Tuesday, November 25, 2008

State Senate District 19: Martin Griffin (D-Jackson) to Run

From the (reduced) Jackson Patriot:

Less than a month after he won re-election to the state House, Rep. Martin Griffin announced he plans to seek a seat in the state Senate.

Griffin, D-Jackson, said he filed paperwork Monday with the secretary of state's office to create a candidate committee for the 19th District state Senate seat that will open when U.S. Rep.-elect Mark Schauer heads for Washington, D.C.

"I think I am uniquely qualified in the fact that ... I've had experience at all levels of government and I think I am very well-suited to step into that position," said Griffin, D-Jackson.

Griffin, 46, first won the 64th District seat in the state House in 2006 and previously spent about a decade as mayor of Jackson.

More of the story can be found here:

As ML reported earlier, term-limited Republican Mike Nofs (District 62) is also planning on running for the seat. Each candidate represents a sizable portion of Democrat Mark Schauer's State Senate seat, as shown by the map below the fold:


Mike Nofs represents District 62, while Griffin represents District 64. Just from glancing over at my excel spreadsheets, each house district covers about the same percentage of the 19th Senate District (30%), and it seems like each house district is similar to the senate seat as a whole. Any Dems on the ground who can offer more?

The big two questions are 1) are any other candidates running for this seat-especially on the Democratic side, and 2) when Granholm will set a special election date for this race. Most insiders seem to think that she'll set it for the municipal primary (August 4) or the municipal general (November 3) in 2009.

Mapping Success: Kent County 2008

Per popular demand, I have created some maps on the precinct-level to better show what happened in Kent County in 2008. The first map is the Democratic baseline for 2008 (I've edited this map to incorporate the data from the northern-most municipalities, which I did not add previously).


Compare this to the 2006 Map:


The 2008 results with the House District boundaries in:


Thinking ahead to the State Senate race in 2010, the Democratic baseline for the 29th District was 58% 2008, compared to 49% in 2006, and 42% in 2002. Check out this nice map of the 2008 results:


Compare it to the 2006 results:


Our success in 2008 came in the urban/suburban core of Kent County. In 2006 the picture looked like this:


In 2008 this was the story:


As Bill Harris noted earlier, you can really see the decline of the GOP in the inner suburbs of EGR, Kentwood, and Wyoming. Time for a new direction in Kent County politics.

Finally, an updated map of House District 73:


Sunday, November 23, 2008

What We Did….Now What? (A Few Thoughts on Kent County)

After reading Phil’s [http://westmichiganrising.com/showDiary.do?diaryId=1105 thoughts] regarding a long-term strategy for our local county parties in west Michigan, I looked at some of the baseline numbers from Kent County over the past five elections (2000 to 2008). The table below shows the TOTAL number of State Board of Education votes for the Republican and Democratic candidates on the municipal level from 2000 to 2008, along with the Democratic percentage of the two-party vote. As you can see in Table 1 below, the picture looks very interesting and encouraging.


In 2000 Grand Rapids was the only part of Kent County that had a Democratic majority base. In 2008 Grand Rapids, Kentwood, and Alpine Township had a Democratic majority base, with East Grand Rapids, Wyoming, and Cedar Springs not far behind. The manipulates in Table 1 are arranged by the greatest percentage shift in the Democratic percentage of the vote between 2000 and 2008, and Kentwood clearly wins first place, shifting from a Democratic base of 37% in 2000 to 51% in 2008. Grand Rapids follows with a 12% shift (51% to 64%), with EGR (11% shift) and Wyoming (10%) following close behind. That said, even places that had very small Democratic bases, such as Gaines and Cascade Townships, saw their Democratic base increase by 10% and is of critical importance (as I will discuss later). Other portions of Kent County (such as Bryon, Bowne, and Vergennes) continue to have a Democratic base less than 30% of the total vote.

While others may disagree (and feel free to do so since I am over 600 miles away), it seems from the data that we are seeing the emergence of a Democratic coalition forming within the southern first-ring suburbs such as Kentwood, Wyoming, East Grand Rapids, and in Alpine Township to the north of Grand Rapids. It is less clear whether the same is happening in the northern suburbs of Walker, Grand Rapids Township, or in southern suburb of Grandville. It seems to me that growing concerns regarding the suburban economic (especially in Wyoming and Kentwood) will dominate the local political discourse, as will the economic health of the west Michigan region’s heart-Grand Rapids. This strikes me as the beginning of a new political culture, and after thirty years of dominance between 1978 and 2008 by a libertarian Republican Party devoted to minimal government and social issues is nearing its end. While economic concerns favor Democrats today, there is no guarantee that it will in two, five, or ten years. A clear, long-term strategy for the local party should be established to build some substantial policy successes, which could include economic revitalization in the commercial corridors of the metropolitan Grand Rapids, creating a uniformed zoning code among municipalities, creating a county-wide master plan to reduce sprawl, the development of farmland preservation areas to preserve our rich agricultural lands, the establishment of a county-wide income tax of 1% to help replace the disappearing state funding for municipal governments in order to preserve basic services and eliminate economic distortion of local income taxes in Walker and Grand Rapids, the promotion of a regional economic development strategy the reduces harmful competition between local municipalities, and the fostering a greener Kent County that ensures our long-term economic and environmental competitiveness in a global marketplace (And I am certain that the folks at the top are already thinking about this-PB).

I have a Republican friend from my Calvin College days who is now working for various GOP campaigns in Virginia. I stay in pretty close contact with him, despite being on the other side of the fence, and he once told me that the secret to creating a successful local party over the long-term was to have a devoted bunch of folks who were up for the nitty-gritty of party organizing. At one point he mentioned the name of Chris Schoenewald, a GOP county chair in Virginia as the ultimate model for any local party head. I forgot about this until Nate Silver and Sean Quinn did an article on Schoenewald on their 538 website in late October of this year. I’ve linked the article [http://www.fivethirtyeight.com/2008/10/on-road-charlottesville-virginia.html here], and I recommend reading it, since despite being of a different party, Schoenewald clearly spells out the most important steps that we should think about taking.

First, building a list of Democrats is very important and a long-term project. Finding out as much as we can about the 106,393 Democrats in Kent County who comprise of our base is perhaps the most important information we can work on. I know that there are some folks who already have develop lists, and these lists are important to ensuring that we are keeping track of our core supporters as we head into the 2010 election cycle. Secondly, being willing to take a loss is important. Kent County has long been the seat of the MI Republican Party, and it is likely we will get our chins knocked a bit in the next cycle or two. However, cutting our losses on the county level by almost 55,000 votes over an eight year period has significantly reduced the Republican’s long-term advantage in statewide races. Every vote we get out in Gaines and Spencer Townships is a step in this process. Finally, developing a party apparatus is crucial. There are 268 precincts in Kent County, and each precinct needs to have an active precinct captain who can work his or her neighborhood hard to help Democratic candidates all the way up the ladder. There are 89 precincts in the six suburbs around Grand Rapids (Walker, Grand Rapids Township, East Grand Rapids, Kentwood, Wyoming, Grandville) that really need to have precinct captains to develop strong local parties that can run strong local Democrats.

In the Lower Merion Township Democratic Party (of which I am currently a precinct captain-pending party approval in January of 2009), we are working in a larger Montgomery County Democratic Party that has about 31 municipalities. Each municipality’s Democratic organization is vital to recruiting volunteers, has access to the master vote list, and is the first face that local Democrats connect with during the lulls between campaign seasons. Right now we are looking at a number of Democratic precincts that have below average turnout (in a municipality that has an average turnout rate of 75%) or precincts that are rapidly trending Democratic. Some of the old-timers note that our township has moved from being a safe GOP township back in 1992 to a strong Democratic bastion by 2004. This was possible by developing local organizations that carefully work on a weekly basis during the “off-season.”

This off-season will be a great time to think about the next steps to pursue in Kent County. I think the most important local race in 2010 will be the State Senate seat, which is looking like a doable race (I’ll post more on this in January). Holding our newly captured County Commission seats in the 8th, 12th, and 19th Districts will also be a priority, and recruiting strong candidates for Districts 2, 11, and 13 is another early action item. Likewise, doing some serious brainstorming on how to encourage greater turnout in core Democratic Kent County precincts would help determine some long-term strategy for 2010 and beyond. Finally, doing the lonely work of data processing and local party building is a task that is truly of vital importance.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

State Senate District 19: A tune up for 2010

Looks like the GOP has their candidate for Mark Schuer's vacate senate seat. From MIRS (subscription required):

Rep. Mike NOFS (R-Battle Creek) today announced he was forming an exploratory committee in preparation for a suspected run in the 19th Senate seat to replace U.S. Rep.-elect Mark SCHAUER (R-Battle Creek).

Nofs, who will be termed-out of the House at the end of the year, has been accepted among Lansing Republican circles as the GOP's likely consensus candidate in the 19th, although other former Rep. Clark BISBEE has not ruled out a run. On the Democratic side, the two most talked about candidates are Rep. Marty GRIFFIN (D-Jackson) and Rep. Mike SIMPSON (D-Jackson).

Forming an exploratory committee allows Nofs to begin raising money for a senatorial run and allows the moderate Republican to begin clearing the field of primary challengers. He already has stopped by the Senate twice since the Nov. 4 election.

A lot depends on whom the the Dems run for this seat, and both Griffin and Simpson can run from the House and return if they lose. That said, the Dems will probably want to avoid a primary to focus on crunching Nofs. Nofs is a tough candidate, and declares himself a moderate after representing a Battle Creek-based House District since 2003 (and was term-limited in 2008). The 19th District has a weak GOP lean, although it has become increasingly Democratic over the past 2 election cycles. Check out a map below the fold for more on the district.


As the map shows, District 19 covers all of Calhoun County, and the majority of Jackson County, including the city of Jackson.

I would think that Griffin's district might be a better fit for the race, since all of Griffin's house seat is included in the State Senate seat with the exception of Summit Township. In contrast, only half of Mike Simpson's District is in the State Senate District 19, which would likely leave Nofs with a higher ID among voters heading into the race.

