THE BUZZ 2: Numbers and Neighborhoods

By on November 15, 2016

A break down of local voter behavior by area.

Teton County looks a little different than the rest of the state...

Teton County looks a little different than the rest of the state…

JACKSON HOLE, WY – Tuesday’s general election held a few surprises—one of them was not turnout. A high number of voters showed up at the polls as history shows they do. Turnout in presidential year general elections is always near 100 percent (96.3 percent in 2012, 97.2 percent in 2008). This year was no exception—12,793 of the 13,245 registered voters cast their ballots for a 96.6 percent turnout.

The results defied even the Teton Barber poll. Co-owner Mike Randall rates the poll an A, at about a 90 to 92 percent success rate in predicting how the election will go. This year, however, he gives himself a D+, with the poll missing on President, US House, and Jackson mayor.

Blue-eyed county

The Democrats’ strong showing is also not surprising in this county. Teton went for Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump, 57 to 31 percent. Still, Trump won the state easily, winning the majority vote in every county except Teton. Wyoming hasn’t gone blue since 1964. In 2012, Teton County went Barrack Obama’s way, 54-42 percent over Mitt Romney. Same thing in 2008 when Obama outpaced John McCain by a 61 to 37 percent margin.

With a great many voters expressing a pre-poll distaste for either candidate, the 449 write-ins for POTUS was much higher than usual for the county. There were only 105 write-ins in 2012, and 63 in 2008.

Teton County again bucked the statewide trend, preferring a Dem instead of Wilson resident Liz Cheney-R for US House. Despite Ryan Greene’s shellacking of Cheney in Teton County (58 to 34 percent of the vote), Cheney cruised to victory across the rest of the state.

As usual, a Democrat took Teton County for House District 22—which spans Teton, Sublette, and Lincoln counties—but staunchly GOP Sublette and Lincoln counties helped the Republican to victory, anyway. Marti Halverson-R topped Marylee White-D by a 2,942 to 2,157 margin, even though White was better by far in Teton. Natalia D. Macker-D beat Halverson in 2014 for HD 22 but lost badly in Sublette and Lincoln counties.

Deb Bancroft, co-owner at Teton Barber where the barbershop talks shop as far as politics while they clip heads, said this election was all about the Democrats surge in the county.

“It’s the whole ‘D’ thing,” Bancroft said. “A lot of millenials are Democrats and they are a growing [demographic] here. The state gets accused of the whole ‘R’ thing. Teton County is now the ‘D’ county in Wyoming.”

County commissioner

Democrats were rewarded with victory in local races. Donkeys took both open seats to form a 4-1 coalition on the board of Teton County commissioners. Greg Epstein-D easily led the way with 6,241 votes. Incumbent Macker was close behind at 5,810.

It had to be a disappointment for Nikki Gill-R, who romped to victory in the primary, pulling down the second-highest vote total of any of the six candidates after Epstein, and was second in the barbershop poll. She may have benefitted from bullet voting in August. The GOP primary race experienced the highest percentage, 30, of ballots with just one of two allowed selections made for commissioner.

Republicans also outnumbered Democrats in August, but only by a slight margin. Of 11,189 registered voters, 4,888 (43.7 percent) were registered Republican for the primary and 2,672 voted. Democrats counted 4,080 (36.5 percent) registered with 2,492 voting.

So the Red-Blue deficit either got close to zero in the county, or Independents and undeclareds swung to the left in the commission race, or both. Gill’s 5,069 was far off the pace and Trey Davis made up no ground from his last-place finish in the primary with 4,015 votes. Gill speculated that voters voted along party lines given that her two Democratic opponents both favored the 1 percent sales tax, which failed (6,800 to 5,435), while she did not.

Macker raised the most ($22,157) and won while Davis had the second-biggest war chest with $14,250. Epstein and Gill raised $10,105 and $6,795, respectively.

What may not have mattered, and even hurt, is yard signs. Randall said, “There was a boatload of [sky blue] for Gill all around the valley and, in the end, it didn’t matter.”

Everyone at the barbershop agreed Epstein, who topped their poll, hit a wide range of demographics from builders (his father is a contractor) to skiers (Epstein has a management role with Teton Gravity Research) to millenials who noticed his robust presence on social media.

Town races

While two new faces pop onto the county commission, it’s the same-old, same-old in town. Incumbents Jim Stanford and Hailey Morton Levinson held onto their seats on the council with little trouble. Candidates finished in the same order as the primary and exactly as the barbershop poll predicted.

The run for mayor was close, but no closer than in many years. Just 38 votes separated Pete Muldoon from incumbent Sara Flitner. Flitner won by a similar margin (40 votes) over Mark Nowlin in 2014.  In 2000, Jeanne Jackson edged Scott Anderson for mayor by just 17 votes. It was so close this year, that if every write-in ballot was counted as a Flitner vote, the candidates would be dead even at 2,414 votes each. Think your vote doesn’t count? A total of 302 town voters left the mayor race blank for whatever reason.

Barber Dave Johnson thinks Muldoon benefitted from his huge peer following, while the anti-Flitner vote may have been all about change in general. “As far as the criminal history: nobody’s an angel. That was quite a while ago and it doesn’t make him a bad person. We all make mistakes and his huge friend base that knows him to be a good person.”

“Sara may have been more of the Chamber of Commerce, business community vote, but a lot of those people live outside of town and couldn’t vote for mayor,” Randall said.

Deep in the numbers

A few generalizations can be made by delving deeper into the numbers and looking at how individual precincts voted. For instance, councilman Stanford likely appeals to a majority of younger, left-leaning voters. Those voters, for the most part, are well-represented in East Jackson where Stanford lives. It was there in Precincts 1-2 (Mid-East Jackson) and 1-8 (East Jackson) that Stanford saw his biggest margins of victory.

The only precincts Stanford failed to carry were 1-4 (North Jackson) and 1-11 (Indian Trails). The former, aside from the “old school” Gill Addition, is downtown business core, where Stanford may have rubbed a few the wrong way with his opposition to hyper-growth District 2 zoning proposals. The latter is one of the more affluent neighborhoods in town, likeliest to swing conservatively right.

Precinct breakdowns for mayor were equally telling. For instance, Flitner beat Muldoon in more conservative sections of town. Muldoon romped where young people live. Muldoon took East Jackson; Flitner, west. Flitner nabbed north Jackson and smoked Muldoon in tony Indian Trails (103-44), but Muldoon’s steady dominance in Cottonwood more than made up the difference.

In the county race, Gill beat all comers in 1-1 (South Jackson) and 1-10 (South Hoback) where her family ranches. She was also dominate in Alta, where they flat out vote Republican. But Gill couldn’t win anywhere else. Skyline (1-3) and north Jackson appeared to be Epstein’s only weaknesses. He crushed it in West Jackson. Macker was solid pretty much everywhere except in GOP camps. Davis didn’t win a precinct but he was very well received in Alta and north Jackson.

The 1 percent sales tax voter breakdown by area is interesting, and a bit tougher to figure. Predictably, precincts located anywhere along commuter lines were for the tax that could get people taking the bus. The tax would have passed if the only precinct voting was Skyline. Wilson was also close to passing the sales tax. Maybe it was more about affordable housing? All of downtown Jackson, East and West, was for the tax. But on the periphery—Rafter J, South Hoback, Kelly/Moose,Airport, Teton Village—where presumably most have already secured their home for some time, the tax failed. PJH

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