Analyzes based on raw vote noted that
Stenger won north county, including the black townships, big, but
lost his home base in south county. That was pretty much like the
last election. I prefer to look instead at how the vote patterns
differed between the elections.
The previous election for county
executive was 2010, a Republican wave election much like 2014.
Democratic County Executive Charley Dooley won reelection by four
points, 51%-47%. But this year Dooley, the county's first African
American to hold the post, lost a contentious Democratic Primary to
Stenger. Four days after Dooley's stinging defeat, unarmed African
American teenager Michael Brown was killed by a white policeman in
Ferguson. Stenger stood by the decision of his political ally,
Democratic County Prosecutor Bob McCulloch, not to prosecute the
officer without an indictment from a county grand jury. By the time
of the general election, the grand jury had not announced a decision.
In this environment, Stenger received 17 to 28 percentage points less
support in the six townships with African American majorities than
Dooley had received four years earlier. Stenger also underperformed
by about 8 points in Creve Coeur Township, which includes a
significant African American minority.
But while black support for Stenger was
weak, black support for Stream was even weaker. Stream only picked up
about 8 points of that defection, with the rest diffused among
third-party and write-in candidates. Ordinarily black support for
third-party candidates is much lower than white voters. African
Americans' loyalty to the Democratic Party and especially its
aversion to the Republican Party were far stronger than the organized
black support for Stream. As a result, Stenger still handily beat
Stream in the African American townships.
Nevertheless, the black defections
would have been enough to erase the 4-point 2010 Democrat cushion if
Stenger merely duplicated Dooley's vote from four years before in
other areas. In most of the rest of the county, Stenger ran within a
point or two of Dooley's 2010 performance, some up and some down. In
Bonhomme Township (Stream's home base), Stream's strength caused
Stenger to underperform Dooley by nearly five points.
Stream also beat Stenger in the four of
the five townships comprising Stenger's council district . Yet that
is where Stenger made up the votes he needed to win. Though trailing
Stream there, Stenger ran four to six points better than Dooley. In
blue-collar-Democrat Lemay Township, Stenger improved by more than 6
points, flipping a Dooley 2010 township loss to a Stenger 2014 win.
All told, Stenger's overperformance (while losing) in south county
offset enough of his underperformance (while winning) in black
townships to maintain just enough of the four-point cushion from
So, in a nutshell, the template for
this contest during a national Republican wave election was set four
years before when Dooley won by four points. The biggest variance
from the template was the African American revolt, which eliminated
that cushion. The next biggest variance was home-base loyalty, with
each candidate outperforming the template in his own base by about
five points. Most of the rest of the county voted about like they had
the time before, with variances canceling each other out. What made
Stenger the winner was that Stenger's base (a county council district
covering five townships) was bigger than Stream's base (a state rep
district consisting mostly of just one township), making Stenger's
relative home-base advantage decisive.
Other election observations
Challenges for Republican inroads with
African Americans: Black voters' unwillingness to vote for a
Republican candidate even while withholding their votes from the
Democrat weakened the crossover effort for Stream. The problem
appeared not to be Stream, but the weakness of the Republican brand
in the black community. This weakness was confirmed in an astonishing
way in the generally ignored contest for state auditor, in which
incumbent Republican Tom Schweich ran with no Democrat opponent.
Schweich, a candidate from the moderate “Danforth wing” of the
Republican Party, won reelection easily, but he lost every black ward
and township in the St. Louis County, the City of St. Louis and
Kansas City to the Libertarian candidate, and in many cases even to
the ultra conservative Constitution Party candidate as well.
One positive election development for
Republicans, at least symbolically, was the election of several new
black Republicans. These included Tim Scott of South Carolina to the
U.S. Senate, Mia Love of Utah and Will Hurd of Texas to the U.S.
House of Representatives, and locally, Shamed Dogan of Ballwin to the
Missouri House of Representatives. While none of them represent black
majority districts, Hurd unseated a Hispanic Democrat Congressman in
a district that is two thirds Hispanic.
South county: St. Louis Public Radio's
analysis had stated that “the results [in south county] offer some
sobering news for Stenger, and reasons for optimism for Republicans.”
Not really. South county is a swing area where Democrats do well in
higher turnout presidential years (when Stenger's council seat is on
the ballot) but where Republicans typically do well in low-turnout
mid-term elections. Illustrative is the house district comprised by
Mehlville, Green Park and part of Tesson Ferry Township, which elects
a Democrat in presidential years and a Republican in mid-term
elections. Stream's strength there was no surprise, but Stenger's
ability to limit his losses there allowed him to win.
Zimmerman's big night: The
Post-Dispatch quoted Mike Jones, a senior aide to Dooley, as stating
that Zimmerman's totals were the “benchmark” that signified
“where Stenger should have been,” but that observation belittled
how well Zimmerman did. In addition to outpacing Stenger in every
township, Zimmerman also ran ahead of Dooley's 2010 performance in
every township, even the black townships. Zimmerman's 59% was
comparable to what big Democrat winners get in St. Louis County in
Democrat years. It was the same as President Obama got in his 2008
Democrat wave election and better than Obama did in his 2012
reelection, but Zimmerman accomplished it against the current in a
Republican wave election.
Short coattails: The relative strength
of Stenger and Stream in their home areas did not carry over to
others on their party ballots. While Stenger, relatively speaking,
did well in south county, the Democrat state representative
representing Mehlville, Green Park and part of Tesson Ferry Township
lost her seat to the Republican she unseated two years ago. Democrats
got that seat back by picking up Stream's own house seat.