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.

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