2014 mayoral races overview, part 2

We now move to the more competitive minor races. Let’s start with my new home, Keelung City. The fact that Keelung is merely competitive is a shock; the fact that the DPP candidate has an enormous lead in all polls is simply astounding. Keelung is one of those places where the KMT should never lose. So what happened?

To start with, Keelung is, over the past two or three decades, perhaps the worst governed place in Taiwan. Shoddy construction is the norm, and corruption is rife. The last two mayors have previously been city council speakers, and this may have something to do with the lousy quality of government. City and county councils, especially in places where partisan competition hasn’t displaced old fashioned local factional politics, tend to be the locus of all the worst aspects of black and gold politics. The current mayor has been a particularly awful chief executive, even by Keelung standards. So what does the KMT do? Obviously, nominate the current city council speaker! I’m sure he will have much higher ethical standards!

Turns out that Huang Ching-tai 黃景泰 didn’t have higher ethical standards. He has been indicted on corruption charges. His worse sin, from the KMT’s perspective, was that he wasn’t doing that well in the polls. So they pulled his nomination and tried to start over again. This is where they really messed up the race. They had four options. First, they could have restarted the primary process and ended up with one of the other local politicians who lost to Huang in the original primary. This was unappealing since none of the other local politicians were particularly popular. Heck, they lost to Huang, who then didn’t do well in the polls himself. Second, they could have gone back to President Ma’s original plan A and nominated one of Ma’s cronies. A couple of his inner circle had made some noise about wanting to run, but they had eventually given up due to a lack of enthusiasm from Keelung politicos. Ma was probably wise to resist the temptation to follow this course. Luo Chih-qiang 羅志強 still isn’t popular, probably wouldn’t have won, and the defeat of one of Ma’s closest cronies would have hurt him a lot more than the defeat of a generic candidate. Third, the KMT could have persuaded legislator Hsieh Kuo-liang 謝國樑 to run. Hsieh is the most popular politician in Keelung right now, and he probably would have won. This was probably the KMT’s only winning strategy. I’m not sure why he refused. To me, it looks like a great fit for him. Hsieh is from a local political family. (His father was speaker of the city council decades ago. Speaker. Hmmm.) He is also young, handsome, and marked for upward mobility in the KMT. After a few terms in the legislature, the next obvious step on the ladder is to get some executive experience. Moreover, there is a good chance that the DPP will win the presidency in 2016, so there might not be any opportunities to move into the cabinet over the next eight years. On the other hand, he would be perfectly placed for a plum appointment to the new KMT president’s cabinet in 2024. Also, he would have eight years running the local government, and that is desirable in and of itself. (I’m obviously missing something, because running seems the obvious choice to me.) At any rate, Hsieh steadfastly refused to run, so the KMT turned to option 4. The KMT dipped into its pool of faceless bureaucrats and nominated a generic candidate. Hsieh Li-kung 謝立功 has few local ties, and, it seems, less charisma.

The disgraced speaker, Huang Ching-tai, is running as an independent, perhaps to exact a measure of revenge on the KMT for its betrayal of him. Localism is surprisingly powerful in Keelung, and Huang still leads Hsieh in most polls.

Both of them are far behind the DPP candidate, Lin You-chang 林右昌. Lin lost the mayoral race with 42% in 2009. He ran for legislator in 2012 and got 40%. These were pretty strong showings for the DPP in Keelung, which gives you some idea how hard it should be for the KMT to lose. This year, however, the polls say that Keelung has been turned upside down. Lin is consistently in the low 40s, while the KMT candidates usually combine for around 20-25%. That looks to me as if Lin might be able to win an outright majority of votes. I think many of the blue voters will drift home eventually, but the blue camp is probably in too much disarray to win this race. Huang doesn’t look like he will drop out, and his supporters probably don’t see too much appeal in Hsieh. My guess is that the DPP wins a seat in deep blue territory: Lin 47, Huang 30, Hsieh 23.

