Obama, McCain take the JP vote


Local turnout 10% higher than whole city

Jamaica Plain voters showed a taste for mavericks and outsiders in the Feb. 5 presidential primary election, handing large local wins to Democrat Barack Obama and Republican John McCain.

JP also remained a hotbed of Boston’s Green Party votes. Cynthia McKinney, a controversial former Democratic congresswoman, topped the local Green results.

Anarchists even weighed in, plastering at least one JP poll with flyers for their “Don’t Vote ’08” campaign that proclaimed, “If voting changed anything, it’d be illegal.”

Lots of people voted anyway. JP’s turnout was about 46 percent, well above the citywide 39 percent rate. That returns JP to its status as one of the city’s highest-turnout neighborhoods following a terrible showing in last year’s little-noticed city elections.

In statewide major-party results, US Sen. Hillary Clinton won the Democratic race, with Obama, also a US senator, in second place. On the Republican side, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney won the state, with US Sen. McCain second.

But in Boston, voters had exactly the opposite reactions, putting Obama and McCain on top.

JP mirrored the citywide choice, but with much higher margins. Obama took nearly 60 percent of the local Democratic vote to Clinton’s 40 percent—one of his highest neighborhood totals—while beating her by only 9 points citywide. Likewise, McCain edged Romney in Boston by only 2 points, but was a 16-point favorite among JP Republicans.

In retrospect, JP was ahead of the national curve. Romney ended his campaign two days after the election after doing poorly in other states and has since endorsed McCain. And as of last week, Obama had taken the lead from Clinton in amassing national Democratic delegates.

While every presidential candidate claims to be bringing big changes to the White House, JP’s top choices were those who perhaps have been the most successful at positioning themselves in that role. With Clinton—whose husband Bill was recently president—standing as the experienced, establishment candidate, Obama has turned the word “change” into a campaign mantra. McCain is known for sometimes defying his own party on such high-profile issues as campaign finance and immigration law reform.

Similarly, Republican candidate Ron Paul, a controversial libertarian congressman who opposed the Iraq War, drew 9 percent of the JP vote—more than twice the citywide average. By contrast, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, currently running a distant second to McCain for the Republican nomination nationwide, drew only 5 percent of the JP vote.

JP also showed relatively high interest in third-party politics. More than a quarter of the city’s votes on the Green Party ballot came from JP. This year, that still only meant about 70 votes.

The Green results had a significant percentage of “no preference” votes, indicating more interest in party-building than in a particular candidate.

Among those making a choice, McKinney drew more than 40 percent of the local Green vote. McKinney is a sometimes fiery candidate known for opposing the Iraq War, investigating conspiracy theories and allegedly punching a police officer in a Congressional office building. Perennial third-party candidate Ralph Nader, who has not officially declared his candidacy this year, followed with 26 percent.

The citywide Green vote was much closer, with Nader at 36 percent and McKinney at 35 percent.

Like most of the state, JP is heavily Democratic. About 12,700 JP voters went to the polls in the primary, and about 93 percent of them cast a Democratic ballot. (Independent voters in Massachusetts are allowed to vote on any party ballot of their choice in the primary.) Fewer than 850 Republican ballots were cast in JP, most of them from Ward 19 (western/southern JP).

As usual, Ward 19 also had the highest turnout among JP’s sub-neighborhoods, at 53 percent. Ward 10 (Hyde/Jackson Squares) was once again the lowest at 36 percent. Ward 11 (central/eastern JP) was in the middle with 44 percent.

No candidate has yet secured the presidential nomination in any major party. The eventual nominees will face off on the Nov. 4 presidential ballot. Other offices on that ballot will include US senators, US representatives, state senators, state representatives and the state Governor’s Council, which appoints judges.

There will also be a Sept. 16 primary election for those state races.

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