Friday, November 9, 2012

What Happened to Omar Beasley in the race for Board of County Commissioners?


Now that the dust has settled on the Presidential election, let’s talk about what happened in the race for the five seats on the Durham Board of County Commissioners. 
The traditional rule for those who run for office is to secure as many political endorsements as possible.  Victory is correlated to those endorsements.  That, combined with voter turnout, determines who wins.
This election reflects an interesting shift.  A close examination uncovers voter patterns that prove voters opted to decide based on another reason.
The Durham Committee on the Affairs of Black People endorsed Michael Page, Brenda Howerton and Omar Beasley.  Howerton and Page won, with Howerton receiving the most votes (18.9%).  Page placed third with 18.66% of the votes.
Both seemed to be vulnerable entering the election.  Their victory can be attributed to the Durham Committee’s endorsement, but how do you explain Beasley placing last with only 6.89% of the votes?  If the success of Howerton and Page is the result of the Durham Committee endorsement, those same voters decided not to vote for Beasley.
Beasley’s exposes a potential break among those who followed the Durham Committee endorsement.  Many of those who voted for Howerton and Page decided to go against the Durham Committees recommendation by voting in another way.
Also telling is the performance of Wendy Jacobs.  Jacobs placed second with 18.84% of the votes.  Could it be that black voters supported Jacobs?  It’s a critical question due to the performance of Ellen Reckhow and Fred Foster.  Jacobs, Reckhow and Foster all received the endorsement of the People’s Alliance.  The PA, like the Durham Committee, only endorsed three candidates.  Jacobs’ strong performance, combined with comparative poor numbers from Reckhow and Foster, raises questions regarding the force of the PA endorsement.
The endorsements of both the Durham Committee and the Pa were compromised during this election.  The election was won due to strong black turnout, but in this election many of those voters followed the recommendation of the Democratic Party, versus that of the Durham Committee.
The Democratic Party pressed people to vote a straight Democratic ticket.  Beasley entered the race after securing 7,000 signatures during a petition drive to be placed on the ballot.  A glitch in timing forced Beasley to run as an independent, versus being allowed to run during the Democratic primary.
My own voting experience confirms this strategy.  I was approached twice by people who encouraged me to vote straight Democrat.  Most voters failed to understand that doing so would leave Beasley on the short end.
The strategy of the Democratic Party compromised the efforts of both the Durham Committee and the People’s Alliance.  If the Democratic Party’s agenda was to prevent an Independent from winning a seat on the Board of County Commissioners, they were successful.  If that was their objective it’s noteworthy to mention that Beasley is a registered Democrat.
A side note to this past election is the incestuous relationship between the head of Durham’s Democratic Party and the Political Committee Chair of the Durham Committee on the Affairs of Black People.  Tracey Burns-Vann, head of the Democratic Party, is the wife of Andre Vann, Chair of the Durham Committee’s Political Committee.  Their relationship did not compromise the way both groups functioned.  Tracey’s push for a straight Democratic slate went against the Durham Committee desire for voters to vote for three.
It’s a complicated game. At the end of the day, what this election exposes is the complexity of Durham’s political machinery.  I’m not sure the end result offers Durham what it deserves in leadership.  It’s more about group think and less about real issues that impact all of us.
Someday a candidate will show up who will run without the blessing of the political powerhouses.  When that happens, things will change in Durham.  As it stands today, voters are manipulated by a process.
This too will pass.

4 comments:

  1. It's also worth noting the Independent did not endorse Omar Beasley. That may have contributed to some votes for or against.

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  2. Carl writes: "The PA, like the Durham Committee, only endorsed three candidates. Jacobs’ strong performance, combined with comparative poor numbers from Reckhow and Foster, raises questions regarding the force of the PA endorsement."

    Here's the numbers:
    Howerton - 92,984
    Jacobs - 92,801
    Page - 91,838
    Reckhow - 91,604
    Foster - 89,207

    Michael Page has 200 more votes than Ellen Reckhow, out of over 90,000 cast. That's quite a stretch to call it "relatively poor." Even compared to Howerton, it's still only about a 1,200 vote margin, or somewhere near 1.6%

    Fred Foster is the only one of the Democratic Party candidates who could remotely be described as underperforming. And even he is only 3.7% behind the leading candidate.

    In 2008 the spread went:
    Bowser - 86,644
    Page - 85,754
    Howerton - 81,898
    Heron - 80,796
    Reckhow - 78,632

    and that was with only 5 candidates on the final ballot. A much larger spread than we saw this week.

