Wednesday, December 23, 2009

A Festivus Miracle: State Senate and State House Candidate Filings and News Roundup

Thanks to a large number of news stories and candidates filing to run as your elected officials in 2010, here is an update bought to you by Festivus.

State Senate:

District 10 (Status: Leans Democratic)
This Macomb County district covering Sterling Heights, Utica, Clinton Township, and Roseville has attracted a candidate to replace term-limited Democratic Senator Michael Switalski (who is seemingly challenging US Representative Sander Levin in the 10th District). Paul Gieleghem (12/14/2009), currently is chairman of the Macomb County Board of Commissioners and represents District 19 (covering Central Township), has filed for the Democratic primary. Gieleghem, who served in the Michigan House from 1999 to 2005, might see some competition in the Democratic primary, including Representative Fred Miller and former Representative Frank Accavitti. No Republicans have yet filled for this seat, although Representative Tory Rocca and former Representative Sal Rocca might consider this race. Representative Kim Metlzer, another potential Republican candidate, chose to move from this district into the friendlier Republican territory of the 11th District (which shows you how strongly the GOP thinks they can win this seat).

District 11 (Status: Weak Republican)
Speaking of Kim Metlzer, she did file to run (12/16/2009) in the 11th District, which is currently represented by term-limited Republican Alan Sanborn. This northern Macomb County seat is safer GOP territory than the 10th District, which explains why Metzler risked being called a carpetbagger by potential Republican opponents (as discussed earlier at ML), which include former Representatives Leon Drolet, Jack Brandenburg, and Brian Palmer (none of whom have filled yet). No rumored Democratic candidate has emerged yet for this race.

District 12 (Status: Lean Republican)
In the past two weeks, two Republicans have filed to join the race to replace term-limited Senate Majority Leader Mike Bishop. Bishop aide Cooper Rizzo (12/11/2009 and Rochester Mayor Pro-Tem Stuard Bikson (12/17/2009) have joined State Representative Jim Marleau in the Republican primary. While the Republican primary field has filled up, no Democratic candidate has yet emerged, although Representative Tim Melton is considering the race.

District 20 (Status: Swing)
As expected by many, Representative Larry DeShazor filed (11/29/2009) to run for the State Senate a little more than a year after being elected. Media in the Kalamazoo area have been covering this race pretty well in these stories here and here. Many experts say that DeShazor is the front-runner in the GOP field, although his opponents Tonya Schuitmaker and Lorence Wenke might disagree. One can only hope that Republican Jack Hoogendyk will emerge once again and join the fun as well. DeShazor’s departure from the State House makes the 61st District an open seat to watch, with Democratic and Republican candidates lining up to run to replace him. Some other stories covering the 20th District race are [ here] and [ here].

District 35 (Status: Leans Republican)
In another primary filling up with contenders, long-time Wexford County Sherriff Gary Finstrom (12/2/2009) has joined Representatives Darwin Booher and Tim Moore in the Republican primary to replace term-limited Senator Michelle McManus in the 35th District. Roger Dunigan is the only declared Democratic candidate. The GOP primary will be a barn burner, with three strong candidates going at each other.

State House

District 2 (Status: Safe Democratic)
Scott Benson (12/11/2009) is the first candidate to file in the 2nd District to replace Democratic Representative LaMar Lemmons Jr. Expect other candidates, including LarMar Lemmons IV, to run in the Democratic primary. No Republican candidate has filed.

District 4 (Status: Safe Democratic)
In a clear sign that State Representative Coleman Young Jr. is running for the 1st State Senate seat, Mary Sheffield (12/7/2009) and Marcus Brice (12/14/2009) have both filed to run for the 4th State House District. Sheffield previously ran in the 2008 Democratic primary for the 7th State House District, where she seventh with 3.4% of the total vote.

District 30 (Status: Swing)
Held by term-limited Republican Tory Rocca, this swing seat covers the northern portion of Sterling Heights and Utica. Republican businessman Jeff Farrington (12/14/2009) will join attorney David Bocek in the Republican primary. The winner will likely face Macomb County Commissioner Ken Lampar in a race that will be sharply contested by both parties.

District 54 (Status: Safe Democratic)
Want to meet a candidate? Democratic candidate Lonnie Scott wants to talk with you about state politics, according to []

District 57 (Status: Swing)
An article from the [ Daily Telegram] looks at how the Democratic and Republican primaries are shaping up in the race to replace term-limited Democratic Representative Dudley Spade.

District 60 (Status: Safe Democratic)
With current Democratic Representative Robert Jones running for the open 20th State Senate seat, another candidate has filed to join Kalamazoo City Commissioner Sean McCann in the Democratic primary. Recent Western Michigan University graduate Chris Praedel (12/14/2009) will also run for this [ seat].

No Republican has yet filed for this seat, but depending on the time of day and the weather, [ James Tyler] will likely file as a Democrat/Republican/Green/RonPaulite/Misc candidate.

District 68 (Status: Safe Democratic)
Facing incumbent Democratic Representative Joan Bauer hasn’t kept Republican Kyle Haubrich from filing (12/8/2009). Haubrich, a self-proclaimed [ tea bagger], is currently a law student at Cooley Law School (class of 2011). Expect a tough race for Haubrich.

District 71 (Status: Swing)
Another candidate files to replace term-limited Representative Rick Jones, this time Justin Heany (12/10/2009). A teacher at Grand Ledge High School, Heany will join Bob Robinson in the Democratic primary. Whoever emerges from either the Republican or Democratic primaries will face off in a must-watch race to hold this swing district.

District 89 (Status: Safe Republican)
John McNeil (12/15/2009) has filed to run in the Republican primary, joining declared candidate Brandon Hall. Hall has had a rocky few months, being charged with stealing money from an American Cancer Society fundraiser in early November as covered in the [ Grand Haven Tribune] and the [ Muskegon Chronicle].

Hall has pleaded not guilty, but a looming trial is not likely to help his candidacy. Republican businessman David Miller has also announced his candidacy according to an article in the [ Grand Haven Tribune].

District 92 (Status: Safe Democratic)
With the entrance of candidate Steve Markel (12/3/2009), there are now six candidates in the Democratic primary. This screams for a future post just on the 92nd District. A slightly dated [ Muskegon Chronicle] story examines the 91st and 92nd District primaries.

District 107 (Status: Leans Republican)
This swing district covering Chippewa, Mackinac, Emmet, and a portion of Cheboygan Counties is a seat that the Republicans are itching to pickup with Democratic Representative Gary McDowell term-limited from running again. Chippewa County Commissioner (District 7) Richard Timmer (12/12/2009) has filed to join Bob Carr in the Democratic primary field. As of now, only Frank Foster, son of a prominent contractor, has filed for the Republican nomination.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

December State Senate and State House Candidate Filings

With the last month of 2009 upon us, it is time to take stock at recent candidate filings for the State House and State Senate. It will be interesting to see the financial numbers released by campaigns once 2010 begins, but for now we’ll have to do with rumors and potential candidacies.

State Senate

District 18 (Status: Safe Democratic)
As long suspected by many, State Representative Pam Byrnes has filed to run for the 18th State Senate District (11/25/2009). Byrnes’ entrance into the race creates a primary between her and fellow Representative Rebekah Warren. This race has been covered ably by the [ Ann Arbor Chronicle]. While this will be a primary to watch, the winner will be heavily favored in the November election in this safe Democratic district. While Ann Arbor locals might have a better idea of the current odds on favorite for this race, my guess is that Byrnes strong support of Andy Dillon’s agenda will throw organized labor into Warren’s camp, a sure plus in a heavily Democratic district.

District 29 (Status: Swing)
While Hildenbrand’s entrance (11/10/2009) into the 29th District (Grand Rapids and Kentwood) race was covered [ earlier], another recent story in the Grand Rapids Press provides further details on the [ race].

No other Republican candidates have announced, although perennial Republican candidate Dan Tietema might run in the GOP primary. While at the moment no Democratic candidates have filed, State Representative Robert Dean has announced to supporters that he will run, while Grand Rapids City Commissioner David LaGrand and former State Representative Michael Sak are other potential Democratic candidates. Regardless of whether Sak enters the race, I consider LaGrand to be the front-runner in the Democratic primary.

District 30 (Status: Safe Republican)
This safe Republican seat covering Ottawa County is being vacated by Senator Wayne Kuipers, and as expected, State Representative Arlan Meekhof has filed to replace him (11/23/2009). No word yet on potential GOP rivals, although Bill Huizinga might consider leaving the 2nd Congressional District GOP primary to run for this seat. No Democratic candidates have yet surfaced.

District 31 (Status: Swing)
State Representative Jeff Mayes (96th District covering part of Bay County) has filed to replace Jim Barcia, who is term-limited from running for this district covering Arenac, Bay, Huron, Sanilac, and Tuscola Counties (11/20/2009). Mayes filing is covered in the [ Bay City News]. While this is a swing seat, Mayes does not yet face Democratic or Republican opposition. It is expected that former Republican Representatives Steve Ehardt and Mike Green will run for the seat.

