2010 Recap Part II: Michigan State House

(Cross-posted at WMR, ML, and BFM-pb)

Perhaps the biggest surprise on late hours of November 2 was the enormity of the Democratic defeat in the Michigan State House. While many had predicted that the Democrats’ margin of 67 to 43 would be reduced, few predicted that they would lose control of the lower chamber (myself included) and end up with 47 seats, a humiliating 20 seat loss. Indeed, Democratic numbers in the State House and Senate have not been this low since 1954, a time when Michigan’s legislature in the legislature was malapportioned prior to the 1964 Constitution. Just for reference, Table 1 below shows partisan control of the Michigan State House and Senate from 1955 to the present.


Table 1: Michigan Legislative Control, 1948-2012

What caused this twenty seat loss for the Democrats? Commentators have noted that Democratic turnout crashed on the rocks this cycle, with turnout in key Democratic precincts lower than even in 1998 or 1994 (or even 1966 for that matter). I think that the 2010 disaster can be explained largely by region, statistics, and redistricting.

Consider regionalism first. The map below shows partisan control of State House statewide.


Map 1: Michigan State House Partisan Control

One can see the 20 seats gained by the GOP on November 2 are largely concentrated in three regions of the state: Northern Michigan, downriver/eastern Michigan, and Macomb County. Of these 20 seats, 14 were open, while 6 were lost by Democratic incumbents. Maps 2-5 shows these areas in greater detail.


Map 2: Northern Michigan


Map 3: The Thumb/Macomb County


Map 4: Downriver and Eastern Michigan


Map 5: Western Michigan

Democrats lost six districts in Northern Michigan, two in West Michigan, eight seats in the downriver/rural eastern Michigan, two seats in the Thumb, and two in Macomb County. The loss of seats on a regional basis is significant to explaining the GOP’s success in 2010. The Upper Peninsula has long been a Democratic stronghold, although the Democratic Baseline (which is the average Democratic share of the vote cast for State Board of Education races) for the districts in northern Michigan (101, 103, 106, and 107) are much more Republican-leaning. The decline of the Democratic brand over the past two years is due in part to the retirement of Bart Stupak, who had long provided a strong conservative Democratic presence on the top of the ticket for Democratic voters in the north, and also the antipathy of voters to the first two years of the Obama Administration. This suspicion of the Obama Administration has cultural and economic roots, but is also due to the steady drumbeat of the GOP noise machine that has played on the fear and malaise of many voters.

The six seats lost in West Michigan, Macomb County, and the Thumb are swing (Districts 24, 32, and 91) or Republican leaning Districts (Districts 70, 83, 84). However, the eight seats lost in Monroe, Jackson, Lenawee, Washtenaw, and Wayne Counties are in many was due to Rick Snyder being on the top of the Republican ticket. Snyder almost carried his home county (Washtenaw), a county that Democratic candidates generally carry by a two to one margin. The fact that Snyder almost carried this county doomed the Democratic State House candidates in the two Washtenaw County districts (52nd and 55th). Similarly, Jackson, Lenawee, and Monroe Counties, which have generally had a slight Democratic lean over the past four election cycles, swung decisively towards the Republican column, costing Democrats four seats. In Wayne County, Democratic incumbent Deb Kennedy was caught napping in the 23rd District, while Republicans picked up the 19th State House seat, which has historically been a Republican seat.

Thus regionalism partly explains the 2010 results. Table 2 below attempts to explain the results based on demographic and economic statistical data for each seat. I pulled data on any race that was 1) a Republican pickup, 2) where the winning candidate won with less than 55% of the vote, or 3) was identified as a Weak Republican, Weak Democratic or Swing seat in my previous analysis. The categories in Table 2 are pretty self-explanatory, although a few deserve further explanation. Dem 2010% is the percentage received the Democratic State House candidate in 2010, while DB Avg% is the Democratic Baseline average from the 2004, 2006, and 2008 elections. %Black, %Min, %White is based on ethnic data from the 2000 Census, as is Pov% (poverty rate), Bach% (percentage of residents who hold a Bachelor’s Degree), Prof% (percentage of residents who work in professional sector), and Med House Income (Median Household Income). While this data is ten years old, it serves as a reference point for analyzing the data. Once the 2010 Census data is released next month, I’ll try to update some of this information.

In the 55 races, Democrats won 18 seats in 2010 (or 37%). In comparison, after the 2008 election they held 38 seats (69%). Some Democratic incumbents who won in 2010 performed slightly better than the 2004-08 Democratic baseline average, and only two Democratic incumbents (Terry Brown in the 84th and Dan Scripps in the 101st) who ran better than the baseline lost. Every other Democratic candidate (incumbent or challenger) performed worse than the baseline.


Table 2: District Analysis

Is there a silver bullet from the data that explains the Democratic disaster in these 55 districts? Besides the fact that Republican incumbents were invulnerable, and that every open GOP seat was held, a few trends appear when you do some preliminary regression analysis. With correlation coefficient.78, the 2004-2008 Democratic baseline average is the strongest predictor of Democratic State House performance in 2010. Which, in my opinion, is not all too surprising.


Table 3: Baseline Regression

The other variables have a much weaker predictive value and are not statistically significant. The only other significant variable is race, and there is a -.42 correlation coefficient with the white population percentage, which has a t score of 3.369. Essentially, Democrats won any district where the white percentage of the population was under 90%. Personally, I think that the financial data, which should be available relatively soon from the Michigan Campaign Finance Network, will also show that a large financial edge for the winner will be statistically significant.