Any thoughts on locals familiar with this district? Don't be shy-put your thoughts in the comments.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Wrap-up of Michigan State House Races

Another election cycle, another state GOP bloodbath in Michigan. Of course, you’ll hear Brian Calley (R-District 87-Barry & Ionia Counties) saying that the election was not as bad as it could have been to the Republicans, but anytime that you are pleased with 43 seats in the State House (as opposed to 40), your party is in a world of hurt.


And a world of hurt is what the Republicans woke up to on November 5. The GOP lost nine open seats, reducing their numbers from 52 to 43. As Map One shows, five of these seats were concentrated in metropolitan Detroit, with Districts 1, 21, 24, 32, and the ever elusive 39 finally falling in the Democrats hands after four election cycles. A historic observer will note that Democrats have not had this sort of margin in the State House since 1976, which ushered an era of party domination in the chamber that lasted until 1992. The loss of five GOP seats in metro Detroit leaves the Republican Party with just one seat (District 19-Livonia) in Wayne County, while losing one seat in Oakland County and two in Macomb County. The reverse of this gain this that the Michigan Democratic Party is even more dominated by its southeastern membership, a situation that the GOP never ceases reminding the rest of state voters about.



That said, Democrats also picked up four seats outside of metro Detroit. Three of these seats are in western Michigan, historically a GOP base. Districts 62 (Battle Creek) and 70 (Montcalm & Ionia Counties) have long been held by the GOP, and excellent Democratic campaigns wrestled these seats from the GOP. Kate Segal especially dominated Republican Greg Moore in District 62, causing the GOP to abandon the district well before the middle of October. In the Traverse City region Dan Scripps won District 101 (Benzie, Leelanau, Manistee, Mason Counties) after a second attempt, this time against a more conservative opponent Ray Franz. Finally, Democrat Judy Nerat beat Republican Mike Falcon in the 108th District (Dickinson, Delta, and Menominee Counties), giving Democrats total control over the Upper Peninsula for the first time since the early 1990s.

While I will not belabor this point, I do want to stress that in the past four election cycles spell certain trends for each party to watch in 2010. First, parties lose seats when they become open, not due to an incumbent’s defeat. Only two Democratic incumbents have lost their seats since 2002 (one in 2002 and one in 2004), while the Republicans have lost four races (one in 2004, three in 2006). Secondly, as Figure 1 shows, there are thirty four seats open in 2010. While the GOP might talk bravely about how they are going to pick up 13 seats and return to the majority, the odds of achieving this are rather steep. Of the thirty four races, seven are safe Democratic seats, and seven are safe Republican according to the 2007 PVI. Of the remaining seats, the Democrats hold twelve, while the GOP currently holds nine. To make a chamber flip possible, the Republican Party would need to pick up a majority of these Democratic seats, hold five swing seats, and knock off a few incumbents. This would be a big task to accomplish. Thirdly, from all indications, 2010 is going to be a year where both parties will focus on the gubernatorial race and the State Senate. I’ll be posting on the state senate early next year, but at this point it will be very possible that the Senate could be ground zero for Republican efforts to hold onto political control to reduce the impact of statewide redistricting.

In short, the Michigan Republican Party lost bad last Tuesday. There was no expansion of their coalition, and the only item to cheer about was the fact that the party held onto some of its seats that it was worried about losing (Districts 51, 78, 98). The next year will be an interesting time to watch the GOP claw its way around ideological issues and a gubernatorial primary.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Climbing Up the Ladder: Follow Up (November 2008)

In May 2008 I wrote a piece on WMR examining the state of county commission races across west Michigan. I noted that while there were a number of Republican seats that were being unchallenged, some county-level Democratic parties were launching some serious efforts to gain control of their county commission boards.

Now that the 2008 election cycle is over, we can see how Democrats did on the local level county commission races. In short, of the 20 counties in western Michigan, there are 220 county commission seats, with 47 held by Democrats and 172 by Republicans. On November 4 Democrats gained 15 seats, while losing one, resulting in a 14 seat pickup. Here is a breakdown by county:


Democrats picked up two commission seats in Benzie and three in Kent County, while picking up one seat in Berrien, Calhoun, Cass, Grand Traverse, Leelanau, Mason, Montcalm, Newaygo, and Van Buren Counties. As in 2006, Democrats have a majority of commissioners in Calhoun, Kalamazoo, Manistee, and Muskegon Counties. That said, Democrats are one seat from gaining control of Benzie and Cass Counties, and two seats from flipping Mason, Kent and Van Buren Counties.





I’ll let the others write new diaries about the individual candidates, but let me state how impressed I am of the efforts in Benzie and Kent Counties. As the maps above shows, in Benzie County we picked up two seats around Frankfort, and in Kent County we picked up three suburban commission seats that have not gone Democratic since the brutal redistricting in the early 1980s (Bill Harris should tell this story at some point).

I’m also glad to see Democrats serving on county commissions that have previously had now Democrats. Grand Traverse now has a Democrat representing Traverse City, Leelanau has a Democrat, as do Montcalm and Newaygo Counties. These efforts bode well for future party building, and we need to do some more serious party building for the next election on the local level if we want to see a strong regional progressive movement take deeper roots in western Michigan. The fact that 6 counties had no Democratic challengers to any of the 48 Republicans serving on their respective commissions is a problem.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

The State of The Michigan State House: September 2008

(This a rather long post that I did for two websites in a series of articles-enjoy!PB)

(Cross Posted at Michigan Liberal)-PB

With the recent release of the post-primary filing reports for Michigan State House candidates, we can better understand the finances and status of races 45 days prior to November 5 (I have linked this table as a [http://spreadsheets.google.com/ccc?key=pV2G2PINOGEIeEgKm38yBMQ&hl=en Google document]). My prior analysis of Michigan State House races looked at the [http://www.michiganliberal.com/showDiary.do?diaryId=12563 history] and [http://www.michiganliberal.com/showDiary.do?diaryId=12764 current political landscape] within the 110 districts across the state. This report adds the latest financial data to better understand which districts are the ones to watch over the next two months, and where outside players (such as the Michigan Democratic and Republicans Parties and 527 groups) will attempt to add their weight to existing efforts.

Since August 5 the larger political landscape has changed. Michigan is considered to be a battleground state that John McCain’s campaign is considering as ground zero for their campaign efforts. At the same time the Obama campaign is trying to perform its campaign mobilization magic in a state in which it did not have a primary that tested and fine-tuned its GOTV operations. While Obama may considered to be a slight favorite to win the presidential race, if McCain wins Michigan on November 5, there is little chance that Obama will be walking into the White House anytime soon.

With Michigan being a battleground state, both campaigns will be pouring money into the state to ensure that every voter is bothered by television ads and annoying robocalls. In addition, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) has targeted Republican Representatives Joe Knollenberg (MI-9) and Tim Walberg (MI-7). State House races located in these Congressional Districts will undoubtedly be treated to more political treats over the next 45 days.

Democratic are enjoying two major gifts this September. The first is the continued dominance of “Wacko-Jacko” Hoogendyk by Senator Carl Levin in the polls and financial strength. Expect Levin to match or surpass his vote percentage (60%) from 2006 against his hapless opponent. Levin’s proven ability to bring Democratic voters to the polls will be especially be appreciated in metropolitan Detroit by Obama and MI-9 Democratic candidate Gary Peters. The resignation of Detroit mayor Kwame Kilpatrick also ends a sustained period of Democratic disarray in Detroit. While Kilpatrick’s resignation brings an end to the distracting scandals, it remains to see how the Detroit Democratic machine will whip itself into shape in 45 days. I would be interested in hearing what Democrats on the ground in Wayne County can tell regarding Obama’s efforts to ensure a massive Democratic tidal wave from the city.

Republicans enter the campaign buoyed by McCain’s strong efforts in Michigan. The conservative base was mobilized by the selection of Sarah Palin as Vice Presidential candidate, although it remains to be seen whether she will attract independent voters to the GOP standard. The Republican Party is headed by a team of skilled political operatives who will attack the Democratic GOTV efforts with any trick necessary, whether it be gathering lists of foreclosed homes to illegally prevent former residents from voting or mailing wrongly addressed absentee ballot requests in hopes stalling Democrats efforts to bank early votes. That said, if the GOP loses Michigan for the fifth consecutive presidential election, you can be sure that Saul and Yob will be fighting each other just as hard on November 6. Heck, even Dennis Lennox might go after Justin Zatkoff as well. Thankfully for Democrats, Zatkoff will be leading regional field efforts in Washtenaw County. If he gets the GOP vote above 36%, I would be surprised.

The State House
We can be sure that as of November 6 there will be 37 Democrats and 19 Republicans in the State House. 37 Democrats and 19 Republicans were unchanged or had an opponent file a waiver promising not to raise over $1,000. Neither state party or outside groups will provide financial support for these candidates, who serve as sacrificial lambs. Of the 23 State House seats in Wayne County, Democrats currently hold 20 districts, and face credible challenges in only two races (Districts 17 and 20). 17 State House Democrats can instead focus on GOTV efforts in hopes of providing assistance in crucial nearby swing districts and increasing the Democratic vote margin in Wayne County.

The following Districts are held by Democrats facing no credible opposition:
Districts 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12 (Detroit), 13, 14, 15, 16, 23 (southern Wayne County Suburbs & Downriver), 18 (Westland), 22 (Romulus & Taylor), 26, 27 (Royal Oak, Oak Park, Ferndale), 28 (Centerline), 29 (Pontiac), 34, 35 (Flint), 42 (Eastpointe & Roseville), 49, 50 (eastern Genesee County), 52, 53, 54, 55 (Washtenaw County), 60 (Kalamazoo), 68 (Lansing), 76 (western Grand Rapids), 92 (Muskegon), 95 (Saginaw), 96 (Bay County), and 107 (eastern UP).

The following Districts are held by Republicans facing no credible opposition:
Districts 33, 36 (Macomb County), 40 & 41 (Bloomfield Hills), 46 (northern Oakland County), 58 (Branch & Hillsdale Counties), 72, 77, 86 (Grand Rapids suburbs), 74 (eastern Ottawa County), 79 (western Berrien County), 80 (Van Buren County), 81 (St. Clair County), 87 (Barry & Ionia Counties), 88
(Allegan County), 89 & 90 (Ottawa County), 97 (mid Michigan), and 100 (northern western Michigan).