The KMT might recoup that loss in Yunlin. Yunlin is not quite as deep green as Keelung is deep blue, but the DPP should have a clear advantage. Unlike Keelung, the DPP has only been the dominant party in Yunlin for a decade or so. There are still lots of KMT politicians in Yunlin who can draw on support built up back when the KMT regularly won elections there. One of these is Chang Jung-wei 張榮味, whose extensive resume includes several terms as county council speaker, some time as county magistrate, building up his own local faction, putting his daughter in the legislature, some time in jail, and close ties with organized crime. (In the mid-1990s, then-Minister of Justice Ma Ying-jeou burnished his image as an anti-corruption fighter by going after people just like Chang. In retrospect, Ma seems perfectly content to cooperate with Chang and his ilk; Ma was perhaps more interested in undermining President Lee’s political base.) Chang is the real power, but he is not on the ballot. Rather, he is running his sister, Chang Li-shan 張麗善, as a proxy.

The DPP is represented by old warhorse, Lee Chin-yung 李進勇. Lee is originally from Yunlin, but he started his political career in Keelung City. He was elected legislator in 1992, and won the mayor’s seat in a three-way race in the huge 1997 DPP sweep. After an unremarkable term (standards in Keelung are low: “unremarkable” makes him easily the best Keelung mayor since democratization), the KMT unified behind a single candidate and won the seat back in 2001. Lee went into the central government, eventually serving as deputy Interior Minister. In 2005, Yunlin County magistrate Chang Jung-wei (remember him?) was removed from office after a court conviction, and Lee was appointed by the central government as Acting Yunlin County magistrate. He served out the year, and eventually handed off power to a DPP politician, as the DPP started its takeover of Yunlin County. Lee has remained active in Yunlin politics, though he hasn’t exactly put together an inspiring electoral track record.

In 2012, Lee ran for the legislature against the KMT incumbent, Chang Chia-chun 張嘉郡, who just happens to be Chang Jung-wei’s daughter. Tsai Ying-wen won 56.2% of the presidential vote in the electoral district, but Chang managed to eke out a narrow victory.

The KMT is hoping that the Chang family can repeat the 2012 victory and leverage its local power to one more victory. There are not a lot of polls, and they don’t give a consistent picture of this race. Some say Lee is way ahead, and some say it is a tight race. I tend to suspect that the DPP will eventually win this race, but it won’t be easy. A few factors tilt the field toward the DPP. First, national partisan trends moving in the DPP’s direction make the contest even harder for the Chang family than in 2012. They have to run up a steeper hill. Second, the 2012 race only covered half the county. Chang’s power base is in the coastal part of the county; he is not quite as strong in the inland half. Third, the KMT is not united. Hsu Shu-po leads the other KMT faction in the county, and he is not on board. He made noises about running his own candidacy, which would have ensured doom for Chang, but was persuaded to back off. Nonetheless, the best that Chang can hope for from the Hsu faction is apathy, and that doesn’t bode well. The KMT doesn’t have much strength in Yunlin to start with, and the second strongest faction (which is based in the inland half of the county) is going to sit the race out. My guess is Lee 53, Chang 47.

Riding your scooter north from Yunlin on Provincial Highway 3 takes you across the Choshui River and into Nantou. Nantou had a brief period in the 1990s when the DPP outpolled the KMT in a few elections. This may have been due more to a generation of outstanding DPP political talent (彭百顯、林宗男、蔡煌瑯) than to any ideological transformations. In recent years, the DPP has run a series of pedestrian candidates, and Nantou has trended solidly back into the blue camp. Nantou may also be one of the winners from increasing cross-strait integration. Nantou tourist spots are overrun with mainland tourists, and someone is making lots of money off them.

The KMT has governed Nantou since 2005, and incumbent county magistrate Lee Chao-ching 李朝卿 has been, how shall we say, not quite an exemplar of moral virtue. The KMT candidate, legislator Lin Ming-chen 林明溱, has the job of trying to appeal to KMT voters while refusing to accept responsibility for any of his predecessor’s misdeeds. Since party affiliations are less important and individual personalities are more important to voters in Nantou than in most other places in Taiwan, this is not an impossible task.