    I don't have 2004 data (and the new county website doesn't seem to have the downloads available) but in 2000, when there were 3 Republicans and a Libertarian on the ballot, in addition to 5 Democrats, the difference between the highest vote-getter (Mary Ann Black at 58, 782) and the 5th place finisher (Philip Cousin at 48,644) was about 10,000 votes, or a little over 16%.

    so i don't think your analysis of this year's results really catches what happened.

    You also write: "A glitch in timing forced Beasley to run as an independent, versus being allowed to run during the Democratic primary."

    That's a very interesting take. The glitch, as i understand it, is that Omar Beasely was not registered as a Democrat before the filing period ended. That suggests a lack of understanding of the electoral process that i'm not sure i want in someone who is in a position of governmental power. I also doubt that he would have survived the Democratic Party primary in May. Full disclosure - I signed the petition to put Omar Beasley on the ballot in November. I want more choices in November than what one party comes up with. I'd like to see more progressive candidates bypass the Democratic Party in Durham, and go straight to the voters. I have no doubt that the right candidate with the right message can win a seat on the BoCC, without going through the Democratic Party.

    Omar Beasley was not that candidate.

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  3. Durham citizens are done a disservice with this political over-analysis. I believe that, at the end of the day, voters are capable of making their own decisions and that the VOTERS (as opposed to any one organization or PAC) ultimately decided the commissioners' race.

    Indeed, except for some nearly insignificant differences in the overall numbers (more likely caused by Republican voters who didn't have a say in the primaries), this election gives the same results as the primary. Again, the voters appear to have found the compromise that the PACs cannot reach.

    Despite his late registration as a Democrat, I don't trust that Beasley actually has any allegiance to the Democratic party or its platform. Beasley's 'glitch' with regard to the primaries certainly seems intentional on his part. It can be only have benefited him to have run against 5 candidates in the general election versus against 13 candidates in the primaries.

    More importantly, I personally heard Beasley, himself, telling voters (at the polls) both that he was a Democrat and that he was and would remain unaffiliated, depending on which voter he was talking to. This only adds to his ambiguous stance(s) regarding long-time controversial issues like 751 South, an ambiguity that isn't helped by the fact that, unlike Jacobs, Foster, and Reckhow, Beasley has had little to no known voluntary involvement in our local government or community (non-PAC) organizations. We do not need another person with this kind of lack of transparency making important decisions Durham. I am glad that the majority of Durham agree and voted accordingly.

    (Incidentally, I would further question whether Page and Howerton are true blue members of the Democratic Party, given their blatant disregard to their party's recommendations concerning the 751 South Saga and the interim commissioners who they, alone (with the help of Bowser), decided. Their financial contributions to the only opponent (Beasley) facing their party's primary-selected candidates in this year's election are also concerning in this regard.)

    As for the specific election results, it looks pretty much like a four- (if not five-) way tie to me. No doubt many Republicans voted only for Beasley (bc he was the only non-Democrat) or voted for Beasley, Page and Howerton, bc they are endorsed by the 751 developers, the conservative Friends of Durham, the pro-development majority of the Committee for the Affairs of Black people, as well as each other apparently.

    While we are over-analyzing, it is worth noting that the PA's stance, for the most part, resulted in people voting for incumbent Democrats (at least in name) Page and Howerton as well as the 3 PA endorsees (all of whom are Democrats as well), whereas those voting for Beasley would likely only do so at the expense of one of the PA-endorsed candidates (bc of differences in their beliefs and agendas, not the least of which are their positions regarding the 751 South development, as well as the clearly opposing natures of the PA's and the Committee's endorsements and agendas (the latter of which supported Beasley)).

    Jacobs, herself, was all over the map and everywhere at once in this election -- she worked incessantly to get voters to know who she really is. So when outright lies were told to voters by opposing poll workers (I saw this personally at the Museum-of-History voting site), Jacobs was often there, in person, to defend herself. It is no surprise to me that Jacobs did so well, despite all the forces against her.



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  4. It will be interesting to see in which direction Omar goes know....I have seen folks dive into the political process, and then get frustrated by it, and resign from the world of politics. But then again, I have also seen folks that are fired up by what happens in their initial run and stay involved for a long time....Where Omar falls on this line only time will tell....And on the local level, while I understand the importance of PACs, I also love it when the electorate tells me they have studied the issues and are making informed decisions for themselves, and not voting solely because an organization or person told them to vote that way. Yes there is a lot of information to digest and I do believe that these organizations can bring some of the issues to bear and give us a better understanding of people's views, but I also believe that we must all study the issues for ourselves as well....Hey, maybe I will take Sandee's advice, and run for office myself one day.......

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