner should have been as mum on the MCC lightning rod as he was on May Town Center. Or at least he should have muted the zeal, given North Nashville's concerns about MCC.
  • Future challengers have got to develop the same GOTV machine that Pruitt has built. A little more diversity might help: incorporate the interests of poor and working class people beyond the paternalistic mantra "jobs, jobs, jobs," maybe? Diversity is not merely a matter of ethnicity.
  • Future challengers should increase their reach beyond the factions of Democratic Party regulars who (con)descend to act as if they understand everything about local politics.
  • Blaming voters is not the best way to defeat Mary Pruitt in the future.
  • Future challengers should stop running on what Mary Pruitt doesn't do for the district. Go negative when you have to, but don't make it central to the campaign.
  • Beating or leveraging Mary Pruitt starts today, not at the beginning of the next election cycle. Resign yourself to neglect until the next election, and Pruitt will definitely neglect us.
  • Morning 100-degree heat and severe afternoon lightning storms may have kept many typical voters at home. However, Turner's more energetic base could be expected to go to the polls regardless of conditions. Would Pruitt's win have been bigger but for the elements?


  1. In that Turner's GOTV efforts weren't enough, you are right, that is obvious given the results. The rest of this is projection on your part. Its pretty simple really, look at the numbers across the county, those precincts in the 21st had high Dem turnout due to a highly publicized race for State Senate. Those precincts in the 19th or 20th had low Dem turnout because there was no real media coverage or TV for the House races...the same dynamic played out in the 60th which had even lower turnout than 58.

    Its a common fallacy that the electorate is highly informed or that nuanced issues carry the day. I know that might have been the case for you, and do your last dying breath you are gonna be convinced this was true for everyone else who doesn't vote, but it simply didn't work that way.

    If there had been media coverage, if Turner had the money to go on local TV and run ads, if there had been a more exciting Gubernatorial or Senate race to drive voters to the poll, maybe things would've been different. But getting people to go out and vote simply for a State House primary race is damn hard and you have to contend with habitual voters who love incumbents.

    Am I "blaming voters"? Yes, in that people shouldn't have to be begged and cajoled to participate in a representative democracy. But that's me, I'll vote no matter what. Could be nothing contested and I'll vote because that is just what I do, and will always do, regardless of how many times the people around me disappoint.

  2. Sean: In a race where where 200 votes separate the incumbent from the challenger, I believe handling nuanced issues more diplomatically could make a difference. A wide margin and I would agree with you about nuance.