Primary precinct analysis: Where a man can still win

Judge Gisela Triana

As previously discussed, female candidates in Democratic judicial primaries kicked a whole lot of ass this year. The four statewide races that featured one female candidates against one male candidate were shockingly not close – Amy Clark Meachum and Tina Clinton both topped 80%, while Kathy Cheng and Gisela Triana were both over 70%.

I’ve said before that blowout elections usually don’t yield anything interesting to see when you take a closer look at them. When a candidate wins by a dominant margin, that dominance tends to be ubiquitous. Still, I wondered, given that Texas is such a mix of counties – large, medium, small; urban, suburban, rural; Anglo and Hispanic; Republican and Democratic – that I wondered if that might still be true in these judicial primaries.

So, I picked the closest of the four race, Gisela Triana versus Peter Kelly, which was a 73-27 win by Triana, and looked at the county by county canvass. Behold, here is every county in Texas in which Peter Kelly won or tied:

County      Kelly   Triana
Borden          4        2
Briscoe        16       15
Burleson      340      292
Carson         59       56
Coke           33       28
Collingsworth  25       17
Fisher         79       20
Glasscock       7        5
Hall           33       30
Hansford       11        8
Hardeman       53       41
Hartley        32       29
Haskell        83       59
Hudspeth      143      143
Jack           72       70
Jasper        551      494
Kent           21       12
King            2        0
Lavaca        257      213
Limestone     340      308
Loving          4        1
Madison       132      111
Morris        345      274
Motley          5        5
Newton        160      134
Oldham         18       18
Red River     208      191
Roberts         5        4
Rusk          861      776
San Augustine 219      172
Shelby        187      182
Stonewall      35       19
Wilbarger     130      129

So there you have it. Congratulations to Fisher County, in what I would call the southern end of the panhandle, for being the most pro-dude part of the state, and to Rusk County in East Texas for being the largest pro-dude county. There were two counties in which each candidate got at least a thousand votes that were fairly close:

County      Kelly   Triana
Gregg       2,028    2,159
Harrison    1,182    1,484

I did not check the other races, on the assumption that there would be fewer such examples in those less-close contests. None of this is intended as a comment on the quality of the candidates – the Dems had a robust lineup of well-qualified contenders this cycle. I don’t think that this kind of “analysis”, if one can call it that, tells us anything useful, but I do think there’s value in examining the silly side of politics now and then. I’ve also had this sitting in my drafts since mid-March and felt like it was finally time to publish it. I hope you enjoyed this little exercise in said silliness.

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11 Responses to Primary precinct analysis: Where a man can still win

  1. Wolfgang says:

    Thanks for posting this. It’s not just election arcana. Indeed, there might be enough cross-county and within-county variation here to give a graduate student in political science some fodder for a multivariate ecological analysis that might net a publication in a scholarly journal. It’s by no means frivolous, and — unlike much other polisci research these days — it’s actually relevant to real life politics: it can inform campaign strategy and provide actionable insights into how to win.

    Additionally, I would point out that the vote counts represent actual voting behavior (as opposed to self-reported voting behavior or voting intentions in surveys), and that it provides a level of geographic granularity that would be prohibitively expensive to try to achieve with the telephonic poll, not to mention the problem of obtaining a representative sample of those who actually vote, as opposed to being eligible or saying they intend to vote, and then having to qualify everything in respect to the margin of error and confidence levels involved in all sample-based studies.

    The male-vs-female hypothesis (ie, that voters these days give females the edge if given a choice, at least in judicial races, and particularly in primary elections when party does not provide a basis for voting, obviously seems to receive a lot of support based on these recent primary election results, but what explains the geographic variation? Consider that the candidate sex/gender constellation in a race is a constant over all geographic voting units (counties/districts/precincts), so the remaining variance in winning/losing margins must be accounted for either by differences in the composition of the county-level electorates (constant in the short term for each county, but variant across counties), or in variation among counties in who chooses to participate in primary elections (and registers a preference in a particular judicial race). That differential self-selection across electoral units (deciding to participate in the primary) could conceivably be driven by other races on the ballot, and have a spill-over effect on voting for judicial candidates.

    Then, there is the question of how much difference candidate attributes (other than sex) make, and to what extent candidate efforts make a difference, most notably self-promotion and campaigning. The latter is probably vastly over-estimated by the candidates themselves. Just look at the low participation rate of the 100,000 or so Texas attorneys in the judicial candidate surveys. Attorneys would be the most likely to know, or know something about, other attorneys who run for judicial office. That said, the media and the tiny segment of the public that is actually attentive to (some) judicial races would take those matters more seriously, including the ratios or raw numbers in preference polls. Voters interested in a particular candidate or race might even look at the LWV voter guide and discover that Peter Kelly apparently didn’t submit a response while Triana did.

