Can down-ticket candidates avoid a wave? Some numbers to consider

11/08/2011 09:02 AM

Voter turnout and margin of victory in the governor’s race are key factors in indicating what might happen in the other statewide races.

Perhaps the best example of a down-ticket candidate bucking a trend of a wave from the other party is 2007. Incumbent Republican Secretary of State Trey Grayson defeated Bruce Hendrickson, a second-tier candidate but one who actually did campaign. Grayson won by 14.2 points.

At the same time Republican Gov. Ernie Fletcher lost to Democrat Steve Beshear by 17.4 points.

That was a swing of 31.6 points and 141,108 votes. In terms of votes received, Grayson got 14 percent more support than Fletcher.

Turnout in 2007 was nearly 38 percent — much higher than the predictions of 25 to 28 percent for today’s election.

If it is 25 percent, Kentucky is looking at around 736,000 votes cast in the governor’s race. There is often a 4-6 percent drop-off from the governor’s race to the other statewide races, meaning there might be around 700,000 for most down-ticket races.

But if a down-ticket candidate can manage to get 14 percent more support than his party’s candidate for governor, it would still be possible to pull off a narrow win even in the face of a 20-point loss in the governor’s race.

Here are some historical turnout and margins from governor’s races going back to 1983.

2007
Steve Beshear (D) 58.7% defeated Gov. Ernie Fletcher ® 41.3%

  • Turnout: 37.8% (6th)
  • Votes for winner: 619,552 (1st)
  • Margin of victory: 17.4 points (4th)

2003
Ernie Fletcher ® 55.0% defeated Ben Chandler (D) 45.0%

  • Turnout: 40.2% (5th)
  • Votes for winner: 596,284 (2nd)
  • Margin of victory: 10 points (5th)

1999
Gov. Paul Patton (D) 60.6% defeated Peppy Martin ® 22.2% and Gatewood Galbraith (Reform Party) 15.3%

  • Turnout: 20.4% (7th)
  • Votes for winner: 352,099 (7th)
  • Margin of victory: 28.4 points (3rd)

1995
Paul Patton (D) 50.8% defeated Larry Forgy ® 48.7% (plus write-ins)

  • Turnout: 44.4% (3rd)
  • Votes for winner: 500,605 (6th)
  • Margin of victory: 2.1 points (7th)

1991
Brereton Jones (D) 64.7% defeated Larry Hopkins ® 35.3%

  • Turnout: 46.1% (2nd)
  • Votes for winner: 540,468 (4th)
  • Margin of victory: 29.4 points (2nd)

1987
Wallace Wilkinson (D) 64.5% defeated John Harper ® 34.9%

  • Turnout: 42% (4th)
  • Votes for winner: 504,674 (5th)
  • Margin of victory: 29.6 points (1st)

1983
Martha Layne Collins (D) defeated Jim Bunning ® 43.9%

  • Turnout: 56.2% (1st)
  • Votes for winner: 561,674 (3rd)
  • Margin of victory: 5.8 points (6th)

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