Why do you tweet?

February 25, 2010

I have a DVR and I love it.   With the exception of the Super Bowl, I can’t remember the last time I watched a commercial.

So why do you think I would want to follow your twitter account if the only thing you ever do is tweet about your products or your events?  For all the criticism that people who tweet are narcissists, it’s really the followers who are in it for themselves.  Unless they are just focused on their follower count, and haphazardly follow anyone they can find in the hopes of being followed back, they probably make a conscious decision every time they click that “follow” button.  Maybe a person is funny.  Maybe they provide great/timely information.  Maybe they are engaging.  Maybe they are provocative.

If you are a twitter skeptic, you are probably thinking, “It’s not my job to entertain, inform, engage or provoke random people.  It’s my job to sell widgets or fill seats at restaurants or events or shape public opinion.  Why should I tweet?”  Well, if you entertain, inform, engage and provoke them, they will tolerate it when you pitch them.  They may not even notice.

Now I’m not a small business owner (anymore).  I’m certainly not a social media guru (though I saw one once at the end of the rainbow).  But I have some opinions on what you should and should not be doing to build your business/organization on twitter.

Don’t become a broadcaster.  You’ll end up a narrowcaster. You may have seen this business on twitter.  Constantly telling you about the daily beer special or encouraging you to register now for the next event.  But the account (it’s unclear if there is a beating heart behind it) never engages.  @reply and you’ll be ignored.  It is the twitter version of  24/7 infomercials.  If you have seen this account, you probably didn’t see it for long because who wants to follow the commercial network.

Do listen- Do you  know everything?  If not, you might learn something.  It might be something specific to your business.  Don’t you wish you could hear anytime someone complains about your product so you could attempt to make it right.  On twitter you can.  You can also hear what people are interested in, see what your competitor is offering, or offer solutions when someone is working on a problem in your area of expertise.

Don’t forget the pleasantries- Would you ever sit down to a business meeting without saying good morning, asking how a person’s weekend was, checking in on their family?  Do you always care about the answer?  Of course not.  And you may not care that my kid scored 14 goals in his 4 year old soccer game (which he did by the way; boy is a stud).  But we talk about such things.  It builds rapport.  And if during those pleasantries we find out that we both have kids in braces, there is immediately a sense of shared experience that will create a connection and a trust that may make it easier to do business later.  So even if you don’t think anyone cares what you had for dinner, share it.  Someone might.  And the bottom line is it is good for business to make personal connections.

Do give special deals. People love to get special treatment.  If I had to guess, 3/4 of the twitter world is on twitter so they will know something the non-twitter world does not.  They will follow you and patronize you if give them something the non-twitter world is missing.  I’ve been to @thecounterQC for Buy One Get One burgers provided only to twitter users.  It was partly about getting a free burger, but it was more about feeling like I was getting special treatment, and I don’t know if I would have made the effort if I had heard about the deal on the radio.  Similarly, @AmeliesBakery prompted me to become a facebook fan by offering a free caramel salted brownie.  These are both obviously forms of business advertising, but neither feels like a commercial.  They feel like a secret that I’m in on.

If you haven’t figured it out by now, this post is not for you.  It’s for me.  I get more out of twitter when the people I follow are entertaining, engaging, informative or provocative.  Improving the way you use twitter makes it a better experience for me.  And like everyone else here, I’m on twitter for selfish reasons.


Twitter: Your mistakes

January 22, 2010

Recently, I posted a comment from my twitter account (@briandfrancis) “While there is no wrong way to use twitter, some of you are doing it incorrectly.”    I was acknowledging that Twitter is still the lawless wild west of the internet, but at the same time there are ways that you can better communicate with me, and ways that you’ll get more out of it.  What I found:  a lot of twitter users are uncomfortable in an arena without rules and worried about how they are perceived.  Thus this blog post.  (BIG FAT DISCLAIMER:  I may not know what I’m talking about in this arena, as a follower helped point out when I mistakenly called this a blog about Twitter mistakes when it is really a post about twitter mistakes within a blog about everything).  I’ve also discovered that there are more things to talk about than one post can cover.  So consider this Part 1 of several.  Or maybe many.  We’ll see.

So with all the caveats that I’m no expert, there are no rules, and this is all subject to change, here are a few suggestions that I think could make both our experiences better.

