The 2003 Elections - Bad News for Incumbents

   The 2003 off year elections are over.  Between October 7th and November 15th, voters in four states chose Governors.  California ousted incumbent Democrat Gray Davis in a recall election that elected the Republican actor and Kennedy family in-law Arnold Schwartzenegger to the Governor's mansion in Sacramento.  {Link to article on October 7, 2003 California recall.}

   On November 4th, voters in Louisiana, Kentucky and Mississippi went to the polls.  The voters in Kentucky elected a Republican for the first time in 32 years.  Fletcher beat Chandler 596,284 to 487,159; a margin of 109,125.  Of Kentucky's 2,705,453 voters, 1,083,443 (40%) cast ballots.

    In Mississippi, Democrat Ronnie Musgrove lost his re-election bid to Haley Barbour, the former chairman of the national Republican Party.  Barbour received 470,404 (52.59%) votes to Musgrove's 409,787 (45.81%).  There were three independent candidates: John Cripps got 6,317 (0.71%); Sherman Dillon got 3,909 (0.44%); and Shawn O'Hara received 4,070 (0.46%).

    In 1999, Musgrove won election to Governor's mansion by the smallest margin that year: 379,033 to 370,691 for Parker; 8,208 for Ladner and 6,005 for Perkins.  Mississippi elects governors the same way the United States elects presidents, by an electoral vote system.  The winning candidate for Governor must win a majority of the 122 electoral districts, each district corresponding to a state representative district.

    In 1999, although Musgrove won the Governor's race by 8,342 votes, he split the electoral vote evenly with Parker 61 to 61.  Therefore, the Mississippi state legislature chose the governor in 1999, and it chose Musgrove. [One of the major premises of psephology is that every vote counts when analyzing elections.  Note how Musgrove's margin in 1999 was 8,342 compared to independent Ladner's 8,208.  So while neither individual independent candidate affected the outcome of the 1999 election in Mississippi, both candidates together did by getting more votes than the margin between the two top candidates.  By contrast, the independent candidates in the 2003 governor's race did not make a difference.  Haley Barbour won by more than 50% of the vote.]

    When President Lyndon Baines Johnson signed the 1965 Voting Rights Act and Public Accommodations Bill, he said that the South would become Republican for the next generation.  He knew whereof he spoke.  Barbour ran a covertly racist campaign against Musgrove.  In 2001, Mississippi had a referendum to remove the Confederate "Stars and Bars" from the state flag.  It lost, although Musgrove supported the move.  Barbour used the Stars and Bars in his campaign literature and reminded voters of Musgrove's support for the measure.

Louisiana and Abortion

    In Louisiana, the governor's race on November 4th was a free for all between 17 candidates.  The winner that night, Republican "Bobby" Jindal, received 443,389 (33%) with his three major opponents: Kathleen Blanco 250,136 (18%); Richard Ieyoub 223,513 (16%) and Claude Leach 187,872 (14%).  The remaining 14 candidates received the other 19% of the vote.

    In the November 15 run-off, an additional 45,318 voters went to the polls and Democrat Kathleen Blanco became the first woman Governor of Louisiana by a vote of 731,358 (52%) to 676,484 (48%) for "Bobby" Jindal.  This race was almost an exact re-run of the Louisiana Senate race in November 2002 where Mary Landrieu kept her Senate seat in a run-off with Suzanne Haik Terrell.

    Ironically, Susanne Haik Terrell ran for Attorney General in 2003 and whereas the norm is that voters usually split the party control of the Governor and Attorney General; in 2003 Terrell went down to defeat again 597,917 to Charles C. Foti, Jr.'s 689,179.  Both Terrell and Jindal ran on stridently anti-abortion platforms, opposing abortion in all circumstances.  Louisiana is a southern, conservative, heavily Catholic state.  Yet, the most extreme anti-abortion position seems to guarantee failure at the polls.  This is because candidates who oppose abortion under all circumstances, including rape, are actually siding with criminals against honest people.  They are siding with thieves against those who are being robbed.  Rape is a capital crime in many jurisdictions.  Why should an individual and family be forced to accept the genes of a criminal into their family lineage?  It's an absurd and immoral position, yet one touted regularly by otherwise seemingly normal, sane, and rational, if somewhat narrow-minded, meddling, dogmatic and selfish, people.

Conclusion for the Governor's Races

    While the mainstream commercial media loudly touted Schwartenegger's win in California as a Republican victory and gave Bush partial credit for the Republican wins in Kentucky and Mississippi, the truth is that in all four Governor's races the incumbent party was turned out of office.  In Louisiana, the retiring Republican was replaced with a Democrat. 

    Also, the margins were ample but not landslides, and turnout was uniformly low.  It is clear that the nation is deeply divided and unenthusiastic about politics and the political leadership.  This is not historically the normal state of affairs for the United States.  Usually, there is a broad consensus on the proper direction and function of government.  The fact that this is not currently the case is because of the campaign tactics being used by both the Republicans and Democrats, a prime example of which is the New Jersey Legislative elections where the Democrats took control of an evenly divided State Senate (called a victory in the mainstream media) with 46.58% of the vote.  The Republicans and Democrats are in a fierce competition to develop new techniques of disenfranchising voters and fashioning majorities from minority results.

