Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Comparative Political Geography and the 4th District Senate Race

Comparative Political Geography and the 4th District Senate Race

You probably know the City of St. Louis has 28 wards and 79 neighborhoods.

You might know we have 10 state representative districts (plus part of an 11th), and 2 state senate districts (plus part of a 3rd). And of course we have parts of 2 U.S. House districts.

But you may not realize how rarely those boundaries match up neatly. As a result, we have 208 precincts. 5 of them have no voters.

Obviously, the hot topic right now is the 4th district state senate race, to determine who will succeed term-limited Senator Pat Dougherty.

That huge district covers 96 precincts in roughly the western half of the City, including parts of 9 state rep districts and 18 wards, not to mention parts of both Congressional districts and both junior college subdistricts. (See PDF Map)

Senate candidate Yaphett El-Amin's state house district (#57) contains 20 precincts, all located within the 4th senate district. Opponent Amber Boykins' district (#60) contains 22 precincts, but only 13 are located in the 4th district; the NE parts of her district are in the 5th senate district. El-Amin's district covers a larger geography but given the population declines of the past several decades and the generally decayed condition of much of that NW part of the city, seems likely to have lower voter turnout. (See PDF map)

Housing statistics (PDF) suggest a slight edge for Boykins, because district 60 has a higher number and percentage of owner-occupied housing than district 57. District 60 also has a slightly older, higher income, less impoverished population than district 57.
House DistrictNumber Owner-Occupied% Owner-OccupiedAge 65 and Up% 65 and UpMed Household Income% Poverty
57 (El-Amin)5,67934.6%5,04915%$19,71036%
60 (Boykins)6,93540.5%6,27218.3%$22,85527%

While some of those senior homeowners in the 60th may not be in the 4th Senate district (particularly those cute little bungalows on streets like Dryden and Korte near I-70 between Shreve and West Florissant), it seems Boykins might have a larger potential voter base given the slightly older, more homeowning, somewhat higher economic status population of her district.

So, between the two, I'm thinking Boykins has the edge over El-Amin based on home district demographics. But she has fewer precincts in both districts, so who knows?

But is either one enough to top Jeff Smith's range of supporters, who are much harder to peg demographically? That I can't say for sure. Of course, Smith won the city in the high-profile 10-candidate 2004 primary for the 3rd district Congressional seat, with about 90,000 votes.

How many of those supporters live in the 4th Senate district, though? Within the city, there are 105 precincts in the 3rd Congressional. But only 45 of those are also in the 4th Senate district. Of those, 19 are also located in the 65th state rep district, formerly represented by Derio Gambaro, the fourth candidate in this race. The district was smaller when Gambaro was the rep prior to redistricting. Nevertheless, it includes Gambaro's likely support base on The Hill (10th Ward).

Complicating the picture is that longtime ward 23 committeeman and the mayor's father Francis R. Slay, endorsed Jeff Smith in this race. Single-issue pro-Life voters (and for that matter, Italian-Americans who don't care about abortion one way or the other) will probably ignore that endorsement and stick with Gambaro, just as they probably voted Favazza in '04.

I don't have access to precinct-level returns, but it seems likely much of Jeff Smith's 2004 support came from east of Kingshighway and the edges of the central corridor. So that makes about 26 precincts, that are both within the 3rd Congressional AND the 4th State Senate districts, but NOT in the 65th State Rep district. Gambaro is likely to win in two of those as well, on the edges of the 12th and 14th wards and in the 66th State Rep district of conservative South County Democrat Michael Vogt. Somehow I doubt Jim Murphy's endorsement of Boykins will carry much weight in the 12th around St. Raphael's.

So Jeff Smith's likely 'carryover' support base consists of 24 precincts concentrated in the 8th (Shaw), 15th (Tower Grove South), and maybe 24th (Dogtown) wards. The most interesting potential 'pickup' area would be the 28th ward, a high-turnout ward including the Skinker-DeBaliviere neighborhood and part of Central West End which leans progressive, but is located in the 1st Congressional district so did not participate in the 2004 primary in the 3rd.

So, in summary, I estimate the following number of precincts as the base of support for each candidate:
CandidateNo. of PrecinctsHouse District(s)Parts of Wards
El-Amin20 pctsH 57W 1, 4, 18, 22*, 26, 27, 28
Boykins13 pctsH 60 (portion)W 1, 4, 18, 21, 22*
Gambaro21 pctsH 65, 66 (portion)W 8, 10, 12, 14, 16, 23, 24
Smith24 pcts3rd Congress, H 63, 64, 67W 8, 10, 14, 17, 23, 24, 28
Unclear18 pcts1st Congress, H 58, 61, 64W 1, 18, 19, 24, 26, 27, 28

* = Kenny Jones' 22nd ward 'base' overlaps with El-Amin's and Boykins' entirely. Of the 7 precincts in the 22nd Ward, 6 are also in the 57th State Rep and 1 is in the 60th. His chances seem pretty slim.


Travis Reems said...


You've provided a very indepth and thoughful analysis of this campaign. I do think you've under-estimated Jeff Smith's appeal in north city, and over-estimated Amber Boykins support due to her apparent lack of campaigning the last few weeks. But over all, a well thought out approach.

Tim said...

Joe, this is a very thorough and insighful analysis of the respective strengths of the various candidates. However, you seem to have left out Ward 15, which is almost entirely located in the 4th Senate District and which I believe was the ward Jeff Smith did best in two years ago during his Congressional run.