The question we hear over and over again at your beloved The Clam is “will Sefatia run for mayor?” as if this is something we should know. As it turns out, we do. The answer is yes. Or, more accurately: It’s really goddamned likely.
Shocked? Let’s clamsplore:
Look at how the voting pattern broke down in 2013, which we should note was an off year like this one (there was no presidential contest):
Total votes cast: 8307
Sefatia (running at-large): 5016
Verga (running at-large): 3899
McGeary (unopposed, Ward 1) 1185
Kirk (for mayor w 60% of vote): 4724
So, given people tend to do what they’ve done before unless given a really good reason not to, as it stands today if she runs she wins. She knows this. This is why she’ll run because: a) it looks like she likes the job, b) people are asking her to, c) it pays pretty well, d) she hasn’t screwed anything up which is the standard most incumbents have to meet.
This is not an endorsement of her or of anyone else. We like all three as people and consider them friends but we are a strategist and this is just how it breaks. Numbers are reality. When people have her and Greg to choose from on the same ballot in an equal contest, a substantial number more choose her in every ward in the city every time. It’s that simple
Paul has no history of being able to get that number of votes and we like him a lot, but just don’t see a place where the momentum for him is so strong against the other two he draws about three thousand plus votes (a handy rule of thumb for Gloucester is it typically takes about 5K votes to win. If you can’t dig that up in any model, then it’s not happening). We can see few hundred for Paul per ward, sure. He has a couple of key audiences pulling for him, but Gloucester elections are mostly about name recognition. The majority of voters will never pay close attention to the positions or qualifications of the candidates beyond the names themselves. This is the reality of local politics.
*Note: We could go much deeper into the wonkiness of it all but suffice to say even in a two-way Verga v. McGeary contest the biggest, but not only, barrier for Paul would be Ward 5 representing West Gloucester and Magnolia. It’s Greg’s home turf and there are a lot of votes out there- about half again as many as the other wards.
However, turf or no, in the predicted contest including Sefatia she remains the vote leader in 5 as she has historically been in every ward and precinct of the city. Greg simply has led there against other candidates down the ballot in the at-large races.
Sometimes when we are at parties and we sketch this out on napkins people disagree with us and scrunch up their faces and say things like, “But if everyone just did x….” and we laugh and laugh to the point of snorting microbrewed India Pale Ale out of our nasal cavities. We then ask, “Are you a wizard? Because if you know a way to get ‘everyone’ to change their current behavior when there is no visible and immediate economic or social gain for doing so, then you are wanted on Madison Avenue and at the Brookings Institution.”
Elections are math. People behave in predictable ways. Simple as that.
The next protest we get laying this out is “but she promised not to run when she was given the position of interim.” Yep. She did. And she’ll pay a vote penalty for that. The only question is how many votes will it cost her? A thousand? She can spare a thousand, especially in a three-way race. Maybe a candidate going crazy-negative on her could make something of it but I don’t see Greg doing so in a major way and there’s no guarantee it wouldn’t epically backfire given how many people love her. Not likely in our opinion.
Now, big caveat, anything can happen between now and then. She could screw up. She could say something to offend a huge group of people or get into trouble or who knows. But right now Gloucester is getting positive national attention for once, she’s in the spotlight and clearly digging on the job.
Everything we know about behavior and economics says she’ll opt to keep it.
Fun Proof for people planning to give us shit about this analysis:
Before emailing or texting or commenting with what idiots we are, please show how one could say “false” to any one of the following statements:
A. Sefatia likes being mayor and it’s a financially rewarding position for her
B. Sefatia has not screwed up being mayor in any visible way
C. Sefatia will continue to be able to draw on the large amounts of electoral support she has received in the past
D. There will be some penalty for her breaking her promise not to run, but not more than a thousand votes or so
E. There will be a growing chorus publicly asking her to run
F. She will not get into trouble and no other personal circumstance will prevent her from running
Prove one false and there is a chance of someone else. Otherwise, it’s the Godmother.