Wednesday, July 28, 2010

State House Pre-Primary Filing Statements Analysis

(cross-posted at ML and BFM-pb)

As with the State Senate pre-primary filing statements, I’ve performed an analysis of the top fundraisers for the Michigan State House primary races. Again, for those interested in the complete set of financial data, you can request a subscription at

The top fifteen candidates in terms of money raised are listed in the link provided below:

Five of the top 15 fundraisers are incumbents, and five of the 15 are Democrats. Two of the top fundraisers are Mike Shirkley and Mark Ouimet, Republicans running in open swing seats (Districts 65th and 52nd) that the Democrats will be fighting to hold. It is interesting to note that of the top Democratic fundraisers, only one is from metropolitan Detroit (Rashida Tlaib District 12). If the Democrats remain in the majority (which I predict they will), I’d expect to see Scripps, Schmidt, and Tlaib in the running for leadership positions. In good news for the Democrats, Brandon Dillon, who is running for the 75th State House seat vacated by Robert Dean, raised a significant amount of money that leaves him with a comfortable cash on hand advantage for the general election.

The top 15 spenders are listed next (the second tab of the spreadsheet):

Once again, Republicans dominate this list, with self financers like Holly Hughes (District 91-Swing) and Jeff Oesterle (District 67-Safe DEM) repaying a large portion of their loans and thus leading the list. As with the State Senate list, many candidates with heavy spending are in competitive primaries.

Incumbents and candidates personally financing their campaigns dominate the list of candidates with the most cash on hand listed on the third tab of the spreadsheet:

11 of the 15 candidates with the greatest cash on hand advantage are incumbents, and nine of these are Democratic incumbents, three of whom are in swing Districts (Dian Slavens District 21, Sarah Roberts District 24, and Lisa Brown District 39). This financial edge is a heartening sign for continued Democratic control of the House.

Finally, Republicans hold all of the top 15 spots on the fourth spreadsheet listing candidates with the greatest amount of personal debt.

While money can’t buy victory, it sure can help in competitive seats like Districts 21, 52, and 91. As in some State Senate primaries, the candidates are literally locked in a spending arms race in the final weeks until August 3.

Monday, July 26, 2010

State Senate Pre-Primary Filing Statements Analysis

(Cross-posted at ML and BFM-pb)

State Senate Pre-Primary Filing Statements

While I have much more information on my subscription-only database, I figured that please might appreciate some basic information about the top fundraisers for Michigan State Senate primary races. Again, for those interested in the complete set of financial data, you can request a subscription at

Nearly all candidates have reported their financial data (with the glaring exceptions of Rebekah Warren in the 18th and Coleman Young Jr. in the 1st). The top fifteen candidates in terms of money raised are listed in the link provided below:

11 of the top fundraisers of Republicans, and two are in the 20th State Senate District primary. David LaGrand and David Hildenbrand are two other top fundraisers, and are potential opponents in a general election matchup in the 29th State Senate District. The top 15 spenders are listed next (the second tab of the spreadsheet):

Incumbents and candidates personally financing their campaigns dominate the list of candidates with the most cash on hand listed on the third tab of the spreadsheet:

Republicans hold all but two of the top 15 spots on the fourth spreadsheet linked below.

While money can’t buy victory, it sure can help. However, in a couple of primaries, namely the 11th and 20th Republican races, the candidates are literally locked in a spending arms race in the final weeks. Should be interesting to see what happens on August 3.

An analysis of the State House races will be provided later this week.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

State House and State Senate candidates Pre-Primary filing statements and some predictions

(Updated Monday July 26, 2010 8am)

Representative Dean's financial statement was released on Sunday July 25. Dean raised $30,271, spent $22,779, and has $3,031 cash on hand. The campaign has debts of $24,969, a loan which Dean gave to the campaign on January 29, 2010. Dean has a total of 22 donors, and in addition to his loan he contributed another $3,500 to the campaign. So, essentially, Dean's donors have given him a grand total of $2,500.