To retain their majority, the state Democrats need win an additional 20 seats, while the GOP needs to win 37 races to regain control of the chamber. The remaining races are listed in chronological order below to see if such a possibility is likely. Come and read Part II tomorrow at Michigan Liberal.




District 1 (Grosse Points & part of Detroit)
A true battleground, with GOP candidate Mary Treder Lang holding a financial edge over Democrat Tim Bledsoe. Expect both parties to provide ample funding to each candidate, although the Dems might have to fork over more.
Forecast: SWING

District 17 (Redford Township)
Democratic Speaker Andy Dillon has survived a rough year. While the Pigman (Dorlet)’s recall remains in litigation, his Republican challenger Sandra Eggers has under $1000 in her campaign warchest. Dillion has $39,324, and is daring the GOP to throw money at his race.
Forecast: Safe DEM

District 19 (Livonia)
John Walsh has a large edge over Democrat Steve King, who reported a balance of $176. It remains to be seen if the state party is willing to support a candidate in a district with a Republican PVI of 8.5.
Forecast: Leans GOP

District 20 (Northville & Plymouth)
Democrat Marc Corriveau won a stunner here in 2006, and has a balance of $88,284 in his account. Republican candidate Jerry Vorva has raised $6,538 and faces a substantial gap in fundraising. The GOP might be tempted to pour in $100,000 to help regain this seat, but expect the Democrats to match.
Forecast: Leans DEM

District 21 (Canton & Van Buren Townships)
An open district with Republican Todd LaJoy seeking to hold his father’s seat. LaJoy faces Democratic Dian Slavnes, who lags behind LaJoy’s fundraising. Expect Slavnes to receive significant outside support.
Forecast: SWING

District 23 (southern Wayne County)
Democrat Deb Kennedy faces Republican Neil DeBlois in this open seat. Both candidates had primary challenges, and Kennedy currently has a financial edge. The Democratic base has been growing in this district, registering a PVI of +1.5.
Forecast: Leans DEM

District 24 (eastern Macomb County)
Republican Bryn Brandenburg seeks to hold his father’s seat, while Sarah Roberts won a Democratic primary for the right to challenge. The candidates are at near financial parity, with Brandenburg has significant debts. Both parties will pour money into this race, so expect this swing district to be a center of attention.
Forecast: SWING

District 25 (Warrne)
This district used to be a political ground zero, but the Democrats have held onto this seat when Steve Bieda won the open seat in 2002. Democrat Jon Switalski faced no primary opposition and has $34,373 on hand. His opponent Michael Wiecek raised very little money, and has $44 in the bank. I can’t understand while the GOP did not try harder to recruit a stronger candidate in this Dem PVI +1.8 district.
Forecast: Safe DEM

District 30 (Sterling Heights)
Republican incumbent Tory Rocca has $56,000 on hand, and faces Democrat Grant Hughes, who has raised little cash. Don’t expect a close race.
Forecast: Safe REP

District 31 (Clinton Township & Mount Clemens)
Incumbent Democrat Fred Miller has a stockpile of cash, while opponent Daniel Tollis has over $102,458 in debt. Go figure.
Forecast: Safe DEM

District 32 (northern Macomb County)
An open seat, although with a weak GOP PVI of +5.7. Republican John Accavitti has $7,809 on hand after surviving a hard primary, while Democrat Jennifer Haase has $22,532. Expect the GOP to pour some money in this district to allow Accavitti to pull ahead. However, should the race be close in the last two weeks, expect the MDP to pour resources in here.
Forecast: Leans GOP

District 37 (Farmington Hills)
This swing district has been held by Democrat Aldo Vagnozzi over the past six years. Democrat Vicki Barnett and Republican Paul Welday have near financial parity, although Welday has out raised (and outspent) the Barnett. You can be certain that the Democrats will concentrate resources here, given that this district lies in the 9th Michigan Congressional District.
Forecast: SWING

District 38 (Lyon & Novi)
This open seat has GOP candidate Hugh Crawford seriously out raising Democrat Chuck Tindall. Expect Crawford to pull ahead here.
Forecast: Safe GOP

District 39 (Commerce and West Bloomfield Township)
The Democrats challenged Republican David Law every election since 2002. With Law term-limited, Democrat Lisa Brown will face off against Amy Peterman in a swing district that has a slight Democratic PVI of +2.7. Brown has an enormous financial edge over Peterman, with $53,044 versus Peterman’s $4,793. Brown’s financial strength gives this race a slight Democratic edge, but expect the GOP to push resources into this seat. For now this district is still a toss up, but a month might change things.
Forecast: SWING

District 43 (Oakland County)
While slowly becoming increasingly Democratic, this district remains a Republican stronghold. Gail Haines has close connections to current Republican Representative Fran Amos, and has $69,000 on hand. Democratic challenger Scott Hudson has raised smaller amount of funds, but will be unlikely to gain substantial support from the MDP.
Forecast: Safe GOP

District 44 (Oakland County)
This district is one of the strongest GOP seats in Oakland County. Eileen Kowall won a close primary against Dan Kelly, and is a traditional Republican in a strong GOP district. Kowall is also sitting on $33,000, while Democratic opponent Mark Venie about $720 on hand. No contest here.
Forecast: Safe GOP

District 45 (Oakland Township and Rochester Hills)
Another strong open GOP district. Republican Tom McMillin has about $11,000 on hand, while Democrat Randy Young has just over $1,213. Young might make things interesting, although the demographics are not on his side.
Forecast: Safe GOP

District 47 (western Livingston County)
Republican Joe Hune is vacating this seat due to term limits, and it looks to return another GOP representative come November. Republican Cindy Denby only has $3,843 on hand, but Democrat Scott Lucas has only $750.
Forecast: Safe GOP

District 48 (northwest Genesee County)
Democratic incumbent Richard Hammel is working in a conservative district that has a growing Democratic base. His opponent Ralph Burger has only $500 on hand, ensuring Hammel’s reelection.
Forecast: Safe DEM

District 51 (southern Genesee County)
A swing district that featured two bitter primaries. Republican Paul Scott won a close three-way battle with 41% of the vote after spending $132,000 in the primary. Democrat Michael Thorp raised substantially less than Paul, and has $9,166 on hand. Whether Scott will be able to self-finance for the general election remains to be seen; with over $50,000 in debt, the GOP state party will likely come in to aid their candidate. Then again, so will the MDP. This will probably be among the top five most competitive races in the state.
Forecast: SWING

District 56 (Monroe County)
Democrat Kate Ebli seeks reelection after a hard fought race in 2006. Her Republican opponent Jean Marie Dahm has raised $217,495, although $216,175 (99.9%) is a loan that she gave her self. Elbi has $63,000 on hand, and will do fine against a candidate that has two donors besides herself.
Forecast: Safe DEM

District 59 (Cass & St. Joseph Counties)
A GOP stronghold, with Republican candidate Matt Lori expecting to do well against Democrat Carol Higgins. Higgins has proved to be a strong fundraiser, and has established a campaign in a part of the state that has had few viable Democratic campaigns.
Forecast: Safe GOP

These 22 seats rest in the diverse mix of Michigan’s political geography. The GOP stronghold in northern Oakland County is match by the Democratic base in Genesee and Washtenaw Counties. To recap, there are five safe Democratic seats and two that lean Democratic. For the Republicans, there are seven safe seats, and two leaning GOP seats. The six swing seats will attract the attention of both parties.

Two of swing districts are in each Wayne and Oakland Counties, while one district is in Macomb and Genesee Counties. The bad news for the GOP is that five of these seats are currently held by their party, meaning that a loss of one or two could make dreams of a majority even smaller. Tomorrow we will cover Districts 61-110 in Part III of our series.

What follows below is an analysis of Districts 61 to 110. Discuss in the comments, and it would be great to hear some thoughts from folks on the ground.

Before I go further, let me encourage readers to head over to [http://www.westmichiganrising.com West Michigan Rising] to get a [http://www.westmichiganrising.com/showDiary.do;jsessionid=44FC9C594246860D673C30DBBC57F073?diaryId=802 great analysis] of the current state of house races in this part of the state. My analysis here is largely built on Phil's work, so it is better to see the original sources.





District 61 (western Kalamazoo County)
The democratic baselines for this district have increased rapidly since 2002, and Democratic candidate Julie Rogers is seeking the seat after a narrow loss in 2006. She has $33,662 on hand, and had the luxury of an uncontested primary. Republican candidate Larry DeShazor went through a long and drawn out primary that was decided by 400 votes. The primary also depleted his coffers, leaving him with $1,349 on hand and $14,949 in debt. While DeShazor’s moderate credentials will aid him in this GOP PVI +7.6 district, he’ll need infusions of cash from the state party to catch up with Rogers. We’ll see how the next month progresses; if the GOP throws a great deal of cash here, then the party is in trouble.
Forecast: SWING

District 62 (portions of Calhoun County, including Battle Creek)

This Democratic leaning district has been held by Republican Mike Nofs for the past six years. His departure has led to a heated primary contest for both parties, with Republican Greg Moore and Kate Segal winning the right to face off in November. While Segal has a slightly more cash on hand ($52,507), Moore also has almost $50,000 in debt. Also, the fact that the Democratic primary vote total outnumbered the Republican total by 10% is not likely to give the GOP comfort. Expect Saul to give generously here, but Stryker will also likely provide ample funding.
Forecast: Lean DEM

District 63 (Kalamazoo and Calhoun Counties)
This open GOP-leaning seat has Republican James Bolger well in the lead against Phyllis Smith. Smith has $8,182 on hand, while Bolger has $44,709 on hand. Expect Bolger to win this seat.
Forecast: Safe GOP

District 64 (western Jackson County)

This district has long attracted the resources of both parties over the past decade. In 2006 Democrat Martin Grifith bested Republican incumbent Rick Baxter, and currently has $51,000 on hand for his reelection efforts. Surprisingly, the GOP failed to attract a strong candidate for this district, drafting third-tier candidate Leland Prebble, who has $2,000 on hand and $4,000 in debt. The GOP will wait until 2010 to serious challenge this seat.
Forecast: Lean DEM