    I would caution, however, that it is always easy to come up with an idiosyncratic explanation after the fact. You can simply marshal/select some plausible fact(s) that would support the correctness or even justness of the outcome. And serious study would have to be based on a large dataset and systematic analysis.

    As for personal familiarity with the candidate as a basis for vote choice, that would probably be highly idiosyncratic too.

    If you are a litigation attorney, for example, you will remember each judge you have ever stood before, and that will be a factor if you see that judge’s name on the ballot, whether consciously or otherwise. You will have a feel for the judge’s personality or “judicial temperament” if nothing else. But small is the number of voters who can vote based on personal in-court experience. And in the case of non-incumbents (or two of them in an open race) you can’t even rely on prior courtroom experience. Then it would be a question of what other claim of fame that attorney, now candidate, has, and how wide a social network. Being involved in political party work or civic organization, or having a large number of friends and acquaintances, may obviously make a difference. As might local bar association involvement and leadership. Having led a special section–say, for example, family law or appellate law, might held build name recognition (among other specialists).

    I also wonder about the impact of candidate name as a decision heuristic (other than allowing for identification of gender) on collective voter behavior. The obvious cues are names that signal cultural background/ethnicity (Hispanic, Asian). Unlike variation in sex, which is rather evenly distributed (with small disparities in the sex ratio), ethnic composition of the geographic sub-electorates varies hugely. So it may profitable to look into that with a sophisticated multivariate model.

  2. Bill Daniels says:

    “It’s the men in this country. And I just want to say to the men in this country: Just shut up and step up. Do the right thing for a change.”

    ~Mazzie Hirono

    You folks promulgated the message that men, particularly white, straight men are bad, and now you’re seeing the results, as indoctrinated women and beta males take that message to heart.

    If you don’t favor women, Muslims, non whites, gays, etc., then you need to sit down and shut up. LOL. Good luck with that. That gives you ‘stunning and brave leaders like this:

    Seriously, how can anyone look at that racist, gapped tooth, broke ass woman and say yes, this is who I want to hang my drapes on?

    For what it’s worth, that’s the real picture, it’s not a parody. Somebody on the left thought this was a great idea. Seriously.

  3. Manny says:

    Didn’t take long for Bill to resort to his racist/bigot self, should add misogynist.

    Bill Daniels, “Seriously, how can anyone look at that racist, gapped tooth, broke ass woman and say yes, this is who I want to hang my drapes on?”

    Bill Daniels has advocated the shooting of women and children.

    Bill Daniels a Trump prototype who is just as responsible for “Mourning in America” as Donald J. Trump is.

  4. Joel says:

    Holy moly in the comment section. This passes for discourse today?

  5. Manny says:

    Bill, I do have a question(s)?

    Why do you hate women, blacks, and “Mexicans” so much?

    Bill, why do you advocate the shooting of women and children?

    A new ad for you Bill, you could easily substitute Bill of Trump, as you are like a parrot, imitating Trump.

    Bill why did you quit pushing that drug, oh Trump quit so you quit, a parrot.

  6. mollusk says:

    @Joel – As with just about anything with a comment section on the internet, we have trolls on the left and the right – fortunately, just a child’s handful of them here.

  7. Wolfgang says:

    Ok, I am not in the mood for slugfest right now … may I try to steers this back to something more civil and on point ???? Like: What’s in a (judicial candidate’s) name?

    Up for discussion: Suppose your nana’s name was Gisela … do you think that might (unconsciously perhaps) influence your vote choice, assuming you know nothing else about the candidates? Tip the balance, perhaps?

    Now, how about Peter Pan? Would that involuntary association matter?

    And how about Kelly if shows up as a first name. Or Lynn?

  8. Manny says:

    mollusk you ignore trolls at your own peril, Democrats did and we have Trump.

  9. C.L. says:

    Manny, you’re trolling Bill just like Bill, you’re trolling Manny.


  10. Manny says:

    You think I am stupid and don’t realize what I am doing.

    Do you comprehend C.L.? ignore trolls at your own peril, because of people like you we have Trump.

    Do you think that only people that comment visit the site? Some may believe Bill if he is ignored, you knew that right?

  11. Wolfgang says:

    I wonder how many people read this blog (and what the D/R ratio looks like). I don’t see a counter anywhere, but I suspect it gets better traffic than the Bar blog. The SEO rank seem pretty good. Does KUFF keep track with Google Analytics or some such tool?

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