Mississippi Democratic Primary Runoffs – August 25, 2015

There are Democratic primary runoffs in Mississippi on Tuesday for the following offices:

  • Transportation Commissioner for the Central District
  • State Senate District #34 and #38
  • State House District #27, #30, #36, #42, and #70

Here is a detailed listing of all Democratic primary runoffs held in Mississippi since 2003:

Mississippi Democratic Party runoff elections since 2003

Some quick thoughts:

  • I noted in my discussion of the Republican runoffs here that neither party has a runoff for a statewide office this year, which hasn’t happened in the previous three election cycles. Interestingly, Democratic runoffs in Mississippi have tended to see less of a decline in total votes cast as compared to GOP runoffs.  The number of votes cast in Democratic runoffs has averaged 82% of the amount of votes cast in the primary.  Without a statewide election, I expect turnout will be down somewhat, perhaps averaging 70% of what was cast in the primaries.
  • Candidates who finish second in Democratic primaries have had a tough time winning in the runoff.  Since 2003, the candidate who finished second in a Democratic primary has won his or her runoff just 9 times out of 36 elections, or 25%.

I wanted to determine if there was any pattern to when a second-place finisher in a Democratic primary won his or her runoff election during this period, so I created a chart plotting the primary vote percentage of both the first- and second-place candidates from the 36 runoff elections since 2003. That chart is included below:

Mississippi Democratic Primary Runoff Outcomes since 2003


The blue dots represent those elections where the first-place finisher in the primary went on to win the runoff.  The red dots mark those races where the second-place finisher in the primary won the runoff.

From this, a few very clear patterns are evident:

  • One can see from the cluster of red dots in the upper right-hand corner of the chart that when a candidate finished second but had very strong support (greater than 40%), he or she won the runoff in 3 out of 4 instances.  However, none of the 2015 Democratic primaries fit this pattern.
  • From the cluster of red dots in the lower left-hand corner, another pattern seems apparent.   When the primary winner was held to less than 35% of the vote, the second-place finisher won the runoff in 3 out of 5 instances.  This seems logical, as it describes a case where a candidate who, despite winning the primary, doesn’t enjoy especially strong support, and thus is unable to obtain the 50% needed to win the runoff.  If this pattern holds, it will benefit Angela Baker Brooks in SD #38 and Lester Williams in HD #30.
  • In all other instances, the candidate who finished first in the primary wound up winning the runoff in 24 out of 27 instances, a staggering 89% of the time.

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