State House

District 4 (Status: Safe Democratic)
Edgar Vann III (11/19/2009) has filed a primary challenge against second-term Representative Colman Young II. Vann is the son of Second Ebenezer Baptist Pastor Edgar Vann II, who is a strong supporter of disgraced former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick, received funding from the City of Detroit for his UNITE nonprofit. This could be an interesting primary.

District 8 (Status: Swing)
This safe Detroit based seat is being vacated by term-limited Representative George Cushingberry, and Marygrove College Adjunct Professor Leslie Love has filed to run (11/3/2009). James Heath and Mikal Crawford are also expect to run for the Democratic nomination.

District 31 (Status: Weak Democratic)
With current Democratic Representative Fred Miller term-limited, Marilyn Lane has filed to run (12/01/2009) in this Macomb County seat. Republican Dan Tollis and Democrats Commissioners Kathy Tocco and Carey Torrice are also rumored to be interested.

District 33 (Status: Weak Republican)
Second-term Republican Kim Meltzer is being challenged by Republican County Commissioner William Revoir (11/10/2009) in this Macomb County seat. A bloody GOP primary could make this slight Republican seat a pickup opportunity for the Democrats, however, Meltzer is likely running for the open 11th State Senate District seat.

District 54 (Status: Safe Democratic)
Current Democratic Representative Alma Wheeler Smith is term-limited (and running for Governor), and Michael White is the second candidate to file for this seat (11/14/2009). Other Democrats are expected to join White and Lonnie Smith in the Democratic primary.

District 67 (Status: Swing)
Two Republican candidates have filed to challenge second-term Democratic Representative Barb Byrum in this swing Ingham County district. Pastor Jeff Hall (11/13/2009) and Ingham County Republican Party Vice Chair Jeff Oesterle (11/16/2009) are looking at a primary. Given that Byrum might choose to run for the 23rd State Senate seat vacated by Democrat Gretchen Whitmer (who is running for Attorney General), this might be a seat that the Democrats will find a challenge to retain.

District 79 (Status: Leans Republican)
I missed this filing earlier this summer. Fred Upton aide Al Pscholka is joined in the Republican primary by Paul "Revere" Peterson, a self-proclaimed tea-bagger. Peterson announced his candidacy on, and is clearly angling for the tea-bagger vote. Check out his blog for some [ laughs]. With a divisive Republican primary a strong possibility, a Democratic candidate stands to gain in the general election. 2008 Democratic candidate Jim Hahn is rumored to be considering another run at the seat.

District 83 (Status: Weak Republican)
This Sanilac County district is a swing seat that is being vacated by term-limited Democratic Representative John Espinoza. Republican businessman Justin Faber is the first candidate to file (11/23/2009); expect many other Democrats and Republicans to enter.

District 91 (Status: Swing)
This swing Muskegon County district is being vacated by Democratic Representative Mary Valentine, who is running for the State Senate District 34. Republican Ken Punter has already filed for this seat, and is joined by Ben Gillette, who is closely tied to the Muskegon County Democratic leadership. Democrat Branden Gemzer (11/22/2009) is joining Gillette in the Democratic primary. Gemzer is an Iraq War vet and a former candidate for Egelston Township Supervisor.

District 92 (Status: Strong Democratic)
With Sean Mullally, Charles Nash, Larry McNeill, Marcia Hovey-Wright in the race for this safe Democratic seat in Muskegon County, the addition of Democrat Scott Nesbit (11/14/2009) further crowds this race.

District 97 (Status: Swing)
This swing seat covering Clare, Gladwin, and Arenac Counties is being vacated by Republican Tim Moore. Democrats Jason Liptow and Mark Lightfoot have entered the race, while Republicans Joel Johnson and Kim Emmons are joined by George Gilmore (11/25/2009).

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Analysis of the 75th State House District

(This post is an abbreviated bit of analysis conducted for a Democratic State House campaign-PB)

75th State House District

The 75th State House District covers the eastern portion half of Grand Rapids. The district has existed in a slightly modified form since 1972, with modifications occurring after each census redistricting. Despite Grand Rapids’ image as a conservative bastion, Democrats represented the district until the mid-1980s, with Jelt Sietsma, Steven Monsma, and John Otterbacher serving state house districts that covered eastern Grand Rapids during this period. In the mid-1980s as Grand Rapids became increasingly conservative, Republican Vern Ehlers (1983-1985) and Richard Bandstra (1985-1995) successfully held the eastside Grand Rapids seat, which remained in the GOPs hands during the 1990s and early 2000s under William Byl (1995-2001) and Jerry Kooiman (2001-2007). The republicans who represented the 75th District were a largely different breed than the largely suburban Michigan Republican Party (MRP), claiming moderation in economic issues, promoting urban revitalization, and public education. This tradition ended with the 2006 election, in which the GOP ran social conservative Tim Doyle for the seat. Doyle, who in tandem with the MRP, ran a race-baiting campaign against Democratic candidate Robert Dean, was stunningly upset Doyle by a 51% to 46% margin. Dean handily won reelection in 2008 in a strongly Democratic year (see the 2008 Democratic Baseline in Map 1), besting Republican candidate Dan Tietema with 59% of the vote.

While the Democratic resurgence in recent years is in large part due to the changing political environment on the state and national level, the demographics of the district have also been changing. The growing Hispanic population on the southwest side of the city, the revitalization of Cherry Hill and Eastown, the slow decline of the 1st ring suburbs on the south side Grand Rapids and Wyoming, and the fading of the CRC political/religious presence in the Third Ward of the city has changed Grand Rapids over the past decade, and the full implications of this transformation will only be visible with the tabulation of the 2010 Census.

General Vote Analysis: 1998-2008

Using election data provided by the Michigan Secretary of State, we can see the overall number of registered voters and actual voters in the 75th District in Table 1 below:

Like the rest of the United States, voter turnout in the 75th is much higher on Presidential election years than in gubernatorial election years, with 71% and 70% of registered voters turning out in 2004 and 2008, respectively, while 52% and 58% turning out in 2002 and 2006. At the same time, the number of registered voters has increased steadily in the 75th district, with more than 6,000 new voters being added to the rolls between 2002 and 2008. While there is undoubtedly some amount of “deadwood” in the voter registration files, the increase in registered voters (especially in the urban core of the district) is strongly correlated with Democratic gains in the district.

Table 2 examines the two-party vote for the Presidential, Gubernatorial, State House, and Democratic Baseline from 1998 to 2008. The 1998, 2002, and 2006 elections results on the top, and the 2000, 2004, and 2008 results below to better distinguish between the presidential and gubernatorial year results. The Democratic and Republican baseline is determined by averaging the statewide Board of Education races for each party. From Table 2 we can see that the 75th has had a Democratic majority since 2004, although the Democratic State House percentage has lagged behind the Democratic baseline every year, with the exception of the 2002 election, a sign of candidate quality (or lack of) for each party. Even in the 1998 and 2002 elections, two years which were largely considered horrible for the Michigan Democratic Party, the district became increasingly competitive in each. The undervote for the State House candidate (where a vote selects a presidential or gubernatorial candidate but fails to cast a ballot for the State House candidate) remains remarkably consistent between 1998 and 2008, falling between 95% and 97% (with the exception of 1998, when many Democratic voters avoided voting for Geoffrey Fieger out of disgust). The drop off in the number of voters between presidential and gubernatorial election was 25% in 2002 (from 2000) and 19% in 2006, suggesting that the drop in 2010 will likely fall within this range. Thus, between 33,239 and 36,063 75th District voters will likely vote in the gubernatorial contest, and 31,577 to 35,341 will cast their ballots for the State House race. Therefore, while turnout will likely down compared to the 2008 presidential election, the number of voters will be higher than in 2002 and will probably be around the 2006 total.

The Changing Political Regions of the 75th District, 1998-2008

To better understand the potential 2010 electorate, it is best to understand the 75th State House District as having a distinct set of political regions. The six political regions of the district have been formed over time, and are motivated by different political ideologies. The regions are:

1. Urban Core (Precincts 3-2, 3-3, 3-4, 3-17, 3-21, 3-23, 3-32, 3-45)
These precincts are overwhelmingly African American in population, and largely are located in the 3rd Ward. In 2008 the Urban Core accounted for 21% of the registered voters in the 75th, and 18% of the actual voters.

2. City Core (Precincts 2-4, 2-5)
These two City Core precincts are upper class neighborhoods that are similar in many respects to the Heritage Hill neighborhood to the west, and are largely white ethnicity. Like the Urban Core, the City Core was largely built before the 1890s, and is relatively dense in population. The City Core accounts for 4% of registered voters, and 3% of actual voters.

3. North Streetcar (Precincts 2-20, 2-48)
The North Streetcar neighborhood dominates the 2nd Ward, although only two precincts fall in the 75th District. Built between 1890 and 1920, this neighborhood has historically been working-class and Catholic, remaining largely ethnic white in population. The North Streetcar neighborhood accounts for 3% of the registered voters and actual voters.

