1. Grassroots campaigns win primaries. Tom Richards spent tens of thousands of dollars more than Lovely Warren. But he spent it on television ads. Too few people vote in primaries for television to be effective. Meanwhile, Warren stuffed mailboxes, put up lawn signs and went door to door. The Democratic Party, which backed Richards, took this race for granted and it showed throughout the campaign.
2. Polls can be wrong. The Siena College poll showing Richards with a 63-27 lead turned out to be preposterously wrong. The sample was made up of 60 percent white people and 37 percent black people, which offers some explanation. But seriously, this poll BOMBED.
3. Polls can keep people home. The Siena College poll showed Richards with such a huge lead, his supporters may have driven right home after a hot day at the office. On the flip side, that poll did nothing to discourage Warren’s supporters.
4. The special election showed signs of doom for Richards. The mayor did not get 50 percent of the vote in the 2011 special election, despite having the backing of the Democratic Party and black leaders. The vote was very much along racial lines. A special election is different than a primary. All parties can vote in a special election. It’s very possible – even likely – Richards was bolstered by blanks and Republicans. The first sign the Democrats backed the wrong horse came in 2011.
5. Low turnout matters. In primaries, every vote counts. Warren clearly got her base to the polls. Only 15,000 people voted. That compares to 21,000 Democrats in the 2005 mayoral primary and 25,000 voters of all parties in the 2011 special election.
6. Does Richards even have a base? (See #4.) Many voters have told me they just didn’t connect with him. They saw him as aloof and distant from their problems. Having covered Richards for years now, I don’t think that’s true. But he failed to communicate his message to the public. The Duffy machine set Richards up as mayor, but Richards never had Duffy-like charisma or widespread support.
7. Warren did a superb job connecting with voters and pressing the need for change.
8. The Bob Duffy era is dead.
9. The David Gantt era is still alive.