Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Coakley Takes Boston, with Pockets for Brown

Yesterday’s stunning election of Republican State Senator Scott Brown as the new US Senator from Massachusetts is a reversal on multiple fronts, including Boston’s voter profile. Instead of showing how Massachusetts is different from the rest of the country—as one of the most consistently “blue” states—the results show a more dramatic difference between Boston and the rest of Massachusetts.

Statewide, Brown and his Democratic opponent, State Attorney General Martha Coakley, each carried upscale and downscale communities. Aside from being the state’s largest community, Boston had the most economic and racial/ethnic diversity, and more than two-thirds (68.62%) of its vote was for Coakley.

Within Boston, there were some pockets of strength for Brown, who carried 32 of the city’s 254 precincts. During the presidential election of 2008, all but two of those precincts had been carried by Barack Obama and Joe Biden. Much of Brown's strength was among Irish-American and Italian-American voters who used to dominate the city's electorate--and more consistently vote for Democrats.

The only entire neighborhoods carried by Brown were South Boston and West Roxbury. In South Boston, he carried 13 of 16 precincts (covering all of Ward 6 and most of Ward 7), with 56.31% of the vote. The only precincts going for Coakley were in areas that included the three public housing developments, Fort Point, and the South Boston waterfront. In November 2008, there were only two South Boston precincts carried by John McCain and Sarah Palin.

In West Roxbury (13 precincts in Ward 20 southwest of West Roxbury Parkway), Brown received 50.59% of the vote. One of the areas he carried, Precinct 14 (near Billings Field and Roxbury Latin), had the highest turnout for all of Boston, at 70.17%.

Though Coakley won all the other neighborhoods, Brown carried four precincts in East Boston’s Orient Heights area, three in Charlestown and four in Dorchester’s Ward 16. The precincts in Ward 16 were in the Pope’s Hill, Neponset and Port Norfolk areas. In three of the precincts, the turnout was more than 55%, and it was more than 65% in Precinct 12, a perennial source of high turnouts, with many elderly voters taking the short walk from Keystone Apartments to the polling place at Florian Hall. In this precinct, Brown had 55.10% of the vote.

The citywide turnout for Boston was 42.76%. In some of the areas where Coakley had the most decisive edge over Brown, the turnout was below average. For example, along the Blue Hill Avenue Corridor in Roxbury, Dorchester and Mattapan, Coakley got more than ninety percent of the vote in several precincts, but the turnout in Roxbury’s Ward 12 was only 34.34%. In Ward 14 (Grove Hall, Franklin Field, Wellington Hill), the turnout was 32.11%.

Among the areas well above the average for turnout were West Roxbury (60.71%), all of Ward 20 (West Roxbury and part of Roslindale), at 59.55%, and Ward 19 (part of Jamaica Plain and Roslindale), at 56.55%, along with South Boston and Charlestown, both at 49.77%.

See video report on election day in Boston by Joe Rowland.