4. South Streetcar (Precincts 1-41, 1-42, 1-43, 1-44, 2-1, 2-2, 3-1, 3-2, 3-9, 3-10, 3-31, 3-42, 3-43, 3-44, 3-48)
Covering a large portion of the 75th District, the South Streetcar neighborhood accounted for 24% of registered and 25% of actual voters in the 2008 election. Like the North Streetcar neighborhood, it was largely built between 1890 and 1920, although portions of Alger Heights were developed up to 1940. Historically the heartland of the Christian Reformed Church, this neighborhood has experienced substantial ethnic resorting in the past twenty years, as neighborhoods such as Garfield Park and Oakdale have become increasingly diverse as many CRC residents have moved to the suburban portions of Grand Rapids and Kentwood. This portion of the 75th District provided much of the local Republican leadership after the 1970s until recent years.

5. 1st Ring Suburbs (Precincts 2-6, 2-34, 2-37, 2-38, 2-43, 3-5, 3-38, 3-51, 3-55, 3-57)
The first ring suburbs covering eastern Grand Rapids were largely built between 1945 and 1970, and exhibit many similarities to the suburbs built largely at the same time in Kentwood and Wyoming. This neighborhood provides 23% of registered and actual voters in the district.

6. 2nd Ring Suburbs (Precincts 2-44, 2-45, 2-46, 2-47, 2-48, 3-7, 3-8, 3-38, 2-53, 2-54, 2-56)
Like the 1st-ring suburbs, these neighborhoods were annexed into the city of Grand Rapids in the late 1950s and early 1960s, and remain the most Republican and affluent neighborhood within the city. This neighborhood remains overwhelmingly white, is high-income, and is low-density in land use. Consisting of 26% of the district’s registered voters, it accounts for 28% of the actual voters, a sign of high voter turnout.

See Map 2 for a better picture of these neighborhoods in the 75th District.
Map 2

While the Urban and City Core neighborhoods have been Democratic strongholds even in 1998, it was only in the 2004 Presidential election that a Presidential or State House candidate was able to carry other neighborhoods as well (North and South Streetcar). By 2008 the Democratic edge was so strong in the75th that Obama carried every neighborhood with the exception of the 2nd Ring Suburbs, a feat that Governor Granholm likewise accomplished in 2006. While the Democratic Baseline experienced a similar climb after 2004, Representative Dean has trailed behind, especially in 1st and 2nd Ring suburbs in the 2nd Ward. Indeed, Dean’s victory in 2006 came largely from his breakthrough in the South Streetcar neighborhood, in which he cut down the GOP vote total significantly. While Dean performed better in 2008 against a lackluster and underfunded GOP candidate, he trailed in the 2nd Ward Suburbs, while performing slightly better in the 3rd Ward. Still, in both 2006 and 2008 he ran behind the Democratic Baseline and behind Obama and Granholm significantly. The Google Table linked below shows the vote breakdown by region in the 75th:

The six regions of the 75th all experience a drop in voter turnout when comparing presidential versus gubernatorial election cycles. The drop in turnout is generally around 20%, with the exception of the Urban Core (38% in 2002 and 25% in 2006) and the City Core (54% in 2002 and 30% in 2006). While the decline in turnout occurs in all regions, turnout increased between 2002 and 2006 versus to a relatively unchanged turnout for the presidential elections of 2004 and 2008. The Area column in Appendix 2 shows what percentage of the electorate each region provided.

2010 Analysis: A Continued Democratic Edge

The Democratic strategy for wining the 75th quickly becomes apparent when examining the district by political region. Win the City and Urban Core with at least 75%-80% of the total vote, win a majority of the South and North Streetcar neighborhoods, hold at least 45% of 1st Ring Suburbs, and win at least 40% of the 2nd Ring Suburbs. In turn the Republican strategy is to win at least 65% of the vote in the 2nd Ring Suburbs and 55% of the vote in the 1st Ring Suburbs, keep the Democratic share of the City and Urban Core under 75%, and win a majority in the North and South Streetcar neighborhoods. Democratic candidates have won with this strategy since 2006, and even began inching close to success in 2004. In contrast, the GOP has been unable to replicate its winning strategy since the 2002 election, especially in the South Streetcar region, where they have been unable to win over 55% of the vote since 1998.

The addition of 6,000 voters since the 2002 election spells further problems for the GOP. While a number of these new voters are located in the 2nd Ring Suburbs (19%), 40% hail from the Urban Core, while another 20% come from the South Streetcar neighborhood that has swung solidly to the Democratic column since 2004. As the GOP base has declined in the 75th, the rapid growth of the Democratic voting population points to further difficulties in the GOP regaining this seat, even in an open seat contest.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Michigan Senate District 20: DeShazor (R) Is In

While he hasn't filed to make it official yet, Deshazor is telling folks he is in. From WKZO (AM radio):

KALAMAZOO -- Portage State House Representative Larry DeShazor is the latest to jump into the race for the State Senate…its just that he hasn’t quite made it official yet.

We heard the rumor and asked him if that was his intention when he appeared at Governor Granholm’s appearance at WMU on Thursday. He said yes! He says the formal announcement will come in January.

State House Rep. Tonya Schuitmaker and former State Rep. Lorence Wenke have already announced that they will also be running for the seat now filled by Dr. Tom George, who is term limited.

So far former Kalamazoo Mayor and current State House Rep. Robert Jones is the only Democrat vying for the seat in the 20th Senate District.

The primary will be next August and the General Election in November.

As posted in an earlier diary, here is a map of the 20th District:

Perhaps Jacob Hoogendyk is going to announce as well? More later on this, but one should note that House District 61 is once again an open seat, and a potential pickup for the Dems

Thursday, November 12, 2009

November State Senate and State House candidate filings

Can you believe that we are two weeks from Thanksgiving? On that note, here is the November State Senate and State House candidate update, that you can talk about with your relatives around the dinner table when you are tired of watching the Lions lose.

State Senate

District 2 (Status: Safe Democratic)

With Martha Scott term-limited, this safe Democratic seat is open and waiting for candidates. Olivia Boykins (10/28/2009), director of the Michigan Coalition for Human Rights, is the first candidate to file for the seat. Expect numerous other candidates to also file, including Representatives Lemmons and Johnson. Although this seat is the most conservative of the Detroit districts (largely because of the Grosse Point suburbs are included in this northeastern Detroit district), don’t expect a Republican to win this seat.

District 8 (Status: Safe Democratic)

Covering working-class suburbs in southern Wayne County, this safe Democratic seat is currently represented by term-limited Raymond Basham. Former State Representative Hong Yung Hopgood (10/23/2009) is the first to file, and will likely be facing a Democratic primary.

District 14 (Status: Safe Democratic)

Another solidly Democratic seat (covering southeastern Oakland County), this race has attracted two Democratic candidates to replace term-limited Gilda Jacobs. Oakland County Commissioner Dave Coulter (10/13/2009) and Representative Vince Gregory (10/15/2009), who current serves the 35th State House District, both have filed for this seat. With the only competitive contest for this seat coming in the Democratic primary, expect more Democrats to eye this seat.

District 16 (Status: Strong Republican)

Currently represented by term-limited Republican Cameron Brown, this rural district covers four southern counties (St. Joseph, Branch, Hillsdale, and Lenawee). While the district has a Republican lean, former Democratic State Representative Doug Spade (10/12/2009) is running for the seat. [ seat].

Spade, who became the first Democrat to represent Lenawee County in a generation by winning a stunner in 1998, is certainly a recruiting coup for the Senate Democratic leadership. His Republican opponent, and former fellow State House representative, is Bruce Caswell. While Caswell might be considered the front runner for this seat, this is certainly a place were the GOP doesn’t want to have to spend money or time. Keep an eye on this seat.

District 25 (Status: Weak Republican)

This district (covering Lapeer and St. Clair Counties) has always been a tease for the Democrats, who spend serious money in 2002 in an attempt to prevent Republican Senator Jud Gilbert from winning the seat. With Gilbert term-limited, the Democrats will likely work hard to elect Jason Davis (10/25/2009). Davis might be aided by the GOP primary battle between Representatives Lauren Hager and Phil Pavlov, which is certainly expected to be heated.

District 26 (Status: Weak Democratic)

Democratic Senator Deborah Cherry is vacating this seat due to term-limits, which presents an opportunity for the Republicans to win this weak Democratic district covering eastern Genesee and northern Oakland Counties. Thankfully for the Democrats, a Republican primary is now a reality, with former Representative Fran Amos (09/12/2009) facing off against David Roberston, who filed earlier this year. This will be an interesting race, and given his record of winning close races (both in the primary and general), I’d give the early edge to Robertston. Expect Democratic Representative Jim Slezak to also run for this seat.

District 29 (Status: Swing)

This Grand Rapids-based district has received its first official candidate: State Representative Dave Hildenbrand (11/10/2009), with the GR Press story [ here]. Hildenbrand currently represents a small portion of the district in the State House (some rural townships and a small portion of Grand Rapids), and while he has a sizable financial warchest, he is considered by many to be too conservative for the district. Representative Robert Dean and Grand Rapids City Commissioner David LaGrand have both expressed an interest, while former Representative Mike Sak, remains mum about his options.

District 34 (Status: Swing)

No new organization has yet covered this, but former Republican State Representative David Farhat (10/01/2009) has filed to run against Representative Goeff Hansen for the Republican nomination as previously posted on my []. This primary will pit a Muskegon County candidate versus one hailing from the rural portion of the district, which will be an interesting contest. Democratic State Representative Mary Valentine is running from the Democratic nomination, and will likely present a tough candidate for the winner of the GOP primary.