1. Hashtags:   There are few devices within Twitter that can make it more useful, and that can build your follower base more quickly than hashtags.  And some of you just aren’t using them right.  I’m not talking about the #OhAndAnotherThing hash tag that some like to add to the end of their tweet.  Some of you right now are saying, “Yeah, I hate when people do that.”  Well, I don’t.  In fact I do it myself.  So someone else will have to blog post about that. #mymoneyison@itybtyctykty #youshouldfollowhersheissmartandfunny

No, my frustration lies in the misuse of them for their given purpose.  The misuse falls into two categories: failing to use a hashtag when you should and using it when you shouldn’t.  As an example, my son loves NASCAR driver Jimmie Johnson.  If my son were old enough to use twitter, he would  want to know everything about Jimmie Johnson.  What Jimmie  had for breakfast, what he thinks about New York traffic, and his insights on the latest with NASCAR.  I on the other hand, don’t care about Jimmie’s preferred toothpaste.  But (hypothetically) I’d like to know everything he is saying about NASCAR.  In fact, I’m so interested in NASCAR that I regularly search for tweets with #NASCAR as a hashtag.  This is the perfect use for a hashtag, so that users can search for information by subject and find comments from people whether they follow them or not.

So there are two mistakes that I believe Jimmie can make.  First, he might omit the #NASCAR hashtag from his tweet about the quality of this week’s track.  Without the #NASCAR hashtag, I’ll never see it because I don’t follow him.  OR, Jimmie may add the #NASCAR hashtag to everything he tweets.  Now I’m frustrated because his tweet about Chandra’s morning sickness is showing up in my search where all the other tweets are about the NASCAR topic du jour.  It is Twitter Spam, an unwelcome message forced upon the masses.  Even my son, who loves Jimmie, would find this frustrating.  While he does want to know where Jimmie shops for flip flops, he doesn’t want to know it when he is reading about restricter plate modifications.

The reason that I bring this up: it is a productivity issue for me.   While I am a social user of twitter, and actually enjoy reading about everything from my friends car trouble to their vacations, it is also a business tool for me.  In my line of work (government relations) it is a fantastic tool to follow the actions of federal, state and local government.  But misplaced hashtags make it harder to find the important information, and lead to missed information that could be invaluable.  So please, only use a hashtag if the tweet pertains to the subject.  And if you aren’t sure what the hashtag means, ask those using it.  In a land without laws, the mob rules.

Oh, and if you are a private account, don’t bother.  Your tweets don’t show up in the search stream so save yourself the characters.

Next time:  If I wanted commercials, I’d get rid of my DVR.  And later: You aren’t following enough people.


December 14, 2009

You may have concluded from my earlier posts, I have an affinity for numbers.

Not 13.1.

Is there a worse number for a race?  It’s like the Olympics adding a 666 meter dash.  Aren’t there some distance that you just shouldn’t run?  Oh, some wise guy just noted that’s why they added the extra tenth of a mile.  Racing 13 miles would be unlucky, but the extra tenth  makes it all four-leaf clovers and leprechauns.

I ran the ThunderRoad half marathon this weekend.  Well, technically I didn’t run the whole thing.  In fact, I never  intended to.  I’ve been training for nearly 10 months and took my lead from this fellow named Jeff Galloway.  From what I gather, there are three reactions to Jeff Galloway:

1.  Who?

2. You mean St. Jeff, the prophet who shown me the way to achieving running goals.

3. Pppht.  Jeff Galloway, the guy who causes all these out of shape lumps to clog up our race.

I am in the second camp.  You see, Jeff says it’s okay to walk.  In fact, he tells you to walk.  He tells you to plan to walk.  And he says to walk early and often.  According to Jeff’s research, which I have never read but cling to like gospel, you’ll even finish the race faster by walking.  Sign me up.  And so after following Jeff Galloway’s 1/2 marathon training religiously (by which I mean intending to do everything he said, but occasionally not), I set off Saturday morning to run/walk 13.1 miles.  Here are some chronologically organized thoughts from that experience.

Check-in- There are a lot of people here.  A lot of skinny people.  They think I’m lost.

Two minutes after the announcer says go- I think I’ll cross the start line in another minute or two (there was a big crowd waiting to start)  Also, they are playing “Born to Run” by Bruce Springsteen.  I think that’s cool.  I wonder if the regular runners think that’s trite?

