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.