State House

District 5 (Status: Safe Democratic)

Hodari Brown (10/28/2009) has filed a primary challenge against second-term Representative Bert Johnson. Don’t expect much of a challenge here.

District 30 (Status: Swing)

Term-limited Republican Tory Rocca leaving this swing district covering Sterling Heights and Utica, and this will be a seat that is targeted by both parties. Attorney David Bocek (10/20/2009) has filed to run in the Republican primary, and is currently facing no opposition. The winner of the GOP primary will face Democratic Macomb County Commissioner Ken Lampar, who also unopposed.

District 35 (Status: Safe Democratic)

With current Democratic Representative Vincent Gregory running for the 14th State Senate District, two candidates have emerged to replace him. Eric Coleman (10/03/2009) and Rudolph Hobbs (10/28/2009) are both looking to represent this extremely safe Democratic seat.

District 50 (Status: Strong Democratic)

Democratic Representative Jim Slezak is likely running for the 26th State Senate seat, as shown by Gerald Masters (10/23/2009) filing to run for this seat. No Republican has yet filed to run for this seat.

District 53 (Status: Safe Democratic)

Current Democratic Representative Rebekah Warren running for the 18th State Senate district, this Ann Arbor-based district is open seat. Washtenaw County Commissioner Jeff Irwin (11/01/2009) has filed to run for this seat, and joins Ned Staebler in the Democratic primary. Irwin appears to be supported by the Warren-Smith faction of the Ann Arbor Democratic Party, although it remains to be seen whether Ann Arbor Mayor John Hieftje runs for this seat.

District 64 (Status: Swing)

After a humiliating loss to Republican Mike Nofs in this month’s special election for the 19th State Senate district, Marty Griffin announced that he would run again for his State House seat. He’s gotten one challenger thus far, as Jackson County Commissioner Earl Poleski (10/18/2009) is seeking the Republican nomination.

District 75 (Status: Swing)

With rumors building that Democratic Representative Robert Dean is running for the 29th State Senate District, Republicans are calculating this open seat might be easier to win. Republican attorney and tea-bagger activist Jordan Bush (10/29/2009) has filed to run for this seat (For a deeper analysis of this race, check out WMR-pb). Bush will likely find winning this increasingly Democratic seat hard to win, especially should County Commissioner Brandon Dillion seek the Democratic nomination. Bush might also face a primary contest from a moderate Republican like Attorney Chris Meyer, who narrowly lost the GOP nomination in 2006.

District 79 (Status: Leans Republican)
With Representative John Proos term-limited (and running for the 21st Senate District seat, Fred Upton aide Al Pscholka (10/13/2009) has thrown his hat into the ring for the GOP nomination. He’ll likely be joined by Berrien County Commissioner Jon Hinkelman. While this district has long-been a safe GOP district, over the past four election cycles it has become increasingly Democratic. 2008 Democratic candidate Jim Hahn is rumored to be considering another run at the seat.

District 80 (Status: Weak Republican)

This district has never seen a spirited Democratic campaign, despite Van Buren County favoring higher ticket Democratic candidates over the past three election cycles. With the filing of Van Buren County Commissioner Tom Erdmann (10/30/2009), this seat has clearly moved onto the radar screen for the MDP, and represents a unique opportunity to pickup a long-term GOP seat. While Republican businesswoman Shelley Hartmann has filed to run, expect a GOP primary with Van Buren County Sheriff Dale Gribler likely entering the field as well.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Two great policy books

I want to give a shout out to two great policy books I recently finished reading in the past two weeks-T.R. Reid's The Healing of America and George Shultz and John Shoven's Putting Our House in Order. Both are non-ideological, and call for a transformation of America's entitlement programs and health care management systems.

Putting our House in Order examines the country's long-term fiscal danger zones-social security and health care reform. The authors (both affiliated with Stanford University and the Hoover Institution) give a remarkably even handed analysis on the long-term challenges facing Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. The authors examine policy proposals given by previous experts and policy groups (both liberal and conservative) and provide incremental and common sense policy proposals that partisans in both parties can agree to. Putting Our House in Order is a well-written book that does not leave the reader lost in a dense maze of policy proposals, but rather helps inform and educate interested readers.

The Healing of America is written by Washington Post correspondent T.R, Reid who asks why the United States is the only first world country to not provide health care to all its citizens. Reid helpfully notes that the United States has four health care systems, the first being the Veterans Administration (similar to Great Britain with government ownership of hospitals)-and one that my very conservative Republican grandfather used and loved, despite his dislike for socialized medicine); Medicare (similar to Canda's universal coverage program, and used and loved by my very conservative grandmother who thought FDR was a socialist); private insurance (similar to Germany, France, the Netherlands, and Switzerland's system, although these countries much like Mitt Rommey's inspired Massachusetts program, require all citizens to have health insurance), and no insurance coverage that 48 million Americans current hold (like most third world nations). With his bum right shoulder, Reid explores health-care systems around the world in an effort to understand different health care systems, and finds an array of possible policy options that Americans of all political stripes can love. Personally, I'm in favor of mandated insurance coverage for all Americans, with the government providing vouchers for all citizens to obtain basic health care coverage and to provide catastrophic coverage as well, indexed to income and age. That said, I think that given the experience of Medicare, the government would be better off providing extensive regulation and oversight of private health insurance, setting a level of minimum coverage that insurers much provide to all citizens, regardless of income, and a stronger push toward preventive health care to cut long-term costs. Seriously, read Reid's work-is an excellent book.

Finally, for those who haven't read it yet, David Goldhill's Atlantic article is a must read regarding America's current health insurance system.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

David Hildenbrand (R) files to run for the 29th State Senate District

Finally one of my predictions came true: Republican Representative David Hildenbrand is running for the 29th State Senate district. His filing papers are located on the Michigan Secretary of State page here:

I'll post more later, but this is big news. Hidenbrand currently represents the 86th District, which can be view on the map below.

Given that only 17 of the 133 precincts in the State Senate seat are in Hildenbrand's state house district, he'll have a big task ahead of him. Of course, he has ample funds in his campaign warchest, so that will certainly assist his efforts.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

In which I appear on Two Guys Named Joe

Chatted with two Guys Named Joe regarding Michigan State Senate races. Listen to the show here:

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

A Closer look at Ward 1 and Ward 3 GR Commission Races

I went through the precinct level data and two things stood out in both races: turnout and regions.

In the First Ward, Shaffer did well in the two affluent corners of the distrct- the "West Suburbs" portion of the west side that were annexed after 1959, and in the streetcar suburbs that I call Garfield Park South (south of Burton and west of Division). Shaffer kept Jendrasiak under 45% in these areas, and turned out voters at a rate above 15%. In Garfield Park South and the West Suburbs voters turned out at a rate well above the district average of 13%.

In contrast, Jendrasiak ran well in his 1st Ward base on the west side (east of Covell Street on the west side). However, turnout was extremely poor in his base, generally pulling in the single digits, and the Hispanic neighborhoods south of Wealthy and west of Division turnout at an even lower rate (despite generally supporting Jendrasiak).

In the 3rd Ward Townsend ran well in the south suburban neighborhoods annexed after 1950 (east of Plymouth and south of 28th Street- with the exception of Precinct 4 located behind Centerpointe Mall), and also did well in Alger Heights. White did well in the Urban Core of the 3rd Ward north of Burton and west of Plymouth. Like Jendrasiak White was plagued with low turnout in his base, but his saving grace was that Townsend was unable to bring out her voters at a markely higher rate in her core precincts. Thus, she failed where Shaffer suceeded, and that kept White on the City Commission.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

In the 2008 cycle the Michigan Democratic Party emerged victorious for the second straight election, picking up nine seats to bring their seat total to 67 and helping President Barack Obama win the state in a landslide. However the 2010 cycle appears to be challenging for the party; defend its hold on the executive branch and the lower legislative chamber, while picking up the upper chamber, a victory that has eluded the party since 1984.

To better determine which seats in both the House and Senate will likely be targeted by each party, I’ve replicated research I did in the last election cycle on the funding that the MDP and the MRP gives to various candidates in the State House. I used Michigan Campaign Finance Network reports for 2002, 2004, 2006, and 2008 to see on 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 listed any race where there was an investment of over $15,000 from either party, and whether the seat was open or whether a party’s incumbent was defending the seat.

State House
Figure 1: 2002 State House 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 State House 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 State House 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: 2008 State House Races

Figure 4 shows the total number of contested races in 2008. 31 races were seriously contested altogether; however, of these seats the Republicans contested 20, while the Democrats spent on 21. Of the 20 seats the GOP spent on, 14 were open seats, 3 were held by Republican incumbents, and 3 defended by Democratic incumbents. The Democrats challenged 14 open seats, defended 6 incumbents and challenged 1 Republican incumbent. Of the 10 seats that both parties challenged, the Democrats won 7. Interestingly, the Democrats spent large amounts of funds defining two relatively safe incumbents, Speaker of the House Andy Dillon (34% of his total funding was from the MDP) in District 17 and Mike Simpson in District 65 (55% of his total funding was from the MDP).

