December 5, 2012 by Thomas Hauber
In the fall of 1966, two junior Political Science students at San Jose State College correctly predicted the re-election of the incumbent US Representative of California’s 10th Congressional District, Charles S. Gubser, by a margin of 68 to 32%, within one percent of the actual vote. The results of T. Hauber’s and W. H. Sleight’s amateur poll were remarkable not only for its small margin of error, but for its simplicity. The choice of polling place, large suburban supermarkets, dominated the prevailing midddle-class demographic and age mix and proved egalitarian in the extreme as did the target sample of half men and half women. The simple phrasing of the question, “If the election were held today…” left only the consideration of which candidate’s name to be mentioned first. If memory serves me George Leppert was mentioned first as “the Democratic candidate,” and Charles Gubser identfied last as “the incumbent Republican.
Santa Clara County underwent dramatic growth in the mid 60s. Household formation was exceptionally robust with tract-style homes gobbling up apricot and prune orchards and the first wave of pre-Silicon valley tech companies displacing parks and golf courses. In 1966 the population was on its way to nearly doubling from 625,000 in 1960 to over one million in 1970. With the eastern part of the county and adjoining east bay Alameda County dominated by Democrat Don Edwards and the Republican Art Younger representing San Mateo County to the west, and though an incumbent, Charlie Gubser’s district faced a dramatic transition from a farming to suburban lifestyle and an uncertain voter reaction to Democratic challenger George Leppert. As the supermarket poll predicted, Gubser was in no danger of losing his seat that year and would continue to represent the 10th Congressional for another eight years. In fact the 1966 off-year elections would prove a watershed event for Republicans nationally who gained 47 seats in the House, 3 Senate seats and 8 governorships, among them Ronald Reagan in home-state California, victories that would also presage a Richard Nixon presidency in 1968. Despite the tumultuous 1960’s, Gubser, a home boy from nearby Gilroy, proved a steady, popular non-partisan and forward-thinking legislator who would serve the Santa Clara and San Benito Valleys from 1953 to 1974. Charlie Gubser passed away in Fresno California in the summer of 2011 at the age of Ninety-five.
The 1966 pollsters are current charter members of the Waffle and Crow party. One William H. Sleight III, the current Senior Oracle and Prognosticator (SOP) and holder of the King Crow chair has the additional distinction of having accurately predicted the final 2012 Presidential election electoral vote of 329 -209. With the prescience of the 1966 election as a guide, Is there any wonder?