Saturday, November 7, 2015

Mayor Jill Swain's Mythical Popularity

The wailing and gnashing of teeth has been intense over at Jill Swain's Facebook page since Election Day.

One would think that Huntersville was about to fall into the abyss after Tuesday's drubbing at the polls.  One also would likely think the relentless mocking of other electeds and the future mayor shows a staggering amount of "sore loserism".

Reading it, gives the impression a supremely popular politician had just been bushwhacked by some unruly upstarts and the town would hardly be able to limp along without her.

However, a quick look at the historical numbers tells a somewhat different and more realistic story.  The below chart compiled from data available at shows Swains numbers in each of her mayoral campaigns.

In her first successful campaign in 2007, Swain won with less than half of the vote in a 4-way contest.  2009 was a very tight contest.  In 2011, she won big but turnout was way down.   In 2013, she barely squeaked out the win against Commissioner Jim Puckett.  In 2015 she lost big as her support collapsed.

Here is what one sees in the numbers.

Based on her vote total in the lowest turnout election, it looks like Swain had roughly 2150 loyal voters through her first 4 mayoral contests.  As turnout went up from that floor she got a few more votes, but she never really gained a larger loyal following.  Her relative popularity among actual voters never really increased.

All things being equal, in 2015 she should have gotten about 2450 votes based on turnout instead if the 1947 she received.  Not only did she not get the extra votes based on the higher turnout from the 2011 floor, but she saw significant erosion in her 2150 voter base.

Mayor Swain lost in 2015 not because she was bushwhacked.  She lost because she was not overwhelmingly popular among the actual voting public to begin with and a significant chunk of even her most loyal base abandoned her.


  1. She lost because good people stayed home and didn't vote.

  2. That happens in every election I suppose. However, the implication that only the "good" people voted for Swain is certainly emblematic of the problem with the Swain camp.

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  4. The "wailing and gnashing" was due to the fact that we have lost a genuine public servant in Jill Swain. 7 days a week, 365 days a year, Mayor Swain worked to promote Huntersville. I sincerely doubt that the new Mayor will be visiting hospitals, speaking to kids, donating time to charity, championing small businesses, coaching volleyball teams, etc., etc. with her infectious spirit of cooperation and non-partisanship. The new Mayor is clearly using this office as a stepping stone to higher office. If you consider working in Raleigh as "higher" office. The new Mayor -- along with his cabal of conflicted-interest Commissioners -- will surely try to implement the usual "cut taxes and regulations" policies that have NEVER benefited anyone except the wealthy and connected.