While I have much more information on my subscription only database, I figured that folks at West Michigan Rising might appreciate some basic information about a couple of races of interest. Again, for those interested, you can request a subscription at

20th State Senate District

First, in the 20th State Senate District there is a lot of money being thrown around. Lorence Wenke raised $317,260, spent $211,476 and has $125,125 cash on hand. Much of this money came from Wenke's own pocket, as he has loaned himself $365,000. Wenke is followed by Tonya Schuitmaker who raised $126,464, spent $146,767, and has $106,085 in cash on hand. Like Wenke, Schuitmaker has spent a large amount of her own money, providing herself with $100,000 in a personal loan. Schuitmaker and Wenke are both from different sides of the Republican tent-Wenke is an unabashed socially liberal Republican, while Schuitmaker has lined up support from conservative loyalists in the 20th District despite her inferior geographic position (being from Van Buren County rather than Kalamazoo). The third candidate in the GOP primary, moderate Larry DeShazor, has raised $34,141, spent $30,809, and has $3,331 cash on hand, with personal loans of $19,804. While many consider DeShazor to be the strongest general election candidate the GOP could run, his poor fund raising is likely to hinder him in this free spending primary. For what it is worth, I'm predicting Schuitmaker to win on August 3.

On the Democratic side, Mark Totten has again substantially out raised Representative Robert Jones. Totten raised $65,942, spent $112,928, and has $73,100 in cash on hand, with a personal loan of $32,704. In contrast, Jones raised $49,770, spent $40,639, has $9,131 in cash on hand, and has a personal loan of $10, 377. While Ballenger is calling this race for Jones, I think Totten is going to pull this one out.

29th State Senate District

In the other big west Michigan primary, the 29th State Senate district has five candidates, three Republicans and two Democrats. on the Republican side, State Representative David Hildenbrand raised $100,307, spent $68,170 and has $170,192 in cash on hand. Hildenbrand's opponent Lori Wiersma raised $48,239, spent $39,237, and has $8,991 in cash on hand (and a personal loan of $1,750). While Wiersma is a stronger general election candidate for the GOP as she hails from Grand Rapids and is more moderate, it is hard to beat someone who has such a sizable financial edge that the GOP Representative from Lowell does. The third GOP candidate Judith Faye Kapteyn did not file a statement.

On the Democratic side, David LaGrand raised an enormous sum of $116,938. LaGrand spent $64,739, and has $52,198 in cash on hand. LaGrand's opponent Representative Robert Dean did not submit a statement as of 9am Saturday morning. Given all the turmoil in the Dean campaign and that Dean's campaign treasurer is Noah Seifullah, who remains on the Dean campaign despite resigning in disgrace as Dean's chief of staff, the delay in a filing statement is somewhat expected. Regardless of Dean's financial haul, I expect him to be a serious disadvantage to LaGrand on August 3 (a prediction will come later next week).

State House Districts

In the state house races, there are few things to note. First, Democratic Representative Roy Schmidt raised a lot of money, pulling in $57,748, spending $15,699, and has $82,317 in cash on hand. Not bad for running against an GOP candidate who filed a financial waiver promising not to raise more than $1,000. There isn't much more news in any other race than in the 75th District.

75th State House District

This seat, which covers eastern Grand Rapids, features a bitter Republican primary between Bing Goei and Jordan Bush. Goei, who is generally viewed as the moderate, raised $44,256, spent $41,729, and has $2,527 in cash on hand. Goei also took out a personal loan of $10,000. Bush raised $19,490, spent $23,950, and has $2,965 in cash on hand (and a $8,880 personal loan). Given Goei's connections and endorsements by the GOP establishment, he was expected to raise substantial amounts of money, but this has not quiet panned out. Bush remains in contention, and I view the race as a toss up with 10 days to go.

Waiting for either Republican candidate is Democratic County Commissioner Brandon Dillon. Dillon nearly bested Roy Schmidt in the fund raising race, pulling in $51,281, while spending only $11,816 and has $39,465 in cash on hand. Dillon isn't napping as he waits for an opponent.

Friday, July 16, 2010

MI-2 and MI-3 Second Quarter Fundraising numbers

Candidates running for federal office were required to submit their second quarter filing statements by July 15th at 5pm. Most of the financial data is online now, so let's look at two races close to WMR's heart: the 2nd and 3rd Michigan Congressional Districts.

