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Runoff analysis: five questions 

Between the Lines

Nothing about this city election has followed normal logic, so why start now?

We've chosen six new members of the City Council, all with much to learn. We've banished somebody who's not worthy of being the first name mentioned here, though rest assured he'll be back to torment the new elected leaders as soon as he sees a good opportunity — unless those tax-evasion indictments take up too much of his time.

Now we have a mayoral runoff that continues to defy the usual political thinking. The ballots go out in two weeks, presumably to the same 150,000 or so voters who were on the mailing list or since have activated their status. After that, there's no way to know what will happen, just as few if any neutral observers came close to predicting correctly how the first round turned out.

So let's explore five questions that have become part of the runoff discussion, as people involved with the Richard Skorman and Steve Bach campaigns try to project what might happen in the weeks ahead.

1. How many will vote? The usual assumption is that fewer voters will take part in any runoff. For many of them, their favorite candidate has lost, whether for mayor or Council, so they simply aren't as interested. In typical circumstances, the 90,558 submitted ballots from the first election would erode to somewhere in the range of 70,000 to 80,000. We could debate for hours whether that would benefit Skorman or Bach more than the other.

My guess is, it will help Skorman but only slightly. Why? Simply because there were more conservatives in the original field of candidates, so more of their disappointed supporters might sit out instead of voting for Bach, clearly the more conservative of the final two.

2. Will endorsements or differences in money spent matter at this point? I'd say for endorsements, the answer is no. It's hard to imagine any celebrity-level (not local) politicians taking sides between Skorman and Bach, at least nobody who would have an impact. It'll be interesting to see if third-place finisher Brian Bahr takes Bach's side or stays neutral. But will that matter? Doubtful.

As for available funds to spend for runoff campaigning, Skorman had a slight edge in cash on hand in the latest filings, $36,292 to $24,918, but both have been pulling in final donations from their supporters. Hard to see that being a decisive factor in the final weeks.

3. Will voters really pay any attention to debates and media coverage? Probably not, unless either candidate stumbles badly enough that the public really notices. Up to now, even the best-attended forums have attracted only 150 or so people, almost all previously — and strongly — committed to one candidate or another. At least now we'll see some actual debates, but even if Skorman or Bach dominates, it's not as though thousands of undecided voters will be watching breathlessly.

4. What about those who sat out the first round? By this, we mean those who received ballots and tossed them in the trash — about 60,000 in all. Nobody has been able to determine whether that group could be a gold mine for either candidate, but it's possible. One theory that made the rounds in March went like this: Because so many people merely assumed Skorman would be in the runoff, perhaps several thousand or more of his backers didn't bother to send in their ballots. But now they will.

That might have been more believable, except that everyone supporting Skorman (or even leaning toward moderate) felt compelled to vote in the first election, hoping to stop Douglas Bruce and his disciples from being elected to City Council.

5. Who will decide this outcome? Usually, it's the people who vote. This time, it might be those who don't. More than 24,000 residents clearly sided with Bruce, and close to that many also obeyed the Dougster's wishes by voting for his four fellow Reform Team members. But will those 22,000-plus loyalists, plus the others who voted for Bruce, care enough to participate in the runoff? They're already disillusioned. Many of them probably don't care who wins, Skorman or Bach.

Bach might need those votes. Skorman might need their apathy.

Unusual, for sure. But after the past few months, why should the runoff be any different?

routon@csindy.com

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