Tuesday, October 26, 2010

One Week: The Political Landscape of the Michigan State House and Senate

(cross-posted at WMR, ML, BFM, and SSP-pb)


A week from the November 2 election, races in the Michigan State House and Senate are coming down to the home stretch. Many pundits, anonymous party officials, and insiders believe that Republican Rick Snyder will be elected governor of Michigan over Democratic candidate Virg Bernero. Far less certain is the status of individual races in the Michigan legislature. While some pundits and partisan hacks boldly state that the Michigan Republican Party will hold 28 Senate and 59 House seats by the evening of November 2, the actual picture remains much more clouded. Can the Republicans capture thirteen seats to control the lower chamber? Will the Democrats be able to pick up four senate seats to control of the upper chamber for the first time since 1984?

The recent pre-general financial reports for candidates help shed light on the situation on the ground. Candidates must report the amount of money they have raised and spent between August 24 and October 17, and must also declare their cash on hand at the end of the reporting period. We can thus see how the financial condition of candidates has changed since the previous analysis in early September. As in previous analysis of the State House and Senate candidates, I have collected the reported financial data that can be viewed [https://spreadsheets.google.com/ccc?key=0AtAGGuZPwuifdFJhVm9UUmtCckxOMG91WVhXSVY0Zmc&hl=en&authkey=CPez8pgI via the linked Google document].

State Senate

In my early September analysis, I postulated that the Republican Senate candidates and caucus’ strong financial edge would limit any potential Democratic gains in the upper chamber to one or two seats. The pre-general election financial filings confirm the GOP’s strong financial edge, an edge which has increased over the past two months. Yet does this edge translate into a GOP gain of six seats in the senate as some have predicted?

Reviewing the financial statements, I see no reason to change the earlier assessment that Lansing will certainly see eleven Democrats in the State Senate come January 2011. However, the four Democratic-leaning seats are potential sleeper Republican pickup possibilities upon first glance. However, in the 6th District (Livonia and Westland) Democratic incumbent Glen Anderson has an 18 time cash on hand advantage over Republican challenger John Pastor, who only has $4,086 on hand.

The other three races present better opportunities for the GOP. In the 10th District (Sterling Heights, Roseville, and Clinton Township) Republican Representative Tory Rocca has a sizable financial edge ($129,944 cash on hand) over Paul Gieleghem (-2,472), although Gieleghem has outspent Rocca by almost $70,000. In the 31st District (Bay County and the Thumb Region) Democratic Representative Jeff Mayes’ financial edge has dissipated after outspending Republican Mike Green by almost $140,000, with each candidate having around $40,000 cash on hand for the last week of the campaign. Internal Democratic polling has Mayes leading by a sizable margin, which has led the Senate caucus to direct their financial resources to the 38th District, a seat being vacated by Democratic senator Mike Prusi. Democratic Representative Michael Lahti and Republican Tom Casperson are in a tight battle in a historic Democratic district in the Upper Peninsula. While Casperson is perhaps the best candidate the Republicans have fielded in the Upper Peninsula in the most Republican year in Michigan since 1998, the long-standing Democratic baseline strength gives the Democrats an even shot to hold this seat.

The ten Republican-leaning seats are likely to remain in the Republican column next week. However, three seats bear watching on election night. District 13 (eastern Oakland County), the site of an epic 2006 race between Andy Levin and John Papageorge, has a strong Democratic challenger in Aaron Bailey, who has spent $151,874 in the past two months. Bailey’s spending has been surpassed by Papageorge’s $325,553. In the 16th District (southern mid-Michigan) Democratic Representative Douglas Spade remains an underdog against Republican Representative Bruce Caswell, who has spent almost $140,000 in the past two months. With two weeks left, Spade has a small cash on hand advantage over Caswell, which could provide an opening for an upset. Finally, Republican incumbent “Raging” Roger Kahn has spent more than $200,000 to hold his 32nd District seat against Democrat Debasish Mridha, who has provided significant self-financing to remain competitive against Kahn. While the 32nd District has a historic Democratic-lean, Kahn’s previous success in this district keeps him favored a week before the election.

