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Friday, June 7, 2013

Generating New GOP Voters in Hudson County

There are few upsides to a decisive loss in Tuesday's low turnout Republican primary for Republican State Committee in a very low Republican-enrollment Hudson County. It was a primary for which the few Republicans in the county (total party enrollment is currently just above 27,000) were prepared; indeed, the last contested primary for State Committee seats in Hudson County was 2001, a year when former Jersey City mayor Bret Schundler (himself considered a man with national aspirations, cross-party and urban appeal) ran and captured the Republican gubernatorial nomination. Nevertheless, a glance at the raw data from the County board of elections yields some interesting conclusions and demonstrates some interesting and surprising accomplishments. It is clear that the "Dixon and Dixon" team significantly enhanced overall county GOP turnout and specific Row F off-the-line totals, in essence, carrying the Row F line despite being at the bottom of the line (that is, at the bottom of the ballot where races are generally ignored by many voters) and having no upticket help. Despite the decline in the percentage of voters voting at all for state committee, compared with the votes for the nominal gubernatorial primary, Patricia Dixon got 87 more votes and Eric Dixon got 56 more votes than Seth Grossman in Hudson County. Almost all elections where the "top" of the ticket drives turnout and the "bottom" of the ticket -- i.e., the least important races -- suffer a serious dropoff in votes (what sometimes are called "undervotes" because of the gap between people voting for their choice for governor, and those not voting for the offices below). While this did happen in Hudson County's Tuesday Republican primary, the "gap" was much less than the difference in the last gubernatorial primary (2009). The inescapable conclusion is that the 2013 state committee vote likely significantly enhanced total GOP primary turnout in Hudson County. Just digest one fact: While votes cast in the 2013 Republican gubernatorial primary were down 12% from 2009, votes cast for the Hudson County primary for Republican State Committee increased by about 28%. The aggregate 2013 female state committee total vote was 30% higher (+696) than the uncontested race for female state committee in 2009, while the 2013 male state committee race was 26% higher (+711) than the 2009 race. The 2013 GOP turnout for state committee was about 77% of the gubernatorial vote, whereas the uncontested 2009 state committee vote was only about 55% of the 2009 seriously contested gubernatorial vote. Turnout on a town-by-town basis gets more interesting. (Here's the raw data, by the way.) Only eight percent (8%) of Hoboken Republicans bothered to go out to the polls, but in North Bergen it was 27% and in some wards in North Bergen, turnout for a party primary approached 40%. It is my operative theory that this was an attempt by the Republican state organization to squash this challenge -- yet the town by town totals show that the Dixon and Dixon team got more votes from North Bergen than any municipality in the county (Jersey City was first) and held firm at 18% of the vote. Conversely, the organization-endorsed candidates lost support from their upticket benefactor Christie. This is significant because reports indicate that Republican party committees spent heavily on a state committee race. Each of the Republican State Committee, Hudson County Republican Committee and Jersey City Republican Committee spent money to fund mailers emphasizing the state committee race and boosting Maffei and Asbury. Perhaps between 50,000 to as many as 80,000 pieces of mail overall were sent out by these committees. Robocalls were also made, attributing these committees as the parties responsible for the expense. (Arguably, this violates New Jersey state election law which carefully regulates the expenses and uses of funds of party committees.) Despite the organization efforts -- undoubtedly a response to our challenge in running in the first place and then our efforts to challenge the incumbents' petition signatures -- the organization candidates suffered a significant dropoff in votes from the top of the ticket and barely exceeeded their 2009 vote totals. Irene Asbury got 950 fewer votes than Christie despite the mailings and robocalls. In fact, with the mailings and robocalls, Irene Asbury got only 127 more votes than she did when she ran unopposed in 2009. Russ Maffei lost even more votes from Christie, getting 972 fewer votes than the Governor (again, despite the efforts of the Republican State Committee to fund multiple mailers and phone calls). Despite the increased efforts, Maffei got only 64 more votes than the incumbent (and national GOP committeeman) Lee Lichtenberger got in 2009 when he ran unopposed. These statistics are extremely noteworthy. The Republican organization's top of the ticket -- Chris Christie -- is arguably the most popular Republican in the nation. Conversely, Maffei and Asbury barely had more impact on this race than a test pattern at 4 am. Note than Seth Grossman ran more than five percent (5%) higher in Hudson (13.2%) -- with hardly a campaign -- than he did statewide excluding Hudson (7.97%). Maffei and Asbury trailed Christie's numbers by about 6%. The Dixon and Dixon state committee campaign significantly, if inadvertently, boosted Grossman's numbers at the top of the ticket (getting 18% versus Grossman's 13.2% in Hudson County but only 7.9% statewide excluding Hudson). Dixon and Dixon also got the highest percentage of any off-the-line candidates in Hudson; the closest other candidates were 31st District Assembly candidates Michael Alonso and Tony Zanowic who got about 12.6% and 11.2%, respectively. Clearly, Dixon and Dixon got 18% despite an absolutely noncompetitive gubernatorial candidate at the top of the ticket (Row F, the Hudson County Republican Club slate) in Grossman. In fact, the key accomplishment is that the Dixon and Dixon state committee campaign alone may have increased county GOP turnout by about 700 votes (judging by the increase in aggregate state committee vote totals). This increase alone indicates that Dixon and Dixon were responsible (inadvertently?) for most of Grossman's Hudson County vote, when it is usually the other way around, and certainly for the significantly much higher aggregate state committee vote in 2013. So the significance is this: Dixon and Dixon -- and some well-placed ads on Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity -- brought out several hundred new Republican voters, in a heavily Democratic county, on a primary day and caused voter participation in the State Committee primary to spike sharply higher on a day when every other race had significantly lower vote totals. This is despite the hurdle of "not having the line." Most voters simply pick a row ("row A," for example) and go straight down the line. Again, vote totals decline as one moves down the line to the lesser-profile races. The other significance is that the Republican State Committee and its affiliates evidently felt the need to spend, what, $25,000 to $50,000 on a state committee election. That is astonishing. Maffei and Asbury's numbers suggest they were largely the beneficiaries of upticket help and created little to no traction of their own. Maffei's and Asbury's 2013 numbers were barely higher than the vote totals from the uncontested 2009 state committee election. But the Dixon and Dixon votes did not come off from Maffei and Asbury (who, again, got more votes in 2013 than 2009 reflecting Republican State Committee expenses). The Dixon and Dixon votes were, presumably, from people who did not cast votes in 2009. These are new voters. This represents party growth -- and also is distinct from the "protest vote" which would, if it materialized, have manifested in other races. But the top of the party establishment line -- Christie -- has an approval rating of 70% and an approval rating among Republicans of nearly 95%.