District 65 (eastern Jackson County)
Another swing Jackson County seat that saw a Democratic upset in 2006. Mike Simpson easily brushed aside two minor Democratic challengers, and has $114,632 on hand for the general election. Republican Ray Snell has proven to be a poor fundraiser, with only $6,513 on hand. It was expected that the GOP would put money in this seat, but one can hardly expect the party to put over $100,000 into this race without better fundraising from Snell.
Forecast: Lean DEM

District 66 (Livingston County)
A safe Republican seat features Bill Rogers against Donna Anderson. Anderson has $1,000 on hand, while Rogers has $15,230. Don’t expect a close race here.
Forecast: Safe GOP

District 67 (Ingham County)
A swing district that has long been held by the Democratic Byrum family, and is current represented by Barb Byrum. Republican Mike Herter has sought to make a race for this seat, and has $13,829 on hand. Byrum has almost $50,000 on hand, and it is unlikely that the GOP will challenge this seat until 2012 when Byrum is term limited.
Forecast: Safe DEM

District 69 (East Lansing, Meridian, & Williamstown Townships)
This leaning Democratic district is represented by Democrat Mark Meadows, who easily won this seat in 2006 with 67% of the vote. Meadows has $26,774 on hand, while Republican challenger Frank Lambert has $667 in the bank. Go figure
Forecast: Safe DEM

District 70 (Montcalm & Ionia Counties)
This district has a GOP lean (PVI +8.7), but that hasn’t kept the GOP from worrying about this seat. Republican Thomas Ginster won a very bitter primary that also drained his bank book, leaving him with $3,797 in the bank. Democrat Mike Huckleberry has proven campaign experience (having run for Congress in 2004 and 2006), and has polled will in GOP internal polls. However, Huckleberry does not have much money either, with only $1,445 on hand, reducing the possibility of the MDP of participating in this race. Stay tuned to see what both state parties do for this seat.
Forecast: Lean GOP

District 71 (Eaton County)
This swing district has become increasingly Democratic over the past six years. Republican Rick Jones has about $9,221 in the bank, while Democrat Mark Eagle has $1,517 in his coffers. The Democratic Party recently took a majority of the Eaton County Commission seats, and signs point to a serious challenge in 2010. I would not be surprised if the MDP threw some money in this race to bleed the GOP dry and to bolster their chances two years later.
Forecast: Lean GOP

District 73 (northern Kent County)
This is perhaps the sleeper race of 2008. Two-term Republican Tom Pearce has coasted to victory, and is used to easy races, and only has $7,207 on hand. His constant advocacy of social issues has left economic conservatives restless and open to a new Democratic message. Enter Democrat Bruce Hawley, who has run a serious campaign on economic development and reform. Hawley has $24,816 on hand, and will run a hard campaign against Pearce. While the underlying demographics of this district favor the GOP, there is a possibility that Hawley could surprise here.
Forecast: Lean GOP

District 75 (eastern Grand Rapids)
This seat featured a nasty campaign in 2006, with Saul Anzius personally approving race-baiting flyers against Democrat Robert Dean. The ads backfired, and Dean ended up shocking Republican Tim Doyle, who out raised Dean by a 2-1 margin, by winning 51% of the vote. Many expected the GOP to strongly contest this seat in 2008, but this hasn’t appeared to happen yet. First, A Republican primary did not bring the result hoped for by GOP leaders. Rather than T.J. Carnegie facing off against Dean, Dan Tietema, who has failed as the GOP standard bearer on a number of occasions, received the GOP nod. Tietema’s fundraising was minimal, leaving him with $7,000 on hand against Dean’s $28,700. Secondly, Democratic turnout in this district is much greater in presidential election years, ensuring that Dean will get a large base turnout that will likely put this race in his came. Finally, the MDP has made it clear that they are willing to spend big bucks to keep this seat. Will see if Saul brings cash this time along with the flyers.
Forecast: Lean DEM

District 78 (portions of Berrien and Cass Counties)

While traditionally a strong GOP district (PVI +8.7), Democrat Judy Truesdell ran a close race against Republican Neal Nitz in 2006, gaining 48% of the vote. With Nitz term-limited, Truesdell is running again, and has $29,156 in the bank. In contrast, her Republican opponent Sharon Tyler survived a close primary, and has no money in the bank, and has $46,000 in debt. The GOP state party will need to provide some serious money for this race to ensure that Tyler will be able to pull out a victory. Given the financial disparity here, along with the continued GOP bitterness, this race is too close to call.
Forecast: Swing

District 82 (Lapeer County)
This GOP leaning district covers the heart of the thumb, and has long been held by Republican Representatives. Republican Kevin Daley won the GOP nomination, and has $3,791 after the race. Democratic candidate Bill Marquardt has $4,498 on hand, meaning that there is a rough fiscal parity at the moment. However, expect Daley to pick up his fundraising efforts over the next few months to win this Republican friendly area.
Forecast: Leans GOP

District 83 (Sanilac and St. Clair Counties)
While this district has a weak GOP lean (PVI +7.8), Democrat John Espinoza has not had trouble this seat. Republican candidate Steve Kearns has raised a great deal of funds (from himself), and this is a seat that the GOP might be tempted to throw some money at. However, expect Espinoza to win this seat.
Forecast: Safe DEM

District 84 (Huron and Tuscola Counties)
Terry Brown won this Republican leaning seat in 2006, and is seeking reelection for a second term. He is facing Anna Kabot, who is a retired advertising agent. Brown has substantial funds on hand ($42,878 vs. Kabot’s $4,153), and this will likely dissuade the GOP from spending serious funds here.
Forecast: Leans DEM

District 85 (Shiawassee County)
This district has long been a swing seat, with Representative Richard Ball holding on by small margins in 2004 and 2006. While being outspent, Democratic Judy Ball is a possible contender for MDP funds if the party is serious about expanding its majority on November 5.
Forecast: Leans GOP

District 91 (eastern Muskegon County)
This seat has been a battle ground since it was created by the GOP in the last round of redistricting. Republican David Farhat struggled to win in 2002 and 2004, but got destroyed by current Democratic Representative Mary Valentine in 2006. Valentine’s campaign was extremely effective at GOTV efforts, which helped find democratic votes in areas of the district that historical been strong Republican centers (such as Norton Shores). Valentine has raised a substantial amount of funds for her reelection-and currently has just under $100,000 in the bank. The Michigan Democratic Party will certainly pour money into this seat to help hold back Republican Holly Hughes’s challenge to Valentine. Hughes, a buddy of Chuck Yob on the RNC was drafted for this race since she had deep pockets and might be able to swing the northern portion of the district (Whitehall and Montague) into the GOP column. While her fundraising efforts have resulted in a cash on hand balance of $48,021, Hughes has no campaign experience, which will be a hindrance in tightly contested race. Hughes is also co-chair of the McCain campaign, which might reduce her focus somewhat. This race is currently too close to call, but Valentine is a tough campaigner.
Forecast: Swing

District 93 (Clinton and Gratiot Counties)
Republican Paul Opsommer won election in 2006 to this strong GOP district, and is in a good position to return to the state house. While he currently has a financial edge over Democrat Ron McComb, this Mike Huckabee base will make it difficult for any Democrat to do well here.
Forecast Safe GOP

District 94 (portion of Saginaw County)
This district is a competitive seat currently held by Republican Ken Horn. Democrat Bob Blain is seeing to improve on his 2006 defeat to Horn, but remains behind Horn in terms of fundraising. This will likely be a GOP hold.
Forecast: Leans GOP

District 97 (portions of Arenac, Bay Clare, and Gladwin Counties)
This is a perhaps the biggest sleeper race to watch. In yesterday’s post readers were telling me about Democratic candidate Kathy Wilton, who has launched a formidable challenge to Republican Tim Moore. The demographics of this district favor the Democrats (PVI +1.3), and a serious effort by Wilton and support from the state party could make this race a serious battle that the GOP can ill afford to lose.
Forecast: Swing

District 98 (Midland and Saginaw Counties)
This open district has a Republican lean, but this has not stopped Democrat Garnet Lewis from out fund raising Republican Jim Stamas. It remains to be seen if Lewis is able to translate a significant financial edge into an electoral victory, or whether either state party will push money into this seat.
Forecast: Leans GOP

District 99 (Isabella and Midland Counties)
Republican Bill Caul currently holds this seat, and is challenged by Democrat Nancy White, who ran a close senate campaign in 2006. While Caul has a financial edge here, White’s grassroots success should not rule a close race out, especially if the state Democrats want to put this seat in play.
Forecast: Leans GOP

District 101 (Benzie, Leelanau, Manistee, and Mason Counties)
This was a surprise race in 2006, and it will be under the spotlight this time around. Democrat Dan Scripps (a proud fellow UM alumni) ran a close race against Republican David Palsrok, taking 48% of the vote. With Palsrok term-limited, Scripps has worked hard for the past two years getting his name around the district, building strong grassroots efforts that will be ready to increase Democratic campaign efforts. Scripps is facing Republican Ray Franz, who survived a bruising GOP primary that was decided by a small number of votes. This primary depleted Franz’s coffers, giving Scripps a significant financial edge for the fall. Head over to West Michigan Rising for some great analysis of the race, and a fuller picture of the situation on the ground. I am rating this as a swing race, but I defer my judgment to those up north.
Forecast: Swing

District 102 (Mecosta, Osceola, and Wexford Counties)
This district is a solid GOP seat held by Republican Darwin Booher. Democrat Nate Heffron has raised a small amount of funds, making this a long-shot.
Forecast: Safe GOP

District 103 (Iosco, Missaukee, Ogemaw, and Roscommon Counties)
While Democrat Joel Sheltrown has won handily in this district, but the underlying demographics of this seat could make a GOP pickup a possibility. Sheltrown’s careful work has kept Republicans from seriously challenging this seat, and 2008 will be no different. Dave Ryan has $270 on hand, and it is unlikely that the state party will send any more his way.
Forecast: Safe DEM

District 104 (Grand Traverse and Kalkaska Counties)