Over the past 4 election cycles, only 6 incumbents have fall to challengers. Two Democrats have lost (1 in 2002 and 1 in 2004), while 4 Republicans fell (1 in 2004 and 3 in 2006). Of the 47 races contested by each party between 2002 and 2008, the overwhelming majority have been open seats. All these seats are also Weak Democratic or Republican or Swing Seats.
Figure 5: State House Competitiveness Matrix

Figure 5 is a chart displaying the expected competitiveness for Michigan State House races further. Each District has a Democratic baseline number in parenthesis, along with the number of times each party has challenged the seat. The Democratic baseline is determined by the Democratic share of the Board of Education vote for the election cycles between 2000 and 2008. For example, in House District 51 (in which the Democratic baseline is 51%), the Democrats have invested party resources in the seat four times, while the GOP has invested in it three times. It quickly becomes apparent that both parties rarely spend money defending or challenging seats in the Safe or Strong category or that of the opposing party. Hence, that gives the Democrats 31 worry free seats, and the Republicans 25. For an upset occur in these races means that the challenger needs to be self-financing, as the party will pay for nothing.

Hence both parties put their attention on the remaining 54 leaning, weak, and swing seats. Thus, expect the 11 Democratic and 9 Republican seats outside the Safe or Strong categories of either party that are open to be hotly contested. The Republicans will particularly contest three Republican-leaning seats held by Democratic Representatives in Districts 57, 83, and 107, although the GOP has done poorly in the Upper Peninsula over the past three cycles (This might change with Tom Casperson running for Mike Prusi’s 38th State Senate seat). On the opposing side the Democrats will look to pick up Districts 97, while challenging a number of swing seats (Districts 30, 71, and 85) that the Republicans currently hold. The GOP in turn will certainly try hard to pick up open Democratic swing seats (Districts 52, 91, and 103). Also expect the Republicans to try and knock off first-term Democratic incumbents in Districts 32, 70, and 101, although each of these candidates significantly outperformed the Democratic baseline in the last election cycle with vigorous campaigns.

If the Republican Party is serious about returning to a majority in the lower chamber, the party needs to in seats in Wayne County. Currently it holds only one based in Livonia, and this seat will likely face a Democratic challenger should the district get significantly redrawn in 2011 by the Democrats. While there was a significant Democratic wave in 2008, there is no indication that the Michigan voting population is moving to make the GOP the majority party in the lower chamber any time soon. Indeed, some long-term Republican Party strongholds are increasingly turning Democratic. Berrien County in southwestern Michigan, a long-term Republican stronghold, has seen its two State House districts become increasingly Democratic over the past three election cycles, and could be vulnerable to a strong Democratic candidate, especially in the open 79th District. While the GOP continues to do well in the exurban districts in the state, much of the party’s post 2004 decline has come from candidates losing in first-ring suburbs in metropolitan Detroit and in other metropolitan centers throughout the state.

Despite the potential opportunities, it is unlikely that the GOP will pick up the 13 seats it needs to regain a House majority in 2010. To do so the GOP would need to pick up all the open and first-term seats held by Democrats in Swing, Weak Republican, and Leaning Republican seats without the Democrats a single Democratic pickup, an unlikely event.

State Senate
Figure 6: 2002 State Senate Races

Figure 6 shows the total number of contested races State Senate races in 2002. This was the first cycle in which a number of state senators were term-limited, and thus a number of competitive districts drawn up under the 2001 redistricting plan were open seats. Of the 38 seats in the senate, 13 were seriously contested altogether; with the Republicans contested 9, while the Democrats challenged 10. Of the 6 seats that both parties challenged, the Democrats won 2. The Democratic efforts in 2002 met with resounding failure, as the party won only 4 of the 10 seats contested, while the GOP won 7 of the 9 seats they spent substantial sums upon.
Figure 7: 2006 State Senate Races

Figure 7 shows the total number of contested races State Senate races in 2006. With few open seats available to contest, both campaigns spend funds challenging specific races. As opposed to the 13 seats challenged in 2002, only 6 districts caught the attention of the parties in 2006, and the Democrats only challenged 4 districts. Of the 4 districts the Senate Dems challenged, the party picked up only 1 seat, while the GOP successfully held 5 of the 6 seats (including open seats) they were defending. Despite concentrating their financial support on only four districts, the Democrats were outspent by the Republicans in every district, and by substantial margins in the 13th and 34th Districts.
Figure 8: State Senate Competitiveness Matrix

Figure 8 displays the competitiveness of the 38 State Senate seats. There are 11 seats that are Safe or Strong Democratic, while there are 5 Safe or Strong Republican districts. In all likeliness, the 6 Leaning GOP seats are going to be uncontested by the Democrats, simply because there are too many other seats to spent limited financial resources upon.

Districts 32 and 34 are likely to be among the most temping seats for the Democrats to contest. While District 34 is an open seat that has a strong Democratic candidate (State Representative Mary Valentine), District 32 is held by incumbent Republican senator Roger Kahn, who narrowly won against Democrat Carl Williams in 2006. What the Democrats need in the 32nd District is a strong candidate who can make strong contest against Kahn, who is likely to get piles of money from the GOP to hold this seat.

The GOP is in an unenviable situation in 2010. If Republican Mike Nofs picks up the open 19th District seat vacated by Democratic Congressman Mark Schauer, the GOP will have a 22-16 margin in the State Senate. Thus, the Democrats would need to pick up four seats to win the chamber. The Senate Republicans need to hold three seats in western Michigan where the Democrats have made strong electoral gains over the past two election cycles (District 20-Kalamazoo County, District 29-Grand Rapids and surrounding suburbs, and District 34-Muksegon County and three rural counties). If the Democrats pick up two of these three seats, the GOP needs to only lose one more seat to have a tied chamber. Unfortunately for the Republicans, Districts 7 (western Wayne County), District 13 (portions of Oakland County), and District 25 (Lapeer and St. Clair Counties) are all tossup seats.

A few Democratic seats could be potential Republican pickups. Mike Prusi’s 38th Senate District is open, and former Republican State Representative Tom Casperson is running for this district, which has a weak Democratic lean. If any Republican candidate can win this seat it is Casperson, who has a history of winning tough races, despite being pounded by Democratic Congressman Bart Stupak last year. Likewise, District 26 (Genesee County) and 31 (Bay County) are districts represented by popular senators (Jim Barcia and Deborah Cherry, respectively) who romped to victory in seats that are not as strongly Democratic as seem.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

MI-2nd District: Kuipers (R) running

This makes the race so much more interesting. From the GR Press:

Although his GOP rivals have a considerable head start, state Sen. Wayne Kuipers insists the 2010 2nd congressional primary is still there for the taking.

“This is the earliest I have ever gotten in a race at any level,” said Kuipers, who is poised to formally announce his campaign in Holland on Saturday. “So, no, I don’t think it’s too late.”

His chief rivals include former Buffalo Bills tight end Jay Riemersma, of Holland; former state Rep. Bill Huizenga, of Zeeland; and Fruitport businessman Bill Cooper.

Read the full article here:

While Ballenger might think that the race is going to be competitive between Huizenga, Kuipers, and Riemersma, I think that Kuipers announcement puts another punch into Huizenga's gut that follows his weak 3rd quarter fundraising numbers. It will be very interesting to read the 4th quarter reports.

If Cooper can run a campaign akin to what Hoekstra ran in 1992 (an outsider with a zany campaign), he might be able to do well with three Ottawa County candidates pounding each other.

State House District 91: GOP Primary: Holly Hughes (R) running

The GOP is set for a primary for the 91st State House District. From a conservative blog:

Holly Hughes announced that she is entering the race for the 91st also. With both Ken and Holly in the race for the Republicans, the field is set. There will be a Primary come Aug. 2010.

Holly ran in 2008 for the 91st and lost. She has name recognition not to mention all of her signs from that race. She will be hoping to take that advantage from her loss into this race to put her over the top.

This race is turning into a classic “David and Golliath [sic]” match up. Holly has the money and political connections and knows how to play the game while Ken Punter is a fresh face and running his campaign on a shoestring and a lot of effort.

Unlike the GOP primary for the 34th State Senate District between Hansen and Farhat, Hughes clearly becomes the front runner in this primary. She has the big pockets, and the experience from last time. Still, it is nice that the GOP is tied up with a primary.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

2nd District Financial Rundown: In the 3rd Quarter, Riemersma pulls ahead

With the 3rd quarter filing deadline having come and gone, a clearer picture has emerged of the Republican primary for the 2nd Congressional District. First, lets review the primary for some background.

The 2nd Congressional District covers the northern portion of Allegan County (32,412 residents) the northwest portino of Kent County (33,234), and contains the lakeshore counties of Benzie (17,396), Manistee (24,640), Wexford (31,673), Mason (28,782), Lake (11,014), Oceana (27,598), Newaygo (48,897), Muskegon (174,344), and Ottawa (260,364). The latter two counties are the heart of the 2nd District, with Ottawa providing 39% and Muskegon 26% of the total population. The 2nd is one of the most conservative congressional districts in the state of Michigan, and the only one that John McCain won last year, pulling 51% of the total vote. The link below provides a map of the 2nd Congressional District.

Republican Pete Hoekstra has represented the 2nd District since 1993, winning a primary against long-time GOP incumbent Guy Vander Jagt (1965-1993). Hoekstra has regularly been reelected by comfortable margins, although his vote percentage fell to 63% in 2008, the lowest in his nine elections since 1992.

