Friday, October 29, 2021

2021 Cincinnati City Council Election Non-Prediction Predictions

 I have no definitive knowledge of who will be the top nine vote getters on November 2nd.  I have no polling data.  I not aware of any polls having been conducted on the council race.  In conclusion, no one knows who is going to win and if you clicked on this article in the hopes of knowing that, well you are a fool. (Kidding, on the square)

That being said...I've done some analysis.  I compiled lots of data.  I've got the results of 2017 council and mayoral election.  I have the 2020 election results.  I have the 2020 census data compiled by voting precinct. I have a ton of information about the 35 candidates on the ballot.  I've reviewed all of that I have some thoughts on who likely will get elected to the Cincinnati City Council.

Before I get to that, I want to outline the core elements of the Cincinnati electorate, from perspective. I also will describe some of the key variables that will determine the winners and what are likely scenarios for who gets on council.

Cincinnati Voting Blocks
First off, what are the voting blocks in Cincinnati?  Oh, what do I mean by a voting block, you ask?  Well, I define a voting block as a group or classification of voters that have common characteristics that provide a referential means to identify political philosophy, Party, race, identity, or other views that would indicate how they would vote.  This is absolutely a generalization about people.  Without polling data that includes self assigned characteristics, there is no other way than to generalize.  I am trying to do that based on the data I have, the voting history of the City by precinct, and my experience in covering/observing Cincinnati elections. 

These groups are not monolithic. In a council race, some Republicans can and will vote for a Democrat and some Democrats will vote for a Republican.  For parties with more options, that is less common than parties with a short ticket. All in all this is kind of messy, but there is a means to judge who each group will support.

What that leaves are the following general voting blocks of voters. 

  1. Black Democrats - They will support the Democratic ticket. Is there evidence they support black candidates more than white candidates? Yes, some. 
  2. White Democrats - They will also support the Democratic ticket. Is there evidence they support white candidates more than black candidates? Yes, some.
  3. Moderates - To poorly use a Ghostbusters reference: this group likes to cross the streams. They will support some Democrats, some in Charter, some Republicans, and even Independents. They tend to support those who are bit more supportive of business and the police, but don’t like the extremes.
  4. Republicans - I've segmented out the Trumpists from this block as a significant number of Republicans in the City did not vote for Trump. The lines between some in this group and the Trumpists are blurry on most policy.
  5. Trumpists - This is a new block that is not large, but I've made distinct from Republicans because of what I see a degree of a split in the Republican Party, but also because of their voting variation.  These are the hard right Republicans.
  6. Black Conservatives - For much of the 21st Century I would call this the Winburn/Smitherman vote. They are going to support some Democrats and Charterites too.
  7. Progressives - This group has two components: Those to the left in the Democratic Parry and Leftists outside the Democratic Party. This group will vote for some Democrats and progressive Independents.

I assign no totals to these blocks, but on some levels they can be derived.  There are way more Democrats in the City of Cincinnati than Republicans.  There are not as many Progressives than some Progressives think there are.  Most candidates need support in more than one of these blocks to break into the top nine.  Sometimes they need three blocks to win.  It all depends on who votes.

Variables
So many things can change an election.  There can be one thing and there can be many things.  They can be conflicting and cancel each other out.  Some of them can be appear to be insignificant, but can make or break a candidates.  Some of these variables happen on election day and some are part of the campaign. These are not all of the possible variables, but they are what I think we can observe and evaluate.

