(cross-posted at WMR, ML, BFM, and SSP-pb)
February 1 marks a big day for Michigan political junkies, a day when candidates and officeholders who have filed a candidacy committee to run for office on the state level must file an annual compliance statement (CS). Candidates who have filed for a financial waiver (meaning that they are not going to spend or raise more than $1,000 on their campaign, and will most assuredly lose in their bid for elected office) are not required to file a CS, nor are candidates who have filed after January 1 of the current year. Hence, any candidates who have filed to run for office after January 1, 2010 do not need to file a CS.
Figure 1: Competitiveness Matrix, Michigan State House
Figure 1 is a chart displaying the expected competitiveness for Michigan State House races further. Using the underlying baseline vote from the Michigan Board of Education races over the past four elections (2002-2008), I have also noted the number of times each party has challenged a seat. For example, in House District 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 rarely spends money defending or challenging seats in their 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. This analysis will focus on CS from 54 districts that are considered tossup, weak or leaning Democratic/Republican. Candidates are listed with the amount of money raised in the past year, the amount on money spent over 2009, the total cash on hand, and the amount of personal funds each candidate given to his or her campaign.
Figure 2: Leaning Democratic/Weak Republican Districts
Most districts in the leaning category tend to be competitive in when seats open up due to term-limits, or a “wave” year occurs for one party or the other. Judging from the 2009 CS filings, none of the leaning Democratic districts appear to be competitive, particularly for the Democratic incumbents. Roy Schmidt (76th) has an enormous cash on hand advantage, and fellow incumbents in the 69th and 109th appear to be in good shape. The open 96th seat has no GOP challenger yet but two well-funded Democratic candidates have emerged.
The Republican leaning districts are another story. While most districts currently held by GOP incumbents appear to be safe (Districts 19, 82, and 98), Sharon Tyler in Berrien County (District 78) has done little fundraising to help shore up a district that has become increasingly Democratic over the past eight years. However, the three districts held by Democrats (Districts 20, 70, and 107) are the most vulnerable seats for a potential Republican pickup. In District 20 Democratic Representative Marc Corriveau is leaving his seat to run for the 7th State Senate district, while the 107th is vacant thanks to term-limits. Thus far no clear financial picture has emerged in the 107th, although 2008 Republican candidate Alex Strobehn has filed a financial waiver, dooming himself to defeat in the GOP primary. In the 70th District, Democratic incumbent Mike Huckleberry has a small financial edge over Republican challenger Edward Sternisha, although expect the GOP to pour resources to retake this seat. However, given that open seats are much more likely to change their partisan status, I would put districts 20 and 107 higher up on the danger list.
Figure 3: Weak Democratic Districts
The odds favoring incumbents is even more apparent in examining districts with a weak Democratic lean. Of the ten seats, six are held by Democratic incumbents, all whom have significantly outraised their Republican opponent. Kate Segal (District 62) and Kate Ebli (District 56) lead the pack in fundraising, and it appears highly unlikely that the GOP is going to challenge for these seats. Judy Nerat (District 108) appears to be in weaker financial shape, but expect the MDP to spend funds to ensure her victory. In the four open seats, three are currently held by Democrats and thus far look to remain in their column. Democratic candidates in districts 26 and 31 have significantly outraised GOP opponents, and while Democratic candidate Russ Angerer (District 55) filed in early 2010, the fact that he is the current representative’s spouse provides a ready avenue of financial support against Republican Rick Olson, who has a negative cash-on-hand sum. The one Republican-held seat (District 97) feature two viable GOP candidates (Kim Emmons and George Gilmore) and Jason Liptow for the Democrats. I’d expect some other Democratic candidates to consider this seat, including former representative Jennifer Elkins and Mike Shea. This seat is one to watch.
Figure 4: Weak Republican Districts
Given the number of weak Republican seats held by Democrats, one would expect that the GOP would find easy pickings among these districts. However, of the thirteen seats, four are held by incumbent Democratic representatives with enormous cash on hand advantages. Leading the way is Dan Scripps (District 101) who raised a whopping $65,891 this past year, while 2008 Republican challenger Ray Franz spent as much as he raised, and is deeply indebted to himself. Other Democratic incumbents in districts 32 and 84 appear to have a large financial edge. Democratic Representative Marty Griffin (District 64) is in somewhat greater danger, given his massive defeat in the 19th State Senate district special election, and has attracted two GOP challengers. Griffin has won serious races in 2006 and 2008, and one could expect the GOP to wait one more cycle to mount a more vigorous challenge in 2012. Of the remaining nine seats, three are held by GOP incumbents (Districts 33, 43, and 94) that have no serious challenger yet. The remaining six seats are competitive to varying degrees. The death of Democratic Representative Mike Simpson puts District 65 potentially in play, although a crowded GOP primary field might be beneficial to the future Democratic candidate. Open Republican seats in Districts 33, 61, 80 and 83 are potential opportunities for Democratic pickups; however, challengers Tom Batten (District 61) and Tom Erdmann (District 80) have not yet demonstrated vigorous financial strength yet, although state party support could make each of these races interesting. District 57, is a potential Republican pickup opportunity, although Democratic candidate Harvey Schmidt ($41,050 cash on hand) has significantly performed Republican James VanDoren ($20,816) in the money race.