It might be harder if the DPP had a more vibrant candidate. They have nominated former legislator Lee Wen-chung 李文忠. Lee won several elections in Taipei County. At the height of the popular protests against President Chen, Lee and another New Tide faction member announced they were resigning from the legislature in order to shake the DPP into self-reflection. Let’s just say that this move aroused differences of opinion within the DPP. Lee has since tried to remove himself from national politics and rebuild a more localized career back in Nantou. It hasn’t gone that well. In 2009, he ran for county magistrate and only got 39.8%.

Nantou hasn’t been polled heavily, but the general pattern is that Lin has a moderate lead over Lee. In other words, it looks as though, even in a year with a discredited KMT incumbent and a highly unpopular party leader, we are headed for a “normal” result: a comfortable KMT win. My guess: Lin 55, Lee 45.

Hop back on your motorcycle in downtown Caotun 草屯鎮, turn left on Fencao Rd. 芬草路 (past Wu Den-yi’s 吳敦義 old family home), and head across the border on Provincial Highway 14 (Zhangnan Rd 彰南路) into Fenyuan Township 芬園鄉. Welcome to Changhua County, another battleground this year. Changhua likes to think of itself as a traditional agricultural society, but those don’t really exist in Taiwan anymore. If you look at membership in farmers associations, it looks like over half the adult population are farmers. However, the 2010 census reveals that only about 7% of adults actually work in agriculture, while 26% work in industry. (25% work in services, and 42% are not employed.) Changhua is not really an agricultural county, it is better understood as an industrial center. However, that still isn’t quite right. There are actually two different Changhuas. The northeastern part of the county is much more industrial, while the southwest part is more agricultural.  In thirteen northeastern townships (with about 2/3 of the county’s population), farmers account for less than 3% of the working age population while 28% work in industry. In the other thirteen southwestern townships, farmers account for over 15% of the population while about 21% work in industry. To put it another way, southwestern Changhua looks a lot like Yunlin, while northeastern Changhua is much more like Taichung County.

Politically, Changhua has not been much like either Yunlin or Taichung. While those two have shifted toward the DPP in recent years, Changhua has remained on the KMT side of the ledger. The northeastern parts, especially Changhua City, seem especially stable in their support of the KMT. I am less sure about the southwestern parts. If the DPP surges in Changhua, I expect the southwestern parts to change most dramatically. Following the Yunlin model, the DPP should be trying to combine strong Min-nan/Taiwanese identity with local organization. Thus far, local networks seem to have remained on the KMT’s side. For example, the current legislator from the 3rd district (centered in Erlin Township 二林鎮) is a third generation local faction politician. I’d be nervous if I were her.

The race this year is between two incumbent legislators. The KMT’s Lin Tsang-min 林滄敏 is from Changhua City, while the DPP’s Wei Ming-gu 魏明谷 holds the seat centered on the second biggest township, Yuanlin. Like Nantou, the reputation of the two-term KMT incumbent has been tarred by controversy and accusations of corruption. Like in Nantou, the KMT candidate will be running away from that record. The surprisingly few polls show that this race is neck-and-neck. Changhua is a bellwether for Taiwan. Ma beat Tsai here by 50.6-46.5%. This is an area that the DPP probably needs to win if it is to win nationally. The fact that it is too close to call right now is extremely interesting.

Finally, hop back on your scooter and, well I don’t know the roads in Chiayi City. Take the bus. Chiayi City is getting a lot of attention this election cycle. The blue and green camps are very closely matched here, so races here are generally a good indicator of the relative fortunes of the two big parties. It has swung slightly to the DPP’s side in recent years: Tsai outpolled Ma 51.0-46.3% and the DPP took the legislative seat away from the KMT incumbent with a narrow 48.8-48.5% win. With national trends favoring the DPP this year, one might expect Chiayi to be a DPP win. However, the KMT has targeted Chiayi City aggressively. This might be the KMT’s best chance to win a race in southern Taiwan. Even if Chiayi City isn’t particularly populous or wealthy, the KMT would really like to avoid a green sweep in the south.

