Did Charles Barron Win the Black Vote (Who Can Tell?)?: Another Statistical Exercise

This is the third part of my trawl through the Primary results just posted on the NYC Board of Elections website. I finished this piece before I learned of John Mollenkopf’s more detailed Election District by Election District (ED) analysis of some of the same races, which puts mine to shame. However, I think the points I raise are still worthy of discussion, so I’m posting this rather than trashing it.

The object of this series is to examine shibboleths concerning the results which have arisen since the September 12th primary. For example, it has been reported, in the Brooklyn Paper, and in several blogs, that in the 25th Senate District challenger Ken Diamondstone beat incumbent Martin Connor in the district’s Brooklyn portion, and, in fact it’s been reported that Diamondstone has publicly taunted Connor over this (I’m sure Connor’s crying all the way to Albany). It’s a great story. But it’s not true. In actuality, Connor carried Brooklyn 3864 to 3,806, with two write-in votes going to Tracy Boyland.

Another statement much bandied about is that Charles Barron carried the black vote in his race for Congress in the 10th CD. This statement has been made by both blogger Rock Hackshaw and the Proud Panther himself, and has acquired the status of conventional wisdom. There is almost an unspoken subtext here that if the illegitimate votes cast by Whites, Latinos and Asians were subtracted from the total vote, then the rightful victor could be allowed to assume his seat and Congress and bestride Washington like the colossus that he so surely is. But, even discarding the racialist subtext into the dustbin of bigotry, the question remains: is the assertion that Barron won the black vote accurate?
Ideally, one would want to analyze this ED by ED, and then compare it with the census figures for the overlapping areas. I hope Mollenkopf does this, but until he does, you can all chew on this and savor the flavor. As I’ve stated in a previous column, there are two reasons I’ve not done the  ED by ED. First, those results cannot be pulled from the web. The second is that, even provided with the results, the time it would take to do this would be tremendous (although I will once again remind readers that anyone willing to pay me to undertake the project is free to contact me at Gatemouthnyc@hotmail.com, although you’d probably be better off calling Mr. Mollenkopf). Instead, I’ve done the analysis Assembly District by Assembly District (AD).  

The actual results of the primary were Ed Towns 19,469 (47%), Barron 15,345 (37%) and Roger Green 6237 (16%). However, if we only count the votes in the ADs (40, 41, 43, 54, 55, 56, 57, 58 and 59) where black voters accounted for the majority of the votes cast, the vote would be Towns 15,015, and Barron 13,728. Some of those expert in such things may notice that I’ve listed two ADs (41 and 59) as black majority which in actuality have a white plurality. This is because, within the borders of the 10th CD, the majority of votes cast in those ADs come from black voters. This is also true of the Latino majority 54th AD (but not the Latino majority 53rd). On the other hand, the 42nd AD, which is overwhelmingly black, is counted as white majority for these purposes, as almost all of its votes in the 10th come from an overwhelmingly Orthodox Jewish area of Midwood.   

Towns’ victory in these ADs does not end the argument. Of these ADs, Towns carried three by large margins (41, 54 and 59), and three (55, 56, 58) by small margins. Barron carried three of these ADs (40, 43, 57). There were only 73 votes cast in the 43rd, which Barron won by five votes. On the other hand Barron rampaged in his home base of the 40th, which largely tracks his Council District. It is quite clear that without Barron’s strength in his home base, this matter would not even be up for discussion.

So why does this require further discussion at all? Well, because many of the black majority ADs are far from being all black. The 40th includes a number of Russian voters in Starrett City, who were probably not inclined to support Barron; thus his margin there among blacks is probably somewhat understated. Although most of the heavily white areas of the 59th (Gerritsen Beach, Bergen Beach, Mill Island, Marine Park, Plumb Beach) are not in the 10th CD, it does include Georgetown, as well as some areas where whites are a still significant minority. The 41st portion of the 11th is black majority, but also includes an Orthodox area very much like the one in the 42nd (where Towns took 84% to Barron’s 9%). While this area is smaller than the one in the 42nd, one would expect Towns to have taken a similar margin in those EDs. Thus, when adjusted for the likely white votes, Towns' margins among blacks in the 41st and 59th are probably somewhat better than those in the 55th and 56th, but not as big as they initially appeared to be. It is also likely that Towns' margin in the 54th was somewhat inflated by votes from the significant Latino minority.

But, not all the adjustments would be made in Barron’s favor. In the white majority 50th AD, Towns won by over 1,600 votes, largely on the strength of support from Hasidic Williamsburg. But the 10th’s portion of the 50th also includes black strongholds like the Ingersoll and Whitman NYCHA projects. In Marty Connor’s race, which included the Hasidic turf, but not the black areas, he carried the 50th by over 1,400 votes, largely, but not entirely, owing to Hasidim (much of the remainder of Connor’s vote was from Latino resident’s of Williamsburg’s NYCHA projects; the very type of voter who accounted for Connor’s big victory in Manhattan). Nonetheless, even using the 1,400 figure as a benchmark, and subtracting it from Towns’ margin in the area, it is quite likely that Towns outdid Barron in the 50th’s Black areas by at least 200 votes.

And then there is the 57th.

One of the surprises of this race was Barron’s strength among white voters in the Brownstone areas. In the 52nd, Barron held Towns to a near dead heat (Towns 583, Barron 516) among a nearly all white constituency. But, reports are that the closer one got to Atlantic Yards, the better Barron ran. By contrast, in the Concord Village development located far from the yards, and largely composed of retired Jewish school teachers and struggling young families pretending to be Yuppies, Barron was beaten soundly. However, in funky Boerum Hill, Barron did quite well, especially as one got closer to Flatbush Avenue.

So, in the 57th, the site of Atlantic Yards, where Barron beat Towns by over 300 votes, it is quite conceivable that Barron’s margin (and perhaps more than that) owes itself largely to the votes of white people. And, it is quite conceivable that it was Ed Towns who won that AD’s black vote.    

All told, I think it is possible Barron edged out Town’s among black voters by a slight plurality, based entirely on his overwhelming victory on his home turf. However, it is unclear that this could be proven conclusively, even by a more detailed examination of the data. Moreover, given Green’s total vote, far higher than anyone anticipated, it is clear that Barron did not come close to getting a majority of the black vote, and he may actually been edged out by Towns. Obviously, this is a matter demanding further study by those who actually care.  My email is listed above and my rates are reasonable, but there are probably better experts already performing this autopsy.      


For further discussion of some of the topics within please see: