Sunday, April 4, 2010

Who will win on Tuesday? Our polls predict.

Columbia voters don't want a crime fighter, job creator, mudslinger, conciliator, facilitator, or mediator.  They want a legislator.   
In a phrase, that's what our polls seem to be saying.   Over the past five years, the Columbia Heart Beat online voter polls -- first of their kind in our town, and now subject to much imitation -- have provided accurate predictions of which candidates and which issues would come out ahead on Voting Day.  Our polls predicted Paul Sturtz's upset Columbia City Council victory over Almeta Crayton in the First Ward, for instance, and accurately ranked each of several candidates in order almost down to the percentage point.   
We put polls online months in advance so that over time, the humps and bumps of online polling inaccuracy start to smoothe out, and long-term trends emerge.  With the exception of the Columbia Mayor's race, trends for April 6th set up early and held.  We also don't get as many people trying to "beat" the system by voting multiple times because our poll isn't in their faces every day. 
Here's what our polls predict will happen on April 6th as of today, and why, IMHO. 
Will you vote Yes or No for downtown surveillance cameras?
Votes to date:  721 
No -- 54%
Yes -- 39%
Undecided -- 5%
What I've seen and heard:   1)  People don't think crime is a big problem downtown, and no wonder.  Before now, the downtown business community did everything it could to downplay the issue, even hush-hushing the presence of gangs.  2)  Cameras won't deter determined criminals,  so the money and time are better spent on more police.  3)  Despite cameras all around, Adam Taylor was attacked in a parking garage, not on a downtown street, so you can't use his case to justify downtown cameras.   4)  Cameras are a basic intrusion on civil liberties, and a further erosion of basic American freedoms that are already in freefall.
Vote (for 1 or 2)  Columbia School Board - 3 Yr. Term
Votes to date:  287
Jan Mees -- 64%
Jim Whitt -- 34%
Dan Holt --  29%
What I've seen and heard:   I've been impressed with Jan Mees (left) as board member and president.  She always gets back to me quickly and thoughtfully when I email the board.  She was the only school board candidate to answer my survey.  She seems committed and prepared.   I was miffed at Jan for her support of the infamous failed tax levy and Jan's husband Bill for harshing on Trib reporter Janese Heavin at a post-election event back then.   But I'm over that now.   Jan's won my support and admiration for hanging in and doing a good job in challenging times.  
Jim Whitt wins as an incumbent, but Mr. Whitt and Dan Holt ran lackluster campaigns. 
Vote Columbia School Board - 1 Yr. Term
Votes to date: 337
Jonathan Sessions -- 58%
Phil Peters -- 41%
What I've seen and heard:  Jonathan Sessions (left) has run a better campaign than Phil Peters has.  He's raised a lot of money; he always dresses ultra-sharp; and he's been visibly working for votes and support.  I also think people seek diversity on certain public platforms, and in this case, Mr. Sessions -- who would be the youngest board member by far -- brings age diversity to a board with both ethnic and gender diversity. 
One caveat, however -- and I think it's important.  Despite his youth, Mr. Sessions is likely to be a conservative board member, unlike the change agents Ines Segert, Michelle Gadbois, or Michelle Pruitt represent.  Mr. Peters would probably follow the change agent path more closely, a philosophy rooted in his experiences with children of lower socioeconomic status, Head Start, and urban education environments. 

