2009 North Adams Municipal Election Post Mortem
Alcombright versus Barrett
It was very clear to me from the beginning of this campaign season that the race for Mayor of North Adams was Dick Alcombright's to lose. It was a very simple calculation on my part that came to that conclusion and I stand by it.
Since the last truly contested mayoral election, there has been a swing of approximately 1600 registered voters. To come to that number I took the number of voters who have left the North Adams rolls, either by moving, passing away or simply falling off the face of the planet, and added in the number of new voters who have either come of legal voting age or moved to the city.
I took into consideration what appeared to be John Barrett's perceived antipathy towards this block of voters and guess that Alcombright would win their votes by about 3:1, or about +1200 Alcombright voters.
Take the last really close election where Barrett's margin of victory was around 350, subtract that from 1200, and you get what almost exactly what I had predicted privately several months ago.
I told a few friends over the past week what I thought would happen and only one other person agreed with me. (he is also an electoral math geek) The rest thought I was nuts. I should have taken bets. I was off by about 1%.
In a couple of interviews The Mayor has said that he noticed younger voters at the polls and that he knew he was in trouble. I think he defines "younger voters" as anyone who did not vote in 2001. The population trends in this city have been evident for a very long time. These voters are not "new." Most of them lived here 12 years ago. They simply did not vote back then.
If John Barrett had wanted to ensure political success, he would have made more of an effort to reach out to these voters over the past decade. I am sure that he would argue that he did plenty for this demographic, but it appears that most of this age group disagrees.
What was also apparent by the consistent numbers from ward to ward was that Dick's victory was not built on the back of any one group. A majority of just about every slice of the population, some more than others, appear to have filled in the oval next to Dick's name. This election was not swung "the kids" or "the artists." Even the over 50 voters seemed to fall slightly in Dick's favor.
If you believe that this was a "change" election for the sake of change, you did not look at the city council races.City Council
For guessing purposes, I broke the candidates into three tiers - two groups of 6 and one of 3. I was close but had a few big surprises, including the fact that there was no "anti-incumbent" movement in the electorate. Contrary to what some have said regarding the mayor's race, this was not a "throw the bums out" election.
Personally, I though that three or four incumbents would fall off council with those votes being given to challengers. It simply did not happen.
Privately I predicted five of the top six vote-getters in no particular order. One that I got spectacularly wrong was Marie Harpin, who I figured would fall from near the top down into the vulnerable numbers after her incredibly strange and publicized allegation that Mike Supranowicz had given Dick Alcombright the debate questions ahead of time. In my book, I thought that a large percentage of Alcombright voters would leave her off their ballots. Just like her accusations of cheating, this electoral phenomenon did not happen.
I also thought that Dave LaMarre would be in the top 6. AS it stands right now, he has an unofficial 3 point lead for the last spot over Keith Bona. Who knows what is going to happen with that after provisional and military ballots are counted.
Which leads me to Bob Moulton, the only incumbent who fell out of the top 9. Since he and fellow overt Alcombright supporter Bona are separated by only a few dozen votes, I would guess that Moulton lost all of his Barrett supporters and ended up with the nearly the same exact voters as Bona. That's not anti-incumbency. It's the risk you take for for picking sides.
That leads to the final tier, which I had 3 candidates in. It turns out there were four of us who fell well below the threshold of the final slot. No big surprises except for the fact that the challenger's slate did not do better. Again, no anti-incumbent movement.
So...... that's about as objective as I can be.