With Hoekstra’s announcement in late 2008 that he was running for Governor of Michigan and would not seek reelection to his House seat, Republicans began considering their prospects. Former State Representative Bill Huizenga announced his candidacy in December 2008, and was followed into the primary by Muskegon businessman Bill Cooper and Focus on the Family regional director Jay Riemersma in the summer of 2009. Some still expect State Senator Wayne Kuipers to run for this seat as well, although as of January 2009 he only has $24,501 cash on hand as of February 2, 2009.

The three candidates currently in the race have all submitted their financial statements, which are summarized in the linked Google Document.

A couple trends appear in the data. First, While Riemersma and Huizinga are relatively close in total individual contributions (Riemersma with $125K and Huizinga with $96K), Huizinga had a deflating 3rd quarter in terms of fundraising. He also blew threw his dollars, with a burn rate of 110% (meaning he spent more than he raised), and is left with less cash than either Cooper or Riemersma. Secondly, Cooper and Riemersma have each chosen to spend substantial personal funds for this race, with both giving around $100,000 thus far. Cooper’s personal funds have alone kept him in the money race.

Looking closer at the individual contributions to each candidate provides to the FEC gives as much information about their supporters as the candidates themselves. Cooper’s contributors overwhelmingly hail from Muskegon County, while Riemersma and Huizinga draw a great amount of financial support from Ottawa County. Huizinga has draw a good amount of financial support from outside the 2nd District, with large contributions from the DeVos and Van Andel families, as well as the financial support of Calvin College President Galen Byker, who contributed to Huizinga during his State House days as well. Huizinga has also garnered financial support from fellow State House members, including Kevin Green, and from a number of Hoekstra’s staffers in Washington DC. In contrast, Riemersma has drawn funds from his former football colleagues from his college and professional days that are largely from outside the 2nd district. The Yob family has provided substantial fiscal support as well. Riemersma has spent a large amount of money for media and campaign consultants based in Washington DC, which explains his 90% burn rate in the past quarter.

Heading into the final quarter of 2009, I’m sensing that there is a real opportunity for Cooper to play kingmaker in this seat should Kuipers enter the race. As we’ve discussed earlier at WMR, a in a four-way primary, if three candidates are from Ottawa/Allegan County area, the outside candidate has a good chance to sweep up the remainder of the district. That said, I’m thinking that Riemersma is looking strong with his latest fundraising numbers, while Huizinga could use a good 4th quarter to close out the year. It is interesting seeing how different GOP factions are lining up against one another, which should make for an entertaining 2010.

On the Democratic side, a strong case can be made for a Muskegon County candidate, particularly if Riemersma gets the Republican nomination. Riemersma has already started running on hard-right social issues, which may play in Ottawa County, but won’t likely appeal to much of the general electoral outside of it. Should a Democratic candidate be well-financed (raising over $500,000), this could be a race. That said, the eventual GOP nominee is the clear favorite at this point.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Friday Thank You: David Farhat

This doesn't seem to have been covered by any other media yet, so I guess it breaks here: Defeated 2006 Republican Representative David Farhat, who lost his State House seat in 2006 to Mary Valentine, has entered the Republican Primary for the 34th State Senate District. The official filing statement is here:

For the Senate Democrats looking to pick up the Muskegon County-based seat, this is great news. Until now only Republican Representative Geoff Hansen, who currently represents District 100, has entered the primary. Despite Farhat's thrashing by Valentine in 2006, expect many to consider Farhat to be leading contender for this seat. To see why, check out the map below the fold:

The 34th District essentially encompasses three state house districts: District 91, 92 and 100 (with Mason County from Dan Scripps's 101st District added on the top). In terms of population, Muskegon County provides two-thirds of the total vote. In 2008 there were 42,836 Baseline Republican voters in this district, and of these, 22,987 (55%) lived in Muskegon County. Given that Farhat is currently chair of the Muskegon County Republican Party, one can expect the Muskegon County organization to work hard to deliver this portion of the district to a candidate that is relatively well known by the GOP voters in the 91st and 92nd State House Districts.

Hansen has been campaigning energetically thus far, but he'll need to start getting his name known among the party faithful of Muskegon County in order to run well in this county. This means money and time need to be spent, something that Democratic candidate Mary Valentine can use to good advantage in the coming months. Given that Valentine did very well against Farhat in 2006 in an uphill battle against an incumbent, I'm guessing that Valentine will be ready for a rematch on a larger scale.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

UCD Summer 2009

This summer I worked at the University City District conducting a vacancy and retail survey. While doing so I took a lot of photos, which are displayed in this slideshow. Fans of The Wire will recognize this song from the Season 2 montage. Enjoy!

Candidate Filings Michigan State Senate and House (October 6 2009 Edition)

A month has past since the previous story on filings for State Senate and State House seats, and it is time for another update. Here is a brief synopsis on the various races:

State Senate:

District 7 (Status: Swing)
No filings since early September for State Senate races expect in this swing seat being vacated by term-limited Senator Bruce Patterson. Democratic Michael Kheibari (09/18/2009) has filed, and joins Democratic candidate John Stewart (a former Republican) in the race. Expect more people to join this race.

State House:

District 26 (Status: Weak Democratic)
Republican Kenneth Rosen (9/21/2009) is running for Democratic Representative Marie Donigan’s open seat. This is a seat that the Republicans need to contest strongly if they have any chance of making gains in the State House.

District 54 (Status: Safe Democratic)
As expected, Representative Alma Smith’s legislative aide Lonie Scott (10/01/2009) filed for this seat vacated by his boss. Scott is not a local candidate, and there will probably be a number of other Democrats filing for this race.

District 55 (Status: Weak Democratic)
This weak Democratic seat is being vacated by term-limited Kathy Angerer, who made winning this seat seem a lot easier than expect. Michael Smith (10/01/2009), a Monroe County resident and a member of the Bedford Board of Education, has deep ties to the AFL-CIO. Expect the Democratic candidate to face Republican candidate York Township Supervisor Joe Zurawski.

District 61 (Status: Weak Republican)
Republican Representative Larry DeShazor won a close battle in 2008 against Democratic candidate Julie Rogers, winning 51% of the vote. Democrats haven’t waited to get another strong candidate to run for the seat, with Thomas Batten (9/14/2009) filing for the seat. Getting a good candidate to run for this seat against a strong Republican Representative helps to provide the ground game to help in the Democratic candidate in both the State House race and in the District 20 State Senate race. Should DeShazor decide to run for the State Senate race, this could be a possible pickup for the Dems.

District 91 (Status: Swing)
This swing Muskegon County district is being vacated by Democratic Representative Mary Valentine, who is running for the State Senate District 34. Republican Ken Punter has already filed for this seat, and is joined by Ben Gillette (9/23/2009), who is closely tied to the Muskegon County Democratic leadership. Don’t expect any other Democratic candidates running for this seat. It remains to be seen whether Gillette can match Valentine’s phenomenal ground game

District 92 (Status: Strong Democratic)
A third Democratic candidate jumps into the race to replace term-limited Doug Bennett. Controversial Democratic County Commissioner Charles Nash (9/9/2009) is running against Larry McNeill and former Representative Marica Hovey-Wright. I’d still expect Hovey-Wright to win this primary, and hence, the seat.

District 105 (Status: Strong Republican)
Dennis Lennox has more competition for this seat, as Triston Cole (9/16/2009) has filed for this seat. Right now it looks like a three-way Republican primary, as Otsego County Commissioner Kenneth Glasser is also running. I’m hoping that Dennis the Menace has an enjoyable primary.

Expect another update in early November.

Monday, September 14, 2009

2nd Congressional District: Riemersma (R) Officially In

No surprise given the chatter, but the GR Press has coverage of the official announcement this morning:

Eleven months from the 2nd district GOP congressional primary, the race is shaping up as a battle of the insiders vs. the outsider with a familiar name.

Former NFL star Jay Riemersma kicks off his formal campaign today with a speech in Holland. He vows a new brand of politics for the conservative district that U.S. Rep. Pete Hoekstra, R-Holland, has held since 1993. Hoekstra is running for governor.

"The last thing we need right now is legislative experience," said Riemersma, 36. "What we need is leadership, strong conservative leadership."

Read the whole story here:

The article is pretty positive towards Riemersma, allowing him to polish quotes bashing the other official GOP candidate Bill Huizenga (State Senator Wayne Kuipers is also expected to run). Riemersma raised $154,244 in the 2nd quarter filing report, of which $100,000 was his own money, compared to $76,201 for Huizenga. Riemersma touts his conservative creed by noting his connections to Focus on the Family, something which might appeal to the hard-core right in the 2nd District.

