Despite Champaign’s conservative reputation, the city has a pretty solid record of backing Democratic candidates, at least in recent elections. Whether that means much for tomorrow’s “non-partisan” election remains to be seen, but there is food for thought available nonetheless. Consider:
- David Gill (54%) soundly defeated Tim Johnson (46%) in Champaign in 2010
- Barack Obama (68%) scored a lopsided victory over John McCain (32%) in 2008, which wasn’t a whole lot more uneven than Obama’s win in Urbana (74% to 26%); Obama carried every one of the 38 precincts in Champaign
- Champaign backed Alexi Giannoulias over Mark Kirk in the 2010 U.S. Senate race and Pat Quinn over Bill Brady in the 2010 Governor’s election (both by narrow margins)
- In 2008, Champaign gave Steve Cox more than a 1,000-vote margin over Johnson for U.S. Representative, despite the fact that Johnson carried Champaign County by a margin of over 11,000 votes
(All election results info gleaned from the Champaign County Clerk‘s website.)
Looking more in-depth at local precinct results will shed even more light on the City of Champaign’s voting patterns. Click on the Champaign Precinct map to the right to download a pdf which will be large enough that you will actually be able to read it. Also, you can download either a pdf or an Excel file of compiled election results by precinct for the 2010, 2008, and 1995 elections.
Voter registration in Champaign has been steady, more or less, since the 2010 election, with total registrations increasing by one percent overall to 46,108 registered voters in the city. The two precincts which saw the largest growth (5%) in the last year, precincts 6 and 30, were both solid supporters of Gill in 2010 and Obama in 2008.
Looking back even further, at Champaign’s last two contested mayoral elections, some interesting patterns emerge. In 1995, when current mayor Jerry Schweighart was narrowly defeated (3,822 to 3,573) by then-incumbent Dannel McCollum (who, as best can be determined, leaned to the Democratic side), Schweighart carried only 10 of the 38 precincts (9, 17, 18, 31, 33, 34, 35, 36, 37, 38).
Even though that election was also non-partisan, Schweighart’s (who aligns closely with the local Republican party and is a vocal Tea Party supporter) success came primarily from the precincts with the most solid Republican roots, mostly in southwest Champaign. In fact, 8 of the 10 precincts which Schweighart carried in 1995 also went for Johnson in 2010 (Johnson carried 13 Champaign precincts in 2010).
In his electoral victory in 1999, over fellow-Republican Marty Smith, Schweighart was able to expand his base of support. Although he still carried less than half (17) of the 38 precincts, Schweighart pulled off a narrow victory, by a margin of 4,924 to 4,668. Schweighart lost only one precinct that he’d won in 1995 (18), and added precincts 10, 11, 12, 19, 25, 26, 28, and 32 to his side of the ledger.
I looked into some of the reasons for that in a previous article, but it seems clear that the choice between two Republicans improved Schweighart’s chances in more Democratic-leaning districts. The former police officer was routed in northeast Champaign’s precinct 1, 175 to 17, but kept things close enough in other “blue” precincts that he was able to win the election.
It will be interesting to see if these patterns hold in tomorrow’s mayoral election, in which Schweighart faces Don Gerard, who is officially identified as an independent but whose platform trends toward that of a Democrat. Gerard has also received endorsements from two prominent local Democratic politicians, State Senator Mike Frerichs and State Representative Naomi Jakobsson, and has campaigned heavily in precincts with a history of support for Democratic candidates. It’s likely to be a close race, but if recent results are any indication, Schweighart has his work cut out for him in securing a fourth term.