Thursday, August 2, 2012

Analysis Shows Sheriff's Race Did Not Cost McLeod Spot in Run-off

GOP  12 District congressional candidate Wright McLeod

Thursday, August 2, 2012
Augusta, GA
From Reports

Unless 425 extra votes miraculously show up somewhere for Wright McLeod , it appears very likely that Augusta businessman Rick Allen will face state representative Lee Anderson (R-Appling) in the 12th Georgia congressional GOP run-off election scheduled for August 21st. Anderson finished ahead of his 3 Republican challengers, garnering 20,394 votes for a 35% plurality. Rick Allen came in second with 25.15% with 14,682 votes and Wright McLeod a close third with 24.42% share, just 424 votes behind Allen. Since the margin is less than 1%, McLeod can demand a recount, though he has not said for certain if he will. As of late Wednesday only 35 absentee ballots were left uncounted, certainly not enough to make up up the 424 vote gap with Allen.

A popular theory going around in the metro Augusta area is that the large number of republican cross-overs taking a democratic ballot in order to vote for Cpt. Scott Peebles in the Richmond County Sheriff's race cost Wright McLeod a spot in the run-off with Anderson. However, after analyzing the vote and comparing it with republican turnout in previous General Primary elections, that theory may be wrong.

In the July 31st general primary election, there were a total of 36,978 votes cast  for a 35% turnout of registered voters which is significantly higher than what is typically seen for midsummer general primaries. However, only 6,695  republican ballots were cast of this total, or 6.37% of total registered voters in Richmond County.

In the 2010 July general primary, only 14,861 total votes were cast  for a 14.60% total turnout, and it had  competitive races for Governor on the ballots of both  parties. Of that total, 6,932 republican ballots were cast accounting for 6.81% of all registered voters.  Turnout for the 2008 July general primary was a little better with 22,051 votes cast for a total turnout of 23.15%. But despite the higher turnout, only 6,026 republican ballots were cast or 6.33% of all registered voters. In the 2006 July general primary, a total of 5,084 republican ballots were cast or a mere 5.64% of total registered voters.

So if we compare republican turnout for the previous three July general primary elections in Richmond County (2010, 2008, and 2006), we get an average of 6.26% republican turnout of all registered voters. That means that the republican turnout for this past Tuesday's general primary was actually 0.11% higher than the average despite republicans crossing-over to take a democratic ballot to vote for Peebles. What we can assume is that the higher than usual total turnout of 35% for this past Tuesday's primary election was because of the highly competitive democratic sheriff's race. Many of those voters may not have even bothered to show up at the polls if not for the Sheriff's race.

Wright McLeod was the top vote-getter in  Richmond County's republican congressional  primary this past Tuesday, but only barely. McLeod received a total of 2,487 votes for 38.28% of the total, but Rick Allen was close behind with 2,417 votes for 37.20%.  That means only 70 votes separated the two men in Richmond County. Based on these percentages alone... 39,300 republican ballots would have had to have been cast in Richmond County on Tuesday for McLeod to have made up the 425 vote gap district-wide. That is more than all ballots cast this past Tuesday's primary, democrat and republican combined! Clearly, the cross-over vote in Richmond County did not cost McLeod the election. For the Sheriff's race to have had a significant impact, one would have to assume that Peebles voters would have broken overwhelmingly in Mcleod's favor, but as you can see in the totals, McLeod and Allen ran neck and neck in Richmond County, and any republican cross-over votes for Peebles would have likely broken similarly with a 1.08% spread between the two candidates.

If the  margin of the vote in Richmond County had of been wider between McLeod and Allen then a case could be made that the Sheriff's race had some impact and kept Mcleod our of the run-off, but that is not what happened.

What likely cost McLeod a spot in the run-off was the vote in Laurens County. Lee Anderson won that county handily with 2, 017 votes, but Allen had a strong showing with 1,303 votes, which was 842 votes greater than McLeod, who received only 461 votes in Laurens County, the poorest showing there of all 4 GOP candidates. Allen was also able to pad his totals by edging out Mcleod in Coffee, Effingham, Emmanuel, Evans, Jeff Davis, Montgomery, Jenkins and Toombs counties.

One other factor could be the overwhelmingly negative press given McLeod by the Morris owned newspapers, especially articles written by Larry Peterson of the Morris-owned Savannah Morning News, which frequently appeared in the Augusta Chronicle, another Morris-owned paper. But, McLeod narrowly won Richmond County, home of the Augusta Chronicle, and bested Allen in neighboring suburban Columbia County. McLeod did lose Effingham County which borders Chatham County, home of the Savannah Morning news, but not by a large margin. Mcleod bested Allen in Bulloch County by 200 votes.

 But clearly if McLeod had of had a better showing in Laurens County and kept it close, he would be the one facing Anderson in the run-off instead of Rick Allen. So it's not the republican cross-overs in  the Richmond County Sheriff's race to blame for McLeod's defeat, but rather perhaps the campaign not investing enough resources on the ground in the more rural southern counties of the 12th district like Laurens. The negative press from the Morris-owned papers probably did have an impact too but not as much where some might have expected. Laurens County is much closer to Macon, a city where Morris Communications does not own the daily paper, than Augusta or Savannah, where they do.

But, some political observers say the barrage of negative political ads referencing Larry Peterson headlines in the Morris-owned papers took their toll by depressing McLeod's overall numbers throughout the district when he had appeared to be the clear front-runner just a few months ago.  Will Lee Anderson now get the same treatment from  the Morris-owned papers like McLeod did? We shall soon find out, but Anderson will have his own problems aside from the poison pen of Larry Peterson. T-SPLOST anyone? ***


** the voting statistics cited in this article come from the Richmond County Board of Elections and the Georgia Secretary of State's Office.**

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