2 1/2 minutes– Time to walk.  I can’t believe I’m walking already.   (Following the Galloway program, I decided that I’d run for 2 1/2 minutes and then walk for a minute.  My watch was set to beep at me every time one of those intervals ended.  I had about 45 of those cycles to get through)  Yet, 2 1/2 minutes in, this just seems ridiculous.  We are heading down the biggest downhill of the course, adrenaline pumping, fans cheering… and I’m walking.

3 1/2 minutes- First walk over, time to run again.  And the second problem with the Galloway program early in the race.  I want to run faster than all these slow runners who passed me when I was walking.  So now, I’m running a slalom 1/2 marathon.  Oh well, this is fun.

10:37- One mile!  Wow that was fast.  I wanted to run at a 12 minute pace.  Hmm.  I wonder if that will matter in a couple hours.

Sometime over the next 40 minutes- Shirts.  I’m noticing shirts.  One lady has  a picture of a little girl and says, “I’m running for Leslie.”  I don’t know Leslie’s story, but it’s probably inspiring.  Another says something like, “The pain of endurance hurts less than the pain of failure.”  I’ll be debating that thought in a few hours.

55 minutes- 5 miles down, averaging 11 minute miles.  Just made it up Providence, which looked like the worst hill based on my pre-race recon.  Feeling good.  Only disappointment is that the Dyer family wasn’t there cheering me on.  Gray had said they would come out, but I had miss approximated when I’d be here and guess I beat them to the spot.

10k (6.2 miles, just shy of halfway there)- Based on the gun time (which if you’ll recall started about 3 minutes before I did), I’m about 1:10 into the race.  I’d learn later that the winner was a minute from finishing.

7 miles- Dyer!  There’s my friend Gray with his kids in the double stroller blowing a whistle, banging a tambourine and cheering wildly.  Ok.  That’s cool.   They must have known they missed me, so they came back to cheer for me. I make sure I run all the way through my 2 1/2 minutes, even though I’d been taking 10 second liberties at this point.

And then, even cooler, there is Gray running with me. Blue jeans.  Work boots.  Pushing the kids, dog at his side.  For the next three or four intervals Gray ran/walked with me.  Each was the shortest 2 1/2 minutes of the race.  It’s amazing what a friend in boots and jeans, pushing a double stroller and running by your side will do for you.

All I remember of the next 4 or 5 miles is that it was A) Uphill.  In fact, I think the whole course was designed by M.C. Escher.  B) At some point my 2 1/2 minute/1 minute pattern switched to 1 minute run, 30 seconds walk, 1 minute run, 1 minute walk.

Quite frankly, it was awful.

Mile 10- There is a guy standing in the median, just cheering us on.  Behind him is a van painted with “John 3:16.”  How much better a job at sharing the gospel is this guy doing than the guy who stands in front of High Schools holding blown-up pictures of aborted fetuses?  I guess in the course of 13 miles your mind is bound to wander to topics like religion.

Mile 11 1/2- Allison!  My good friend Allison Waller, who slayed the Chicago marathon a couple of weeks ago, was there, and ran with me for the last mile and a half.  Allison is incredibly positive.  (So much so you can’t even curse her out when she encouragingly asks you if you can run it in for the last half mile.  Instead, I responded, “I couldn’t run that far without walking at the beginning of the race).  Except for a short period when her dog Cooper just sat down and refused to run (I could relate) she was with me until peeling off for the last tenth of a mile.  She must have made the time go by fast, because thinking back, it didn’t seem like she was with me that long.  But it must have been about 20 minutes.  I strongly recommend an Allison if you ever try to run further than you a capable of running.

13 mile mark- Calves hurt.  Ankles hurt.  Lungs hurt.  Calf muscle spasm.  Want to walk.  Don’t want to walk in front of God, Allison and all these people.

13.1- Done!  Medal around my neck!

13.1 + 1:30- Oh I should stop my stop watch. And go home I guess.

Somewhat anti-climatic.  I don’t know if it’s because I walked more than I would have liked.  Or maybe it’s because I’d started running to lose weight, and actually gained 8lbs in 10 months.  Or maybe it’s the nature of setting a goal to do “half” of something, but I didn’t exactly feel like Rocky at the top of the Art Museum Steps.

