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Negative, continued from page 13 information in the ads getting through, but the negative attacks on Kalyn Free motivated voters to seek out Dan Boren’s corresponding stands. For example, voters knew from Boren’s ads that Free opposed banning so-called late-term abortions. Joy reported that some voters actually referenced the ads in asking him where Boren stood on abortion. If negative campaign attacks suppress turnout, then wouldn’t the voters shy away from the perpetrator instead of seeking him out to engage him on the issues? Boren ended up winning by a far wider margin than anyone thought possible, 58 percent to 36. The stunning margin of victory got all the attention on election night, but after the numbers got crunched, Boren’s field director, Ward Curtain, realized that the turnout was enormous. Remember, only 88,750 had showed up in the 2000 Democratic primary. The Boren campaign’s optimistic hope was that 118,000 would vote. The actual turnout in this highly negative race? Try 127,307 Democrats at the pollssurpassing the 2000 race turnout by 43.4 percent. Deserved or not, Kalyn Free received a shellacking, but the final tally doesn’t suggest that her candidacy tanked due to her negative commercials either. She received 46,061 votes in her losing bid, exceeding the 39,837 votes Brad Carson got in the 2000 Democratic Primary, and he won. A few factors went into the surprising turnout. Redistricting after the 2000 census left the 2nd District with more Democrats than before, but the Boren campaign had taken those factors into account and still only put the best case scenario at 118,000 Democrats. The negative attacks were exactly why Dan Boren trooped home by a big margin. The obvious truth was that the attacks energized and engaged voters by raising the stakes on cultural issues such as guns, reproductive rights, and class differences. The negative attacks engaged two dynamic personalities in a struggle, and voters responded not by expressing disgust but enthusiasm for voting. Turns out, negative campaigning helps turnoutand democracyif it’s done well. Jason Stanford is the president of Stanford Campaigns, a campaign consulting firm that has helped elect Democrats in 35 states over the past decade. He lives in Austin with his wife and two sons. smaller segment of the electorate is likely to decide the runoff, should one occur. That means that the most activist and intensely committed voters in the district will decide who represents nearly three-quarters of a million people in the state Senate. Using sophisticated marketing strategies, the campaigns are targeting the same narrow group and bombarding them with appeals to vote. “In a big metropolitan area,” says Murray, “the media stays busy and they don’t cover the race very well. Hardly anybody knows what state Senate district they live in, so it’s become an election among insiders.” Among those most likely to cast ballots, Murray says, are older Anglos who are ideologically conservative and connected to the politically active churches, which will prod their congregations to go to the polls. That sounds like a natural constituency for Patrick and his CLOUT group, which in the weeks leading up to the primary were smelling victory. Patrick says that, if elected to the Senate, he will resume his talk show, broadcasting from the Texas Capitol. Ethical issues aside \(there are strict rules barring elected officials’ trading on their position as public servants his profile and make him a major figure in the conservative wing of the Republican Party. It’s just one seat in the Senate, but the stakes are high for Republicans. If the field narrows as expected and the race turns into a head-to-head slugfest between the traditional Republican wing of the party and the conservative wing, money will pour into the runoff from all directions. “Patrick is essentially an entertainer,” Murray says. “It’s going to be terrific political theater.” Paul Sweeney, a freelance writer living in Austin, is a longtime Observer contributor. He has worked at Texas newspapers in Corpus Christi and El Paso and has written for The Boston Globe, The New York Times, and Business Week. FEBRUARY 24, 2006 THE TEXAS OBSERVER 19