Special elections are, well, special. Sometimes they produce results like we saw last night, where the rest of the Congress stays put, but one seat switches from being represented by a D to an R (or vice-versa).
NY-9 is usually not so interesting. It is an odd shaped district, nestled amid majority-minority districts and is reliably Democratic, although not as much as its maj-min neighbors. Obama beat McCain there 55-45 in 08 on turnout of about 120K votes; Weiner won that election 93-7 against a Conservative candidate. In the 2010 “wave” election, the Republican (and now Representative-Elect) Turner managed to get 39% of the vote; turnout was 110K in that election.
A lot gets read into special elections, but turnout was only 63K yesterday (a figure that will tick up a little as the vote count finishes), still pretty impressive for a special election in September in an off-off-year, but way down from what we can expect in an even-numbered year. Turner has 34K votes thus far, for a 53-47 margin. He got 10K more votes and lost by 10-11 points in 2010. Put differently, while Weiner got 67K votes in 2010, the Dem contesting this special election got less than half that (30K thus far). Turnout — always an important part of the story — played a critical role here, and so any big picture read of NY9 needs to be against the backdrop of what looks like woeful Dem turnout.
My point here is to show something that *is* consequential, and that is the kind of representation that NY-9 will now be getting in the Congress. See the accompanying graph, which plots estimated “ideal points” (a summary, liberal-conservative, measure of each representative’s voting history) against Obama’s 2008 2-party vote in the district.
Weiner chalked up a roll call history that was a little left of what you’d expect for a Democrat in a district that went 55-45 for Obama in 2008. NY-9 now gets a Republican member (Turner), who can be expected to vote a little to the left of the median Republican House member, but about 1.6 units from where Weiner is (was) on the ideal point scale.
Now, the ideal point scale is normalized to have a standard deviation of 1.0, so we’re talking about an abrupt and large change in the legislative representation of NY-9.
Good luck with that, citizens of NY-9, and the same to Representative-Elect Turner.
Of course, it will be interesting to see how Turner actually votes, who the Dems recruit to run against him in 2012 (when Dem turnout will presumably be back up), and whether the district reverts “to type”.
And of course, some post-Census redistricting is in the works too, which will scramble the egg a little further.