This Republican district is largely concentrated in Grand Traverse County, were the Democrats have made some inroads in the past few elections. However, Republican Wayne Schmidt has a significant financial edge over Democrat Roman Grucz. This should remain a GOP seat.
Forecast: Safe GOP

District 105 (Antrim, Charlevoix, Cheboygan, and Otsego Counties)
This district (desired by Dennis Lennox once Republican Kevin Elsenheimer is term-limited) is a Republican base seat. However, Democrat Connie Saltonstall has run a strong campaign, raising significant funds and shows no sign of giving up here. While this seat should remain Republican in November, we can’t be too sure.
Forecast: Leans GOP

District 106 (Alcona, Alpena, Crawford, Montmorency, Oscoda, and Presque Isle Counties)
A swing seat that the Democrats have held with ease over the past six years under Matthew Gillard. This is due to a strong Democratic base in Alpena, where Democratic candidate Andy Neumann is from. Neumann is a former State House Representative, and seeks to return to the house against Republican Peter Pettalia. Both candidates have raised significant funds, and expect each state party to put some cash here. While this is a swing district, insiders from both parties say that Neumann has an edge here.
Forecast: Leans DEM

District 108 (Delta, Dickinson, and Menominee Counties)

This seat has a Democratic lean, but was represented by Republican Tom Casperson since 2002 when he beat Democrat Laurie Stupak in a close race. Since Casperson leaving to lose to Laurie’s husband in the 1st Congressional District, Democrat Judy Nerat is looking to gain this seat and improve on her 2006 numbers. Republican Mike Falcon is hoping to retain this seat, and has a slight financial edge over Nerat. Expect the Michigan Democrats to put a great deal of cash into this race to bring it back to the Democratic column. This one will go all the way to November 5
Forecast: Swing

District 109 (Alger, Luce, Schoolcraft, and Marquette Counties)
This has long been the most Democratic seat in the UP, and Democratic Steve Lindberg won handily in 2006, gaining 67% of the vote. Lindberg has a significant edge over Republican Dorren Takalo, who is not attracting much state party support. Don’t expect a GOP victory here.
Forecast: Safe DEM

District 110 (Baraga, Gogebic, Houghton, Iron, Keweenaw, and Ontonagon Counties)
Democrat Mike Lahti won handily in 2006, and has massive financial resources compared to Republican John Larson. Another safe Democratic seat.
Forecast: Safe DEM

Part IV: Analysis

From the forecasting done in the earlier posts, it appears that the Democrats have a significant edge heading into October. There are 38 seats that Democrats are guaranteed to hold come November 5, 11 that appear safe, and 8 that lean Democratic for a grand total of 57 seats. The Republicans have 18 guaranteed seats, 12 safe seats, and 11 that lean GOP for a total of 43 seats. 12 seats are pure tossups, and it would not be surprising for a split, giving the Democrats a possibility of holding over 60 seats on the evening of November 5. This would be a crushing blow to GOP efforts to retake the legislative agenda in the lead up to the 2010 election.

We have 42 days to out work the other side to ensure that we keep our majority in the Michigan State House!

Where Are the Persuadable Voters?

Most of my previous pieces on this website have focused on identifying the underlying partisan affiliation of voters through examining the “baseline” Democratic or Republican vote. As Mark Gerbner defines it, the baseline vote is the average Democratic share of the vote cast for major parties for the statewide education board races which occur every election cycle. Someday I’m going to do a paper on changes in the baseline vote from 1964 to the present, but that is for the “off-season” (ie-sometime in winter of 2009).

Yet the baseline vote measure is not always a fit-all measure. It does little to show how voters are more likely to vote for big state or federal races, and the impact that various candidates have had on turnout. Likewise, the baseline vote does little to show were swing voters reside, an important consideration for campaigns looking to maximize their resources. Finally, the baseline vote does not take into consideration turnout for various races.

In between job-hunting shifts and leading canvassing efforts for Obama in Lower Merion Township, I have been trying to determine a good measure to identify persuadable voters in Kent County. I used the 2006 election returns for attempt, since I feel that the 2008 election cycle is shaping up to be much like the previous one, and because there are a range of candidates will attract or lose support at the ballot box.

In 2006 there were a number of races in Kent County that brought voters to the ballot box. These included the gubernatorial contest between DeVos and Granholm, the Senate race between Stabenow and Bouchard, the 2nd and 3rd Congressional races, State Senate and State House seats, and County Commission races.

Table 1 shows the range of vote totals and shares for the Republican and Democratic candidates in Kent County. The highest Democratic vote total went for Governor Granholm (109,940 votes and 46% of the total), while Republican vote high came for the US House races (150,697 votes and 65% of the total. The other race totals and vote shares fall within the two previously mentioned races.

Looking at the highest and lowest vote totals we see that there are at least 29,549 vote splitters. Of these 29,549 voters, 7,323 chose not to vote, leaving 22,226 voters or about 10% of the total vote. Where do these voters live in Kent County?

The maps below show the percentage of the swing vote between the gubernatorial and congressional race in each precinct of Kent County. The maps show an interesting picture.

Map 1 shows the swing variation throughout Kent County. There appears to be a great deal of variability in East Grand Rapids, and some of the other eastern suburbs of Grand Rapids. For fun I have displayed the same data in Map 1 with House District and County Commission boundaries as well in Map 2 and 3. House Districts 75 and 73 appear to have a great deal of variable precincts.


Looking closer at metropolitan Grand Rapids makes these trends more apparent. The Democratic base in Grand Rapids (especially in House District 76, and County Commission Districts 15 and 16) have a much smaller swing vote percentage than the suburban neighborhoods of Grand Rapids (CC Districts 18 and 19), as well as in EGR, Walker, and Grand Rapids Township. There also appears to be smaller variability in Grandville, Kentwood, and Wyoming.



Some of this variability notes the baseline partisan strength of each party. There is little difference in the Democratic vote in Grand Rapids, just as there is reduced variation of the Republican base in Byron and Gaines Township, as well as in Grandville.

In the end, what does these figures mean for the 2008 election? First, a smart Democratic campaign (and I am sure that the Obama Campaign is doing this) will be spending a great amount of time targeting persuadable voters in the eastern suburbs of Grand Rapids. With enough work they can convince voters to give the Democratic message of economic change and reform a chance over the GOP slogan of status quo. Secondly, the long-term Democratic goal should be to encourage lower-level races (State Senate, State House, County Commission) to run hard after the swing voters, who seem to appreciate campaigns that actually run hard after their votes as opposed to campaigns that do little work.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Blogging update

(photo by Bret D. of 538.com)

I've changed a few things on the blog roll over this weekend. First, I have added a couple of financial links that might be of interest to readers. Secondly, I've cleaned a few names off the blogroll since it appears that these blogs are no longer active.

Also, let me give a personal pitch to the blog Fivethirtyeight which has provided excellent analysis of the 2008 Presidential primaries and general election (and provided the photo above). While a nominally Democratic blog, the writers are more interested in closely examining both the Obama and McCain's campaign's get out the vote (GOTV) strategies. They also do a great deal of vote projections, and were very accurate in the Democratic primaries. Check them out.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Movie Review: Dark Knight

I normally do not write about movies, but I cannot pass up mentioning the Dark Knight, which Susan and I saw yesterday. This movie was well done, and while not being a comic book fan or a devote follower of the previous Batman series, I appreciated Director Chris Nolan's exploration of good and evil in a world of chaos vs. order.

At first I couldn't get past using Chicago as the scene for Gotham City, but the more I think about it, the more Chicago is a perfect place to explore many of the themes that Dark Knight delves into. The acting for the movie was also excellent, and I'm sorry that I will not get to see Heath Ledger an any future movies. His performance was excellent, and I am sure that he will get nominated for a Best Actor next year.

That said, I think that Aaron Eckhart is perhaps the most unappreciated American actor in recent years. He did a great job putting a human face on Harvey Dent, and a warped one on Two Face. Let's hope that Nolan does another sequel that focuses on Two Face v. Batman.

Monday, September 1, 2008


I have not posted much as of late for a variety of reasons. Susan and I moved in late mid-July to Philadelphia, and it took a number of weeks to get settled in. Overall, the move went very well-nothing broke, the row house holds all of the books just fine, and that cat is doing well. I'll post some facebook photos up in a few days to show the latest round of projects that I have done around the house.

The job hunt is also taking a good amount of time. While I don't have a job yet, I have had a number of interviews, and hopefully something good will open up soon. I am hoping that September will yield some fruit from all the work done in August.

In the midst of all these changes, I have been able to read some good books. Last night I finished Paul Theroux's The Pillars of Hercules, which is a travel narrative written 13 years ago. Theroux, who is a prolific travel writer, travels along the entire coastline of the Mediterranean Sea, and offers a rather sarcastic perspective on modern-day tourism, as well examining what other travel writers have written about their journeys around the Mediterranean. A good read.

A few weeks earlier I also read two books regarding the Bush Administration's post-2001 strategy regarding terrorism. The first, Jane Mayer's The Dark Side, was a sobering look at the Administration's legal reasoning behind the authorization of torture and its disregard for military law in current combat operations. The Dark Side is a slow read, but well worth the time. The other book, The Challenge, focuses on one case from this period, Hamdan v. Rumsfeld. Hamdan, a Yemeni citizen who happened to be Bin-Laden's driver, was used by the Bush Administration as a test run in its efforts to conduct military tribunals. A motley crew of a Navy JAG, a Georgetown Law Professor, and a law firm interested in meeting its pro bono obligation, succeed in winning legal rights for detainees at Gitmo. Both books made me keenly aware of how the United State's reputation has been shattered over the past seven years, even though since the American Revolution the US had a policy of treating prisoners well to prove the high moral standing of the new nation. This policy continued through WWII, and the United States was one of the leading proponents for the Geneva Convention guidelines for humane treatment of prisoners. Even during the Cold War this policy was followed. Let's hope that we follow it again come January 2009.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Michigan State House Primary 2008: What to Watch

Everyone may be at the lake, or doing something else to avoid the summer heat, but perhaps 20% of Michigan’s registered voters will trudge to vote in primary this Tuesday August 5, 2008. While I think it is a shame that only a fifth of the population cares about voting, I know that folks at WMR are following these races closely, and turnout will be much higher here. So, whether you are at the lake, at home, or at work, Michigan Liberal has put together a helpful guide for what to watch on primary night next week.