My wife asked me what is next in my running career.  I said I may never run again unless being chased by a bear.  She said I have no commitment.  I said I was committed to running a 1/2 marathon and achieved that goal.

Perhaps, that is the problem.  I set a goal.  I did what I needed to do to achieve it.  But I never loved the process of getting there.  Never enjoyed it.  Never embraced it.  It was all just a means to an end.  And there really is nothing at the end except the end.


After walking a way from this for a while, I have realized that there is more to the end than the end. My family made me a great “Congratulations” poster and the last thing my 8 year old said to me when she went to bed was, “Good job in your 1/2 marathon, Daddy.” I have friends sending me words of encouragement and notes of congratulations.  Friends running with me.  A family encouraging me along the way and showering me with congratulations. Perhaps I’m so accustomed to the blessings surrounding me, that I overlooked what I was shown at the end.


November 15, 2009

For the uninitiated, #CltThrowdown (aka #ClThrowdown) was a cooking competition between me, @samanthapotion and @mmahoney13 hosted by @cara.  Each of the cheftestants prepared a dish that reflected their culinary point of view, and judges @wcooksey, @kjannfischer and @kkmaz rendered a verdict.  If you want to know more about the people involved and the rules, you can check out the official program (actually the official program had pictures, but I’m having technical issues so the linked to program does not).

Congratulations to Samantha for her well deserved victory.  Both she and Mike were great competitors.  But I really wanted to win.  Really. Alot.

While I didn’t win, I am still very proud of the food I put before the judges, and wanted to share how it was prepared.


The view from Judge Fischer's chair


I experiment when I cook, and am always looking for new dishes.  The  dish I prepared for #cltthrowdown was created specifically for the throwdown.  It includes both original recipes and variations on the creations of others.  It explored the interplay of sweet and hot.  Looking at the plate, judges started with a red pepper and corn fritter with honey butter.  Next, I prepared a sweet potato hashbrown, deep fried with Anaheim chili peppers and topped with roasted mini-marshmallows.  The third element, lobster poached in vanilla-habanero butter was revealed when the judges lifted the inverted shot glass.  Homemade bread accompanied this element for sopping of the butter.  I closed with a lemon cheesecake with roasted chili peppers.

The Recipes

The corn fritter was a play on a recipe from Paula Deen.  However, prior to adding the corn, I dry roasted it in a frying pan with diced red bell pepper and some crushed red pepper flakes.  (As an aside, that combination also goes very well in quesadillas).  I let the corn/pepper combination cool before adding to the batter.  The fritters were then deep fried and served with honey butter.  The honey butter was just that, honey and butter mashed together the day before and then reformed into butter block and shaved onto the fritter.

Next was an original concoction.  I shredded a sweet potato and mixed it with three Anaheim chili peppers cut into matchsticks.  When I first tried this dish, I couldn’t get the sweet potatoes and peppers to stay together.  So, before deep frying, I mixed some beaten egg and flour in.  Just enough that the hash browns would hold.  These were served with two mini-marshmallows on top, toasted with a kitchen torch.

Perhaps my favorite element was the butter poached lobster.  I begin by clarifying butter.  Next I added a sliced vanilla bean and roughly chopped habanero pepper.  These simmered in the butter for about 20 minutes.  Then I strained off the bean and pepper and returned the butter to the stove.  Add lobster tail cut into small chunks and simmer at between 165 and 180 degrees for about 20 minutes.  It is very helpful to have a gas stove and a food thermometer for measuring the temperature.  That was served with this bread recipe which I found to work best by pouring the dough into a loaf pan and baking for about 35 minutes (until a skewer can be inserted and removed clean from the center)

Finally, dessert.  First I roasted some red chili peppers.  Again, with a gas stove, all you need to do is place the chilies on directly on the burners and turn periodically so that the skin is completely blackened.  Then put them in a zip lock bag for about 20 minutes.  Their steam helps the skin come off.  After peeling the skin and separating the seeds, I mixed the chilies with lemon juice, lemon zest and brown sugar to form a spicy syrup.    This was then beaten into cream cheese.  I presented this desert in a shot glass by first adding crushed graham crackers, then the cream cheese mixture.  Another layer of graham cracker, another layer of cream cheese.  I topped the dessert with brown sugar which was caramelized in creme brulee fashion and then topped the desert with lemon zest.

