Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Richardson City Council Election Analysis

On Saturday, May 6, Mabel Simpson (Place 4) and Marta Gómez Frey (Place 5) were elected to the Richardson City Council and Paul Voelker was elected as Mayor. Congratulations to the winners and thanks to all candidates who volunteered to serve our community.

As opposed to the RISD school board election held the same day, the story here is much simpler to tell. Or so I thought going into election day. Looking back, things were going on under the surface that I was too blind to see.

There was nothing hard to see in the mayor's race. Paul Voelker swept all precincts in winning 78% of the overall vote for mayor. Maybe voters like the way he's running things. Maybe voters didn't buy into Jared Weadon's anti-growth, cap-taxes policy recommendations. In any case, Voelker easily won his first term as an elected, not appointed, mayor.

Marta Gómez Frey won all but two precincts in winning 74% of the overall vote in Place 4. Maybe voters like her "serial volunteer" positive personality. Kashif Riaz won where people presumably know him well — his own neighborhood precinct in the Richardson panhandle and Precinct 1503 in south Richardson, near the Islamic Association of North Texas, where Riaz's Pakistani background and work with the Outreach Committee of the East Plano Islamic Center might have been known. Riaz was a positive candidate with intriguing out-of-the-box ideas. Perhaps his support would have been greater if more people could have met him.

RISD election map
Dark Green: Montfort. Bright Green: Simpson.

That leaves Place 5, where Mabel Simpson was re-elected with 52.59% of the overall vote in a close race against Cory Montfort. The electoral map is a patchwork. It's impossible to say that either candidate had a geographical base anywhere. Each council place is itself a patchwork. That map has all the earmarks, not of a geographical split in Richardson, but of a very close election in which a few votes would have been enough to swing the result in many precincts. Simpson eked out her victory with an overall margin of only 284 votes out of 5,488 total. I was surprised by Montfort's strength. I did not see that coming. Montfort's campaign focused on boosterism for Richardson combined with her role as a professional counselor. It contrasted with Simpson's impersonal demeanor as a real estate attorney.

So, what's the story here? The establishment wins again is one story. But Montfort's performance indicates that a fresh face with the right attitude and goals might be able to pull off an upset in Richardson politics, something we haven't seen in many years. Don't underestimate the power of retail politics at the local level.

But let's not overlook another reason for the outcomes of these races. The Wheel recommended voting for Paul Voelker, Marta Gómez Frey, and Mabel Simpson. All three won. The Wheel's endorsement was obviously, ipso facto, decisive. ;-)


Matt said...

Though the race was nominally non-partisan Montfort made very clear that she is a Democrat, and (at least based on the direct mail I got) did targeted mailings that I expect were specifically geared to Democratic primary voters. I expect that was a substantial factor.

Mark Steger said...

Matt, thanks for the theory. It makes sense for a progressive candidate to target Democratic voters, just as it makes sense for a conservative candidate to target Republican voters. But all candidates should be careful about going too far, or risk backlash from the many voters who value non-partisan elections.

Cory Montfort said...

The mailers I sent out did not indicate my party affiliation. Although, I know Collin County Dems sent a mailer with a slate of candidates they recommended and I was one of them. Just FYI.

Cory Montfort said...

I blame the 284 on your blog. You owe me a coffee soon, ok? ❤️

Mark Steger said...

Cory Montfort thanks for the additional information. I support non-partisan elections. For me, that means political parties should steer clear and certainly not make endorsements in non-partisan races.

P.S. Contact me privately to set up a coffee. I'd welcome it.