Every seat in the Michigan State House is up for election this year. As I have mentioned on earlier posts at Michigan Liberal and WMR, while there are 110 seats up for election, only half of these will be seriously contested by both parties. The Democrats have about 30 worry free seats, while the Republicans have 25. That is not to say that there will not be primaries for these seats-far from it. These safe seats are among the most desirable, since once one wins in August, the race in November will often be much easier. While this piece will examine a few of these races, they are not the primary focus.

Rather, the races to watch on Tuesday are the ones that will be seriously contested come November. The Democrats are keen to hold their majority, while the GOP is looking to pick up four seats to regain its supremacy and make Governor Granholm’s last two years in office much like her first four (2002-2006).

Aiding our efforts to understand the dynamics on Tuesday night are the recently submitted Pre-Primary finance statements required from all State House candidates. While money cannot always guarantee victory, it helps to make it possible and shows who is supporting each candidate. Parties are composed of factions, and primaries often reveal the divisions between various groups.

So, what races are ones to watch on Tuesday night? I have twelve that I will be following, and please feel free to add your own in the comments section. Discussion is what makes Michigan Liberal great, so let’s have plenty of it in the next few days. After August 5 I will be offering my thoughts on the results as the campaigns turn to the general election contest.

District 1 (Grosse Points, Harper Woods, and a portion of Detroit). Current Rep: Ed Gaffney-3rd Term (R) Dem Baseline (Democratic average from 02, 04, and 06 results): 48.6%

This seat is being vacated by Republican Ed Gaffney, and has steadily trended Democratic over the past decade. The GOP primary has six candidates, while the Dems have four candidates. Republicans Daniel Granno (son of Supreme Court Justice Maura Corrigan) has raised $21,000 and has $6,607 on-hand as the end of July. Therese Joseph has just under $10,000 on-hand, although she has debts of about $5,000. John Simon has spent about $20,000, and has a minimal amount on-hand, while Grosse Pointe City Councilmember John Stempfle has over $20,000 on hand after raising $34,000. Mary Treder Lang has spent over $45,000, while Pete Waldmeir has less than $1,000 on hand.

Of the four Democrats, Harper Woods Mayor Kenneth Poynter has raised the most money, leaving 2006 candidate Timothy Bledsoe far behind with cash-on hand (Bledsoe is about $7,000 in debt according to the July report). Two other minor candidates have raised smaller sums.

Expect Poynter to win handily on Tuesday. The Republican primary looks a bit more confused, and I really can’t say who I expect to win. As far as I know, Gaffney hasn’t anointed a successor, although the GOP can only hold this seat if a moderate Republican wins on August 5.

District 51 (Southern Genesee County-includes Grand Blanc and Linden) Current Rep: David Roberston-3rd Term (R) Dem Baseline: 47.4%

District 51 is home of a nasty GOP primary fight, which bodes well for the Democrats this fall. Current Representative David Robertson has struggled to hold this district due to his conservativism, which is ill-fitted for this swing district. The state GOP has poured money in this seat, as have the Democrats, and an open seat might allow the Democrats to regain this seat for the first time in six years.

There are three Democrats in the primary. Thomas McGee has raised a minimal amount of money, and is not seriously challenging for the seat. The main battle is between Michael Thorp and Rusty Ward. While Thorp has raised much more money than Ward (about $14,000 to Ward’s $4,000), the two candidates have a comparable remaining cash on-hand. Thorp’s widespread name recognition (a 35 year broadcaster for Flint’s ABC affiliate), will likely lead him to victory.

The three Republicans candidates have had a more difficult primary. Paul Scott (disclaimer: I went to school with Paul and am friends with him) has raised an enormous amount of money ($137,000-much of it self-financed), and has about $22,000 on-hand. Vincent Lorraine has out raised Scott, brining in $150,000, while holding a cash on hand balance of over $100,000 (Lorraine donated $40,000 to his campaign). James Swenor has also raised enormous sums, although he too has donated a good amount of funds from his own coffers.

Expect Thorp to win the Democratic field, while Lorraine will likely win a tightly contested GOP race. The GOP will gladly take both Lorraine or Scott, as they are desperate for self-funded candidates this cycle.

District 106 (Northeast Lower Peninsula, includes Alpena) Current Rep: Matthew Gillard-3rd Term (D) Dem Baseline: 49.5%

The Democrats have kept this seat by running candidates from Alpena, which is the population center for this district. Former Democratic state representative Andy Neumann should easily win the Democratic race against nominal opposition.

The Republican race is more contested. Presque Isle Township Supervisor Peter Pettalia is in a tight battle with Howard Viegelahan. Both are social conservatives, although Pettalia seems to have a great number of funders from established GOP fiscal sources. Expect Pettalia to win this primary.

District 24 (Macomb County’s Harrison Township and St. Clair Shores) Current Rep: Jack Brandenberg-3rd Term (R) Dem Baseline: 50.4%

This seat is being vacated by Republican Jack Brandenberg. In true GOP, the party facilitated a handoff of the seat to Brandenberg’s son Bryn, who runs his dad’s business while father is in Lansing. Bryn (and his family) have given over half of the $40,000 his has raced for this race.

While the Republican side is settled, the Democrats have a field of eight candidates. The leading candidate the Democrats have is Sarah Roberts, who seems to have matched Brandenburg’s fundraising. Expect a showdown between these two to be fierce this fall.

District 37 (Farmington Hills and Farmington) Current Rep: Aldo Vagnozzi-3rd Term (D) Dem Baseline: 50.6%

The Democrats have one candidate for this seat-Vicki Barnett, who was the former mayor of Farmington Hills and has loads of governmental experience. She’ll be facing either Richard Lerner or Paul Welday in November. Welday has a massive fundraising edge over Lerner, and has close ties to Joe Knollenberg, and is an economic conservative. Lerner focuses has drawn more support from social conservatives. Expect Welday in a close race.

District 62 (Calhoun County-including Battle Creek) Current Rep: Mike Nofs-3rd Term (R) Dem Baseline: 51.5%

This seat is one that the Democrats should kick themselves over if they can’t bring it back in the Democratic column. Calhoun County Commissioner Kate Segal has a financial edge over Tim Nendorf, and should gain a victory on August 5 due to her name recognition and years of service in the public eye. Segal also has strong support from Jon Stryker, who has given significant funds to Democrats in the 2006 cycle.

The Republican primary is getting ugly quick. Susan Baldwin (an heiress and Battle Creek City Commissioner) is facing off against professional legislative aide Greg Moore, who had some problems figuring out if he even lived in the 62nd District. Baldwin raised about $40,000, while Moore has raised about $23,000. Rumor is that Moore is running a harder campaign than Baldwin, and this is key to getting the small number of voters showing up to the polls. Expect Moore to face off against Segal.

District 108 (southwest Upper Peninsula, includes Dickinson, Menominee, and Delta Counties) Current Rep: Tom Casperson-3rd Term (R) Dem Baseline: 52.1%

This seat was picked up by the Republicans in 2002 when Casperson pulled an upset against Bart Stupak’s wife Laurie. The Republicans have Mike Falcon running unopposed, while there is a four-way Democratic primary. Dennis Baldinelli and David Polzin have not run serious campaigns, leaving 2006 candidate Judy Nerat running against Janis Burgess. Burgess has outraised Nerat, but both candidates are well-set for the primary. Expect Burgess to win in a squeaker.

District 23 (Southern Wayne County) Current Rep: Kathleen Law-3rd Term (D) Dem Baseline: 53.5%

There is a large field of Democrats running for this seat (five candidates). Gibraltar Mayor Beaubien has strong labor ties and has raised a large amount of funds, leaving him in the front-runner position.

On the Republican side, J. Garza is facing off against Neil DeBlois. Expect a dog-fight between the two candidates, with Garza winning in a tight match.

District 61 (Eastern Kalamazoo County) Current Rep: Jacob Hoogendyk-3rd Term (R) Dem Baseline: 44.5%

We have a great candidate in Julie Rogers, who is running again after nearly besting “Wacko-Jacko” in 2006. Rogers will be facing off against which ever Republican wins a three-way primary on Tuesday. All three Republicans are well-financed (Yardley has raised nearly all his money through personal wealth). Larry DeShazor is a moderate, and was recently endorsed by the Kalamazoo Gazette, which dismissed O’Brien’s efforts. Rogers would likely run well against conservative candidates, so let’s hope for a Yardley or O’Brien victory on Tuesday night.

District 101 (Benzie, Leelanau, Manistee, and Mason Counties) Current Rep: David Palsrok-3rd Term (R) Dem Baseline: 44.8%

In 2006 Democrat Dan Scripps gave Republican David Palsrok a run for his money gaining 48% of the vote. A bitter four-way Republican primary has created a divided party that will certainly need Saul to come in to refill the coffers on August 6. I expect Michael McManus to win the primary, setting up a nice bruising battle for November.

District 32 (Eastern Macomb County) Current Rep: Daniel Acciavatti-3rd Term (R) Dem Baseline: 46.1

The Dems have Jennifer Haase as their only candidate, who will face off against the winner of a four way GOP primary. Haase is extremely well-funded, and will likely face off against John Accavitti (the cousin of the current Representative).

District 75 (Eastern Grand Rapids) Current Rep: Robert Dean-1st Term (D) Dem Baseline: 50.6%

Dean faces no challengers in the Democratic primary, and waits to face the winner of the three-way GOP primary. The GOP establishment has appeared to back T.J. Carnegie, who is running a horrible campaign, and has little cash on-hand. Expect Dan Tietema to win this race, much to the GOP power brokers dismay, since they have never forgiven Tietema from bailing on running for Mayor of Grand Rapids in 2007. Whomever Dean faces, the GOP will need to provide serious funds to match Dean’s fundraising lead.

