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.