Monday, June 7, 2021

Analysis of Local Election Runoffs

The City of Richardson's City Council elections are now completely over. The Richardson ISD school board elections are, too. Congratulations to Arefin Shamsul, new Richardson City Council Person for District 6. Congratulations to Chris Poteet, new Richardson ISD Trustee for Place 7. Both runoff elections were effectively over with the announcement of the early vote when polls closed at 7pm on June 5. Neither runoff upset the results of the May 1 general election. Both candidates who led then went on to win the runoff, by about the same amounts.

City of Richardson, City Council Place 6: Arefin Shamsul

In the May 1 election, Arefin Shamsul led Marilyn Frederick by 10 percentage points in the 3-person race, 40% to 30%. That's a lot to make up in a runoff and Frederick didn't do it. Shamsul won the 2-person runoff again by 10 percentage points, 55% to 45%. Shamsul's majority was spread across the City, doing slightly better in Dallas County, but still winning Collin County by 6%.

Shamsul's vote total was almost exactly the same in the runoff (3,554 in May, 3,523 in the runoff). Frederick gained 247 votes (2,640 in May, 2,887 in the runoff), almost all in Dallas County, but they weren't enough to swing the outcome.

It's possibly significant that the total turnout was down by 2,374 votes, almost the same as Daniel Burdette's total from May 1. It's impossible to know for sure how people's votes changed from May 1 to June 5, and this is too simplistic an analysis, but suppose almost all of Burdette's voters just failed to return to the polls, and the 200 or so that did return voted for Frederick. Also suppose that Shamsul and Frederick returned all of their own voters. The runoff results would look almost exactly like we saw.

So Arefin Shamsul will be Richardson's next council person, replacing Steve Mitchell, who was term limited. Shamsul is the kind of candidate you want winning a seat on City Council. He's a long-time Richardson resident. He has years of service on various City of Richardson boards and commissions — Zoning Board, Building and Standard Commission. He's gone through Leadership Richardson and the Citizens Police Academy so he knows the City. He's got a lot of community service to point to, including helping run food drives and a vaccination drive at his place of worship. He also owns a successful engineering business focusing on municipal infrastructure. In other words, he's the perfect candidate for Richardson. Congratulations to him.

Richardson ISD, At Large Place 7: Chris Poteet

In the May 1 election, Chris Poteet led Amanda Clair by 9 percentage points in a 7-person race. That's a lot to make up in a runoff and Clair didn't do it. In fact, Poteet expanded his lead in the runoff, winning by 12 percentage points. The electoral map reveals how he did that. On May 1, the RISD map told a story of geographic divide, with Lake Highlands going big for Poteet, northern RISD going for Clair, and the diverse middle going for Nicole Foster. In the runoff Poteet held onto his Lake Highlands stronghold, but made significant inroads in northern RISD, whose map looks checkerboard now. Clair picked up Foster's strongholds, but there weren't enough of them to matter.

So Chris Poteet will be RISD's next trustee. He is a professional engineer focusing on public infrastructure projects. That's a critical skill to have in a school district starting important building projects. He also has a history of volunteer work in the school district and outside non-profits. All in all, I expect him to serve RISD well...if he makes up for the only sour note in his election campaign. It came late, when he criticized his opponent for accepting a large campaign contribution from a Washington, DC, non-profit organization, "Leadership for Education Equity". Why didn't that sit well with me? Because education equity is a systemic problem in RISD, going back decades and far from solved today. I urge Chris Poteet to take this as an issue to address while serving RISD on the board of trustees.

This brings to an end RISD's transition to a 5-2 single-member district electoral system. The last board of trustees under the old system consisted of Jean Bono, Eron Linn, Kristin Kuhne, Katie Patterson, Karen Clardy, Justin Bono, and Kim Caston. That's 7 whites and no POC.

The incoming board of trustees under the new system will consist of Megan Timme, Eron Linn, Debbie Renteria, Regina Harris, Karen Clardy, Eric Eager, and Chris Poteet. That's 5 whites and two POC.

That's still not representative of the district as a whole. In 2019, RISD as a whole was statistically a minority-majority school district. Its total population is 50.3% minority. School enrollment is minority-majority. The total population of RISD is minority-majority. But the school board is only 2/7 minority or 29%. This is pretty much exactly what the 5-2 system was designed to deliver.

This shows the power of gerrymandering. Before, with all at-large electoral places, RISD had engineered a 7-0 white school board. Now, with a gerrymandered 5-2 system, RISD has engineered a 5-2 white school board. It's progress, but excuse me if I don't say yay for us.


Chris & Kristi Poteet said...

Sir, thanks for being so involved in the community and specifically the RISD race. I look forward to working with you as I start this journey. Your connections to the community are valued. Chris Poteet

Mark Steger said...

Chris Poteet, thank you for the feedback and best wishes to you as you serve RISD.