My voting strategy in Denver's Mayoral race worked much better than I imagined. My thinking was that Romer would win, and I should vote for someone else who seemed good, to keep Romer accountable. What I didn’t realize is Denver’s mayoral elections require a majority, not just a plurality. So Romer didn’t actually win by a small margin; he didn’t win at all. He did get the most votes. Mejia, who I expected to take second, actually took third slightly behind Hancock. So the runoff is between Romer and Hancock. I didn’t pay much attention to Hancock the first time, and looking more closely at him now, I don’t like him as much as Romer. Specifically his suggestion to set "performance goals" for city agencies feels like an empty gesture at best, an opening to cuts based on the ability to quantify rather than actual importance at worst. So unless something significant changes before the runoff, I’m voting for Romer this time.

 

I haven’t been paying much attention to the candidates for Mayor of Denver this year, but I just got my mail-in ballot, so now it’s time to figure out how I’m voting. As I’ve done before, I’m going to share my thoughts publicly. On my long list of websites I’d like to see is a site for recording my votes and the thought that went into them. Until someone makes that (or points me to it, if I’ve missed it), I’ll be using my blog.

There are a whopping 10 candidates for Mayor this year. I’m not sure how the ordering works, but on my ballot, they are in this order: Doug Linkhart, Carol Boigon, Chris Romer, Thomas Andrew Wolf, James Mejia, Jeff Peckman, Theresa Spahn, Michael B. Hancock, Danny F. Lopez, and Ken Simpson. Romer is the only name that sounds familiar, and I’m not sure why, so I’m going into this with close to a blank slate. Let’s pull up the websites.

Right off the bat, I’m eliminating Peckman as a choice. Turns out he’s the guy who pushed for some sort of government alien welcome committee. Even if that were an especially reasonable issue, I’m not voting for someone who only cares about a single issue.

After that, there’s only one candidate who doesn’t seem to have a website: Ken Simpson. I’d be willing to look past that if the Westword article suggested he’s especially good, but it doesn’t. On his top issue, jobs, he’s quoted as saying Atlanta, Minneapolis and Austin always seem to be getting companies to come to them, and I don’t know why. Maybe learn why first, then run for mayor.

So now I have 8 websites to look at. At a quick glance, 2 of those sites look like they’re not very serious: Wolf has a number in his domain, a title of "Home Page", and what appears to be a free hosting icon at the bottom. Nope. Danny Lopez has the domain name as a title, some terrible graphics, and starts with "I am the Real Deal." Nothing says "I am not the real deal" like starting your pitch with "I am the real deal."

Now I’m looking at 6 mayoral candidates who are at least serious enough to get a decent website put together: Linkhart, Boigon, Romer, Mejia, Spahn, and Hancock. Time to look at issues. All 6 are talking about the economy and jobs. Boigon is the only one who doesn’t really say anything specific, so -1 there. Linkhart seems big into cutting services, so -1 there.

Beyond jobs, everyone but Boigon talks about being "green" or sustainability. So another -1 for Boigon. Let’s go ahead and focus on the other 5. Next issue: education. And ... everyone sounds pretty similar. That’s about it for issues at the city level. I did notice Romer has a section on LGBT equality, and while that isn’t especially relevant for Mayor, it’s nice to see he’s not afraid to say the right thing without an obvious political advantage.

Let’s move on to experience. Linkhart was on City Council. Romer was in the State Senate. Mejia was on School Board. Spahn was a judge. Hancock was City Council President. So they’re all experienced, but Romer and Spahn are the only two with political experience outside Denver. That suggests they’re looking at a future beyond Mayor, which seems good to me because they’ll need to be relatively popular as Mayor to successfully move on to anything else.

Next up: endorsements. Linkhart has a bunch of names. I guess that would be okay if he had larger endorsements too, but he doesn’t. So Linkhart’s off my list. Romer was endorsed by the Denver Post. Mejia was endorsed by AFSCME, a large union. Spahn was endorsed by a State Representative, who was apparently her 7th grade teacher. That’s less than impressive. I think I’ll take Spahn off the list. Hancock, like Linkhart, was endorsed by a bunch of names I don’t recognize. Maybe he wasn’t popular as City Council President?

