Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Busy Primary Day, With An Emphasis On D.C. Mayor's Race

Let's get a little more current.  Today wraps up the primary season leading into November's midterms, gubernatorial, and various state and local races.  Seven states are up and there are a number of interesting races.  The one that is getting the most ink is the Republican Senate primary in Delaware.  A month ago this race was on nobody's radar.  The presumptive nominee is longtime Republican vote getter Mike Castle.  Castle is one of the politicians I profiled last year in my post on small state politics.  A fixture in state political circles since the mid '60's Castle has served as both governor (two terms) and as the state's lone House member since 1993.  Castle has fashioned himself as a prgamatic moderate, perfectly suited to a state which typically votes Democratic statewide.  The state GOP establishment has been firmly behind Castle and everything pointed to an easy pick-up for Republicans of the seat vacated by now VP Joe Biden. 

That, of course, was before the year of the Tea Party.  Over the past several weeks, Castle has seen his sure thing become much more precarious as Christine O'Donnell, fueled by a Sarah Palin endorsement and a slew of out of state funding and manpower, has tightened the race.  Like earlier contests in Utah and Alaska, which saw incumbent GOP Senators defeated, tonight's contest in the First State could provide fireworks.  The winner faces Chris Coons, New Castle County Executive.

Closer to home, the big tilt today is the DC Democratic mayoral primary (Washington Post blog coverage here).  Given the underlying political affiliation of DC voters, this is the whole shebang.  The winner will be the mayor.  Watching this race up close over the past months, this race has become fascinating.  The incumbent, Adrian Fenty shot to prominence four years ago through a retail politics performance par excellance.  He won every precinct in the city, casting himself as a results oriented reformer.  As is so often the case with reformers, patience and prudence take a back seat to action.  The flashpoint in all of this has been Fenty's efforts to reform the long moribund DC education system.  Under Chancellor Michelle Rhee, Fenty has overseen a mayoral takeover of the school system and a process of school consolidation and widespread teacher firings--with test scores both improving and ebbing as a result.  In a nutshell, Fenty has been highly polarizing, especially among DC's older establishment.  His opponent, City Council Chair Vince Gray has campaigned on the notion of "One City."  To supporters, he will bind back together what Fenty has blown up.  To detractors, he will be a throwback to the dysfunction of latter day Marion Berry/Control Board DC government.  The prevailing view of the underlying dynamics of this race suggests that race and age are the faultlines upon which the election will be decided.  Fenty has tended to draw his support from white, more educated, and younger voters whereas Grey is seen as strongest among African American and, especially, older voters.

John has been doing yeoman's work looking at this race from the ground level--see here, here, and here.  We're both going to try and get out today to capture some of what's going on at various polling places.  I'm also going to post as results start coming in later tonight. 

Also of note today is the GOP gubernatorial primary in Wisconsin.  Milwaukee County Executive Scott Walker is taking on former 1st District Congressman and one time Senate candidate Mark Neumann.  The winner will take on Milwaukee Mayor and former 5th District Congressman Tom Barrett in the general.

UPDATE: As the results start coming in tonight, we're going to get very focused on the micro level for the DC mayor's race.  Here's a DC ward and precinct map so you can play along at home.  If the race shakes out as predicted, expect to see Gray do extremely well in Wards 5, 7 (his home), and 8.  Fenty can be expected to do well in Wards 2 and 3.  His home Ward 4 could be the real bellwether.  Wards 1 and 6 should be relatively competitive too I would think. 

John and I are going to hit some of the precincts in Ward 5 to get some local flavor.  Hopefully we'll have some pictures to go along with the numbers.  This should be Gray territory big time.

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