Archive for November, 2009


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, 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.