At this point, I’m looking at Romer or Mejia. I suspect Romer will win, as everything about his website suggests he has the best campaign. And I’m okay with Romer winning; he looks like he’ll be a pretty good Mayor. But I’m going to vote for Mejia, because I don’t expect him to win. It’s not that I want to support the underdog; I just think closer elections keep politicians thinking about their constituencies, and that will result in better government. If Romer wins 30% over Mejia’s 29%, I expect he’ll be a better major than if he won with over 50% of the vote. And if Mejia ends up winning, I’m okay with that too.

 

On the off chance that someone stumbled upon this unaware that Nov. 7, 2006 is an election day, it is. And you should vote. Unless you’re not registered, in which case you should register. Unless you’re not old enough to register, in which case you should look forward to growing older. Unless you’re not American, in which case you should vote in your own country. Unless you don’t have elections in your own country, in which case you should watch in bitter resentment as Americans take our democracy for granted.

 

Finally, I’m done. A few people have commented to me that I’m putting a lot of work into my votes here. It probably shouldn’t take this much work to vote thoughtfully, as candidates would ideally be forthcoming with clear positions on issues. But voting thoughtfully also shouldn’t be exceptional enough that it’s worth a comment. Unfortunately, voting itself is still exceptional in America.

In my fantasy America, election day is a national holiday during which we celebrate living democracy. Businesses would shut down and we’d have nothing better to do than to vote thoughtfully. We’d all have election day parties, at which showing up without an "I voted" sticker would be like showing up at a Halloween party without a costume, or showing up at a birthday party without a gift.

But until that happens, this is the democracy we have, and these are the ovals I filled in on my ballot. Now who are you voting for? And why?

 

Between the Court of Appeals, District Court, and District Associate Judges, I am asked to decide if eleven different judges should keep their jobs. Prior to recieving my ballot, I knew nothing about any of them. I started looking for information on each of them, but I didn’t find much. But then I found the Iowa State Bar Association’s reviews of each judge. From a single document, I was able to see what dozens of lawyers thought about every judge in the state. The votes for retention are very high in general, so I set my bar at 90%. If more than 90% of the responding lawyers voted to retain a given judge, I did the same. If less than 90% of lawyers voted to retain, I voted against.

As a result, I voted for retention on Anuradha Vaitheswaran, Van D. Zimmer, John C. Miller, Eliza J. Ovrom, Artis I. Reis, Carol L. Coppola, Carol S. Egly, and Louise M. Jacobs. I voted against retention for Donna L. Paulsen, Gregory D. Brandt, and William A. Price. I expect all of these judges will be retained, but I hope the slightly lower percentages on election day might cause some judge to improve Punctuality for court proceedings or Clarity and quality of written opinions.

 

There are five candidates for the Polk County Agricultural Extension Council. My ballot instructs me to vote for no more than five. I found nothing online suggesting there is anything wrong with any of the candidates. So I voted for them all.

 

There are three candidates for Soil and Water Conservation District Commissioner: Donald Soutter, Jane Clark, and Shirley Danskin-White. I voted for Jane Clark, the only candidate who had any information I could find online.

 

There are thee candidates for Polk County Public Hospital Trustee. My ballot instructs me to choose two. It’s a refreshing change for such a local office to have actual competition. Unfortunately, the competitors don’t seem to care much about getting votes. Karen Ellis is the only candidate with a website I could find. So I voted for her first. But I couldn’t find any information two help me choose between the other two, Mary B. Fuller and David Harkness. As I said earlier, I think we need more women in government, so I voted for Fuller.

 

John P. Sarcone, running as a Democrat, is the only candidate for Polk County Attorney. He’s a sixteen year incumbent. Everything about him — from his too-much-teeth smile to his "I like puppies" position against methamphetamines — make him seem a little suspicious. But I voted for him.

 

There are three candidates for County Recorder. Tim Brien is the incumbent, but he lost the primary to Julie M. Haggerty. As I mentioned earlier, he intially blamed Michael Mauro, Commissioner of Elections, implying that he rigged the election. But then he dropped his challenge, saying he didn’t believe he could get a fair result.