Of the five remaining swing seats, four are currently held by Republicans, and one by a Democrat. With the death of Democratic candidate Robert Jones, the 20th District (Kalamazoo County) looks to be leaning to Republican candidate Tonya Schuitmaker, who has $84,000 remaining in cash for the final week against Bobby Hopewell, the Democratic replacement candidate. Republican candidate Geoff Hansen also has a significant financial edge against Democrat Mary Valentine in the 34th District (Muskegon County), although Valentine’s formidable ground game might pull out a victory. Republicans have an even chance of flipping the 26th District (Genesee County and northern Oakland County), as Republican David Robertson is facing Democrat Paula Zelenko. While Democrat Deborah Cherry held this seat in 2002 and 2006, the 26th is much less Democratic than expected.

Senate Democratic caucus’ best chances of picking up seats appear to be in the 7th and 29th Senate Districts. The 7th (western Wayne County), features a four way race between Democrat Kathleen Law, Republican Patrick Colbeck, and two independent candidates (John Stewart and Michael Kheibari). While the 7th District has had a historic Republican lean, a former Republican moderate like Stewart will take some votes from Republican Colbeck that improves Law’s chances. In the 29th District (Grand Rapids and Kentwood), David LaGrand remains neck and neck with Republican Representative David Hildenbrand despite being outspent by almost $150,000 over the past two months. With a week to go, LaGrand has a $25,000 cash on hand advantage over Hildenbrand

If the election was held today, I’d expect the Democrats to pick up two seats in the senate (Districts 7 and 29) while losing one (District 26), leaving 21 Republicans and 17 Democrats in the upper chamber. However, with a week left, the picture is far to fluid to make a final assessment. I’ll be watching the following seats on election night: Districts 7, 10, 13, 16, 20, 26, 29, 31, 32, 34, and 38.

State House

In September I noted that both parties had a number of safe seats in the State House that are not going to attract the attention of the opposing party. 35 Democrats and 27 Republicans will assuredly return to Lansing. Of the remaining seats, 18 lean Democratic, 14 lean Republican, and 16 swing seats.

Of the Democratic-leaning districts, only five bear watching on election night. In District 15 (Dearborn), Republican Suzanne Sareini remains financially competitive against opponent Democrat George Darany in a district that was a swing seat earlier in the decade. Likewise, in the 26th District (Royal Oak), Democrat James Townsend has recovered from an expensive primary to pull into a financial advantage against Republican Kenneth Rosen. In the 55th District (Monroe and Washtenaw Counties) the Democratic candidates Michael Smith has increased his financial edge against Republican Rick Olson. In the 75th District (eastern Grand Rapids) Democratic candidate Brandon Dillon seeks to hold an open Democratic seat against Republican businessman Bing Goei. The Michigan Democrat House caucus’ decision to dump $125,000 into the race in the past few days symbolizes the trust the caucus has in Dillon’s ability to hold this seat. In the 110th District (western Upper Peninsula) Democrat Scott Dianda has a significant financial edge over Republican Matt Huuki, although the edge many Republican candidates have might help Huuki in this historic Democratic district. Finally, the 31st District is a Democratic-held seat in Macomb County that could be a potential Republican pickup opportunity. Marilyn Lane is facing Republican Dan Tolis, who has poured more than $100,000 into his campaign coffers. Tollis has raised and spent little money since August 23 (raising $458 and spending $4,714), while Lane has spent heavily on the race.

Of the 14 Republican-leaning seats, three are being vacated by term-limited by Democratic incumbents (Districts 20, 83, and 107) and are likely Republican pickups. Six of the 14 seats are held by Republican incumbents, and face no competitive Democratic challenger. Of the five open Republican seats, GOP candidates have a small to significant financial advantage.

Of the remaining 16 seats, five are held by Democratic incumbents. The five Democratic incumbents (District 1, Tim Bledsoe; District 21, Dian Slavens; District 24, Sarah Roberts; District 39, Lisa Brown; District 70, Mike Huckleberry) all have large financial advantages over their Republican opponents, although Mike Hukleberry’s financial edge has shrunk with his massive spending against Republican Rick Outman.

The five Republican-held swing seats, all are open seats. Districts 30 (Sterling Heights), Districts 71 (Eaton County), 85 (Shiawassee County), 97 (Clare, Gladwin, and Arenac Counties), and 99 (Isabella and Midland Counties) all feature close races, although Democrats are in stronger shape in the 30th and 97th Districts.