New Jersey's Legislative Elections

    After the New Jersey Governor's race in 2001 which brought Democrat Jim McGreevey to power, the state found itself with an evenly divided State Senate.  The Republicans had 20 seats and the Democrats had 20.  This was no fluke.  The United States Senate was evenly divided 50-50 in the wake of the 2000 election, and the Indiana House of Representatives was divided 50-50 in the wake of the 2002 General Election.

    McGreevey's top priority in the 2003 mid-term legislative elections was to take control of the evenly divided State Senate.  First, the Democrats raised about $22 million and the Republicans about $18 million.  They spent over $41 million but, and here's the important point, the money was not spent equally among the 40 legislative districts, or used in a statewide campaign.

    The money was dumped on three or four "targeted" districts that the Democrats were determined to capture.  That is why they were able to win 22 of the state senate seats with 669,627  votes (46.58%) while the Republicans were winning only 18 seats with 741,651 votes (51.59%).  In addition, the "safe" Republican seats are generally in the more affluent, high voting suburbs while the "safe" democratic seats are generally in the poorer, lower voting inner cities.  So, while Republican Robert Martin in the 26th district was winning with the lowest total of any victorious Republican (21,733), 13 of the 22 victorious Democrats were winning with less.  Sharpe James, the Mayor of Newark, New Jersey's largest city, was elected to the state senate with the lowest vote total of any victor 7,919 (the sixth lowest vote total of all 77 major party candidates.)  [Of course, the Republicans obliged by not fielding a candidate against James and, in another democratic travesty, it is not illegal for officials in New Jersey to hold two elective offices simultaneously.]

Bennett-Karcher in the 12th

    Actually, one of the two seats that the Democrats captured was the 12th district where John Bennett, the Republican leader of the State Senate, was caught in an FBI investigation for double billing Marlboro Township for legal work.  Bennett admitted the double billing, but claimed it was an error.  The real outrage, that sitting legislators are allowed to perform legal work for local governments and school boards (Bennett was township attorney and school board attorney for many jurisdictions) is common practice in New Jersey among elected officials of both parties, along with putting relatives on the legislative payroll (which Bennett also did.)

    Luckily, the Democrats had a great candidate ready to run, Ellen Karcher, a two year incumbent on the Marlboro Township Committee whose late father, Alan Karcher, was speaker of the New Jersey State Assembly.  Ellen's mother is on the Borough Council in Princeton.  So, Karcher, with McGreevey's help, was able to raise and spend over a million dollars on her state senate race.  In the end, Karcher prevailed with 24,174 votes to Bennett's 19,600 and independent Earl Gray's 2,334.

$4.4 million in the 4th and Negative Commercials

    The other seat the Democrats captured was the 4th district where Fred Madden defeated George F. Geist by a 63 vote margin, 20,752 to 20,689; after spending $4.4 million on the race.  That's $212.02 per vote.  Madden bought television commercials on Philadelphia television stations to trash his opponent.  Given the fact that there are only about 100,000 voters in a state senate district and that Philadelphia stations reach millions, it is easy to see how someone can spend $4.4 million on a state senate race.

    And while the Democrats were targeting the double billing, putting relatives on the payroll of the Republicans, the Republicans were responding in kind by trying to tie the Democrats to Governor McGreevey, who is currently very unpopular in New Jersey and whose poll numbers rival those of Gray Davis in California.

    In other words, both parties pursued negative strategies.  Why?  To keep the voter turnout down.  In New Jersey, half the voters are unaffiliated.  The other half is split about 1 million Democrats to 800,000 Republicans.  It is obvious that as soon as the turnout exceeds 1.8 million, then independents will be deciding elections.  Even worse, it is clear that a qualified independent could easily win in New Jersey, just like in Kentucky where only 40% of the voters cast ballots in the Governor's race.  In New Jersey, only 34% of the registered voters cast ballots, 1,544,008.

    Negative advertising is deliberately used by both parties to keep voter turnout down and the election of officials in the hands of the party faithful.  Targeting specific districts with obscenely expensive campaigns, while refusing to contest a majority of the other districts ensures that the voters have virtually no chance to make any changes in the policies of the government.  This is also true on the national level where the Republicans and Democrats allow the other party a free ride in about 200 congressional districts and, almost as if by prior agreement, contest only 40.

    In the tightly fought 2000 presidential race, Bush and Gore each received over 2.9 million votes in Florida.  But on the congressional level, 10 of the 23 congressional candidates had no major party opponent.  Seven Republicans had no Democratic opponent, and 3 Democrats had no Republican opponent.  If the Democrats were really serious about taking control of Congress, would they give the Republicans a 4 seat head start in Florida alone?

    Anyway, its a perfect system.  It makes political races so expensive no outsider can afford to run for public office.  Then, the obscene amounts of money are spent on negative advertisements to turn voters off and keep independent voters away from the polls. The two parties divide the spoils among themselves by virtually agreeing not to contest enough races so that the voters can make any real changes.

    That's why the electorate is evenly split, anti-incumbent and unenthusiastic as demonstrated by the 2003 election results.  The two party system is rotten to the core, but just like the rest of the people in the world who live in fascist, undemocratic regimes, there is no alternative.

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Contact: Joshua Leinsdorf