Apparently he does think he can get a fair result in the general election, even though Michael Mauro is still Commissioner of Elections, because he’s running as an independent. So I don’t trust Tim Brien, and this distrust makes me like Michael Mauro and Julie M. Haggerty more.

The third candidate is Christopher D. Hagenow, running as a Republican. If you follow that link to his website, and the link from there to his blog, you’ notice he doesn’t talk about issues much, and he seems as interested in the Nussle for Governor campaign as his own. As I mentioned in my discussion of the Governor race, I don’t trust Nussle, so by association, I distrust Hagenow.

If it wasn’t already obvious, I voted for Julie M. Haggerty for County Recorder.

 
 

I don’t know what exactly the Board of Supervisors supervises, but this is another interesting race. The two candidates are John F. Mauro, running as a Democrat, and Gene Phillips, on the ballot by petition. This happens to be the fourth time these two candidates have run against each other. In the 1998 Democratic primary, Mauro won by less than three hundred votes. Then Phillips ran as an independent in the general election and won, also by less than three hundred votes. Then in 2002, Mauro ran against Phillips again and won, this time by a substantial margin.

So Mauro is the incumbent and he won last time. But he’s also on the CIETC board, and although he doesn’t have the direct connection to corruption that Abdul-Samad appears to have, it doesn’t really look good for anyone on that board. Mauro’s best response to the attention was Hopefully, they won't hold me responsible for something I didn't have any control over.

Well, I do hold him responsible for the lack of control. And it’s also Phillips’ turn to win. Oh yeah, and Mauro doesn’t live in the district. So I voted for Gene Phillips.

 

The Iowa State Representative election is probably the most interesting vote I made. This is the first race involving the CIETC scandal. Apparently a lot of money went into the Central Iowa Employment and Training Consortium, and not a lot of employment and training came out. Ako Abdul-Samad, running as a Democrat, was on the CIETC board, and didn’t convince me that he was innocent of the corruption charges being tossed at him. He lost my vote.

Jack Whitver, running as a Republican, successfully lost my vote by showing up at Abdul-Samad’s house after being told Abdul-Samad was unavailable due to family illness. Even assuming charitably that Abdul-Samad was lying about the family illness, that still makes Whitver a political moron.

Luckily I have two other candidates in this race. Brett Blanchfield, running as a Libertarian, gets points for being the only candidate to bother answering a candidate survey from the Iowa Prosperity Project. And he also gets points for living just a few houses down from me. But he’s campaigning on issues like repealing the mandatory seatbelt law. I can sympathize with the general libertarian desire to streamline government, but if seatbelts are the first (or second, or even twentieth) place a candidate identifies waste in government, he’s lost my vote.

That leaves only Jeff Johannsen. Lucky for me, Johannsen looks like a candidate for whom I can vote without reservation. He wants to help make health insurance more available and affordable to small businesses and neighborhoods [...] to increase availability of assisted living to those with low to moderate incomes [...] to promote the cleanup of neighborhoods and discourages urban sprawl, according to the Des Moines Register. That all sounds good to me, so I voted for Johannsen.

 

State Senator is yet another Iowa race with only one candidate. I was expecting more interesting politics from the host of the first primary in the nation. The candidate is Jack Hatch, running as a Democrat. Aside from his website, the first thing I found about him was a record that he introduced a bill allowing possession of marijuana for therapeutic purposes. That made me a little happier about voting for the only candidate.

 

There is only one candidate for Attorney General in Iowa. Apparently law is less important than agriculature in Iowa. The candidate, Tom Miller, is a Democrat, and looks good enough. He’s apparently cares enough about his stance against predatory lending to issue a statement on the issue. So I voted for Tom Miller.

 

Iowa has two candidates for Secretary of Agriculture. Agriculture is important in Iowa. The Democratic candidate is Denise O’Brien. The Republican candidate is Bill Northey. Browsing their respective websites, you’ll notice Northey talks about “vision” while O’Brien talks about “issues.” O’Brien wins round one. Northey is a board member of Ag Ventures Alliance. O’Brien and her husband Larry Harris have operated a family farm near Atlantic, Iowa since 1976 where they milked cows until 1995. They now raise poultry, apples, and strawberries using organic practices. O’Brien wins round two. No round three. I voted for O’Brien.

