Thaell and Marks: The Tale of Two Incumbents

Now that the dust has settled and the local elections are in the rear view mirror, its time for some analysis of what happened and why. This story is about two incumbents – County Commissioner Cliff Thaell and Mayor John Marks – who were challenged by two political newcomers.

Commissioner Thaell was seeking his fifth term and Mayor Marks was seeking his third term. Going into the 2010 elections, neither had any reason to be worried. In 2006, both cruised to easy victories in the primary. Mayor Marks carried a whopping 77% of the vote and Commissioner Thaell won with 61%.

However, the anti-incumbent mood of the electorate did indicate that trouble might be on the horizon. In the end, Commissioner Thaell only managed 46% of the votes – a significant drop from the 61% in 2006 – and lost his bid for a fifth term.

Mayor Marks withstood the storm with 51% of the vote and a win, yet his vote percentage fell 26% from 77% in 2006.

The question is where did these popular elected officials lose and win the election? What districts held steady and what districts ran away from the incumbents that so enthusiastically supported them in 2006.

To answer this question, Tallahassee Reports tabulated the election results for each incumbent, Thaell and Marks, by district and compared the change in percentage of vote from 2006 and 2010.

From the table below, the numbers show that Commissioner Thaell won all five districts in 2006. His strongest support was in districts 1 and 5, and if there was a weakness, it was district 4 – the northeast.

Commissioner Thaell’s Percentage of the Vote by District, 2006 Election

Year 2006 2010 Change
District 1 71% 35% 36%
District 2 61% 42% 19%
District 3 61% 49% 13%
District 4 55% 47% 8%
District 5 64% 51% 14%
Total 61% 46% 15%

In 2010, Commissioner Thaell managed to win only one district, district 5. But the most dramatic change was in district 1 – Commissioner Proctor’s district. Commissioner Thaell only managed 35% of the vote in district 1 in 2010 compared to 71% in 2006, a change of 36%.

“I could have still won if I had taken care of district 5”, said Commissioner Thaell. A quick calculation indicates that Commissioner Thaell would have had to increase his take in district 5 for 51% to 65% to win the election.

Mayor Marks won in 2006 with over 77% of the vote. Like Thaell, he won all the districts, but unlike Thaell, he did not fall below 75% in any one of the five districts. Based on 2006, Marks was strong in all districts.

The table below shows that in 2010, Mayor Marks suffered dramatic shifts in his support. While he won three districts, 1,2, & 5 he lost districts 3 & 4. His total percentage of the vote decreased 26% from 77% in 2006 to 51% in 2010.

Mayor Marks’ Percentage of the Vote by District, 2006 Election

Year 2006 2010 Change
District 1 86% 76% 10%
District 2 76% 60% 16%
District 3 77% 48% 29%
District 4 77% 37% 40%
District 5 75% 51% 24%
Total 77% 51% 26%

As we all know now, Mayor Marks won the election in the primary by avoiding a run-off by 357 votes out of the 32,000 votes cast. This narrow victory makes it difficult to pick out any one district that would have made a difference, however it is clear that districts 1 & 2 served as a firewall for the Mayor.

The dramatic shift in vote percentages during this election cycle, reveal a couple of interesting questions for the future. For the winners –Marks and Maddox- is this a reflection of their opponents, themselves, or an angry electorate? Has Marks lost the support he had in 2006 for good or can it be recovered? Can Maddox just show up for four years and count on his support to still be there? And finally, if you are Desloge, Akinyemi, Sauls, Gillum, or Mustian, when do you start walking neighborhoods?

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