Wonky Wednesday: How Democrats Performed in 2021 General Election.

Welcome back to #wonkywednesday. Each week I take a deep dive into registration and election data here in Onondaga County. This week I take a final look back at the November 2021 General Election. Over the last few weeks, I have dived into Turnout, Early, Absentee, and Election Day voting. Today I investigated the final question, how Democrats performed in the 2021 General Election. The mood on Election Day was somber as turnout was low and Democrats failed to #flipthelegislature, win take back City Hall, and win the newly created Supreme Court seat. We also saw statewide failures on props to expand Democracy. But as we can see from looking at the data now, Democrats did not do all that badly and increased their elected positions in Onondaga County despite an environment that favored the GOP.

We must though start with what is an eternal challenge to Democrats in Onondaga County, the failure to field candidates in most races. 2021 was a better year for Democrats fielding candidates in all 17 County Legislature races and in more Towns then is typical. The majority of races in Onondaga County were uncontested on the General Election Ballot. Eighty-six races, 52% of the contests, had no opposition whatsoever. Of those eighty-six races, eight were won by candidates on the Democratic line. Four of those were in the City of Syracuse, two in the Town of Dewitt, and two County legislators. An overwhelming sixty-eight were won by candidates on the Republican lines, all of them Town races throughout Onondaga County. The ten other category represents a few cross endorsed candidates appearing on both lines and an assortment of village candidates in East Syracuse, Tully, and Camillus who do not appear on party lines. This imbalance gives the GOP not only an edge in ultimate power in Onondaga County but a vast bench to draw from when positions open on the County Legislature and County offices.

In county wide races Democrats still did well in 2021. The race for Supreme Court by Anthony Brindisi was unsuccessful, but he did win Onondaga County. Brindisi’s 6-point win in Onondaga County continues a stretch of successful judicial, statewide, and county wide candidates. While Brindisi’s win in Onondaga County was overwhelmed by the other 5 Republican counties in the fifth judicial district, it was still a sign of success for Onondaga County Democrats. Since Democrats contested in all seventeen of the Onondaga County legislative districts, we get another glimpse into how Democrats are doing county wide. Democrats improved on their performance from 2019 in vote share, though not in result. In 2019 Democrats garnered 46% of the votes cast for County legislature, in 2021 it was 48%. However, in both years the representation remained 11-6 GOP. The gerrymandered districts created in 2010 work well in low turnout years. While there were two uncontested races on the GOP side, they were in districts packed to contain as many Democrats as possible. GOP opposition there would only have moved the needle a percentage point or two. Likewise, if there was not a general election challenge from a fellow Democrat in district 16 on the working family line some of the other vote would have gone to Democrats. 

In the contested races, where Democrats chose to field candidates, they did much better. As we discussed the Democrats won in Onondaga County in the Supreme Court race, though ultimately losing overall. They also failed to pick up seats in the County Legislature with the split remaining 11-6. In the City of Syracuse, they failed to win Mayor, though it went to Ben Walsh, an independent, and not the GOP. They won all nine contested city races for Common Council, School Board and City Court judge. IN the towns there were forty-eight contested races, and Democrats won twenty-one of them, with twenty-five going to GOP, and two races going to candidates cross endorsed by both parties. There were only four contested village races most notable in Solvay that runs on partisan lines. Republicans won three of the four seats up in Solvay with Democrats only defending one. The East Syracuse Mayor was a non-partisan contested seat, though it is to be noted the winner of both the village of E. Syracuse and Tully mayors are Democrats as well as the village of Skaneateles from earlier in the summer. Though they ran on non-partisan lines it does show an uptick in enrolled Democrats in village offices.

Democrats increased their elected offices held by three positions from before the General Election. They added the Supervisor of Manlius in this cycle. They also flipped 3 Town Justice races in Dewitt, Geddes, and Manlius. There is a caveat to the Geddes race though as that was a Republican running for re-election under the Democratic line after losing the Republican line. Democrats lost big in the village of Solvay with losing two village board seats losing control of Solvay. Democrats stayed even on Town Boards though there were some changes. The GOP flipped seats in Salina, Marcellus, Cicero, and Spafford. Democrats flipped seats in Geddes, Lysander, Manlius, & Pompey.

Bottom line is even in a bad year the demographics of Onondaga County helped Democrats running for office when they decided to run. Gerrymandered maps and concentration of Democrats inside the City of Syracuse continues to hinder Democrats progress on the county leg. However, County wide Democrats have done well and that can only get better as the Demographics continue to shift. This is my final look back at the 2021 Election results. Next week I will start to look at the metrics on how we rate performance of the Board of Election in terms of work product and fiscal performance. Then once we have new state maps, we will do a deep dive into the new districts. Stay tuned.

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