In the 2nd District Republican primary, the long-standing cash on hand edge that Jay Riemersma had has largely disappeared. Of the seven candidates in the 2nd District primary, listed below is the 2nd quarter financial data:

CandidateContributions 2ndQ (Total)Spending 2ndQ (Total)Cash On Hand (debts)
COOPER(R)$16,920 ($92,596)$75,949 ($164,952)$106,038 ($178,348)
HUIZENGA(R)$108,124 ($292,481)$67,750 ($217,675)$100,756 ($25,000)
KUIPERS(R)$75,415 ($188,005)$17,445 ($38,370)$149,634
MCCLURE(R)$4,682 ($4,682)$6,757 ($6,757)$1,419
REICHARDT(R)$66,376 ($102,349)$85,073 ($97,939)$3,981
RIEMERSMA(R)$122,545 ($448,153)$253,011 ($521,012)$127,540 ($200,000)
WINCEL(R)$300 ($7,185)$7,664 ($11,993)$2,191 ($7,000)
JOHNSON(D)$29,242 ($53,301)$20,258 ($37,797)$15,963 ($1,000)

Riemersma has just been burning cash this quarter, no doubt in part to working with Strategic National. With four candidates (Kuipers, Riemersma, Huizenga, and Cooper) having over $100,000 cash on hand for the final five weeks before the primary, the outcome is still in doubt. The winner of the primary will face Democratic candidate Fred Johnson, who reported respectable numbers. Go over the fold to see the 3rd District numbers.

CandidateContributions 2ndQ (Total)Spending 2ndQ (Total)Cash On Hand (debts)
AMASH(R)$178,531 ($269,494)$132,958 ($182,959)$162,135 ($138,876)
HARDIMNAN(R)$67,836 ($121,923)$77,381 ($78,243)$43,579
HEACOCK(R)$125,608 ($198,745)$172,496 ($172,496)$51,298 ($25,050)
MILES(D)$138,119 ($195,449)$48,261 ($50,239)$259,983 ($115,000)

As of 2pm, Overbeek had not yet filed. Heading into the final month, Amash has a substantial cash on hand advantage over Heacock, which will like be used. Interestingly, Amash made a loan of $50,000 to his campaign during the 2nd quarter, bringing his total outstanding debts to $138,876. Hardiman has kept his spending down to remain financially competitive in the closing days of the campaign.

For all of Amash's denouements of liberals, I'm pleased to see that he is using Practical Political Consulting, a Democratic consulting firm run by Mark Grebner in East Lansing. When the going gets rough, use the best. Using the Campaign Resource Group run by Don Goris in Grand Rapids isn't that surprising.

Monday, July 12, 2010

3rd District Primary Analysis


With just over three weeks before the August 3 primary, Republican and Democratic campaigns are starting to take a look at who might be coming to the polls. Voter turnout in August tends to be rather apathetic, given that many folks are out of town or find the choices on the ballot to be unappealing. However, the 2010 Republican and Democratic primaries have a host of interesting candidates to choose from, although none as interesting as in the 3rd Congressional District primary. The 3rd Congressional District covers Barry, Ionia, and Kent County (with the exception of Alpine, Sparta, and Tyrone Townships in the northwest corner of Kent County). Add to the 3rd District race the Democratic and Republican primary races for governor and the 29th State Senate seat (Kentwood/Grand Rapids), and the competitive Republican state house races in the 72nd, 73rd, 75th, 77th, and 86th districts, there are reasons to expect higher turnout in 2010

3rd District Primary

So how many voters might come to the polls on August 3 for the 3rd District primary? The past four election cycles provide some clues. Overall primary turnout varied from 2000 to 2008, with a record 117,247 voters coming out in 2004 (largely for the zoo millage), to a low of 64,368 voters in 2008. The large number of voters in 2004 hailed overwhelmingly from Kent County, and cast huge numbers of votes in the GOP primary.

Understanding the GOP 3rd District primary in context of November election numbers can be informative. In 2000 173,465 voted for general election vote leader Spencer Abraham while 61,914 cast a ballot in the Republican primary. In 2002 152,731 voted for Ehlers in the general, while 54,132 voted in the primary. In 2004 213,895 voted for Ehlers in the general, 91,241 voted in the primary. In 2006 169,533 voted for Ehlers in the general, 52,756 voted in the primary. In 2008 203,769 voted for Ehlers in November, and 46,150 voted in the primary. Despite the noise about tea party mania, time after time turnout is lower in the gubernatorial election cycle when compared to the presidential cycle two years earlier. GOP primary turnout was 54,132 in 2002, and 52,756 in 2006, and will likely be higher in 2010 given the high-interest races mentioned earlier, but it is not going to get anywhere near the high of 91,241 in 2004. Three weeks before the election, I expect that turnout will maximize at 80,000 for the Republican primary in 2010.