Most wacko GOP primary: District 72 (Southern suburbs of Grand Rapids) Current Rep: Glenn Steil, Jr.-3rd Term (R) Dem Baseline: 31.0%

The Democrats won’t win this seat, but watching the GOP beat each other up is grand. Meet Justin Amash-who left the brutal world of a cushy Grand Rapids law office to work at his family’s firm part-time to ensure campaigning time. Some of you might know Linda Steil, the wife of current Representative Glen “Light” Steil, Jr., who has no political experience and is working for her father-in-law’s business. The most competent GOP candidate is Ken Yonker, but leave it to the GOP to select a Ron Paul supporter like Amash.

Readers may note that many competitive seats (such as District 91) have no primary. For those, the state party steered challengers away from the ballot box, clearing the way for their preferred candidate.

Enjoy Tuesday night, and come back for some analysis after August 6.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Where Do the Dollars Go?

Brady raised an interesting question yesterday in response to my post listing State House races that I expect to be closely contested this fall given their basic political baselines and past voting history. Brady noted that the MDP often overlooks the candidates running for seats, and rather plow the money into races that they feel will be closed based on analysis similar to mine. Thus, many strong candidates get left in the dust, and our chances to increase our numbers declines.

That got me thinking about where the MDP sends its money for house races. I pulled up the Michigan Campaign Finance Network reports for 2002, 2004, and 2006 to see what races each party put their money. Before analyzing the data I suspected that both parties would protect incumbents first, and then spend money on flipping open seats. I suspected that independent expenditures (from both parties) would also follow this logic. Finally, candidates that raised little money on their own would not receive any financial support from the state parties.

I looked at the data from 2002, 2004, and 2006. I listed any race where there was an investment of over $15,000 from either party. I also note whether the seat was open or whether a party’s incumbent was defending the seat.

Figure 1: 2002 Races

Figure 1 shows the races that each party contested in 2002. The Republicans contested 18 seats, the Democrats 17. The Democrats contested 13 open seats and 3 Republican-held seats, while defending 1 seat. The GOP also contested 13 open seats and 1 Democratic-held seat, while defending 4 Republican seats. Of the 15 seats that each party actively contested, Democrats won 6, while the Republicans won 9.

Figure 2: 2004 Races

As shown in Figure 2, the 2004 election cycle saw an increase in contested seats. The Republicans spent serious money on 21 seats, while the Democrats challenged in only 11 races. This difference may be a result of the large GOP money advantage for the state level races in this cycle. Regardless, the Democrats contested 7 open seats and 2 seats held by the GOP, while defending 2 Democratic seats. The GOP challenged 13 open seats and 4 Democratic seats, while defending 4 Republican seats. However, in the 10 races contested by each party, the Democrats won 7 seats. Of the 10 seats that the Democrats did not contest, the GOP won 7.

Figure 3: 2006 Races

Figure 3 shows the total number of contested races decline in 2006. However, the Democrats increased the number of challenges, spending heavily in 17 races, while the GOP contested only 13 seats. Of the 17 races that the Democrats spent money on, 5 were open seats and 7 were held by the GOP, while 5 seats were defended. The GOP challenged 4 open seats and 2 Democratic seats, while defending 7 GOP seats. Of the 12 seats that both parties challenged, the Democrats won 8.

Figure 4: Updated Competitiveness Matrix

Figure 4 is a modified version of a chart in yesterday’s post. I have added the number of times each party has challenged a seat. For example, in House District 51, the Democrats have invested in the seat 3 times, while the GOP has invested in it twice. It quickly becomes apparent that neither party ever spends money defending or challenging seats in their Safe or Strong category. Hence, that gives the Democrats 31 worry free seats, and the Republicans 25. For an upset occur in these areas means that the challenger needs to be self-financing, as the party will pay for nothing.

Hence both parties put their attention on the 54 Leaning, Weak, and Swing Seats. The Democrats have historically spent a great amount of money on defending seats, with the exception of the 2006 cycle. However, even in this past cycle the party ignored a number of seats that almost sent Democratic, such as the 61st (Kalamazoo County) and the 78th (southern Berrien County). Depending on the candidates, I would recommend that the MDP pursue the following funding priorities:

Invest heavily in the offense. Picking up GOP seats will be never be better as in this cycle, with the Michigan GOP in money woes, and the traditional GOP national financial advantages are gone as the Obama fundraising machine threatens to overwhelm the opposition. Don’t spend money defending Weak Democratic seats that are not open, nor should much money be spent on 2nd term Swing seats held by our party. I highly doubt that the GOP will challenge the 57th and 83rd Districts that Democratic seats with Weak GOP baselines.

Focus instead on picking up GOP seats. The 62nd and 108th are prime pickup opportunities, as are Districts 1, 21, 24, and 51. These seats should receive priority in funding. Also, seek to pick up a number of Weak GOP seats, as Districts 32, 43, 61, and 101 are also tempting targets, with able candidates looking to run for these seats. Also consider scaring the GOP by putting some money in open GOP leaning Districts like 19, 70, and 78. Nothing beats scaring Saul into spending some additional money.

Defend on the outer edge. Depending on how the primary season shapes out, defend Districts 20, 64, 65, 84, and 107 stoutly. Swing Districts such as 37, 91, and 106 will also be hotly contested by the GOP, so be prepared to give a helping hand.

Let’s get a discussion started!

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Where We Stand

Having looked at the big picture for Michigan State House races a few weeks ago in two posts, where do we go from here? The first is that a series of articles at Michigan Liberal covering various seats will be written to help increase reader awareness of the state of races, especially primary contests. An informed progressive readership will be more effective come the fall, as the GOP machine starts roaring into action. The second is that the State House candidates will face unique challenges for their races, as each district is unique. For more insight on each race we’ll be talking to some knowledgeable political souls across the state.

At the moment, it appears that there are at least thirty five seats that might change party control when the 2009-2011 session of the Michigan State House convenes. Obviously, some seats are more likely to switch than others. Republican-held seats that have a status of being a “weak Democratic” seat are far more likely to switch than a Safe Democratic seat becoming Republican. Others may disagree (and please discuss this in the comments section of this post), but I firmly believe that open seats (generally seats being vacated by term-limited representatives in their third term) are the most vulnerable, followed by seats held by first-term representatives. Seats held by second-term representatives are generally the least likely to flip, although there are some examples of this happening in past election cycles.

http://i303.photobucket.com/albums/nn153/pbratt/PartisanStatusTemp.jpgFigure 1: Standard Template

Figure 1 represents the general template in order of vulnerability for a partisan switch.

Figure 2: Partisan Status Matrix

Figure 2 shown above lists the State House districts following this formula with the PVI included in parentheses. Partisan affiliation is provided for instances where a party controls a seat with a lean towards the other party. Affiliation is also provided for all swing seats.

As Figure 2 shows, the Democratic Party has good and bad news heading into the 2008 election. The good news is that 26 seats are Safe Democratic seats, while there are only 9 such seats for the Republicans. There is little chance the GOP will attempt to run serious campaigns against any of these candidates, and there are a number of seats with no Republican challenger this fall. There are also three seats that are weak Democratic seats the GOP currently control, and two are open seats (Districts 62 and 108). Both of these seats should be opportune places for the Democrats to pick up a seat. The third seat (District 97) might need to wait until 2010 for a spirited Democratic challenger. Finally, a number of swing seats controlled by the GOP (Districts 1, 21, 24, and 51) are ready for the taking, and a number of swing seats currently held by Republicans in their second term will open up in 2010 (Districts 30, 39, 71, 85, and 99).

However the State House Democrats have some vulnerable seats as well. Two Lean GOP seats are controlled by the Dems, and District 20 held by first-term Representative Marc Corriveau is especially open for Republican challenger. District 107 is also likely to experience some strong Republican opposition, although Saul might wait until 2010 for making a race of this seat. Democrats also control a number of Weak GOP seats. Three are held by first-term representatives (Districts 64, 65, and 84), and two are held by second-term representatives (Districts 57 and 83) that are less susceptible to a challenge. Finally, expect fierce GOP races against first-term Democrats holding Swing Districts (Districts 67, 75, and 91-although the feeble GOP recruiting efforts in the 75th are puzzling).

Based my research, I suspect that the thirteen seats listed below (in no particular order) will be the most fiercely contested in the general election this November. I do think that this toxic national environment will force Saul et al. on the defensive, although much depends on the candidates in each race.

1. 62nd-open
2. 108th-open
3. 84th
4. 64th
5. 65th
6. 91st
7. 37th-open
8. 1st-open
9. 51st-open
10. 106th-open
11. 37th-open
12. 21st-open
13. 24th-open
14. 20th


PS. For those interested in seeing the maps from the previous posts, see the following links:

Current Partisan Control:


District Status:
Map 2: Wayne County

Map 3: Macomb and Oakland Counties

Map 4: The Thumb

Map 5: Ann Arbor & Downriver

Map 6: Southwestern Michigan

Map 7: Western Michigan

Map 8: Northern Michigan and Upper Peninsula

Sunday, June 15, 2008

On a New Shore

This past Friday I finally accomplished on of my life dreams by walking the length of Manhattan down Broadway Avenue. This seventeen mile walk down a former Native American trail that became a colonial toll road before being incorporated into the 1811 New York City grid plan was a great way to see parts of the city that I would never have strolled by at any other time. One can see New York City through its different ages and stages, from quiet residential neighborhoods in Washington Heights and Inwood to massive commercial centers such as Midtown and SoHo. While four blisters greeted me the next morning, I am eagerly awaiting the next urban hike, as I hope to walk the length of Brooklyn via Flatbush Avenue at some point in the coming year.

Walking through 400 years of history on one path is an eye opener, especially in the seven mile stretch between 59th Street and Battery Park. Ending at the beginning of European settlement in 1624 at Battery Park was a unique experience, and I can only think about what millions of other people have thought upon landing at base of Manhattan over the last few centuries as they looked north. There is nothing like standing on a new shore and seeing a range of possibilities and challenges in full view.

The end of a Manhattan stroll at Battery Park represents an ending and beginning in my life as well. In April I finished my Masters of Urban Planning at the University of Michigan. My graduation from Michigan was preceded by Susan being offered a Lilly Residency in Ministry position at Bryn Mawr Presbyterian Church in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania. Susan accepted this two-year position, and two years after moving back to the Midwest from Princeton, New Jersey, we are headed back out to the land of dense populations and ill-plotted roads.