  1. Overall Turnout - Candidates generally can't do much about this.  This relies on three things: 1) how easy it is to vote, 2) how well the Parties or other significant GOTV efforts worked, and 3) the weather.
  2. Voting Block Turnout - This is something candidates can have an impact on.  Consider this getting our your base, but in this type of an at large election other attributes can help.  Issues and topics can drive out one block and keep another at home.  If there are blocks tied to certain neighborhoods or parts of the City, those groups could see a serge in turnout if something that year matters.  
  3. Party Endorsement - This year may be a test for this idea, but getting a major party endorsement has nearly been a requirement to get elected to Cincinnati City Council  The value of the endorsement has structural advantages to the campaign in terms of resources, but this is as good as any signal for a majority of voters to understand a candidate's political views and their seriousness.
  4. Name Recognition - Incumbency is one version, being a prior elected official is another. Being well known helps as well. Having a well known last name does not hurt either.
  5. Fund Raising- Money matters. 
  6. Campaign Communications - This has several parts, but the core types are mailers, TV/radio ads, web ads, phone banking, and personal canvassing.  These largely rely on fundraising, but the messages used are also very  important. Negative campaigning is not very effective for one candidate to attack another. This hasn’t been seen so far in the council race. Getting outside groups to do it, that is more common, but how effective it is not a proven concept.
  7. Positions on policy or political philosophy - This can matter in some elections, but in reality, not as much as people think. Just because a candidate is for or against an policy is not enough, if that they can effectively communicate those ideas, they will get no where.
These variables at this point are mostly played out. You can get some turnout changes at this point, but most of the rest of these have occurred.

Turnout
The only measurement of Turnout we can see is with early and absentee voting.  As of the end of last week, turnout is up significantly in comparison to turnout in 2017 at the last City Election.  With COVID-19's impact on early/absentee voting, this increase may be far less of a indication of higher turnout and instead part of the shift of votes that would have been cast on Election Day in person.  In comparison to the terrible turnout in 2017, I would predict that 2021 will exceed the 29% by a few percentage points at least. Not all of the increase is COVID related.

Scenarios
Who is going to have power on council?  That is the question that really matters.  That is also a question that could change depending on who gets electected.  Party affiliation is not a guarantee of unity.  Here are the likely possible combinations of who gets power.

  1. Democrats in Strong Control with 6 or 7 seats, 2-3 seats split between GOP/Charter - This would be considered a conventional wisdom outcome.  Many see this as the likely situation (some may call it inevitable.) A related version of this scenario would have 1 of GOP/Charter group go to an Independent Progressive Candidate. This is an example where the variable voting block turnout would come into play on the election.
  2. Democrats in Control with 5 seats - here you could see Dems with control, but the other 4 seats in all sort of combinations.  Turnout would drive the power of the rest, a surge for the GOP/Charter or a mix in of Charter/Independents could fill in numbers.  Dems would control and on many issue would have as much power as a 6 or 7 seat majority since most of the Charter or Independent candidates are Democrats.
  3. Charter/GOP in Control - This is the hope of the GOP.  They would need to get at least three to make this happen, and hope pro-business Charterites want to work together.
  4. No Dominant Party in Control -  This split could be amongst the three parties.  This could also be a mix of non-party endorsed.  This is also not that likely, but many candidates and their follows love to dream about it.

Candidate Groupings
I don’t know who is going to win, but I believe I have grouped together all of the candidates into a group that represents my opinion on their chances to win the 2021 City Council Election. I don’t know vote counts, so I really can’t rank the order of finish. With the number of candidates and a lower than normal sense of incumbency, the spread of votes could be tighter, making the race closer to get into the top nine. 

Likely to Win-They should win.

Jan-Michele Lemon Kearney
Greg Landsman

Strong Chance - The other 7 slots should come from this group, but it is not guaranteed.

Jeff Cramerding
Kevin Flynn
Steve Goodin
Reggie Harris
Mark Jeffreys
Scotty Johnson
Liz Keating
Meeka Owens
Victoria Parks
Jim Tarbell

Possible - Depending turnout and the mood of the voter, someone in this group could win, but likely no more than one or two could slip into the top 9 and bump 1 or 2 of those with a strong chance out. Some of those in this group could also fall even lower.

Michelle Dillingham
Jackie Frondorf
Galen G. Gordon
Phillip O'Neal
Betsy Sundermann
John Williams
Tom Brinkman
Jamie Castle
Bill Frost
Brian Garry
Kurt Grossman
Evan C. Holt

Not Going to Win  - The hurdles are just too high to overcome the groups above.

Jalen Alford
LaKeisha Cook
Rob Harris
K. A. Heard
Nick Jabin
Andrew Kennedy
John Maher
Peterson W. Mingo
TeAirea R. Powell
Logan-Peter Simmering
Stacey Smith

I look forward to following turnout during the day on Election Day and will be on Twitter @cincyblog on election night.

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