The KMT candidate is Chen Yi-chen 陳以真. She has strong local connections. Her family run the Nice Conglomerate 耐斯集團 so they have plenty of money. They have also been active in Chiayi politics for at least a couple of decades. (Her uncle lost the 1992 legislative election to Trong Chai 蔡同榮.) Before entering politics, Chen worked as a TV news reporter and anchor. They say that some people have a face for radio; Chen has a face for TV. Her husband (Yang Wei-chung 楊維中) also worked in the media, and after Chen entered politics he did a stint as KMT spokesperson. Chen was tapped to move from media to politics in the 2010 legislative by-election in Chiayi County. It was a hopeless race, but she performed quite well winning 42%. She impressed a lot of people with her energy and charisma, and the KMT rewarded her with a spot in the cabinet so that she could build strength for the 2014 Chiayi City mayoral race. As far as I can tell, the mayoral race was her target (and the KMT’s target) all along. She seems to be running a fairly strong race.

The DPP nominated former legislator Tu Hsing-cheh 涂興哲. The media reports about his campaign are not flattering. Apparently he isn’t a very personable campaigner. The early polls showed Tu with a consistent lead. More recent polls indicate that Chen has caught him and maybe passed him. This one looks like it will go down to the wire, so my official guess is: too close to call.

If you are counting at home, that’s 7 easy KMT wins (Hsinchu City, Hsinchu County, Miaoli, Hualien, Taitung, Jinmen, Lienchiang), 1 probable KMT win (Nantou), 3 tossups (Changhua, Chiayi City, Penghu), 2 probable DPP wins (Keelung, Yunlin), and 3 easy DPP wins (Yilan, Pingtung, Chiayi County). Of those, Keelung is the only place where the “wrong” party is winning. The KMT currently holds all three of the tossup seats, so green victories in any of those would represent DPP gains.

Of course, 70% of Taiwan’s population lives in the six direct municipalities, so those are the races that people care most about. Next time, we will turn to those races.

13 Responses to “2014 mayoral races overview, part 2”

  1. R Says:

    Thanks for another great post!
    From what I heard, 謝國樑 simply don’t have much political ambition & is more interested in partying than politic lol.

    Once again I have to say I don’t feel 李進勇 is a strong candidate at all, it makes me feel that Yunlin is vulnerable (albeit I still think DPP is gonna win, just not with a great margin.) It seems like Lee only won due to the incumbent Su going all-out supporting him. Would rly much prefer it if Liu or Lee (preferable Lee) have been nominated instead.

  2. Courtney Donovan Smith Says:

    This is all great stuff, thanks! One small detail about Changhua:

    “Like in Nantou, the KMT candidate will be running away from that record.”

    In fact Lin’s been loudly and constantly praising Cho Po-yuan and is constantly reminding anyone who will listen that he’s going to be continuing on with Cho’s policies if elected. I’m pretty sure he has to do this for a variety of reasons, but one very prominent reason is Vice Commissioner Ko Cheng-fang. He was Cho’s favoured choice and they ran a really nasty, brutal primary against each other that led to a lot of accusations against Lin from the Ko camp of essentially stealing the primary using underhanded tactics. Ko was hinting at a run as an independent, and only finally backed down and took down his campaign billboard in early September–and even then it was pretty clear it was a grudging move. He says he will run for a Legislative Yuan seat in future.