I loved my time back in the Midwest. Ann Arbor is a great town, and if any readers have not visited yet, the summer is the best season to experience this city. Rarely does a city of 100,000 have such fine cultural offerings, bookstores galore, and a well-plotted grid, but Ann Arbor does. The University of Michigan was a great place to learn and work, and I cannot say enough about how much I enjoyed walking to work or school each day from our apartment in the Old West Side neighborhood. It was great being back in Michigan as well, reestablishing political connections, visiting my hometown of Grand Rapids to see friends and family, and helping to build the family’s cottage on Lake Michigan.

When Susan and I were in Philadelphia last weekend apartment hunting, I experienced a range of emotions about moving back to the East Coast. I hate changes to my routine, and for all my traveling, do not appreciate life changes that bring me out of my comfort zone. I have warned others that I hate anything new for the first two weeks, and this has largely held true through my life. True to form, I was really disoriented in Philly for the first three days. However, after doing a number of informational interviews for potential jobs, I realized that a large part of my anxiety was job-related, and by talking to possible employers over the week, my fears were slowly replaced by a greater sense of confidence and assurance. Susan and I also found a nice row house that will be a great fit for us for the next two years in Philadelphia. If our four years of marriage have taught us anything, it is that 1) be flexible and supportive of each other, and 2) God always provides, even if it is not what you expected.

When I graduated from Calvin College in 2002, I did not expect to move five times in the next six years. I lived in Columbus for a year (2002-2003), Washington DC for another (2003-2004), Princeton for two (2004-2006), as well as Ann Arbor (2006-2008), and am now heading off to Bryn Mawr. One expects the college years to be ones of constant transition, but in my life, it seems that the years following Calvin have required more mobility. While constant moving has helped us keep the junk levels to a minimum, the uprooting does have its downside. White apartment walls lose their luster pretty quickly, as does the need to make new friends, find new haunts and walking routines, not to mention jobs.

Walking down Broadway helped to put some of this transition into perspective. While one might in different communities and in a different setting, the road always remains. I suspect that Susan and I will end the two year moving cycle, although I do not know where the next destination after Bryn Mawr lies. Then again, neither did thousands who landed at Battery Park on a new shore.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Michigan State House 2008-A Brief Overview

(Cross posted at Michigan Liberal and West Michigan Rising-PB)

As the state legislative campaigns wound down in late October 2006, most Michigan political experts expected Democrats to gain control of at least one chamber in state legislature. However, the money was on the Democrats picking up seats in the State Senate rather than the State House. After all, the Republican controlled state legislature had effectively gerrymandered many State House districts in 2001 that almost guaranteed GOP control over the next decade. The gerrymandering was less severe in the State Senate, which featured very competitive races in Oakland, Kent, Muskegon, and Wayne Counties. While much attention was focused on the gubernatorial battle between Governor Jennifer Granholm and challenger Dick DeVos, both parties also exerted strong efforts for legislative races.

Yet it was the State House where the Democrats gained a majority in November of
2006. Democratic lost two close challenges in the State Senate that preserved a slim 21-17 Republican edge for the next four years. In the State House Democrats pulled off upsets where pundits did not expect-such as Marc Corriveau’s upset of in House District 20 over Republican Rep. Mark Abbo (Northville and Plymouth). The Coalition for Progress funding helped carry two excellent Democratic challengers to victory in Jackson County (House Districts 64 and 65). Democrats pulled off a shocker in Kent County, pulling a long-standing Republican seat in Grand Rapids to their side, as Rev. Robert Dean bested Tim Doyle in an open seat battle. In Muskegon County Democratic Mary Valentine beat vulnerable Republican incumbent David Farhat, whom Republicans abandoned in mid-October in hopes of saving other seats. Democratic gains resulted in a 58 to 52 margin in the State House.

The past two years have been rocky for the Democratic majority. The chamber dealt with a number of tough budgetary choices that previous Republican legislatures had ignored for years. Republican anti-tax zealots sought to recall a number of Democratic state representatives (including newly elected members Dean and Corriveau), but fell well-short in their efforts. The last ditch effort to recall the Democratic Speaker of the House Andy Dillon likewise failed after recall leaders displayed neglect and fraud in their collection signatures in Dillon’s district (House District 17-Redford Township).

As the 2008 primary season begins in Michigan, be prepared for another heated campaign season. Despite the foundering fiscal fortunes of the Michigan Republican Party, the McCain campaign’s decision to seriously contest Michigan for the Presidential election will ensure that GOP GOTV efforts will be strong. Such efforts will embolden Republican state house candidates to run competitive campaigns to regain the majority in the State House. This article outlines the current status of State House races for Michigan Liberal readers, and breaks down the analysis in geographic regions. This analysis in indebted to Mark Grenber’s numbers, as well as the helpful thoughts of many other knowledgable political junkies in Michigan.

Michigan Political Background

Prior to the American Civil War, Michigan was a solidly Democratic state. Lewis Cass, a powerful Democratic politician from Michigan, served in a number of Democratic Administrations, as well as in United States Senate from 1845-1857 while also serving as the Democratic Presidential nominee in 1848. Michigan’s Democratic roots broke in the 1850s, as Yankee migrants from upstate New York and New England formed a new political alliance built on free labor, free soil, and free men. In 1854 this growing alliance of ex-Whigs and Democrats met in Jackson, Michigan to create the Republican Party, which promptly began dominating Michigan politics.

By 1860 the Republican Party had gained control of the governor’s mansion, as a long-standing alliance between businesses and ethno-cultural groups throughout the state profoundly shaped the state government for years to come. While Democrats made some inroads in the late 1880s and in 1910s, the Republican Party continued to dominate the state, as Progressive reformers worked within the party. Voter loyalty in Michigan was driven by Civil War era politics well into the early 20th century, and only with the arrival of the New Deal coalition in the 1930s did political identity begin to shift, as millions of new residents hailed for portions of the United States with Democratic allegiances. Republican control of the state legislature remained ironclad, as malapportionment insured that Republicans would have large majorities in both chambers. Such malapportionment did not end until the Supreme Court’s Baker v. Carr decision in 1962 mandated “one person, one vote” that required equally populated legislative districts.

Democratic Labor-Left Coalition and GOP Moderation: 1948-1982

Despite continued Republican malapportionment in the state legislature, a resurgent Democratic Party took over the Governor’s office in 1948. A collection of leading intellectuals and labor figures, including Mennen Williams, Walter Reuther, Gus Scholle, Hick Griffiths, and Neil Staeble developed and formed a new Democratic coalition that was built on the growing strength of labor unions and progressive intellectuals. This new coalition appealed to Democrats outside of the traditional Democratic stronghold in Detroit, and sought to build a state-wide Democratic Party. Mennen Williams was elected Governor in 1948, and remained in office until 1960, building a strong Democratic coalition that passed policies that strongly supported labor unions and progressive social policies. Democratic infighting after Williams retirement in 1962 led to Republican George Romney winning the 1962 gubernatorial race, ushering a twenty year period of GOP control of the executive branch. Romney, and his successor William Milliken, pushed good government reform measures that included a new state constitution that ended malapportionment of state legislative districts. With this reform, the state legislature became hotly contested between the two parties, ending 100 years of GOP dominance (see Figure 1).


Democratic divisions continued after 1962. Tensions between labor and liberal groups within the party boiled over in the late 1960s, as tensions over Vietnam and social issues allowed for Milliken to win close elections in the 1970s. The decline of the American automobile industry in the mid-1970s spelled further trouble for the Democratic Party, and the state’s worsening economic condition in the late 1970s ended a nearly thirty year period of genial political cooperation between the two parties in Lansing.

An Era of Partisan Identity: 1982-Present

With the end of William Milliken’s long tenure as Governor, a new era of partisan politics dawned in the state. By the late 1970s the Republican Party moved sharply to the right, as social conservatives and anti-tax activists succeeded in capturing control of the state party. While labor unions continued to decline, Democrats such as Jim Blanchard moved away from the party’s traditional allies, nurturing economic development while pushing through tax increases and user fees to balance a staggering budget deficit early in his tenure. Such political bravery resulted in sharp partisan divisions in the legislature, as anti-tax groups recalled two Democratic State Senators from Macomb County, long considered a base of Democratic strength. The politics of economic recovery and social tensions resulted in partisan divisions in the state legislature well through the 1980s and early 1990s, as partisan loyalties among traditional Democratic groups declined.

The election of John Engler in 1990 began a period of Republican domination of the state legislature. Republicans took control of the State House in 1994, and remained in control of the State Senate after the early 1980s, ensuring a receptive audience for Engler’s policy proposals. Engler was not shy about slashing state social programs, cutting taxes, and promoting GOP political domination through the state. Engler served until 2002, just as the good economic times in the state were ending.

Democrat Jennifer Granholm succeed Engler, and has navigated the state’s severe economic slump by working with a Republican controlled state legislature to find ways to balance the budget while preserving the state’s social net. The state’s finances were preserved by slashing social services, educational spending, and sharply reducing state aid to local governments. By the 2006 election, a sustained sour voting public responded to the state’s woes by reelecting Granholm and giving the Democrats control of the State House, while allowing the Republicans to hold a narrow margin in the State Senate. It is in this era of continued partisan division that the 2008 election should be understood.

Current Partisan Geography


Map 1: Current Partisan Status

Map 1 shows the current partisan makeup of the Michigan State House. Republicans have long dominated western and northern Michigan, while Democrats continue to hold strength in the Upper Peninsula and southeastern Michigan. Map 2 shows the Democratic dominance in metropolitan Detroit better.


Metropolitan Detroit holds the bulk of the Michigan State House seats. Democrats control 20 out of 23 seats in Wayne County (including 12 seats within the City of Detroit), while Republicans control 8 of 13 seats in Oakland County, and 5 of 9 in Macomb County. Hence, within Metropolitan Detroit, Democrats hold 33 of 45 seats.

Join me as we examine the political geographic of Michigan to better understand the 2008 Michigan State House races.

(Tomorrow I'll talk a bit about determining the partisan identification of various seats, and we’ll look at western Michigan in our first regional study.-PB)