Thanks again to everyone who made the Throwdown happen.  And if you decide to try one of these elements (or use them as the basis for your own culinary experiments) let me know how they work for you.

A quick autopsy of Charlotte’s 2009 election

November 7, 2009

The great thing about elections:  hypotheses are tested and questions are answered.  A campaign manager can tell a candidate, “We need to win these precincts by this much in order to win.”  On election day, you find out not only if you could win those precincts but if you were right that they were the key to victory.”  I didn’t put forward any such hypotheses this year, but I did raise some questions.  Let’s answer them:

Question 1 for 2009:  Will Charlotte’s move towards partisan divide continue?

Citing at-large city council races from 1997 and 2005, I suggested Charlotte was growing more divided on partisan lines.  I broke precincts into four categories “Straight Democrat,” “Straight Republican,” “Winner Ticket” and “Random Mixed.”  I did hear some concern about picking just two data points, so before we look at 2009, let’s look at all four elections in the last 12 years in which both parties ran 4 candidates for at-large city council.

Straight D Straight R Winner Ticket Random Mixed
1997 30 6 75 26
2001 42 60 23 33
2005 74 41 2 49
2007 67 43 13 41

Obviously, the addition of 2001, and 2005 alter the view of a steadily progressing march towards partisanship.  Apparently, the national political climate, candidates and campaigns make a difference.  No doubt.  I draw two conclusions from this data that are more nuanced than “Charlotte is becoming more divided by partisanship.”  1.  Straight party Democratic precincts are on the rise.  2.  When precincts split tickets, they are more likely to give their votes to candidates who don’t win.  So what did 2009 deliver?  More partisanship.

Straight D Straight R Winner Ticket Random Mixed
2009 87 52 13 17

Question 2 for 2009: Will a fractured District 3 vote lead to a surprise winner?

This wasn’t a perfectly worded question, as someone could certainly say that they were surprised by Joyce Waddell’s victory.  But it wasn’t the type of surprise I contemplated.  In fact, considering there were 9 candidates, the outcome was surprisingly predictable.  The runner-up had been endorsed by the Charlotte Observer.  The winner had the nod of the Black Political Caucus.  Since the Black Political Caucus hands out their list at the polls and the Observer does not, it really isn’t that surprising that their endorsement is apparently more impactful, at least in this district.  Here were the district 3 results:

Nicole E. Hudson                          19.20%            3,182

Joel Levy                                      3.54%              586

Vivian C. Mitchel                           12.32%            2,042

Mr. Hans Peter Plotseneder         4.04%              669

Aaron J. Pomis                     7.03%              1,164

James Ross II                        9.27%              1,536

Teresa Tudor                          3.01%              499

Joyce Waddell                       31.96%            5,296

W. L. (Pop) Woodard               9.42%              1,560

Question 3- Does the early vote indicate Anthony Foxx (D) holding Unaffiliated and white Democrats or is John Lassiter (R) winning most of those votes?

I offered this guidance last weekend:

If Foxx holds a 3000 vote lead or more when the early vote is reported, it will indicate that he is doing well among white Democratic voters and will likely expect victory a few hours later.  If however, the early vote shows Lassiter within 1000 votes or so, it will indicate that he is pulling a significant amount of both Unaffiliated and white Democrats. That will mean a long night where voter turnout becomes the key question.

That guidance really wasn’t helpful when the two split the difference and Foxx emerged from the early vote with a 2,200 vote lead.  Implicit in my projection, however, was that the Democratic get-out-the-vote machine would carry the early vote but Lassiter would make up ground on Election Day.  That didn’t happen.  Foxx not only won early voting, he won Election Day voting.  And, while we don’t have exit data to help us, if we assume that Foxx won the African-American vote at about the same rate that Lassiter won the Republican vote, then we can deduce that Foxx won the White-Democrat/Unaffiliated vote by about 3-1.  That will do it.

Question 4: Are demographics electoral destiny?

