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.

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