  3. Courtney Donovan Smith Says:

    Another factor in Changhua is ex-TSU lawmaker Huang Wen-lin (黃文玲). Though she’s only got a few percentage points of support, it’s worth noting that her support plus the DPP candidate Wei Ming-ku’s combined are within the margin of error for support of the KMT’s Lin.
    (I’ve been reporting on that a lot, plus the whole Ko saga)

    • frozengarlic Says:

      I expect that as we get closer to the election, Huang’s support will evaporate. Minor candidates’ supporters usually start out professing loyalty, but as the campaign wears on and they realize the minor candidate is hopeless they will grudgingly move over to one of the major candidates. Even assuming Huang goes all out until the bitter end, I’m guessing her absolute ceiling is roughly 4% and she’ll actually get closer to 1%. (I also think most people grossly overestimate how much support the Huang family has left from the 1980s.)

  4. Courtney Donovan Smith Says:

    I think you’re right that her cap is 4% and most likely it will be less than 2%, assuming nothing happens to Wei Ming-ku. I really don’t know how much loyalty remains for her father, but I do know he is widely popular. The papers here in Central Taiwan are giving her a fair bit of press and here presence is enough that Wei is constantly going on about ‘pan-green unity’, and everyone from Tsai Ing-wen on down has tried to get her to drop out, her small support could be the margin that tips it.
    I always wonder with these types of candidates if they are in it to get something (nice post after election to drop out) or to keep certain issues in the debate.
    FYI, your post got some nice comments on the Taiwan News in English FB group:
    https://www.facebook.com/groups/565929220186237/

    Looking forward to your third entry!

    • Pat Says:

      Zhanghua’s elections has been interesting in that boht camps are very divided, but in different ways; the greens have been unable to persuade Huang to drop out, but the TSU has actually endorsed Wei over her and even kicked her out of the party. The blue’s kept Ko from running a spoiler campaign, but Cho & the county government have refused to help or even endorse Lin.

  5. R Says:

    “This may have been due more to a generation of outstanding DPP political talent (彭百顯、林宗男、蔡煌瑯)”

    I was suddenly reminded that originally 蔡煌瑯 was also in the running for the DPP nomination, along with 湯火聖 & 李文忠. But before the primary took place, Tsai announced that he will not run. Personally I always felt that Tsai is a stronger candidate than Lee, & was rather disappointed with his decision to not run. I don’t know whether he felt that he can’t prevail in the primary against Lee (which would be a surprise for me) or that he felt that his victory would not result in support from the New Tide Faction (Lee’s faction), as he mentioned stuffs like the need work together solidarity etc etc when he stepped away. Do you happen to have any insight into this?

    • frozengarlic Says:

      I also thought Tsai would have been a more exciting candidate. However, it has been several years since he ran in Nantou; he has been on the party list for a couple of terms. His local support might have eroded without the stress of regular elections, though this is purely speculation. He might also prefer the national legislature to local executive office, unlike most other politicians. He strikes me as particularly suited to finding consensus and building coalitions rather than demanding to impose his will. To put it another way, his personality seems (to me) to be similar to Speaker Wang’s. Again, this is just guessing. I was surprised and disappointed that he didn’t run this year.

      • R Says:

        It’s interesting to know that he is considered consensual in his approach. I do get a sense that he is more conciliatory than confrontational from the way he speaks but nvr anything concrete tho.

        Considering this, in the event that the DPP do happens to win the legislature (always a very difficult task lol), do you think there’s a good possibility he can wind up as speaker? Altho 柯建铭 have been DPP’s caucus 總召 (what is the position in English btw?) for many years, & hence should be considered first pick I guess for the speaker position, he nvr seems to have too spectacular of a reputation even among DPP supporters & a few incidents in the recent years may have further corroded his popularity. I heard he is not as friendly with 蔡英文 especially compared to his relation with 蘇貞昌, while for 蔡煌瑯 it’s the opposite in that he is more pro-蔡英文.

  6. Raymond Lee Says:

    There is one typo in your article. Tu Hsing-cheh 涂’醒’哲,not 涂’興’哲.

  7. An amusing Changhua City campaign banner - Synapticism Says:

    […] case you’re interested in the electoral dynamics of Changhua 彰化 for some weird reason, Frozen Garlic offers an insightful English language analysis here. Additionally, both Frozen Garlic and Michael Turton have good posts demonstrating the madness. […]

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