Wednesday, November 03, 2010

US elections: the smaller headlines

Without losing sight of the bigger picture, that the Democrats are sliding back, when you have an election the size of yesterday's in the USA there's always some extra points of interest worth exploring.

The unique talents of Alvin Greene
Alvin Greene is so uniquely unqualified for US Senate he had to find himself some obscenity charges to be had up on just to look a bit more senatorial.

Of course few candidates had a graphic novel of their campaign (pdf) but somehow it was not enough to overcome the fact that his nomination was widely regarded as the product of some sort of dodgy maneuvering on the part of the right.

He was the very definition of an inarticulate non-candidate and, sadly, became a nationally known figure. Stupidly, after questions had been raised about the authenticity of the Democratic Primary result that returned Greene, the Democrats refused to investigate keeping the complete dud in place.

Greene (pictured) managed to drive the South Carolina Democrat vote down to 28% (compared to the 47% they received in the race for governor for instance) although this had the unintended happy consequence of driving the Green Party vote up to 9%, possibly a record for the US Greens, God bless their 9/11 truthing hearts.

Lincoln Chafee independent Governor of Rhode Island

Newly elected Rhode Island governor Lincoln Chafee's campaign website lead with a video of Barrack Obama giving an anti-war speech. Chafee put up the kind of campaign that most Democrats *should* have but were too gutless to provide.

Winning 36% of the vote (to the Republican's 34% and the Democrat's 23%) Chafeee shows that it is possible to win serious races in the US without the endorsement of the two major parties.

Lincoln ran a clearly progressive campaign talking about a "combined focus on renewable energy, recycling, and re-connecting businesses with sustainability to benefit both the environment and the economy" but he did study at Brown University so what would we expect (apart for him to lose, which he didn't).

What about the Greens?

I'm not a massive fan of the US Greens overall, but I'm sure they're decent sorts overall. The Greens certainly had some very hopeful results last night, and not just their 9% in South Carolina.

In New York Howie Hawkins managed to achieve enough votes to give the Greens 'official ballot lines' in the state. This is phenomenally important for a small party as it can spend less time and money mucking around just getting on the ballot paper and more time campaigning for its ideas.

There were a number of local victories, for instance the Greens' Bruce Delgado won Mayor on Marina, Monterey (the equivalent size of a council ward), and the California Greens seem to have had a good night but these results are far too patchy to pull together from across the ocean.

I have to say though, despite my doubts about the organisation, they produced some really fun election videos. I think this is my favourite so far. Green Watch say they're pulling together the numbers, so check them out.

Charlie Crist, Florida independent

Another independent, Charlie Crist, who ran for Senate in Florida made a good showing with 30% of the vote although he failed to beat the Republican Tea Party candidate despite his campaign slogan "united to defeat the extreme right-wing.

Crist, who is currently governor of Florida, attracted endorsements from high profile Democrats, campaigned on progressive and green issues and an independent minded, non-partisan approach to politics.

Crist's campaign was surprisingly left field for a former Republican and the fact he was explicitly taking on the right with genuinely left-liberal policies makes gaining one in three votes all the more impressive.

Alaskan write in candidate

The curse of Palin strikes again. Lisa Murkowski wasn't even on the ballot paper and it looks like she might win the Alaskan race for Senate. The Palin backed Republican Joe Miller can certainly see defeat from his house as the current vote tally is 41% to Murkowski, 34% to Miller and 24% to the Democrats - although counting is not yet finished so this may not be the final result.

Of course, before we get over-excited I should explain that Murkowski is a current Republican senator who was unexpectedly beaten by Palin's choice Miller to the nomination. Hold on to your stats-hats readers because the vote was 53,872 to 53,878 in Miller's favour - no wonder she decided to mount a 'write-in' challenge for senate!

Miller has not been a great candidate for the Republicans. Not only is he associated with one of the divisive political figures in the country, his bodyguards handcuffed a journalist during the campaign and had to be forced to release him by the police. Whatever his deficiencies he's certainly not been able to raise the kind of money Murkowski has who raised three and a half million dollars for her write-in campaign compared to just under two for Miller.

If Murkowski has won, and she probably has, this will be the biggest blow against the Tea Party movement because it will be incontrovertible proof that they are splitting the party integrity of the Republican base and their politics are the kiss of death in any tightly fought race. I don't share much politics with Murkowski but her victory will be a very, very good thing.

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