Ohio2006 Blog

News, analysis, and comments on Ohio elections.

Wednesday, May 3

How Powerful Are Party Endorsements, After All?

It's a puzzle. Close to home, in my Ohio House of Representatives district, a party-endorsed former legislator (Barbara Boyd-D) easily withstood a determined, energetic challenge from a promising young candidate with a big newspaper endorsement and many endorsements from area office-holders (Julian Rogers-D). And on the statewide level, a party-endorsed legislator (State Sen. Marc Dann-D) turned out to have little to fear from a brilliant, aggressive Attorney General candidate with many endorsements from newspapers and big-city mayors (Subodh Chandra-D). It makes party endorsement seem all-powerful. But how did prickly Court of Appeals Judge William O'Neill (D) win big (58%-42%) over ODP-endorsed and well-funded Common Pleas Judge A.J. Wagner (D)? And how did under-funded Ashtabula County Auditor Sandra O'Brien (R) oust GOP-endorsed incumbent State Treasurer Jennette Bradley (R)?

In O'Neill's case, he had name recognition from his previous Supreme Court campaign, but so did Juvenile Judge Peter Sikora in the other primary. It must have been O'Neill's more extensive judicial experience or his extreme stance on judicial independence (accepting no campaign conributions), or a combination of those, that overcame the endorsement.

In the O'Brien-Bradley case, it's clear that the wishes of the state GOP apparatus are trumped by the demands of extremist social ideology. We see that reflected in the gubernatorial race as well, where there was no formal endorsement but there were many signs of informal support for Petro from party officials.

So party endorsement overcomes all, except when it doesn't.


At 4:23 PM, Anonymous Rob Calhoun said...

It's important to remember that there is a significant (if unknowable) component to elections---especially primary elections---which is outside the rational decision-making process.

For example, I can't see how anyone who calls themself a Democrat (much less 23% of the Democratic electorate) could vote for ultraconservative trucker Merrill Keiser over Sherrod Brown for US Senate. Keiser got almost as many votes as everyone's favorite underdog Subodh Chandra! Who are these people? Republicans who thought it was more important to stir up the pot than to have a hand in the contested Blackwell-Petro race? Democrats whose naturally contrarian nature makes them vote against any front-runner? Disaffected Hackett supporters who went temporarily insane? Or is there just a significant random component that defies any analysis?

I suspect there is a pretty significant random component, or perhaps "name-based voting". I doubt neither that Subodh Chandra was hurt by his name, nor that William O'Neill (whom I voted for because of his no-money pledge, but who clearly comes out ahead in the "most Irish sounding name" department) was helped by his. I'd bet the name factor is much bigger than any party endorsement.

I have some pity for the electorate; sometimes it's just very hard to find out anything about primary candidates. I spent a few hours websurfing for information on the various judicial candidates before voting yesterday and solid facts were hard to come by for the more minor races. The Lorain Democratic Party had links to candidate bios, but many candidates didn't bother to submit them.

Thanks for keeping your blog!

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