 

I’ve fallen a bit behind in my Election 2006 series because none of my previous theories about my laptop’s narcolepsy really worked. When it started falling asleep during work, I moved to a new (for me) laptop. That’s update number one.

Number two is that, contrary to my expectations of the plot of Battlestar Galactica season three, it appears the good guys have pretty much already won only three weeks in. I haven’t watched the week three show yet, but if the foreshadowing in the week two show and the title of Dave’s recent post (which I haven’t read yet for fear of spoiling week three) are any indication, what I thought was going to take the whole season is already over. So hopefully what comes next will have a little more moral ambiguity.

And I’ll get back to devaluing the privacy of our election process when I return from yet another weekend trip. Hopefully I’ll finish before election day.

 

There’s only one candidate for Treasurer of State in Iowa, and he is Michael Fitzgerald. He’s already Treasurer of State, hasn’t embarrassed himself, and he appears to be responsible for The Great Iowa Treasure Hunt, a pretty cool website that allows Iowa residents to search for abandoned property. Not that it matters when no one else is running, but I voted for him.

 

Iowa has two candidates for Secretary of State. Michael Mauro, the Democratic Party candidate, is currently the Polk County Auditor and Commissioner of Elections. In that role, he’s involved in dispute surrounding the primary election for County Recorder, but I’ll get into that later. This election was decided for me by Maruo’s opponent. It turns out Mary Ann Hanusa, the Republican Party candidate, doesn’t actually live in Iowa, according to Daily Kos. In an otherwise uninteresting race, that’s enough to lose my vote. I went with Mauro.

 

Before anyone starts to wonder why I didn’t just color in the party-line vote oval, I wanted to skip ahead to the State Auditor race, in which I voted for the Republican candidate David A. Vaudt. Now it’s true that Vaudt is the only candidate on the ballot in this race, and it’s also true that I searched for other write-in options.

But when I didn’t find any alternatives to Vaudt or skipping the race, I looked in depth at Vaudt’s website, and a few newspaper articles involving Vaudt, and I found no good reason not to vote for him. Like Boswell, Vaudt won my vote by not disqualifying himself. I’m not sure, but Vaudt may be the first Republican I’ve ever voted for.

 

There are three candidates for US Representative from the Third District of Iowa, where I live. Helen Meyers, of the Socialist Workers Party, has no website. I really don’t think a website is too much to ask of a candidate for US Representative. That leaves just two: Leonard L. Boswell, running as a Democrat and Jeff Lamberti, running as a Republican.

I don’t expect it will surprise anyone who read of my inclination to vote for a Green Party candidate for Governor that I voted for Boswell in this race. Both campaign websites include the same stock "I like puppies" kind of political rhetoric, void of specific positions on specific issues. But Lamberti scared me away by calling himself a conservative leader. I take that a euphemism for a willingness to have the government dictate who can and can not get married, and that’s a good way to lose my vote. Boswell won my vote by not disqualifying himself.

 

There are five candidates for Governor of Iowa, with Lieutenant Governor running on the same tickets so I chose them together. The first out of contention is Mary J. Martin, running in the Socialist Workers Party. She’s out because she has no website. There are some less important offices for which I’ll let a candidate get by without a website, but not Governor.

Next out is Kevin Litten, running in the Libertarian Party. His poorly designed website is lacking any information on specific issues, perhaps because he’s already given up, saying I may not win this election. Sorry Kevin, try a little harder next time. And then there were three.

I don’t trust Jim Nussle, the Republican candidate for Governor. Specifically I don’t like his ambiguous position on abortion, which apparently bothers people on the other side of the issue as well. I can understand the desire to ban all abortion. I think it’s mistaken, but an honest mistake. But Jim Nussle seems to be hiding his real position, and that’s why he lost my vote.

The remaining to candidates for Iowa Governor are Chet Culver, on the Democratic Party ticket, and Wendy S. Barth, on the Green Party ticket. Barth looks much better. She has clear positions on important issues, and in general I agree with those positions. Culver, on the other hand, takes vaguely agreeable positions on popular issues. If I was the only one voting in this election, I would have voted for Barth.