We won’t know for several weeks what the demographic breakdown was on Election Day, so I’m going to use this space to add my opinion to the “key precinct” analysis that you may have seen elsewhere.  The Charlotte Observer cites 30 precincts that voted for Republican Pat McCrory in 2007 and Foxx in 2009.  Meanwhile, Jeff Taylor at MeckDeck points to low turnout in some south Charlotte precincts as the “bigger story.”  I’ve always believed that when you lose a close race (51.5 % to 48.5% in this case) there isn’t one thing that cost you, there are twelve.  If you’d turned any one of them around, you might have one.  Similarly, if you win a close race, you didn’t do one thing right, you did twenty.  And if you had done any one of those wrong, it could have cost you.  Having said that, I point to these nine precincts that made the difference.  Across these precincts, Anthony Foxx picked up 3,454 votes net against Lassiter compared to how Democrat Beverly Earle fared against Republican Pat McCrory two years ago.  Foxx’s margin of victory, 3,239

Precinct Name (Number) Earle margin Foxx margin Difference
McCrory YMCA (210) 662 1241 579
Hickory Grove North (145) -726 -156 570
Oasis Shrine Temple (212) 86 649 563
East Stonewall AME Zion (16) 676 1034 358
Back Creek (204) 120 476 356
Greater Mount Moriah (11) -57 292 349
Robinson Presbyterian Church (203) N/A 345 345
Turning Point Academy (146) 73 407 334

These precincts really illustrate the different ways that Foxx won.  Precincts 210 and 16 are Democratic strongholds where Foxx used voter turnout to improve upon his party’s effort two years ago.  (In precinct 16, Foxx won 1037-3.  THREE!  You’d expect Lassiter to get more than 3 votes just by people accidently pushing the wrong button).  These are reliable boxes where the Democratic machine picked up votes.

Precinct 203 was a new precinct for this election, added through annexation.  It provided one of Foxx’s biggest swings and perhaps sheds light on precinct 145.  John Lassiter won this precinct that includes Highland Creek but not by a significantly lower margin than McCrory in ’07.  This precinct grew due to annexation, and it’s not clear if the vote swing was the result of attitude changes or annexation.

Foxx also did well on the edges of the University area (212, 204, 203), just outside of downtown (11) and the Derita area (146).

If you want to know more about these crucial precincts, CharlotteObserver.com has a useful interactive map.  Hover over a precinct to see its name and number, click on it to get demographic information.  Then let me know what you think all of this means for 2011 and beyond

Charlotte’s electoral math

November 2, 2009

Electoral Math- Three things to watch Tuesday night

At times I’ve tried to make a living by delving deep into the numbers behind elections in Mecklenburg County.  This year, it’s just a hobby, and it’s more fun than ever.  In 2009,  I’ll watch whether Charlotte’s purple hue continues to separate into blue and red precincts, whether a multi-candidate District 3 race leads to a surprise winner and whether demographics are in fact destiny in the mayor’s race where early indications point to an Anthony Foxx victory.  As a disclaimer, these observations are mine alone.  I’ve taken pain to put my preferences aside to look objectively at the electoral numbers.  Also, I’m a political geek.


Not too long ago, Charlotteans all over the city regularly split their ticket in multi-candidate at-large city council races.  I look at precincts as voting one of four ways: Straight Democrat (the 4 Democrats are the top 4 vote getters), Straight Republican (the 4 Republicans are the top 4 vote getters), Winner Ticket (the top 4 vote getters are the 4 candidates who win city wide) and Random Mix (the top 4 vote getters are of mixed partisanship, but at least one did not win a seat on council).  As recently as 1997, Charlotte held enough ticket splitting voters that Winner Ticket and Random Mix precincts dominated.  But recently, the straight ticket has taken control.  The chart below shows how many precincts fit into each category.

Straight D Straight R Winner Ticket Random Mix
1997 30 6 75 26
2007 67 43 13 41

Perhaps in 1997, candidates had more cross party appeal, perhaps voters were more likely to cross or perhaps each had an impact on the other.  The bottom line, Charlotte has been growing more partisan, or at least more segregated by partisanship.  Question 1 for 2009:  Will Charlotte’s move towards partisan divide continue?


