The dynamics in the 2009 mayoral primary were vastly different than they are in 2017, but the numbers are eerily similar. Ruthanne Fuller was this year’s top vote getter with 36.7% compared to Ruth Balser’s 36.1% (and their first names start with the same four letters!). Scott Lennon got 32.9% to Setti Warren’s 30.1% (and their first names both start with S and have two t’s!). Amy Sangiolo got 24.5% to the combined 25.5% of Ken Parker (15.1%) and Bill Heck (10.4%) (as for their names, I’ve got nothing). 

The numerical parallels are all the more striking because the dynamics were so different. The 2009 primary was practically a referendum on outgoing Mayor David Cohen. (And, a more spirited contest, judging by turnout: 15,866 to today’s 14,280.*) Setti declared before David announced he was not running. Ruth declared only after. (I can’t recall when Ken or Bill declared.) Setti ran as a brash young outsider who knocked on every door in the city — twice or thrice — criticizing the Cohen administration at every turn. Ruth was a long-time city and state legislator with close ties to David. Ken ran a very issues driven campaign that featured an extensive listening tour and produced a very detailed people’s platform. Bill ran as a small-government type.

This year, the three candidates** have very similar backgrounds: each a sitting city councilor with years of experience. The outgoing mayor has (as far as I can tell) been a non-issue in the campaigns. There’s not much room between them on the issues. It’s been hard for many of us to choose among them.

In 2009, it wasn’t totally clear where the Parker/Heck votes would go in the general, but it was clear that Setti would challenge for a lot of them (plus voters who didn’t vote in the primary). And, he got a lot of them (though Ken endorsed Ruth), winning by just over two percentage points. (There were just 6649 more mayoral votes in the general, surprisingly.)

Folks will say that much of the Amy vote is from the anti crowd (plus one avowed non-anti), which will be more attracted to Scott than Ruthanne. On the other hand, 60.6% of today’s voters voted for one of two women, with five men splitting the rest. In any case, and I’m sure she knows it, Ruthanne has her work cut out for her, for sure. And, Scott goes to sleep tonight knowing that the real race starts tomorrow and he has a great chance to win.

This isn’t even close to over!

* Not sure if this includes absentee ballots.

** I continue to ignore the four outsiders, embolden in my resolve by their performance today, with the bottom three not even topping 250 votes combined!


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