Figure 5: Swing Districts
The remaining fourteen districts are swing seats that will be the focus of partisan attention through 2010. While there are really sixteen swing seats, I removed two seats from this category; one a likely Republican hold (District 51 Paul Scott-$52,765 cash on hand), and one that has no data yet (District 106 where Democratic incumbent Andy Neumann is term-limited and no candidate has emerged for either party). Of the fourteen districts, seven have Democratic incumbents. Of these seven, one (Robert Dean District 75) is considering running for the State Senate, although the Kent County Democrats have lined up a strong potential replacement in Kent County Commissioner Brandon Dillon, and there appears to be a likely GOP primary between attorney Jordan Bush and businessman Bing Goei. Of the remaining six Democratic incumbents, four have a large financial edge that puts them on strong footing heading into the 2010 cycle. In the 67th District, Democratic incumbent Barb Byrum is facing a challenge from Republican Jeff Oesterle, who is a self-funding his run. While Byrum’s district has long been competitive, she has repeated won against stronger GOP candidates. The only Democratic incumbent who appears in potential trouble is Tim Bledsoe (District 1) who has just over $17,000 in cash on hand. Given the expense of running in this district, the MDP will likely spend ample funds to hold this seat.
Of the remaining seven seats, four are open seats held by the GOP. In District 30, term-limited Republican Tory Rocca is leaving a historically GOP district that has been held by different family members for almost a generation. Macomb County Commission Ken Lampar has the field to himself in the Democratic primary, and has $15,000 cash on hand. Jeff Farrington is the only viable GOP candidate thus far, and he is significantly trailing Lampar ($3,393 cash on hand). District 71 features four Democratic and three Republicans candidates, although Democrat Robert Robinson ($16,939) and Republican Cheryl Haddock ($11,202) have emerged as the front runners in this race, although both have provided significant financial support of their own. District 85 has long been a Democratic target, although thus far the only candidate Pamela Drake disappointing financial numbers ($350 cash on hand) means another candidate will likely vie for the Democratic nomination. On the Republican side, David Lazar is the leading money raiser ($23,020 cash on hand), although much of his funds were from his own bank. Finally, expect District 99 to be ground zero for both parties, with Democratic candidate Toni Sessoms ($11,245 cash on hand) and Christine Alwood ($28,488) to received enormous support from each party.
Three of the open swing seats are currently held by Democrats. District 52 has been held by Democrat Pam Byrnes for the past six years, and Scio Township Mayor Christine Green ($10,967 cash on hand) is seeking the Democratic nod, while Washtenaw Commission Mark Ouimet is the Republican candidate ($67,434 cash on hand). Given the historic Republican nature of this district, and Ouimet’s strong fundraising thus far, this race is going to be on the top of the GOP’s pickup opportunities. District 91 is being vacated by Democratic Representative Mary Valentine, who is running for the State Senate. 2008 Republican candidate Holly Hughes is back, and has provided large amounts of money for her campaign (she’s given $186,389 thus far) and has $101,224 cash on hand. Hughes faces Ken Punter ($4,888 cash on hand) in the GOP primary, although it is likely that she will prevail with her enormous financial edge. Hughes’ amount dwarfs the figures raised by Democratic candidates Branden Gemzer ($1,050) and Ben Gillette ($1,838). Given that the 91st District is covered by the 34th State Senate district that is going to be strongly contested by each party, expect the MDP to provide ample support for the eventual Democratic nominee. Finally, District 103 is being vacated by Joel Sheltrown. Given that his brother Van Sheltrown has entered the race, this is a seat the Democrats can hold, especially given that the declared GOP candidates (Phil Bendily and Larry Boyce) have raised miniscule amounts of money.
While politics is not pre-ordained by money, having it helps, especially in a tough economic climate where donors are unlikely to be in a giving mood. While the GOP has a number of potential pickup opportunities, if I had to predict today I would expect the Democrats to lose five seats, reducing their majority to 62 seats. While smaller in number, this would still give the Democrats the chance to create a favorable redistricting plan for decade to come.