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Liuzzo Cost Dems, Not GOP, Votes In Election

Did a third party candidate wind up costing Dave Wilfong the Jamestown mayor’s race?

How the entrance of a third-party candidate would affect the race was one of the most discussed aspects of this year’s race for mayor.

Some thought Andrew Liuzzo would strip Republican voters away from Wilfong while others postulated that Liuzzo had broad enough support to take support from both Wilfong and Democrat Eddie Sundquist.

On Nov. 5, Wilfong received 38.49% of the vote and Liuzzo received 11.13% of the vote. Sundquist, meanwhile, received 49.45% of the vote.

At first glance, then, it would appear that Liuzzo could have cost Wilfong the race — but a deeper dive into the numbers shows most Republicans voted in favor of Wilfong while Liuzzo’s support came from votes that likely would have gone to Democrats in past years.

ANALYZING THE NUMBERS

An analysis of election results from 1999, 2003 and 2007 — the last three years the city had a contested mayoral election before this year’s race — showed Republican candidates received an average of 40.12% of the vote for mayor while outgoing Mayor Sam Teresi received an average of 56.4% of the vote.

Compared to past years, Wilfong lost about 1.63% of Republican support from previous elections while Sundquist lost about 6.95% of Democrat voters’ support from previous contested elections in the city.

An analysis by voting district isn’t possible because the number of voting sites in the city has decreased from 1999 to 2019 from five polling sites in each ward in 1999 to three polling sites in each ward this year. But, at a ward level, some interesting trends do emerge. Ward 3 is a longtime Democratic Party stronghold in the city, with council candidates in contested races garnering 61.55% of the vote and mayoral candidates receiving 59.20% of the vote in Ward 3. Liuzzo’s presence in the race hurt Sundquist in one of the three strongest areas for Democrats.

In Ward 4, Republicans have typically received between 40% and 43.6% of the vote for City Council or mayor, with Wilfong’s election results in the ward falling in that range at 42.33%. Sundquist received 47.62% of the vote in Ward 4, less than Teresi received in his three contested races, indicating Liuzzo likely pulled more votes in the ward from likely Sundquist voters than from likely Wilfong voters.

A similar story emerges from Ward 6, which has typically cast votes for Democrats, 59.2% in council races in the three years sampled and 61.55% in mayoral races while Republicans have garnered only 29.6% of votes for City Council positions and 35.6% in mayoral races. This year, Wilfong did better than Republicans have historically fared in Ward 6 with 39.68% of the vote while Sundquist received fewer votes than Democrats typically receive at 47.86%. Liuzzo’s 11.6% of the ward total would seem to have come from Democrats in Ward 6, not Republicans.

TROUBLING SIGN FOR REPUBLICANS?

Republicans eked out a majority on the City Council for the first time since 2004-05, but one has to wonder what happens if Anthony Dolce, R-Ward 2, ever decides not to run for the council. Dolce has pulled in an average of 56.25% of the vote in Ward 2 in the years where there has been a contested mayoral race, interesting since Democrats have won 56.81% of the ward’s votes in the mayoral elections those years. That trend held true in thsi year’s mayoral election, with Sundquist receiving 54.85% of the vote compared to 34.16% for Wilfong.

Those numbers would indicate that Dolce is popular largely on his own in Ward 2, and perhaps the ward is up for the taking if he chooses not to run for the council in the future.

Similarly, Brent Sheldon, R-Ward 1, held on to his seat in a tightly contested race with Tim Smeal. The trends for the GOP in Ward 1 aren’t good. In the contested years, Republican City Council candidates have received 44.34% of the vote with Democrats receiving 52.2%. Teresi, meanwhile, won the ward with an average of 54.95% of the vote in his contested races. Wilfong’s 40.02% total in Ward 1 could be considered roughly normal for Republicans in Ward 1, meaning Democrats will likely target the seat again in 2021 during the next city election.

DISAPPOINTING TURNOUT

It is striking to see how few voters cast ballots this year compared to the 1999 election. The years were fairly similar politically with contested mayoral races and several contested races for the City Council. In 1999, 8,862 voters cast ballots in the mayoral election compared with 5,363 in 2019, a decrease of 39.5%. Voter turnout has been particularly hard hit in Ward 3 (-47.02%) and Ward 5 (44.27%). The rest of the wards have seen voter turnout decrease between 33% and 35% over the past 20 years.

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