For me, the most interesting election in the county this year was between a candidate for the North Thurston School district and her opponent, who had endorsed here.
In a more perfect world, no one would have voted for Stephanie Scott. She did not campaign and had endorsed Esperanza Badillo-Diiorio weeks before the primary election. But because she endorsed Badillo-Diiorio after the deadline to withdraw, Scott’s name remained on the ballot. And, probably more importantly, her candidate statement remained in the Voters’ Pamphlet.
In one of the oddest possible returns in the primary, Scott even finished ahead of Badillo-Diiorio for a few days as ballots were being counted before the primary was certified, possibly knocking a candidate she supported.
No one’s fault really, that’s just the way elections work. And, Scott did spend a lot of time campaigning for her opponent, so it wasn’t that big a surprise that Badillo-Diiorio will be certified the winner of the general election in a week or so.
But what I was interested in was the phenomena of two candidates with the names Badillo-Diiorio and Scott, where Scott was the candidate not really running.
Matt Barreto wrote an influential paper in 2012 (then a professor at the University of Washington) describing his finding of racism in the Yakima County results in a race between well-funded (and now Supreme Court Justice) Steven Gonzales and un-funded, non campaigning Bruce Danielson. Basically, Barreto compared the results for Danielson by precinct against those of other conservative candidates and found that Danielson would outperform those conservative candidates.
You can read Barreto’s entire study here.
Barreto’s example of an election impacted by racism looks like this:
Using a similar technique, the Badillo-Diiorio/Scott race looks like this:
Instead of using Republican candidates, I used the composite returns of the two non-Democrats (who could be fairly described as conservatives) who ran for countywide offices.
While Danielson outperformed the Republican in 100 percent of precincts, Scott only won 57 precincts compared to 49. Hardly a barn burner.
It is worth noting, that in Barreto’s analysis, he found racism impacting voting in Yakima and Grant counties (on the eastside) but did not find it in Snohomish County. It is very likely that Thurston County is more similar to Snohomish than Yakima or Grant.
What is left unaddressed here or in Barreto’s work, is why anyone would vote for a candidate who is actively not campaigning. Or, more specifically, in Scott’s case, endorsing and campaigning for their opponent.
I’m sure the lack of media coverage in the race had some impact. Most of what voters heard in this race likely came from the Voters’ Pamphlet, which did not provide a lot of difference between the two candidates. That seems to be born out in the results. Compared to the two other North Thurston school races, Badillo-Diiorio/Scott had more undervotes (people not voting at all) and write-ins.
So, in the end, it is likely just voters not entirely sure what to do. The majority of Scott voters likely would have voted for her opponent had they learned she was no longer in the race.