But I looked at the polls and saw that Culver and Nussle were in a statistical tie, so I filled in Culver’s oval as a strategic vote against Nussle. Sorry Green Party. The day after I filled in this oval, a new poll came out with Culver ahead by 7%. In retrospect, I should have waited until closer to the election to fill in my ballot at all. But it’s done now, and I voted for Culver for Governor.

 

I have referred to myself as “an independent voter” through many elections now, but this year was the first in which I actually took on the responsibility of idenpendent voting, and it turned out to be surprisingly tedious work. By “independent voter,” I mean that I will give any candidate an opportunity to earn my vote, regardless of party affiliation. This seems like the common sense basis of democracy to me, but I don’t know many people who do this.

In the past, I’ve asked a lot of a candidate wishing to earn my vote. Candidates had to somehow insert themselves into the various media I consume, e.g. radio, billboards, weblogs, showing up at my house, etc. If they failed to make themselves known to me, I voted based on what I knew of their opponent. If all candidates in a given race failed to do so, I voted based on a statistical correlation between party affiliation and my previous voting preferences. That is, I voted for Democrats because I tend to like Democrats.

This last part doesn’t make me feel very independent, especially when this actually happens a lot. Most elections I vote in are minor local and regional offices and I know nothing about the individual candidates. This year I voted absentee (which anyone can do in Iowa and many other states), so I could take my time to research these candidates and avoid resorting to party affiliation guesswork for any of my votes.

After many hours of researching, I’m happy to say I didn’t vote for anyone based on their party affiliation, but I did vote for a few based on something other than the information I was able to find. This is because I wasn’t able to find much information. So I applied my same criteria as before, only this time I was actively seeking out information.

If I couldn’t find anything about a candidate in a Google search, I voted based on what I knew about the opposing candidates. And if I couldn’t find any information about any candidates in a race, I voted based on gender. That’s admittedly not the best way to vote, and maybe I should have just not voted at all in those races, but I’m comfortable taking that gamble in the interest of getting more women in elected offices of government. In any case, I managed to vote without preference to party, which is important to me.

With that as my independent voting strategy, I will go through specifically who I voted for and why in the next few posts.

 

The Des Moines Register today published what must be their twentieth report on Iowa Governor and Democrats Looking Conservative chair Tom Vilsack's surprise Easter trip to Iraq:

The whirlwind trip with three other governors also gave the Midwestern Democrat, who is working to establish a command of world affairs, a key line on his resume as he looks at running for president.

I can see that resume already:

Foreign Policy Experience

  • Spent a day in Iraq posing for pictures and doing conference calls with press back in America.

"Almost subliminally, the governor is saying to activists, 'I have foreign policy experience,' " Sabato said. "There will be people out there who, without realizing it, check a box in their own mind that he understands something about the critical hot spot on the globe."

I know which box I've checked in my mind.

exploits war for personal gain

He hasn't even announced his candidacy yet, and I already want to vote against Tom Vilsack for President.

 

Dave Rogers writes:

And let's return to this romantic notion of "subverting hierarchy." Where did that come from? It sounds like a good thing, right? Being "subversive" sounds kind of edgy and cool. The hierarchy is the stale, old "establishment." Hyperlinks "stick it to the man," I guess. Except subverting hierarchy is merely a form of competition, and competition determines its success or failure through measuring changes in rank in a hierarchy. How else can you tell if you're being "subversive" unless you're paying attention to rank? I mean it's implicit in the whole idea!

Good point. This is why I'm wary of Green Party enthusiasts. It's easy for the Green Party to push good ideas from the outside, but I have little faith that they would continue to do so were they to achieve any real control of the government. I watch as the Green Party gains acceptance in America, and I see the candidates quietly morph from people with ideas to push to people with themselves to push.

The Green Party is pushing ideas I like, but the success of those ideas is tied to the success of candidates, and I don't trust those candidates to hold to their principles once in power any more than I trust Democrats or Republicans to do so. Power breeds corruption; Green Party power breeds Green Party corruption.

This mistrust won't prevent me from voting Green on occasion. If I only voted for politicians I trusted, I wouldn't vote at all. But don't feed me this line about voting only for Green Party candidates because any other vote will be an acceptance of the status quo. The status quo in American politics is blind party allegiance, even when the parties change.