The same sort of analysis applies for the Democratic primary turnout. Democratic turnout has varied significantly over the past five primaries, with 16,705 voters in 2000, 44,629 in 2002, 26,006 in 2004, 27,766 in 2006, and 15,176 in 2008. While there is a competitive Democratic gubernatorial primary, and a primary in the 29th State Senate District, turnout will not be as high as in 2002, but probably in between turnout levels set in 2002 and 2006. I would make a guess that no more than 30,000 voters will cast ballots in the Democratic primary.

3rd District Typology

As important as turnout is, where the voters come from is even more crucial for a campaign in the waning days. With an estimated turnout number in mind, where are the votes coming from? In the 3rd District primaries for both parties from 2000 to 2008 between 80% and 85% of the total vote will come from the Kent County portion of the 3rd District, while about 10% to 15% generally comes from Barry County, and about 6% comes from Ionia County. Thus, Kent County is where the action is.

However, a more informative way to look at the 3rd District would be to classify the different communities in the district into four distinct types: Rural, Exurban, Inner-Ring Suburbs, and Core City. Of course, the core city refers to Grand Rapids, which provided an average 19% of the total GOP primary vote over the past four cycles. A large portion of the GOP vote from Grand Rapids comes from the outlying portions of the 3rd Ward Dutch heartland, although there are similar GOP areas on the fringes of the 1st and 2nd Wards. Surrounding Grand Rapids are the inner ring suburbs of Kentwood, Wyoming, Grandville, East Grand Rapids, and Walker. These inner ring suburbs were largely built between 1920 and 1970, and face many of the same demographic and financial pressures facing Grand Rapids. Many of these suburbs have trended Democratic steadily over the past four cycles (especially in Wyoming and Kentwood), although strong bastions of social conservatives (in Grandville, Walker, and Wyoming) and economic conservatives (EGR) still exist. The inner ring suburbs provide 21% of the total GOP vote, giving the Grand Rapids metropolitan core about 40% of the total Republican vote. Over 32% of the GOP primary vote comes from the exurban suburbs, areas that were built largely after 1980 that have large lot sizes and have few of the infrastructure and demographic concerns of the core city and inner ring suburbs. The exurban areas of the 3rd District include Ada, Byron, Cannon, Cascade, Gaines, Grand Rapids Township, and Plainfield Townships. Finally, the rural portions of Kent, Barry, and Ionia Counties provide the final 25% of the GOP electorate.

On the Democratic side the story is quite different. Grand Rapids provides 37% of the total vote, and I suspect that this percentage will be even higher with the 29th State Senate District primary. The inner ring suburbs provide 24%, the exurban communities 19%, and the rural portions of the district 20%.


The suburbs, not the city, will play a key role in the 3rd District GOP primary that in which the three candidates represents different parts of the 3rd District. Heacock represents the core city and the Ehlers-Henry school of Dutch-Calvinism moderation, Hardiman the ideology of social conservativism that dominated the inner ring suburbs such until this past decade, while Amash represents the economic libertarianism that has sprung up rapidly from its slumber in the temple of Hayek and Ayn Rand over the past decade after the disastrous ideological experience of the George W. Bush Administration, and is at home in the exurban communities that have grown rapidly over the past two decades. The steady decline of the Grand Rapids Republican Party over the past five cycles will hurt Heacock the most (as well as Lori Wiersma in the 29th State Senate District Republican primary), and he'll be hurt further by the votes that Hardiman will take from conservative African American voters in the core (not that many, but still some). Haridman’s candidacy is hurt in part by Heacock’s, and the limited appeal of his social conservative ideology in the exurban areas of the 3rd District. Amash won election in the 72nd State House District in 2008 because of ample funding and a multi-candidate primary. Given that he has both again, as well as unique geographic positioning, Amash has a strong road to victory in the 3rd GOP primary. However, the general election will be another story.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