 Every other GOP race had reduced turnout and reduced interest, except the state committee race. Given that the state committee vote, as a percentage of the gubernatorial race, increased from 55% to about 77% while the gubernatorial race turnout declined by only 8%, it strongly appears that Dixon and Dixon were almost entirely responsible for their own vote totals AND for virtually the entire overall increase in the state committee vote over the 2009 totals for the same race. (An alternative theory. The 12% decline in gubernatorial turnout could support a prediction of a corresponding 12% decline in participation for all other down-ticket races. This implies that 2013 state committee primary aggregate votes would have totalled around 2,400. If one further views the Dixon and Dixon votes as coming totally off that 2,400 figure, this would then mean that Maffei and Asbury only retained about 1,700-1,800 of their 2,700 or so votes from 2009. As the Maffei and Asbury vote totals in 2013 were about 2,800, this could support the inference that the significant advertising aid to Maffei and Asbury from the Republican State Committee, Hudson County Republican Committee and Jersey City Republican Committee drove and boosted their vote totals by about 1,000 votes each.) BACKUP DATA Total 2013 Hudson County Republican votes: 4529 (16.75% of registered Republicans.) Total 2013 Hudson County gubernatorial votes: 4349 Difference (voters NOT voting for Governor but voting for some other race): -180 (-4.0%) GOVERNOR 2013 HUDSON Christie 3776 - 86.72% Grossman 573 - 13.16% other 5 ____________________ total 4349 STATEWIDE GOVERNOR 2013 Christie 92% Grossman 8% (7.97% ex-Hudson) HUDSON COUNTY GUBERNATORIAL TURNOUT - AGGREGATE 2009: 4928 2013: 4349 Decline: 579 (-11.8% from 2009) FEMALE STATE COMMITTEE (all but 10 of 487 precincts reporting) Patricia Dixon 660 - 18.88% Irene Kim Asbury 2826 - 80.84% Other 10 _______________________ total 3496 MALE STATE COMMITTEE (all but 10 precincts reporting) Eric Dixon 637 - 18.46% Russ Maffei 2804 - 81.25% Other 10 _______________________ total 3451 2009 STATE COMMITTEE TURNOUT Uncontested Irene Kim Asbury -- 2699 Lee Lichtenberger -- 2740 FEMALE STATE COMMITTEE TURNOUT -- AGGREGATE 2009: 2699 2013: 3496 Increase: +797 (+29.5%) MALE STATE COMMITTEE TURNOUT -- AGGREGATE 2009: 2740 2013: 3451 Increase: +711 (+26%) (Note: 2013 gubernatorial aggregate vote was down 12% from 2009.) STATE COMMITTEE VOTE AS % OF GUBERNATORIAL 2009 FEMALE: 2699 vs. 4928 (54.8%) 2009 MALE: 2740 vs. 4928 (55.6%) 2013 FEMALE: 3496 vs. 4349 (80.4%) 2013 MALE: 3451 vs. 4349 (79.1%)

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