Vote 4th Ward Columbia City Council
Votes to date: 501
Tracy Greever-Rice -- 47%
Daryl Dudley -- 28%
Sarah Read -- 17%
Rick Buford -- 6%
What I've seen and heard:  Of all the City Council candidates to come along in the 4th Ward in years, Tracy Greever-Rice (left) resembles the political, economic, ethical, and educational face of the 4th Ward majority like few others.  Her involvement in city government -- from service on the Planning and Zoning Commission to repeatedly sticking her neck out as an unpaid volunteer for her neighborhood association -- has won her many supporters, as the 4th Ward yard sign wars attest.  
But just as importantly, Mrs. Greever-Rice has run the best campaign, rallying constituents at small and large gatherings; beating the streets non-stop; and campaigning on legislative issues.  She has a professorial eye for detail and a razor-sharp mind people first noticed on the Trib's old Class Notes blog, where after she wrote about the whys and wherefores of the Phyllis Chase meltdown, posters were clamoring for her to run for School Board.   But City Hall beckoned instead.
The Chamber of Commerce and establishment business community should have beckoned her opponent, but screwed up by not endorsing Sarah Read, a small businessperson and attorney who enjoys the challenge of navigating the thin grey lines that distinguish private from public ethical considerations.  
There's nothing wrong with that.  In business, you get the best deal you can, under the circumstances you're given, and Mrs. Read has made a successful career of conciliating, mediating, and litigating to do just that.  She's a good candidate on these merits, but voters in our poll must not think Mrs. Read represents the prevailing 4th Ward ethos as well as Mrs. Greever-Rice does.  
City Hall desperately needs to become less of place to do private business and more of a place to do the people's business, which gives Mrs. Greever-Rice another decided edge in this campaign. 
Finally, while Everyman and Everywoman should be able to run for public office in America, stiff competition can't be ignored.  When you have better candidates who do have the experience in governance, inexperienced contenders aren't as likely to succeed.  In the 4th Ward especially, experience counts, and neither Daryl Dudley nor Rick Buford seems to have taken much interest in city government or community service before seeking the city's highest offices. 
Vote 3rd Ward Columbia City Council
Votes to date:  502
Karl Skala -- 57%
Gary Kespohl -- 42%
What I've seen and heard:  When you're running against the unpaid, volunteeer legislator -- Karl Skala (left) -- who literally created the concept of coffee house office hours, which he attends without fail every other Saturday to hear concerns from anyone -- not just his constitutents -- you'd better be ready to make your case. 
But Mr. Skala's opponent, Gary Kespohl, has failed to do so in myriad ways.  Third Warders I speak to are furious over what they see as Mr. Kespohl spinning his wheels in mud after failing to get traction on the Landmark Hospital issue, which turned into a full-fledged political blunder.
Mr. Kespohl has since revved up his monster truck tires to spin mud blobs at Mr. Skala, few of which go to his legislative record.   In response, Mr. Skala simply drives his campaign car through the car wash, refusing to engage on anything but substantive issues.  In so doing, he has emerged a genuine statesman.
With his near legendary-preparedness and dedication to continuing education -- a must in almost any profession -- Mr. Skala has set the bar of unpaid public service quite high.  His consistently high poll numbers seem to reflect voter recognition of his commitment to their service. 
Vote for Columbia Mayor
Votes to date: 640
Robert McDavid -- 34%
Sid Sullivan  -- 30%
Jerry Wade -- 20%
Paul Love -- 9%
Sean O'Day  -- 5%  (endorsed Sullivan; left race)
What I've seen and heard:   The Mayor's race, with its presumptive leaders and dark horses thrown into flux by the entry of retired obstetrician/gynecologist Dr. Robert McDavid remains close, but leaning toward Dr. McDavid (left).  
In this race, two candidates who represent different shades of the establishment -- Dr. McDavid and Jerry Wade -- are vying for votes against one viable non-establishment candidate -- Sid Sullivan
Until last week, our poll had Mr. Sullivan leading Dr. McDavid, but that lead faded after Dr. McDavid started advertising in earnest.  With Sean O'Day out of the race after endorsing Mr. Sullivan, his 5 percent would theoretically put Mr. Sullivan in the lead, but only slightly. 
Mr. Wade might be winning this race hands down had he not made some potentially fatal political errors.  Mr. Sullivan (left) has been unable to raise much money, but he has used myriad other ways to keep his name and his ideas in front of voters, including several op-eds that detail his positions.  His tight second now to Dr. McDavid may represent his ascent in the eyes of former Wade voters. 
Dr. McDavid is well-funded and pleasant, attributes that may be enough to put him over the top.  He is a quiet candidate who has been at home in a quiet campaign. 
Paul Love has performed remarkably well at forums, but he remains an unknown without much visible support seeking the city's highest office.  Tavern owner Sal Nuccio, while still officially in the race, in reality checked out of it long ago.


  1. Your poll assumes that Nuccio will get 0 percent of the vote. You know that's not going to happen. Thus, your omission makes your mayor poll virtually worthless.

  2. Isn't it Dr. Greever-Rice?

  3. And, isn't it Dr. Greever-Rice?

  4. While I did not support him, my bet is that McDavid will win by a much larger margin than you are predicting. He might even make it over the 50% mark. Sullivan will come in third to Jerry Wade, but it is entirely possible that the two of them, combined, will get less of the vote than McDavid.

  5. Wow, your polls were wrong!

  6. While the McDavid win doesn't surprise me, the two Ward race election results are very odd.

    I followed their evolution closely last night, and here's what was going on up until 8:43 pm, when for over an hour Wendy Noren's office stopped reporting results.

    At this point, all other counties around us were 100% counted.

    In the 4th Ward, Tracy Greever-Rice was averaging 150 votes per precinct to Daryl Dudley's 125 vote average, with 8 of 12 precincts counted. At this point, she had around 1250 votes to Dudley's 1,000 votes.

    Then suddenly, for the last 4 precincts, the trend does -- not just a reverse, but a hard 180 -- with Dudley averaging 200 votes per precinct and Greever-Rice 125 votes per precinct, putting him just barely over the top.

    In the 3rd Ward, with 6 of 7 precincts counted, Karl Skala leads Gary Kespohl by 60 votes. But that trend, too, does a complete 180 with the last precinct, which puts Kespohl in the lead by 50 votes, giving him a net pickup of 110 votes in a single precinct!

    This makes no sense.

    Additionally, I wonder what moral authority either man will have to lead their Wards, given the enormous special interest financing and the way the campaigns played out, esp. Kespohl v. Skala, which was one of the most mean-spirited campaigns (on Kespohl and the Chamber's part) I've seen anywhere.

  7. I might also add that in the 4th Ward, Sarah Read remained steady, with about a 110 vote/precinct average across all 12 precincts.

    In other words, she provides a logical "benchmark" against which to measure the other percentages.

    Why did her per precinct percentage not change much, when the others changed so dramatically?