State of the Senate: Part IV


A few months ago I examined the underlying political conditions of the 110 Michigan State House districts, which can be found [ here], and in addition to previous analysis of the [ State Senate] and [ State House]. 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 fourth part of the series, and looks at the individual State Senate races. I last looked at individual candidate filings at the end of April, and over the past two months, the field of candidates who have filed to run in the August 2010 primary have solidified for both parties. As mentioned in previous posts, I maintain a listing of State House and State Senate candidates that includes the financial filing statements and in-depth analysis that can be obtained via a subscription by emailing


Using the DVI, I've divided the 38 Senate 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 (8 seats)

The vast majority of these seats are historic Republican strongholds, particularly those in Oakland County, and seats in rural Kent and Ottawa Counties. While only two of these seats has a GOP incumbent (Mark Jansen-Kent County and Mike Nofs-Jackson and Calhoun Counties, five of eight Democratic opponents have file financial waivers, meaning that they are going to raise no more than $1,000. Expect these eight Republicans to be in Lansing in January 2011.

Table 2 (Worksheet 2): Leans GOP (10 seats)

Three of these GOP-leaning seats are held by Republican incumbents, who have attracted a range of competitors. Republican Senator Roger Kahn faces a self-financed Democratic challenger in Debasish Mridha, who could make a challenge in the 32nd District. Given the Democratic baseline lean of this district, the GOP will probably provide financial assistance to Kahn in November. Of the other seven seats, there are nasty Republican primaries that could affect the outcome of the November race. In District 11, a three-way GOP primary between carpetbagger Kim Meltzer, convicted felon Jack Brandenburg, and pig-man Leon Dorlet has gotten nasty (the descriptions of these candidates have been provided be each other, not by me). Brandenburg is viewed as the strongest Republican candidate in the general election. There are also competitive Republican primaries in the 12th (eastern Oakland County), 15th (western Oakland County), and the 25th (Lapeer and St. Clair Counties).

Table 3 (Worksheet 3): Safe DEM (11 seats)
Most of these safe Democratic districts like in Detroit (Districts 1-5, 8-9) or in other long-term Democratic strongholds across the state (District 14-southern Oakland County, District 18 Washtenaw County, District 23-Ingham County, and District 27-Genesee County). These 11 seats will send Democrats to Lansing, although the identity of a few is still up in the air. Incumbents Hunter, Gleason, and Whitmer will return (despite Whitmer’s opponent Kyle Haubrich saying on Facebook that “In November I will be singing, "I can live freely now, the Dems are gone!" "Its gonna be a bright, bright sunshinny [sic] day!!!"). Many primaries in the Detroit seats feature multiple candidate primaries that will only be sorted out come August 3.
Table 4 (Worksheet 4): Leans DEM (4 seats)

These four seats are districts that the Michigan Republican Party might be tempted to spend some money on this fall. Incumbent Glenn Anderson (western Wayne County) will likely be safe, and Democratic candidates Carl Marlinga is a strong candidate in the 10th District Democratic primary. While the Democratic-held 31st and 38th District seats are potentially vulnerable, the Republican primaries could hinder these candidates from getting financial traction against Democrats Jeff Mayes and Mike Lahti, respectively. I’d think that the GOP would only be going after these seats if the Dems looked DOA come the middle of October.

Table 5 (Worksheet 5: Swing (5 seats)

If the Democratic and Republican candidates perform as expected and win all their safe and leaning seats, there will be at least 15 Democrats and 18 Republicans in the State Senate come January 2011. The remaining 5 swing seats are likely to be the major focus of each party in the 2010 election cycle, and rightfully so. These seats are all open and four of these seats are held by Republicans (With the Democrat Senator Deb Cherry vacating District 26). All these seats feature multi-candidate primaries (with the exception of the 34th District), and depending on which candidate makes it to the general election, each party will invest heavily in these seats. I consider Democrats Mark Totten and David LaGrand to be the strongest Democratic candidates in the 20th and 29th Districts, while Republicans Larry DeShazor and Lori Wiersma would be strong general election opponents. I’m less optimistic about the Dems being able to pick up District 7, although a weak GOP candidate could emerge from a nasty primary fight (Example A: Abe Munfakh) that Kathleen Law could seriously challenge. Districts 26 and 34 could go either way, although I’d give the edge to the Democratic candidate in both seats.


A month before the August primary, I’m betting that the Republicans will hold a 20-18 seat edge in State Senate come January 2011. That being said, we’ll know more come August 3.