Thursday, April 29, 2010

State of the House: Part III

(cross-posted on WMR, ML, BFM-pb)


A few weeks ago I examined the underlying political conditions of the 110 Michigan State House districts, which can be found [ here], and later performed the same analysis on the [ State Senate]. This analysis used a variation of the reputable House Vulnerability Index developed by Crisitunity at the Swing State Project that I called the District Vulnerability Index (DVI). This analysis is the third part of the series, and looks at the individual State House races. The forthcoming last section will look at the State Senate races. I last looked at individual candidate filings in mid-January, and in the past three months, over 100 candidates have filed to run in the August 2010 primary for both parties. As mentioned previously, I maintain a listing of State House and State Senate candidates that includes the financial filing statements that can be obtained via a subscription by emailing


Using the DVI, I've divided the 110 State House seats into five different categories; Safe GOP, Leans GOP, Swing, Leans DEM, and Safe DEM. You can see the Safe GOP seats in Table 1 below (soapblox won't let me embed these tables, so just click the link below).:

Table 1 (Worksheet 1): Safe GOP (28 seats)

The vast majority of these seats are historic Republican strongholds, particularly those in Oakland County, and seats in rural Kent and Ottawa Counties. 15 of the 27 seats have GOP incumbents, and of these 15, none have a primary challenger, and only one has a general election opponent (Hugh Crawford, R-38). While the 14 other incumbents will likely get Democratic challengers in the next two weeks, expect these safe incumbents to return to Lansing in January 2011.

The other 12 seats feature open Republican primaries to replace term-limited GOP incumbents. Many of these races have attracted a large number of candidates, including District 73 (northern Kent County) with eight candidates, District 77 (Wyoming and Byron Township) and District 105 (Antrim, Charlevoix, Cheboygan, and Otsego Counties) with six. While these seats might feature combative Republican primaries (the 105th features GOP media queen Dennis Lennox), none yet have strong Democratic candidates to take advantage of potential discord. Unless a Democratic wave reappears, I can't see anything but 27 Republicans winning these seats.

Table 2 (Worksheet 2): Leans GOP (13 seats)

Six of these GOP-leaning seats are held by Republican incumbents, who have attracted a range of competition. In particular, should Paul Scott (District 51-southern Genesee County) run for Secretary of State, this district would again be a swing seat, especially given his Democratic opponent Art Reyes, who is a strong labor leader in Genesee County.

Republicans in Lansing will be much more interested in three open seats being vacated by Democrats. Districts 20 (Northville), 83 (Saniac County) and 107 (Chippewa, Mackinac, and Emmet Counties) are being vacated by Marc Corriveau (running for State Senate District 7), John Espinoza (term-limited) and Gary McDowell (who is term-limited and running for US Congress). These three seats are perhaps the most opportune pickup chances for the GOP. However, each of these seats will likely feature Republican primaries, although Republican Kurt Heise is unopposed in the GOP primary for the 20th District, while Democrats Michael Kheibari and Joan Wadsworth are facing off in the Democratic primary. The 83rd District three-way Republican primary, while school teacher Alan Lewanbowski is unopposed in the Democratic primary. The 107 has two candidates in the Democratic primary and three in the Republican primary.

The remaining four seats are open districts due to term-limits removing Republican incumbents, and a number feature combative primaries. This is particularly true in Districts 79 (northern Berrien County) and 80 (Van Buren County), seats that have a historic Republican lean and where a split between GOP establishment candidates and TeaRepublicans is heading towards inter-party warfare could prove adventitious for Democrats. Democratic candidate Tom Erdmann is waiting as the Democratic candidate in the 80th District, although no Democratic candidate has yet filed in the 79th District.

Table 3 (Worksheet 3): Safe DEM (36 seats)

Most of these safe Democratic districts like in Detroit (15 seats) or in other long-term Democratic strongholds across the state. 22 seats have Democratic incumbents, and the seven Democratic incumbents from outside the city of Detroit have no primary challengers, although a few have woefully funded general election opponents. 13 of the 15 Democratic incumbents in Detroit are facing primary challenges, underscoring how pathetic the GOP is in the city. For the large part these challenges are from constant candidates, although Rashida Tlaib (District 12) faces challenger Jim Czachorowski, who may be funded by businessman Matty Moroun. Stay tuned, and expect all the 22 Democratic incumbents to return to Lansing (although Lesia Liss might face a contest from disgruntled Democrats).

Of the 14 open seats, all feature multi-candidate primaries, which will be entertaining to watch. However, expect 36 Democrats to return to Lansing from these safe seats.

Table 4 (Worksheet 4): Leans DEM (18 seats)

11 of these seats are currently held by Democratic incubments. None are facing primary challengers, and although all have general election opponents. The seven open Democratic seats are more vulnerable to Republican challengers, particularly seats that are historically Republican (District 55-Washtenaw and Monroe Counties, District 75-Grand Rapids). At this time I'd consider District 55 to be the most vulnerable Democratic leaning seat, although District 26 (Royal Oak and Madison Heights) could be a sleeper race.

Table 5 (Worksheet 5: Swing (16 seats)

If the Democratic and Republican candidates perform as expected and win all their safe and leaning seats, there will be at least 54 Democrats and 41 Republicans in Lansing come January 2011. The remaining 16 swing seats are likely to be the major focus of each party in the 2010 election cycle, and rightfully so. However, five of these seats are held by Democratic incumbents (Districts 1, 21, 24, 39, and 70) and one can expect large amounts of resources from the MDP to flow freely to these candidates. Republicans face somewhat of an uphill battle in winning these seats, given the strength that incumbents have shown in past election cycles, and that potentially bloody Republican primaries are in the offering in a number of these districts (District 39 especially). Of the remaining 11 seats, six are being vacated by term-limited Democrats (Districts 52, 57, 65, 91, 103, and 106), while five were previously held by term-limited Republicans (Districts 30, 71, 85, 97, and 99). With the exception of District 52 (where Republican Mark Ouimet and Democratic Christine Green are the only candidates in this western Washtenaw County seat), all of these seats feature a multi-candidate primaries on both sides, particularly in District 71, where five Democrats and three Republicans are vying their party's nominations.


In January 2010 I made a prediction that Democrats would lose five seats, reducing their majority to a 62-38 margin. I'm sticking by this today, although. Once the primary picture clears up in early August 2010, we will know a lot more about the overall state of the House.

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