Why the Mayor Lost the Election

Categories: Politics

Is it true?

Did Broward Mayor Ken Keechl's bitter loss on Election Day have nothing at all to do with his performance while in office or the effectiveness of his own campaign?

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Did voters fail to notice his broken promises on the courthouse and working full-time as a commissioner? Did they not notice that he paid himself rent from his huge lobbyist-stuffed campaign coffers? Did his own over-the-top negative attack ads on his opponent Chip LaMarca not cause a backlash against him?

Keechl's campaign manager said yesterday that all of that was meaningless. The only thing that mattered was the voters' tsunami that washed away almost every Democrat in its path on Tuesday.  

The numbers, however, tell a different story. Election records reviewed by the Pulp show that thousands of voters turned away from Keechl, and they point to one man as having played a decisive role in the voting.

Inside, read the real story on how Keechl lost.

There was a way Keechl that would have won this race, and it has nothing to do with whether there was an R or a D next to his name.

Election records show, however, that Keechl -- who is said to be on vacation and has yet to congratulate LaMaraca -- could have won if his name were Alex Sink.

Sink, the Democratic gubernatorial candidate who lost in a statewide squeaker to Rick Scott, garnered 26,134 votes in Keechl's district.

That's 726 more votes than LaMarca, who performed similarly in the district to fellow Republican Scott. So if Sink, a politician from Tampa, could win Keechl's district, you'd think the mayor, after four years in office and a whole lot of free publicity from his title this past year, could have done so as well.

But it didn't happen. Instead, 3,119 voters who inked in the spot next to Democrat Sink's name decided not to do the same for Democrat Keechl. Remember that only about 50,000 people voted in the election, which means that 6 percent of voters chose Sink and then shunned Keechl down the ballot.

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Chiari
And those votes almost invariably popped up not next to the Republican's name. LaMarca was no powerhouse. Those voters turned to Chris Chiari, the no-party candidate.

In all, Chiari got 2,634 votes, and that looks to be the difference, since LaMarca's margin of victory over Keechl was just 2,393 votes.

I did a more depthy analysis on all A precincts -- a fairly diverse sample from north Deerfield Beach -- in the Keechl-LaMarca district. Those numbers, again, showed that LaMarca and Scott performed similarly, with the new county commissioner doing slightly better (LaMarca received 3,178 votes to Scott's 3,114).

In those same precincts Alex Sink pulled 3,794 votes to Keechl's 3,301.*

So in those Deerfield precincts, a whopping 493 Sink voters turned away from Keechl. Chiari, who received a total of 5 percent of the vote districtwide, picked up the brunt of those anti-Keechl votes with a total of 373.

And that pattern played itself out in nearly every precinct. Even in Wilton Manors, where Keechl, Broward's first gay mayor, was counting on great support from the gay community, the mayor consistently underperformed Alex Sink. And those Wilton Manors voters who turned away from Keechl appear to have predominantly chosen Chiari.       

The trend is clear, and, in fact, political observers had been predicting it would happen for weeks prior to the election. There was a sizable group of voters that was dissatisfied with Keechl, that found the mayor's performance unacceptable. Those same voters also found LaMarca unacceptable for whatever reason, likely because they didn't want to vote for a Republican. Chiari in effect gave them a relief valve, a way to vote against Keechl without participating in that GOP tsunami.

Chiari, to his credit, ran a solid campaign in which he pointed out the foibles of both candidates. I contacted him after I ran the precinct numbers, and he told me that he considered it a "happy result" that he had played a crucial role in defeating Keechl and helping to make $600,000 in mostly lobbyist-generated special interest money backing the mayor go to waste.

The bottom line, though, is that Keechl simply wasn't popular in his district and had clearly alienated thousands of voters. The reason Keechl lost?

Keechl himself.

*[One reason why both Sink and Keechl beat their Republican opponents in the A precincts is that it contained a large black precinct in northwest Deerfield Beach. In that precinct, A15, Keechl received 753 votes to LaMarca's 16.]

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