Luck of the Draw

A lot of people probably chuckled at the story from Bradenton Beach, Florida, which elected its next mayor by drawing cards. Two candidates tied in the election, and Florida State Law (as you might figure from that anarchic commonwealth) requires that ties be broken “by lot” (and not, as in a more famous case, by the U.S. Supreme Court). Given the state’s strong tradition of decentralized decision-making on matters involving elections, the county canvassing board got to choose the exact method, and chose cards.

I can relate. The small California municipality in which I live had a sudden mayoral vacancy not long ago (the mayor’s spouse talked smack about a beloved local elementary school teacher on social media, and we couldn’t have that!). Two of the four city council members declared for the job, which the city council had the responsibility to decide. Unsurprisingly, the vote was 2-2, and by city ordinance, the winner and new mayor was chosen by a coin toss.

She may have regretted winning that coin toss, because after one uneventful election to a full term, she got trounced about 3-1 and is now trying to reconstruct what looked like a very promising political career. I guess it’s the same fates that award one national or state or local executive a robust economy that makes voters cheerful and everybody look good while another is punished with plunging revenues that make him or her look incompetent or churlish or irresponsible. Most mayors have about as much control over it as they do the luck of the draw or the coin toss.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.