I'm still waiting on whether Kuipers runs; if he does, that makes this race a Ottawa County battle (three candidates) and provides an opening for a candidate from another portion of the district. Also, the 3rd quarter filing statement (due September 30) will also show how the two declared candidates are faring with raising funds for a sure to be expensive primary.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Creating a Kent County Land Bank
(Photo by Docksidepress)

Central cities across the United States have struggled mightily with the abandonment of property since the late 1940s. In the decades that followed, cities that once held thousands of housing units for millions of working-class residents, and provide locations of manufacturing employment saw both of these places abandoned by residents and employers alike. This paper first explores the many factors that triggered property abandonment within central cities, and how the various levels of government responded to this crisis. Of particular note is the development of land banks by local and state governments to combat property abandonment within urban communities. The essay next examines the State of Michigan’s response to property abandonment that changed the foreclosure process and authorized the creation of land banks. Finally, this paper looks at possible benefits that land banks offer to the metropolitan Grand Rapids in fighting property abandonment.

Property abandonment occurs for numerous reasons. Historically, economic and locational factors played a major role in causing abandonment. The declining economic growth in central cities after the 1940s resulted from many manufacturing firms relocating from obsolete industrial sites to the new developments often located outside urban centers and the traditional industrial heartland of the Midwest and Northeast. As manufacturing firms left their former establishments, employees often followed, leaving old neighborhoods such as the South Bronx via the new interstate highways to new suburban developments that were subsidized by an array of federal programs that were a hallmark of New Deal Liberalism. Many neighborhoods in cities like Detroit, New York, and Flint were left housing increasingly diverse and poor populations that were denied economic opportunities that had previously existed in central cities and were increasingly located in suburbs. As detailed by Jordan Rappioct, the economic decline of central cities spread throughout many metropolitan regions, and declining regional economies hurt the aging housing stock of inner city neighborhoods much harder than the newer housing stock located in the surrounding suburbs. As economic growth stagnated in many regions of the United States by the late 1970s and early 1980s, many residents abandoned their property, concluding that the costs of continued ownership of their property outweighed any benefits.

Physical and market obsolescence also caused property abandonment. As detailed by Alan Mallach, many properties were abandoned when the costs of maintaining the physical condition of the property exceeded the market value of the property. Many structures were obsolescence by the 1960s, as the layout and size of these buildings were built without the amenities such as green space and detached single-family housing that new postwar housing developments provided. When coupled with environmental contamination, locational, physical, and market disadvantages, properties in neighborhoods throughout places like Grand Rapids were abandoned.

Abandoned property quickly became a monstrous problem within urban communities. Vacant buildings often served as locations of crime and drug abuse, scarring the surrounding properties by becoming blighted eyesores that devalued nearby property values and destabilized neighborhoods. Many other neighborhoods experienced population loss and declining property values, which caused more residents to abandon their properties, furthering neighborhood decline. Abandonment of property became a common feature of many urban landscapes, and required a coherent approach by every level of government in order to provide a long-term strategy to fighting abandonment.
(Photo by Docksidepress)

The absence of a federal leadership in shaping urban policy after the failure of Great Society programs in the late 1960s placed the burden of creating a long-term coherent strategy for urban issues for state and local governments. After years of inaction, many local and state governments began using new strategies to combat property abandonment. These governments began to chart their own strategies to combat abandoned properties in the early 1970s that focused heavily on partnerships with neighborhoods and community development corporations. One of the more popular strategies in the past thirty years pursued by state and localities has been the establishment of land banks. According to Frank Alexander, St. Louis, Cleveland, Louisville, and Atlanta were among the first municipalities to create effective land banks that helped addressed each community’s high number of vacant parcels, and at the same time provide a long-term strategy for restoring various communities within each metropolitan region. These land banks were created over a thirty year period, with St. Louis being the first in 1971, followed by Cleveland in 1976, Louisville in 1989, and Atlanta in 1991. Differences and similarities exist with each community’s land banking strategy. While all land banks seek to return abandoned or tax delinquent property to productive use, each land bank was placed under a different set of legal structure and priorities. As creations of state government, land banks are established by state laws that set guidelines and create different powers for each organization.

The Michigan legislature began actively pursuing innovative strategies to combat property abandonment in the late 1990s. In 1999, the Legislature changed the state’s existing tax foreclosure law. Under the existing law, abandoned properties were often transferred to private owners through the sale of tax liens or were left in the hands of the state. This process that often took over five years and generally failed to provide a clear title that further discouraged reinvestment. The new state law accelerated the tax foreclosure process, reducing the foreclosure timeline to a two year window, and allowed for abandoned properties to be taken by the state in a year. This streamlining of the foreclosure process also allowed for the transferring of clean titles to parties interested in purchasing foreclosed properties, which legislative sponsors hoped would encourage reinvestment within urban communities.

Four years after the passage of PA 123, the State Legislature approved the authorization of the Michigan Land Bank Fast Track Act. This legislation, known as PA 258 of 2003, allowed for the establishment of county level or multi-jurisdictional land bank authorities, and gave these organizations the power to initiate expedited “quiet title” clearance on abandoned properties to speed up the sale process. The legislation also allowed for land banks to use state Brownfield credits to fund the clearing of titles and the sale of lands, invested land banks with the power to issue bonds, and exempted properties owned by land bands from property taxes for five years from the date of the sale. This legislation gave Michigan a powerful new tool to combat property abandonment, and made the state a leader in innovative redevelopment strategies of urban space.

The Genesee County Land Bank (GCLB) is considered Michigan’s most innovative land bank and offers an excellent model for Kent County. Created in 2002, the GCLB uses effective strategies to combat property abandonment, and provides an array of services to county residents, which include demolition, foreclosure prevention counseling, rental management, housing renovation, and property maintenance. As of 2006, the GCLB has sold over 1,000 properties, demolished 531 structures, and currently holds title to over 2,500 properties. The land bank works with local legal aid workers in Flint to provide foreclosure counseling and advice to homeowners faced with losing their homes, and also seeks to encourage home ownership by offering rehabilitated homes to tenants residing in foreclosed properties. Most importantly, the GCLB works with neighborhood organizations and existing community development corporations to create long-term collaborative strategies for the redevelopment of abandoned properties within the county. The GCLB also uses its purchasing power to develop a county-wide green space development strategy. Working with municipalities, the GCLB has helped develop corridors of parcels to help develop the nucleus of a park system in portions of Flint and other communities that have historically been underserved by parks.
Opportunities for a Kent County Land Bank

In 2009 the Kent County Commission moved to provide funding for a countywide farmland preservation program through a Purchase of Development Rights program (KCPDR). The KCPDR would provide $1 million in funding over the next three years in hopes of preserving 25,000 acres of farmland by 2013. Commissioners hope that eventually more of the county’s existing 170,000 acres of farmland will be preserved through a dedicated millage program that would keep the land as agricultural or converted into parkland in the coming decade.

If a KCPDR provides a “push” factor away from green space development on the fringe of existing urban development, other factors are beginning to provide a “pull” force for future development within the established urban core of Kent County. Map 1 shows existing land use in Grand Rapids, in which denser areas of residential, commercial, and industrial development are concentrated within the city’s pre-1950 core. Similar areas of denser development exist in the Division Avenue corridor of Wyoming and Kentwood, as well in East Grand Rapids. With the adoption of the form-based zoning by the city of Grand Rapids in 2005 future development within the city is likely to promote greater density within portions of the city. Whereas traditional “Euclidean” zoning was developed in the early 20th Century to limit incompatible mixing of land use and to limit residential density, form-based zoning seeks to promote zoning based on the urban form, and allows for mixing of land use depending on the type of urban space. A form-based zoning code puts far greater emphasis on developed urban space, as it can be used for a greater array of uses, and allows for future mixed-use developments in all of the city’s commercial corridors. Other developed communities Kent County, including Wyoming, Kentwood, and East Grand Rapids, are considering adopting form-based zoning codes as well.

A KCLB can provide greater impetus to this “pull” on development to portions of an urban core that has suffered from high levels of poverty since the late 1960s. As Maps 2-5 show, a large portion of Grand Rapids’ core has had poverty rates above 20% since the 1970, and areas of the south side have had concentrated poverty levels of over forty percent. The 2010 Census is likely to show areas of Kentwood and Wyoming at least five census tracts with poverty levels over 20%, and two areas will have levels of concentrated poverty. This long-term concentration of poverty in Grand Rapids and Kentwood has proved to be a problem for the region’s long-term health. Thanks to a wealth of research done by Bruce Katz, Paul Jargowsky and others, we know that in addition to creating unsafe and unhealthy neighborhoods for residents, high poverty levels cause long-term property abandonment and disinvestment by landowners. Any effort to limit future green space development needs to pull back investment and residents to the portions of the urban core that have suffered from long-term concentrated poverty.

A KCLB can help remedy the long-term disinvestment through a number of steps. First, the KCLB can help to promote further redevelopment of residential housing. Existing community development corporations operating in metropolitan Grand Rapids often have limited fiscal and physical resources to develop a sustained approach to combating property abandonment. The goals outline in various municipal master plans in Kent County that seek to promote redevelopment within various neighborhoosd would be aided greatly by the KCLB that would have special powers to allow for a speedy and effective taking of abandoned property titles and reducing the purchasing costs. The KCLB could also work with the municipalities and developers to begin identifying parcels that are in tax-delinquency to create a long-term development strategy throughout Kent County.

