What are reverse coattails?

Something interesting happened in deep red districts last election. When a Democrat challenged a Republican incumbent, even if the Democrat lost, Joe Biden and other candidates at the top of the ticket saw a boost of up to 1.5 percentage points. In conservative districts where Republicans ran unopposed, there was no such bump at the top of the ticket. This is the central finding of a new study by Run for Something, a group that is focused on getting young progressives to run for local office. Known as the reverse coattails effect, this finding essentially says that there are plenty of voters who care more about who is on their school board than who is President. If you can get these voters out and energized on local issues, you can probably get them to vote for the top of the ticket as well. This goes against conventional political wisdom that says the top of the ticket is what people care most about, but it makes a lot of sense. For some people, national politics is just too far way. But funding for local schools? Or a mayor’s decision to not require masks during a pandemic? Those issues hit home. As we look to 2022 and what is likely to be a hard-fought battle for U.S. Representative Ann Kirkpatrick’s seat, it is worth thinking about the local races in our area that could draw Democrats out to the polls, including one seat on the Continental School District board and three seats on the Sahuarita Town Council. You can read the full report here or read a summary in the New York Times.