For CSM8, the lines between a lot of the candidates were extremely blurry. To use one example, we had five wormhole candidates last year. Because of all their cross-endorsements, it was nearly impossible to predict who would be top pick among them. I guessed right that it would be James Arget, but that's all it really was: a guess. I also correctly guessed that two of the five would get in but was wrong about my second prediction because of all the blur between the candidates. The same thing happened with "Trebor's group" of (IIRC) 11 candidates. The lines between us couldn't have been more blurry if they'd been drawn with finger paint.
This year, the lines between candidates are a lot sharper.
The Mittani predicted in his most recent CEO update that CSM voter turn-out will be poor. I predict the same, though for somewhat different reasons. Though the first half of CSM8's term was marked with several controversies, the second half has been rather calm (the Erotica 1 situation notwithstanding). That will tend to depress turn-out, as will the relatively unremarkable feature set of the last couple of expansions. Don't get me wrong: Odyssey and Rubicon haven't been bad expansions. But they've been pretty quiet, non-contentious ones and that's also linked to low voter turn-out. Finally, there hasn't been as much publicity associated with this election cycle as last year... and last year had the least publicity of any CSM election I've seen.
In short, without a major "issue" to champion and without fanfare, I expect we'll see a relatively low number of votes, probably around the sane number last year: 50000 or so. Lower turn-out tends to favor bloc candidates and candidates with a strong voter base behind them. Without the political groupings of last year, that will be more of the former than the latter.
So, those are my justifications for thinking what I think about who will win seats on CSM9. These are in rough order of "strength" but don't get too plugged in to where I put people number-wise. But the list starts with...
The top two
These are the candidates that I expect to win the two "permanent" seats on the CSM, meaning that they will be invited to the Summer Summit, the Winter Summit, and to Fanfest 2015.
1. Sion Kumitomo
Sion has barely campaigned, and what he has said has been contentious in some circles. In addition, this is absolutely not his fault, but I personally feel like he's an excellent representative of a lot of what's wrong with EVE Online. And none of this is going to matter in the slightest. He's at the top of the CFC ballot, so he's going to take over mynnna's "permanent" seat.2. Ali Aras
This is a bit of a gamble, but I feel like Ali has proven her capabilities as part of CSM8 and will be taking over my "permanent" seat this year. The reason this prediction is a bit of a gamble is because some of Ali's strength last year came from her Provi voters whom she won't have this year for the most part. Still, the combination of votes from people she proved herself to last year, down-ballot CFC votes, and her smart work on cross-endorsements will carry her over the top. If Ali doesn't take this seat, though, it will go to...
The upper tier
3. Sugar Kyle
And what a campaign this lady has run! Needless to say, I'll be delighted to see another strong blogger on the CSM. I think a year from now we're all going to be talking about Sugar as one of the stand-out stars of CSM9. She's built a really solid base of support from her readers as well as other low-sec residents. She should easily have sufficient #1 votes to earn a seat on her own right. My only question is how strong her cross-candidate support is, something that's so critical in the STV process.4. Xander Phoena
Xander might modestly pooh-pooh his own chances, but even as he does so he's swung strong endorsements from right across New Eden's political spectrum. He'll have his own votes from name recognition based on his pod-cast and the excellent work he did with CSM8 interviews last year. And he'll swing additional votes appearing high on my candidate list, the CFC candidate list, and a couple of others. He should put in a very strong showing.5. mynnna
Because of his great work on CSM8 and his recognizability to CFC players and renters, mynnna will have far more #1 votes than he needs to survive the first eight or ten rounds of candidate culling that occurs in the STV process. After that, a flood of unneeded Sion votes will easily carry him into the upper tier of CSM9 candidates.6. Corebloodbrothers
Core is another contentious candidate -- I've had a number of people surprised that I endorsed him because of some of his views. But this year, he's got some of the most motivated voters around. He'll have a strong supply of #1 votes to start from thanks to his undiluted Provibloc base (last year, he had to share these votes with Ali) and he should have sufficient cross-candidate support to land among the upper tier of elected candidates.7. corbexx
Wormhole votes aren't as enthusiastic or motivated as they were last year, but the ones that are enthusiastic will be putting their #1 votes down for corbexx. He'll then receive sufficient trickle down from two early wormhole candidate eliminations to land him among the upper tier of candidates.
8. Major JSilva
This one's a bit of a gamble: I feel like Gorski Car has slightly better name recognition. That said, Pandemic Legion voters are motivated and numerous (and they have lots and lots of accounts). It's been a long time since they failed to take a CSM seat and they won't fail to do so again this year.9. Psychotic Monk
This is another gamble on my part. I'm gambling that even though the disciples of "high sec content" are not particularly numerous, they are extremely motivated. I think in a year with depressed voter turn-out, they'll have sufficient push to get their most recognized candidate through to a CSM seat. Monk's particular strength will be that for the people who want him in, they will absolutely put him #1. Put another way, if Psychotic Monk is elected, it will be by people who are angry with me. ;-)10. Steve Ronuken
Are there enough dedicated industrialists and people who care about EVE application development to get one of their own onto the CSM? I believe there are. As a matter of fact, I feel like Steve is in the same position this year that Mike Azariah as last year: he's built up a lot of quiet support from people who will just show up to vote for him without advertising that they're doing so. I bet against Mike last year. I'm not betting against Steve this year.11. Mike Azariah
As I just mentioned, Mike surprised me last year. But I feel like his professionalism, likability, doggedness, his smart plays in terms of cross-candidate endorsements, his strong performance on CSM8, and the desire for a lot of high-sec PvE'ers to see one of their own on the CSM again will carry him through to reelection. I myself will be delighted to see it if it goes down this way. I really enjoyed working with Mike this last year.12. Alner Greyl
The Russian candidates joined the process late and are being remarkably quiet. Still, there are tens of thousands of Russian players who will want another Russian representative on the CSM this year and will put Russian candidates at the top of all their (numerous) votes. Of the Russians running, Alner Greyl strikes me as the most likely to take this seat.13. Proclus Diadochu
Will the wormhole voters manage to elect two representatives to the CSM again on CSM9? I believe they will, again thanks to depressed voter turn-out. There aren't a lot of motivated "issue" voters this year, but those that do exist are wormhole voters who want this freakin' POS situation addressed. They'll come out to vote, and I think they'll do it in numbers sufficient for there to again be two wormhole members on the CSM. The question is, who will the second one be? I want it to be James Arget -- he did a terrific job on CSM8. But I feel like he doesn't have the strength with his constituency this year that he had last and Proclus will slip past him.14. progodlegend
This one is such a wildcard. There are a lot of people who could slip in here: Aram Kachaturian, Jayne Fillion, DNSBLACK, DJ FunkyBacon, Mangala Solaris... hell, if you'd asked me a month ago, I would have said Matias Otero was a lock for a seat. But Matias is suffering from internal Brave Newbie drama (and he's run an almost ridiculously poor campaign to boot). I don't feel like his voters will be motivated. I also don't feel like a number of the edge candidates have the strong base of #1 votes to start from. The person that does have a strong base is progodlegend. He jumped into the race very late but in a year with depressed turn-out, I suspect this starting base and name recognition is going to carry him past a lot of first-time candidates.
And those are my predictions! It was far tougher to do this year than last year; there are a lot of really strong candidates this year that in other years would have easily swung seats for themselves. Hopefully, we'll see a lot of these first-time candidates run again next year.