Thursday, November 02, 2006

The Blue Bexley Campaign Capsule #1, Shamansky v. Tiberi

Traffic is increasing quite a bit as the election approaches, and much of it is coming from people using search engines to find information on one of the races I'm covering here. If you are one of those people, let me give you a quick description of what you'll find here:

This blog was created this summer to focus on legislative races in districts that include my new hometown of Bexley, Ohio. When I moved from the Short North I wanted to get up to speed on the campaigns here, and I was disappointed that there was next to none available. I figured that I was not the only person disappointed and frustrated by this, so I created a blog and started collecting information on two races that appeared under-rated in terms of competitiveness, and under-discussed as a result:

Emily Kreider vs. Republican Incumbent David Goodman in State Senate District 3

Bob Shamansky vs. Republican Incumbent Pat Tiberi in OH-12.

Later, it was brought to my attention that Bev Campbell was running exactly the type of campaign I was trying to promote in her race against Republican Jim McGregor in Ohio State House District 20 (Democrat, representing Bexley, competitive, open to using the internet to distribute campaign info, and positive).

This is a partisan blog. I want the Democrats to win all three of these races. I sincerely believe that Central Ohio would be better off with all three of these candidates in office, and I would not pretend that the information I choose to highlight here is not influenced by that. But I also aspire to a standard under which the facts I present are accurate, the assertions I present are sourced, the opinions I present are clearly recognizable as opinion, and rank speculation is explicitly labeled as such. In other words, I'm not willing to sacrifice my credibility to get my folks elected.

In general, I provide lots of links. For background on these summary posts, however, please browse my archives (links in the sidebar.)

With that out of the way, if you are looking for what I was looking for three months ago, I'll give it my best 3 shots...

Summary #1 -- Shamansky v. Tiberi

Pat Tiberi's seat was considered a Republican lock by every major expert as recently as 90 days ago. I'm guessing this was based on an over-reliance on Pat's previous margins of victory over his Democratic challenger in '02 and '04. That challenger, Ed Brown, was not only outside of the Dem mainstream, but raised a total of $11,245 over those two campaigns - roughly one half of one percent of what Mr. Tiberi raised. In essence, Pat Tiberi won these races by twenty points, but more importantly, he only garnered 60% of the vote running basically unopposed. In 2004, the 12th district was nearly evenly split between Bush and Kerry, inviting local speculation that a credible candidate could give Pat Tiberi a run for his money.

The effort to field a credible candidate was enormously successful. Bob Shamansky, who held the 12th district seat for two years in the 80's, worked in counter-intelligence during the Korean War, is a very succesful real-estate investor, was born and raised in Bexley, and was willing to take an unabashed stand that one-party rule had been disastrous for everyone from our brave young men and women in Iraq to ailing seniors struggling with the ill-conceived mess of Medicare D.

Mid-Summer polling by a Dem consultant showed a substantial lead for Tiberi, but with two major bright spots: The incumbent had a job approval rating of less than 50%, widely considered to be the primary indicator of vulnerability, and when descriptions of positions were given along with the candidates names, potential voters split evenly between the candidates. This was the only poll data taken before last week that had been available to the public.

As autumn commenced, the Shamansky campaign started releasing high-impact television ads, and gradually started to create some buzz in national political circles as part of an ever increasing set of districts that were considered possible pick-ups in a Democratic "wave." In the absence of hard data, the buzz was somewhat self-fulfilling. The more people that think of a race as winnable, the more winnable it becomes, attracting time and money that hopeless campaigns just don't have access to.

Probably the most reliable piece of evidence that the race was tightening was the entry of the Republican party into a tight media market to air attack ads against Shamansky. The thrust of these ads is that Bob owns multiple homes, and that giving different addresses in different contexts amounts to "Shams" (get it? If not, the ads help you out with scare quotes: "Sham"ansky.) For those who care, the law basically says that you can only be registered to vote at one address at a time. It also says that you can only take tax credits intended for primary residences for one residence at a time. It does not say that these have to be the same address. Bob is from Bexley. He owns other houses, yes, but there's no other district Bob should be running in.

The negative ads have not kept this race from remaining competitive. Last week Majority Watch, an independent (but Dem-leaning) polling entity released the first public numbers from an automated telephone poll, including three pages of cross-tab data. Less than two weeks out, Bob was trailing by 6 percentage points among those expressing a preference, within the margin of error for the poll. Tiberi is doing extremely well with his Republican base, especially with voters outside of Franklin County. Bob is leading in Franklin County, which contains twice as many voters as the rest of the district, but only by two points. Bob is also doing extremely well with seniors, a big bonus in a mid-term election when younger people tend to turn out in smaller numbers. Only three percent of the 1000+ people surveyed indicated that they were truly undecided, although many indicated a possibility that they could switch preferences before Tuesday.

The big question here is who can get the best GOTV going. With the 12th district bookended by the Kilroy-Pryce and Space-Padgett races, party and state level resources might be expected to flow out of the district rather than in. Interestingly, from my point of view, the ground game in the very competitive Kreider-Goodman and Campbell-McGregor races might be the difference in this race, as local volunteers in the most "swing" parts of OH-12 battle for the near-east suburbs of Columbus.

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