The six open Democratic held seats are all in danger of being Republican pickups. The Republicans look especially competitive in Districts 52 (western Washtenaw County), although Republican Mark Oumiet’s financial shenanigans while a county commissioner are catching up to him. In districts 65 (Jackson County) and 91 (Muskegon County), self-financing Republicans Mike Shirkey and Holly Hughes are likely to pick up these seats. The 106th also looks like a possible flip, with Republican Peter Pettalia continuing to maintaining a financial edge against Democrat Casey Viegelahn. The two remaining open Democratic seats seem to be much safer for their party, with Van Sheltrown in the 103rd District (Missaukee, Roscommon, Ogemaw, and Iosco Counties), and Harvey Schmidt in the 57th District (Monroe County) each have an active local party, a financial edge and strong support from the departing Democratic incumbents.

As of October 26, I expect the Republicans to pick up nine seats while the Democrats will likely flip one seat, leaving the Democrats with a 59 to 51 seat edge in the House. On election night I’ll be watching 12 races in Districts 21, 31, 52, 55, 57, 65, 70, 71, 75, 103, 108, and 110.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Central Norristown Report

(another church report, this time on a congregation located in Norristown, an old river town in Metropolitan Philadelphia-pb)

Like many Presbyterian churches, Norristown Central Presbyterian Church was born in the wake of the Old School/New School Presbyterian controversy 1837. This controversy was born out of decades of polity and theological disputes within the growing denomination, particularly over the role of 1801 Plan of Union between Presbyterian and Congregational denominations and the issue of slavery. Being the center of northern Presbyterianism, the metropolitan Philadelphia region featured a number of church splits. This was the case in Norristown, Pennsylvania, which was the growing county seat of Montgomery County, just to the west of the city of Philadelphia. The First Presbyterian Church of Norristown, which was founded in 1819, had elected to join the New School Presbyterians in 1838. In 1855 a new pastor assumed the pulpit at First Norristown, and convinced the majority of the session to join the Old School Presbyterians, a move that alienated a number of congregation members, who promptly left the congregation.

These members formed Norristown Central Presbyterian Church, which formed in August 1855 at Hill Hall, which was located at the corner of Swede and Airy Street in the shadow of the County Courthouse. Like many New School Presbyterian churches, the congregation refused to adopt a pew rental system, and instead sought pledges from the congregation. This caused some discussion among congregation members, which are dutifully captured in the session minutes. This early dissent notwithstanding, the congregation was incorporated two months later on October 15, 1855, and the congregation called its first pastor Daniel Mallery (1856-1862). Under Mallery’s tenure the church’s first sanctuary was built in 1862 on the north side of Main Street between Cherry and Swede Streets at a cost of $16,000 (the equivalent of $341,155 in 2009 dollars).

Following Mallery’s departure in 1862 to serve as a chaplain in the Union Army during the American Civil War, Robert Adair (1862-1865) assumed the pastorate as the church began worship in its new sanctuary. Over the next forty years the congregation grew at the downtown location, due in party to a series of revivals conducted between 1871 and 1875 under the leadership of Pastor Henry Ford (1866-1875). Under the next three pastors (William Jenks, 1875-1881, Joseph McCaskie, 1882-1886, and Lincoln Litch 1886-1891) the congregation continued to grow, as Norristown’s population continued to grow. With the arrival of James Hunter as pastor in 1892, the congregation began to actively considering moving to the western portion of Norristown, which was growing rapidly. With the encouragement of First Norristown, the congregation selected a site at the intersection of Airy and Stanbridge Streets in January 1899. A chapel was built in 1901 on the present-day site of the church, and the congregation decided to sell the current sanctuary at a congregational meeting in March 1902. Inaugural services were held in the new chapel on November 16, 1902, and led by the pastors of both First and Central Presbyterian churches.

The new sanctuary was elegantly constructed in the English gothic style. The stain-glass windows were also constructed in gothic style, and were designed by Nicholas D’Ascenzo, who was a master glassmaker based in Philadelphia. D’Ascenzo and his studio also designed stain glass windows for the National Cathedral in Washington DC and Riverside Church in New York City. The most windows on the east side of the sanctuary are called the “Gospel Windows”, and reflect the Christ’s ministries; while the windows on the west side of the church are commonly referred to as the “Law Windows” and display scenes from the Old Testament.