Nothing will thwart a majority like a multi-candidate race.  Why does America have a two party system?  Our first past the post, winner take all, elector system dictates it.  Look at this year’s special election for the NY23 Congressional district.  The existence of two (essentially) Republican candidates has created the possibility that this district would elect its first Democratic candidate since the Republican Party was founded.  Knowing that the right/center-right vote was splitting, the Republican nominee has suspended her campaign to give the Conservative Party candidate the best chance.  Charlotte Mecklenburg School Board races have seen the same phenomena.  In 1995, an eight person race in District 1 led to the election of Pam Mange with a scant 24% of the vote.  Mange was widely viewed as more liberal than her district, but with more conservative candidates splitting the vote, she won a seat on the board with less than ¼ of the vote.

That is why the District 3 school board race is quite interesting.  The Democratic party holds a 65%-15% edge over Republicans.  While school board races are non-partisan on the ballot, they can be very partisan in their tone and in voters’ preferences.  With 9 candidates on the ballot, Question 2 for 2009: Will a fractured District 3 vote lead to a surprise winner?

Demographics as Destiny

Since Republican Pat McCrory has won

seven straight elections for Mayor, the move of Charlotte towards a Democratic city has been under reported.  The shift, however, is undeniable.  Since the 2007 election, the Democratic Party has added more than 47,000 voters,  while the GOP has added a scant 4,000.  (an additional 23,000 have registered unaffiliated).  As a result, for every Republican registered to vote in Charlotte, there is one unaffiliated voter and almost two Democrats.  That deserves restating:  of the registered voters in Charlotte 49% are Democrats and 26% are Republican.  And these aren’t your old Southern Democrats with conservative ideologies and a tendency to vote GOP.  In fact, more than half of Charlotte’s Democrats are African-American and many are relocated northeasterners from the progressive wing of the party.

For that reason, these early voting numbers are troubling for the campaign of John Lassiter (R).  While we don’t know how they voted, we do know who has voted early.  The chart is cross-tabulated by race as reported by the Board of Elections. As you will see, black Democrats have voted in greater number than white Republicans.

Party Total Asian Black American Indian Multiracial Other Unspecifie White
DEM 12783 39 8067 12 40 96 181 4348
REP 8124 22 119 6 2 83 77 7815
UNA 4493 75 748 12 22 85 161 3390

These demographics will give us the key to our first clue on elections night.  If Democrat Anthony Foxx wins black Democrats at the same rate that Lassiter wins white Republicans, then Lassiter will need to win a majority of Unaffiliated and white Democratic votes to be ahead.  If Foxx holds a 3000 vote lead or more when the early vote is reported, it will indicate that he is doing well among white Democratic voters and will likely expect victory a few hours later.  If however, the early vote shows Lassiter within 1000 votes or so, it will indicate that he is pulling a significant amount of both Unaffiliated and white Democrats. That will mean a long night where voter turnout becomes the key question.  Question 3- Does the early vote indicate Anthony Foxx holding Unaffiliated and white Democrats or is Lassiter winning most of those votes?

If the race is close after the early vote is recorded, the next question will be turnout and whether the early vote is representative of the overall election.  The next chart shows in the 2007 early vote, 2007 election day vote and 2009 early vote, the portion of the total voter population for each of our key demographic groups.  Two interesting observations.  First, in 2007, African-American voters were much more prevalent on Election Day than they were during early voting.  Second, African-American voters composed more than twice as much of the early voting population in 2009 as they did two years ago.

Total Black D Republicans White D Unafilliated
2007 Early 22,780 14.6% 38% 25% 21.3%
2007 Election Day 100,700 21.6% 36.3% 22.1% 18.8%
2009 Early* 25,400










All this leads to Question 4: Are demographics electoral destiny? If they are, Anthony Foxx will be the next mayor of Charlotte.


* It appears my initial analysis included mail-in absentee ballots which where requested but not returned.  The numbers have been recalculated excluding those voters.

From the Archives: Five Reasons Kris Allen beat Adam Lambert

October 28, 2009
#5 The winner has always come from a George Bush state. NC, AL, AZ, TX, MO, OK, AR.
#4 Gokey votes. Danny is more like Kris than Adam. All those Gokey loyalists switched to Kris.

#3 Small town loyalties generate big votes. San Diego won’t vote for you just because you are from San Diego. Conway will.

#2 12 year old girls are the key voting demographic. They’ll dial for hours and can text faster than you can think.

# 1 Fantasia being the exception, frontrunners don’t win. Archuleta, Doolittle, Daughtry. Lambert. Fans of the underdog work harder.