The conventional wisdom regarding the race to fill George Latimer’s vacant senate seat is that Assemblywoman Shelley Mayer has the edge in a special election this spring.
Democrats have a large enrollment edge in the district, enthusiasm nationally is on their side and Mayer is a household name in part of the county. But there is hope for Julie Killian and Republicans – and it comes from the makeup of special election voters.
Special elections are notoriously hard to poll because it’s difficult to accurately predict who will vote. (This was covered in a previous episode of Poozer Politics.) But it’s not impossible to sketch a pretty good picture of what the electorate will look like.
For starters, you have to assume very few people will vote. In the special election for the Assembly on Long Island last year, where Democrat Christine Pellegrino had a surprise victory, less than 11 percent of active voters showed up to vote. The percentages are even worse for races that aren’t competitive.
If you assume a comparable turnout from Long Island for the 37th Senate District then you’re expecting about 21,000 votes. This is less than a third of the voters in the district who showed up for the county executive race in the fall.
So who are these hard core voters who will show up in April? One safe assumption is that they vote regularly in off-year elections.
Looking at district voters who voted in the 2017, 2015 and 2013 general elections creates a group of 28,414 voters. At 14.5 percent of the enrolled list of voters it’s larger than the likely number of voters for the special election, but it’s a good place to begin and it’s where things start to look better for Republicans.
Republicans make up about 27 percent of the active voters in the district, but they make up 37 percent of these triple filtered voters. And while Democrats are essentially flat, making up 42 percent of the district and 41 percent of triple filtered voters, the other large swing is with unaffiliated voters. “Blank” voters make up 25 percent of the district and only account for 16 percent of our narrowed search.
Republicans still trail Democrats by about 1300 voters in this group, but if you factor in Working Families and Conservative voters the likely Democratic edge shrinks to less than 600 votes. At that point, with 817 Independence voters and 4565 unaffiliated voters, the race could be a toss up.
The Republicans can also find solace in the makeup of the blank voters, as about 85 percent are at least 50 years old, about 86 percent live outside of Mayer’s Assembly district and a slim majority are men.
Unfortunately for Republicans, though, elections aren’t conducted with excel calculations. It will fall to the campaigns and outside interests to bring out these potential voters, which is where an enthusiasm gap, Mayer’s name recognition and a handful of other variables – as trivial as the weather to as unlikely as the issues – will determine who actually comes out to vote.