Map 1: Downtown Norristown

Following the movement of the congregation to a new site and the retirement of Pastor Hunter in 1902, the congregation entered a period of transition during the first years of John Crawford’s (1903-1936) tenure as pastor. A number of congregants who lived in the downtown area transferred their membership to First Presbyterian, while 87 new members joined Central within two years of Crawford’s arrival. In many was Crawford was a “foundational” pastor for the congregation; he created a number of ministry programs for the church that took strands from the social gospel movement as well as the missionary/organizational movement that swept the Protestantism before the 1914. Under his watch the church building was completed in October 1907, programming for children and summer school began, and financial support for the Norristown Presbyterian Italian Mission began in 1911.

Following Crawford’s retirement in 1936 the congregation continued to grow in membership during the tenures of James Kell (1937-1944) and James Grazier (1945-1959). Under the former the congregation began joint evening services with other Presbyterian churches in Norristown, and with the latter the church built a new educational wing that was completed in 1955, refurbished the main sanctuary in 1957, and reached new heights in membership.

Norristown’s membership numbers began to decline following Grazier’s retirement in 1959, which coincided with the migration of white Protestants from urban centers such as Norristown to newly forming suburban communities. The membership began to decline during the tenure of Joseph MacCarroll (1959-1963), and membership fell from 728 to 509 between 1964 and 1977 during the tenure of MacCaroll’s successor John McConaughy (1963-1977). The western portions of Norristown continued to change during the 1980s, as the white population declined as residents moved to the surrounding suburban communities, and the neighborhoods surrounding Central became increasingly Latino. During Peter Leathersich’s (1980 to 1988) tenure, the congregational membership dropped from 403 to under 200. While the church experienced continued instability in the 1990s, experiencing three short-term pastorates (two of them interim), under the leadership of Frank Amalfitano (1999-2006) the congregation began to increasingly reach out to the growing Latino population, and with funds from the General Assembly, called Pastor Gadiel Gomez-Saravia to serve a new Latino congregation.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Arch Street Presbyterian Church Case Study

(Going through the archive as I get ready to depart from Philadelphia. This is a report I wrote as part of a consulting project on Arch Street Presbyterian Church back in February 2009-pb)

Part I: A Brief History of Arch Street Presbyterian Church

Like many churches in urban centers of the United States, Arch Street Presbyterian Church has a
long history. This history, while similar to the broader Presbyterian story, also has unique 
characteristics that are reflective of demographic changes occurring in center city neighborhoods 
of Philadelphia.

The current congregation at 1724 Arch St is a product of five congregations that merged over the 
past one hundred years. The first congregation known as Arch Street was
established in 1813 as the Fifth Presbyterian Church. Fifth Presbyterian called a few pastors but
 none stayed longer than a few years until Dr. Thomas H. Skinner was called in 1816. Skinner began his tenure at the church by preaching a series of sermons against doctrinal preaching that
 eventually led to a threatened church trial for heresy. While the trial never occurred, the new 
pastor garnered plenty of attention that rapidly increased the size of the growing congregation
 and the building of a new sanctuary that was dedicated on Saturday June 7, 1823. When
 Skinner left to be a Professor at Andover Seminary in 1832 the congregation had 600 members, a
number which fell quickly after his departure. The bitter disputes within the congregation over
 Skinner’s successor led to only 92 remaining members who greeted George Duffield as their new
pastor in 1835. Duffield’s departure in 1837 was likely due to tensions within the church
regarding the New School/Old School split within the national Presbyterian Church, as Fifth
 Presbyterian Church soon was among the leading Old School congregations while Duffield
 became a prominent New School Pastor.

