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.