 

The Guardian: the moral of King Kong is simpler still: "Don't pick a fight with nature." Letters to an Unknown Audience: The message of Narnia is clear: Don't ask questions. Trust the first person you meet and stick with it. Raise your ill-begotten sword for it. I haven't seen either, but I'm curious to what extent these morals are injected by the films' creators vs. viewers. I also think it would be an interesting thesis project to compile a list of morals as described by film critics over a few decades, correlate those morals to political party platforms with some sort of text similarity analysis, and then measure ticket sales against election results.

 

The 2004 election left me with an impression that Iowa was a focal point for American politics. Everyone knew who the Republican candidate was to be, and few cared about the other candidates, so all the action was in the Democratic primary, and the starting gate was Iowa. As Des Moines is the center of Iowa politics, I expected to see some serious political action when I moved here. But early signs are not looking good. Seems there is a lack of candidates for the Des Moines City Council. This is standard for cities across the country, but what surprised me is that the local daily paper sees the lack of candidates as a good thing because it will save Des Moines taxpayers $80,000.

Let's ignore for a moment the potential that an unchallenged city council will waste well over $80k with no worries about future elections. Seems to me $80k is a very small price to pay for a healthy democracy. Have we all just given up on this whole democracy thing with its inconveniently expensive and time-consuming elections and all those competing ideas that require citizens to think?

Thankfully not everyone has. Jon Gaskell wrote an article for the local weekly newspaper, the City View. I'd link to the article, but it will be moved next week. So instead I'll just quote so much of it that you have little reason to visit the City View website. (See how unstable URLs are bad business?) Jon writes:

Nevermind that approximately 65 percent of your property taxes go toward your local schools, the school board is inept, officials lied about how much would be raised by a local-option sales tax (and have the gumption to want to extend it after it failed to rebuild all of our schools as promised), our kids are fat and stupid, our teachers make no money and schools are closing right and left. The only way to ensure that people start giving a damn about who's running the Des Moines Public School System is to make sure someone on the ballot is gay.

But 10 years ago, when Jonathan Wilson put his name on the ballot as an incumbent for Des Moines School Board, you couldn't keep the people away, as nearly 30,000 voters showed up at the polls. Were the schools in trouble? Was the system corrupt? Were our kids' test scores dropping to record lows? Were property taxes going through the roof and beyond? Who cares? Wilson was one of those scary homosexual types, and high taxes and dumb kids or not, we needed to make sure a monster like that wasn't going to hold sway over our solid educational system. Disregard that Wilson's lifestyle had absolutely nothing to do with him being the last board member to actually have a grasp on how to run our school system, the haters wanted to make sure some fag wasn't chiming in. So they turned out the vote like only the haters can. And they haven't been back since.

Sigh. It's popular to blame politicians for our country's problems, and they certainly deserve much of the blame. But the voters have earned a fair share of the blame as well. Citizenship comes with responsibilities as well as rights. When we ignore the former, we lose the latter.

 

the electoral vote predictor provides a much better idea of the state of the presidential campaign than the national polls we see in the news every day. as some of us learned in civics class, and the rest of us learned in 2000, the electoral college determines who becomes president. the electoral vote predictor provides a wonderful free service by translating state polls into a national electoral vote tally. but why settle for wonderful when we could have...um...fantabulous?

a recent article in the american prospect points out that incumbants rarely get a larger share of the vote on election day than they get in polling right before the election. so if on november 1, bush is polling at 48% in a state, and kerry is polling at 44%, kerry will very likely win that state on november 2. why? because that 8% undecided in polls will overwhelmingly go for the new guy. wouldn't it be swell if the electoral vote predictor would take this into account?

but they do enough work already with all those nifty graphs. they are also kind enough to provide the raw polling data they use, so we can do this work ourselves simply by applying "the 50 percent rule" (or, as i like to call it, "the newer of two evils rule") to this data. so i did that, and included it in an RSS feed. i had a hard time believing the results (as much as i'd like to), so i also made a "49 percent rule," by which i give bush the electoral votes of any state in which he has 49 percent or more of the current poll. he still loses this way, but not by as much.

i have no idea if the 50 percent rule will hold true in this election, but i certainly hope so.