An effective land bank would also provide assistance for current neighborhood residents. The GCLB provides financial counseling for residents within Genesee County that are faced with the possibility of home foreclosure. The KCLB could provide this same service to residents in neighborhoods throughout Kent County. The KCLB should also serve as an information clearinghouse for residents interested in purchasing side parcels or existing vacant properties or lots. A land bank could also work with community development corporations such as the Inner City Christian Federation and Neighborhoods Ventures to redevelop vacant properties. As shown by the GCLB’s work, such an authority may provide smaller neighborhood level organizations with a management system and expertise to conduct complex redevelopment efforts that previously might not have been possible for these organizations. Likewise, a land bank could allow for closer collaboration between community development corporations and municipal organizations that might have not had the resources to work together on various redevelopment projects.

A partnership with a land bank provides many effective tools for fighting property abandonment in concentrated poverty neighborhoods south of Franklin Avenue, west of Fuller Avenue, north of Burton, and east of US 131. The large number of vacant industrial and residential properties within this area may be quickly processed by a land bank, and be effectively redeveloped to promote the restoration of residential housing in the neighborhood, as well as providing funding for long-term environmental cleanup of polluted industrial sites. The KCLB can also work with the Right Place to find potential businesses to locate in redeveloped industrial and commercial parcels.

Likewise, the KCLB can help promote county-wide efforts to create more green space. By holding parcels of land for municipal governments to add to existing urban park space, Kent County can develop an interconnecting park system that can help preserve an ecological habitat for natural life, as well as providing green lungs for the county residents. Many neighborhoods within the urban core are underserved by parks, and additional park space would provide greater recreational spaces for current and future residents.

A KCLB is urban redevelopment tool that complements green space preservations efforts through the KCPDR. The KCLB can effectively assist all municipalities, particularly those within the metropolitan core (East Grand Rapids, Grand Rapids, Grand Rapids Township, Grandville, Kentwood, Walker, and Wyoming). The KCLB will require an active board that represents the Kent County Board of Commissioners, Kent County municipalities, and private individuals. With proper guidance and mission, the KCLB can be an active agent in the redevelopment of Kent County’s urban places.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Candidate Filings Michigan State Senate and House

Although the 2010 elections are more than a year away, many candidates are starting to file for a chance to run. I've reviewed the filing data posted at the Michigan Secretary of State's website at the link provided below:,1607,7-127-1633_8723_8751---,00.html

I've linked a Google document of the State House and State Senate candidates that will continually be updated through next May's filing deadline.

We have a number of recent filings that will be of interest for the ML community.

Michigan State Senate:
Menhen's excellent analysis written earlier in July provides a good overview for those who are not aware of how important winning this chamber is for the Democrats next year. There are 30 open seats (although Democratic incumbent Gretchen Whitmer is likely running for Attorney General), and getting strong candidates is crucial to winning a seat. Thus far we have the following Republican and Democratic candidates:

District 7 (Status: Swing)
Former Republican John Stewart is running as a Democrat (filed April 20, 2009) for this seat currently held by Republican Bruce Patterson. Expect a number of other candidates to file for this seat. I’m betting on a GOP and DEM primary.

District 14 (Safe Democratic)
Democratic Senator Gilda Jacobs is term-limited from this seat, but don’t expect part-time Republican copy machine operator James Hardin to win this seat (filed March 24, 2009).

District 15 (Strong Republican)
Democratic candidate Pamela Jackson (filed April 1, 2009) is running for Republican Nancy Cassis’ open seat. Given the Republican nature of this district, expect a number of Republican candidates to join Robert Gatt (January 1, 2009) in the primary field.

District 18 (Safe Democratic)
The most Democratic district outside of Detroit is currently Represented by Senator Liz Brater, who is term-limited from running again. Rebekah Warren (filed August 18, 2009) currently represents House District 53, which covers the City of Ann Arbor, and likely has an inside track for this seat. However, Democrat Pam Byrnes might try to run for this seat as well. Whomever wins will crush the Republican candidate three months later.

District 20 (Swing)
This Kalamazoo County-based senate seat is currently held by Republican Tom George, who is term-limited from running again, and is trying his hand at running for governor. The open seat has attracted a great deal of attention from Democrats and Republicans alike, with State Representative Robert Jones (July 20, 2009), County Commissioner John Taylor (June 24, 2009), and Mark Totten (May 20, 2009) throwing their hats in the Democratic primary. On the Republican side State Representative Tonya Shuitmaker (May 18, 2009) and former Representative Lorence Wenke (May 19, 2009) are in, although I’m hoping that Republican firebrand Jacob “Wacko Jacko” Hoogendyk will run as well.

District 21 (Strong Republican)
This southwestern senate districts is currently represented by Republican Ron Jelinek, who is term-limited. Republican State Representative John Proos (District 79) is running for the seat (filed February 9, 2009), and so far has no opposition.

District 22 (Safe Republican)
The second most Republican district in the Senate is currently held by term-limited Valde Garcia. Republican Joe Hune has filed (December 10, 2008) to replace him.

District 24 (Strong Republican)
Represented by moderate Republican Patricia Birkholz, this district is likely to get a more conservative senator if State Representative Rick Jones wins the Republican nomination (filed November 7, 2009). No Democratic candidate has yet filed.

District 25 (Leans Republican)
This district covers Lapeer and St. Clair Counties, and has been represented by Republican Jud Gilbert since 2003. With Gilbert term-limited, Lauren Hager (filed January 22, 2009) and Philip Pavlov (April 23, 2009) are looking for the Republican nomination. Should be an interesting Republican primary.

District 26 (Swing)
This district, held by Democratic Senator Deb Cherry, is a seat that could potentially flip come November 2010. Cherry made winning this seat seem easy in 2002 and 2006, and a strong Republican candidate like David Robertson (January 16, 2009) could make this a competitive race. Robertson was previously State Representative from District 51, a moderate district that was held by a conservative Republican due to his strong campaigning skills. This is a seat that needs a strong Democratic candidate to face off Robertson in November 2010.

District 32 (Swing)
Won by Republican “Raging” Roger Kahn by a narrow margin in 2006, this seat is again certain to be a top Democratic target in 2010. Thus far only Debasish Mridha (July 21, 2009) has filed for this seat.

District 33 (Safe Republican)
Senator Alan L. Cropsey is prevented from running for the Republican nomination again, and Republicans Hong Trebesh (filed April 23, 2009) and Representative Brian Calley (April 30, 2009) are running for the GOP nomination. Expect both candidates to be well-funded and an expensive primary as a result.

District 34 (Swing)
Democratic Representative Mary Valentine (May 8, 2009) and Republican Representative Geoff Hansen (filed January 29, 2009) are running for this seat which will be a race to watch next year. Although Republican Senator Gerald VanWoerkom held on to this district in 2002 and 2006 by narrow margins, Valentine is an incredible campaigner who ran one of the best GOTV efforts in the past two election cycles.

District 35 (Leans Republican)
Three candidates have filed to replace term-limited Republican Senator Michelle McManus: Democratic candidate Roger Dunigan (August 3, 2009), and Republicans Darwin Booher (January 18, 2009) and Timothy Moore (April 28, 2009).

District 36 (Leans Republican)
With Republican Senator Tony Stamas term-limited, Republican Representative John Moonlenaar (June 26, 2008) is running to replace him. Should the Democrats run a strong opponent, this could be a possible competitive race.

District 37 (Leans Republican)
Republican Senator Jason Allen is term-limited from running again, and Representative Howard Walker (Republican April 22, 2009) and Democratic Representative Gary McDowell (August 19, 2009) have filed to replace him. This could be a interesting race, especially if the MDP decides to throw money to support McDowell.

District 38 (Leans Democratic)
Held by Democratic Senator Mike Prusi, this seat has long been eyed by the GOP. Former Republican and 2008 Congressional candidate Tom Casperson (August 10, 2009) is running for this seat. Casperson is a strong candidate, and although the Republicans have never won this seat before, it remains to see what candidates the Democrats run for to replace Prusi

Many competitive seats have not attracted candidates yet, including District 13 (for the Democrats) and District 29.

State House

I’ve posted a table of the State House filings below:

Many candidates have filed in seats that are either strongly Republican or Democratic. However, some races deserve a special mention:

District 70 (Swing Seat)
First-term Democratic Representative Mike Huckleberry has drawn his first GOP challenger Edward Sternisha (06/23/2009) in a seat that will certainly draw a lot of Republican attention next year. Sternisha has a bare-bones website that notes he is partially done with law school and uses colored text. He also counts meeting GOP folks as endorsements.

District 71 (Swing)
This is Eaton County district is a place where the Democrats have a good chance of making this a competitive race with GOP Representative Rick Jones running for the State Senate (District 24). Two Republican candidates are running, Deb Shaughnessy and Cheryl Lynn-Haddock, while Robert Robinson is looking for the Democratic nomination.

District 91 (Weak Democratic) Ken Punter is running for the GOP nomination in this suburban Muskegon County seat. Whether Holly Hughes attempts to run again as the Republican nominee is another question. No Democratic candidate has emerged yet to replace Valentine.

Many seats that we won by Democrats in the past two election cycles (Districts 1, 20, 21, 24, 39, 64, 65, 75, 101, and 108) have not attract Republican challengers, in part because all 10 Democrats are running to hold their seats. If some of these Representatives receive serious GOP candidates in the next few months, the GOP might make a battle for control of the lower chamber. If not, expect the Dems to win a majority in the State House once again in 2010.