After a decade of decline and waning membership numbers, Fifth Presbyterian was reorganized
 in February 1850 as Arch Street Presbyterian Church and called Charles Wadsworth as its pastor.
 Wadsworth served for thirteen years, and the congregation grew rapidly, often filling the 
sanctuary an hour before services began, causing the session to build a trap door behind the 
pulpit to allow Wadsworth to enter through the basement of the building. While the church
 continued to maintain robust membership figures during the tenures of N. W. Conklin (1863-
1868) and John Withrow (1868-1873), the continued industrialization of the eastern portions of
 Center City led to the removal of many residential units and parishioners from the neighborhood 
surrounding the church by the mid-1870s. Many members moved to the growing suburban
neighborhoods on the outskirts of the city core, causing the church’s membership to decline
under the tenures of Walter Scott (1874-1878) and John Sands (1880-1890). While the church’s 
membership had rejected a merger with Second Presbyterian in March 1868, the Session strongly
 considered merger in March 1894, as the income from pew rents declined drastically under the
leadership of George Wilson (1891-1897). Following Wilson’s retirement in 1897 the 
congregation discussed merger with West Arch Street, and received approval from the
 Philadelphia Presbytery in June 1897.

The West Arch Street congregation that Arch Street members joined in 1897 had been in
existence since 1828 when the congregation was organized as 11th Presbyterian in November
 1828. The new church called John L. Grant as pastor in June 1829, he served until 1850. With 
the arrival of Pastor John Miller in 1850, the church sought a new sanctuary to house the ever-
growing congregation that soon became one of the largest Old School congregations in the 
country. The present-day sanctuary was built between 1853 and 1855, with the cornerstone laid 
on May 21, 1855 in the presence of numerous conservative and southern Presbyterian elites,
 including Princeton Professors A. B. Van Zandt and Robert Breckinridge. The Greek Revival sanctuary was designed by Joseph Hoxie and built to seat 900 on the ground floor and 200 in the galleries at a cost of $103,571.27(or $2.5 million in 2009 dollars). After Miller’s departure (and death while fighting for the Confederacy in 1864), Jonathan Edwards (1857-1866) a descendant of theologian Jonathan Edwards, became pastor and at one point welcomed the Prince of Wales to a service. After Edwards’ tenure Alphonso Willits (1867-1880) and John Hemphill (1882-1893) served the congregation, which soon began experiencing some of the same neighborhood transition that had transformed the Arch Street Congregation seven blocks to the east. Despite merging with Arch Street in 1897 the congregation continued to experience membership 
decline under the tenure of Mervin J. Eckels (1893-1913), as the central portion of the city
 became a growing commercial district for the metropolitan Philadelphia region.

Part II: The Revitalization of Center City Philadelphia

With its location in the heart of Center City, Arch Street Presbyterian was adversely affected by 
its population decline between 1860 and 1960. With the Center City neighborhood rapidly 
becoming an industrial and later commercial center, the residential population declined, resulting 
in many members of the church changing their membership to churches in their new

Yet in the past fifty years the population of Center City rebounded, and since
 1960 has gained population while Philadelphia’s overall population decline, and the metropolitan 
region’s population remained static. The population of Center City
 increased from 43,465 in 1970 to 49,211 in 2000, a 13% increase over the past thirty years. 
While the population of the neighborhoods to the north and south of Center City continued to
 decline until 2000, the median housing values increased along with median income levels. The 
rise in income and population levels is due in part to the development of new residential units
throughout Center City. While new residential unit construction had occurred since the 1970s,
 the passage of a 10 year tax abatement program in 1997 for new housing developments in
 Philadelphia certainly made such ventures more profitable. Between 1997 and 2008 10,316 new
 housing units were constructed in Center City and in the surrounding core neighborhoods to the
 north and south (known as the “Extended Area”). The wave of developments after 1997 further increased the Center City residential population from 49,211 in 2000 to 57,000 in 2008,
 while the total expanded area population rose from 78,902 in 2000 to 90,000 in 2008. Much of this development is high-end condos, lofts, and townhouses that are moving into
 neighborhoods such as Queen Village and Northern Liberties on the outskirts of Center City that 
have historically been working-class or low-income.

A recent Center City District
 publication reports that 41% of the new residents have moved into their new dwellings from
outside the City of Philadelphia. These new arrivals to the neighborhoods around Arch Street Presbyterian are well-educated
(with 47% holding an advanced or professional degree), and are generally between the age of 25
and 34, and generally are “empty-nesters” (married couple without children), although there is a
 sizable number of single residents in the city. While the population of Center City is still largely
 white, a sizable and increasing minority is multi-racial. With the rebirth in the residential
 population of Center City, the population density of the area has increased as well, providing
 increase impetus for mixed use commercial development that further promotes revitalization 
efforts for the city’s core.