Written by: Doug Tuttle
Past Tuesday’s [7/25/2017] election results in New Hampshire’s 16th senate district are not only a signal of where Democrats are nationally but also offer a look into Manchester municipal elections. Come November, our 2015 nominee Joyce Craig will take on Incumbent Mayor Ted Gatsas. So far, five of Manchester’s 12 wards have had special elections and with this data, we can get an idea of where the vote is shifting.
Of the five wards which have voted, 1, 2, 8, 9 and 12, all but one has shown an improvement over 2016. Wards 1, 2 and 12 are the most recent, as they voted in Tuesday’s District 16 special election. Democrat Kevin Cavanaugh improved over Hillary Clinton by an average of 8 points in these wards. This may seem like a lot, but it's smaller than the 11 point victory in the district as a whole.
This is notable due to the fact that Ward One of Manchester is the ward that Cavanaugh has represented as an Alderman since 2015. If there was any area where he could have improved over his district total, his home ward is the obvious choice, but apparently not. It may be that these wards are essentially maxed out in their Democratic support, at least until the Republicans lose motivation. Given how Democratic the Manchester wards were, this seems likely. Wards 1, 2 and 12 went from a 14, 10, 5 margin of victory for Hillary, to 25, 27, 14 for Cavanaugh, respectively.
The remaining two wards, 8 and 9, voted in the Hillsborough 44 special election for the State House back on May 23rd, 2017. This was one of the few special elections nationally where the Democrat did worse than Hillary and it shows in Ward 8. This is the ward where we slipped, going from 43% of the vote in 2016 to 40% in 2017. Worse still, because the special election was a 2 person race, the margin went from losing by 10 to losing by 20. Yet in Ward 9, which voted on the same day, went from 49% of the vote in 2016 to 60% in 2017 and the margin of victory increased from 3 to 20. Turnout between the two wards was also similar with Ward 8 at around 10% and Ward 9 at 8%. Whatever caused our problems in Ward 8 is unique to that ward.
After going through district data from statisicalatlas.com, working with 4 variables, median household income, percent with a college degree or higher, unemployment and percentage of white people, no single variable showed any kind of correlation. In Ward 8, Household income was in the median of the examined wards at 67K per year, its educational attainment was on the low side at 36% with college or higher, but Ward 9 had 33% and Ward 12 had 38% without a similar drop in Democratic support. Unemployment was high at 5.7, but nowhere near as bad as Ward 9’s 7.5%. Finally, the only variable where Ward 8 really stood out was its share of white people, at 93% of the total population. Still, this was at most, 10% points higher than the ward with the smallest percentage of white people, Ward 9 at 83%.
The answer may lie in the combined variables, specifically, race, unemployment and educational attainment. Of all the wards, Ward 8 is the only one with high unemployment, low educational attainment and with very few nonwhite voters. This is a district comprised almost entirely of the “White Working Class” so concerned with “economic anxiety” and according to the numbers they haven’t budged from Trump and the Republicans yet. In fact, we’ve been losing them since 2012, going from 48% of the vote to 42% in 2013’s mayoral election, 44% in 2015, 43% in 2016 and finally 40% in 2017. We’ll have more data come November as there is also a special election in that ward for State House in Hillsborough 15. If Democrats improve or even win the district, it may suggest that the issue was turn-out or that the Republicans are finally losing motivation, if trends hold, then this ward may be out of reach.
While that may be concerning overall, in terms of Manchester politics, everything else is looking good for Democrats. Ward 1 has seen a massive upswing, going from 51% Democratic in 2012 to 62% in 2017. This district also has the highest income, $89K and highest educational attainment, 61% with college degrees or higher. This is the kind of wealthy, educated, district that Democrats have been improving upon since 2012 and really swung our way in 2016 and these numbers suggest it isn’t a fluke. It’s especially important given how it tends to have some of the highest turn-outs in the city.
The improvements over the 2016 numbers are crucial for this November’s mayoral election. The difference between the Democrats vote percentage in 2015’s mayoral election and the 2016 General Election was only about 1-5% (the 5% was Ward 12, which was an outlier). When Hillary Clinton improved over Joyce Craig’s performance by about 3% she turned Craig's 64 vote loss in the city, into a win. If Craig can match or even come close to the numbers we’ve seen thus far in 2017, she should win the mayoralty solidly.
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