Table 4: White% Regression

Finally, how does redistricting explain regionalism and statistics? In 2001 the Republican Party controlled all three parties in the redistricting equation (the State House, Senate, and Michigan Supreme Court). The map drawn for the State House sought to maximize the Republican gains in the 2000 election, and as a result the number of seats controlled by the GOP increased from 58 in 2000 to 61 in 2002. However, the map cut too close to the margins, and Democratic wave years in 2006 and 2008 resulted in the GOP caucus being reduced to 52 and 43 seats, respectively. Perhaps a wiser map would treat 2010 as an aberration, and a new map would seek to draw 56 to 58 safe Republican seats. Given that there are 63 members of the Republican House caucus, I suspect that every incumbent will want a seat that protects his or her interests. For the Democrats looking for a strategy in 2012, I’d look really hard at trying to knock off the GOP in metropolitan Detroit (Districts 23, 24, 52, 55, and 56) as well as reclaiming districts 108 and 110 in the Upper Peninsula and Districts 101 and 103 in Northern Michigan. This would bring the party back to a narrow majority. However, given that a new map will be created in late 2011, closer targeting will need to wait until then.

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

(cross-posted at ML, BFM, and WMR-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 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.  

Michigan State House and Senate: September 2010

(Cross-posted on ML, BFM, and WMR-pb)

(photo by Tom Gill of beautiful Lake Michigan)

As we celebrate a beautiful Labor Day weekend, we can also rejoice in the unofficial start date of the 2010 campaign season. While many voters were bombarded with attention from campaigns over the past few months during primary season, the general election season will be upon us now with full vigor. Labor Day weekend also nicely coincides with the post-primary filing date for Michigan’s legislative campaigns. Candidates must report the amount of money they have raised and spent between July 18 and August 23, and must also declare their cash on hand at the end of the reporting period.

Thus we can see the financial condition of candidates entering to the last 61 days before Election Day in the contours of Michigan’s political landscape. As in previous analysis of the State House and Senate candidates, I have collected the reported financial data that can be obtained through a subscription. Please feel free to contact me at peterbratt@gmail.com.  

State House

While signs of a Republican edge in the 2010 election have emerged over the past few months, the reality of Michigan’s political geography will reduce the number of competitive seats in the state to no more than fifteen. Using electoral data from the past four cycles, I’ve created a House District matrix that is shown in the linked Google document. Both parties have a number of safe seats that are not going to attract the attention of the opposing party; the Democrats have 31, the Republicans have 25. The filing date backs the electoral data. 22 Republicans have filed financial filing waivers, meaning they will raise no more than $1,000 for the 2010 election cycle, meaning they will most assuredly lose in November. Thirteen other Republican candidates have raised less than $1,000, and are already being heavily outspent by their Democratic opponents. Thus, for all intent and purpose, the Democrats will have at least 35 Representatives in January 2011.

27 Republicans will also most assuredly return to Lansing with these 35 Democrats. 17 Democrats have filed financial waivers, while six Republicans are unchallenged this fall (Peter Lund-36th, Kenneth Kurtz- 58th, Bob Genetski-88th, Joe Haveman-90th, Jim Stamas-98th, Wayne Schmidt, 104th). Say what you will about the Michigan Republican Party, but they ran candidates in every State House District, something that the Democrats didn’t do this cycle. The remaining four Republicans face rather nominal opposition, although Democrat Garry Post has self-financed his campaign against incumbent Republican Cindy Denby in the 47th District (northern Livingston County).

The remaining 48 districts are more competitive. Of these seats, I have classified 18 as Democratic leaning districts and fourteen as leaning Republican. Of the 18 Democratic seats, only 16 are potentially competitive since two Republicans have filed financial waivers. Eleven of these 18 Democrats are incumbents and are generally in a stronger financial position than their Republican opponents. Democratic incumbents Marty Griffin (64th-Jackson County) and Judy Nerat (108th-Menominee County) are the only two incumbents in less than robust financial positions against their opponents. Democrats will be most concerned about the seven open Democratic-leaning districts, six which the Democrats are defending. In the 15th (Dearborn), Republican Suzanne Sareini has double the money that her opponent Democrat George Darany has, which could make this seat one the GOP could put in play. In the 26th (Royal Oak), Democrat James Townsend is fresh off an expensive primary, while his Republican opponent Kenneth Rosen has a significant financial edge due to his self financing. In the 55th (Monroe and Washtenaw Counties) and the 75th (eastern Grand Rapids) the Democratic candidates Michael Smith and Brandon Dillon have significant financial advantages over their opponents, making the likelihood of the GOP House Caucus spending funds in these races much less likely. In the 110th (western Upper Peninsula) Democrat Scott Dianda has a financial edge over Republican Matt Huuki, although both candidates have not raised much money. The 31st District is a Republican-held seat in Macomb County that could be a potential Democratic pickup opportunity, and Marilyn Lane is facing Republican Dan Tolis, who has poured more than $100,000 into his campaign coffers.

Of the fourteen Republican leaning seats, six are held by GOP incumbents, five are open Republican seats, and three were vacated by term-limited Democratic incumbents. Three Democrats have filed financial waivers, meaning that only eleven seats are active elections. All GOP incumbents have a strong financial edge, while in the five open Republican seats, two Democratic candidates has filed a financial waiver (District 79 and 81), and in two races the Republican candidate has a large financial edge (Districts 33 and 61). Only in the 80th District (Van Buren County) does Democrat Tom Erdmann have a narrow financial advantage against Republican Aric Nesbitt, who spent a lot of money in a six-way Republican primary. Of the three Democratic-held district, two (District 83-Sanliac County, District 107-eastern Upper Peninsula) appear to be Republican pickups, as the Democratic candidates in each district have raised very little money in a tough political environment. In the 20th District vacated by Representative Marc Corriveau, Democrat Joan Wadsworth has a significant financial advantage over Republican Kurt Heise, who has largely self-financed his campaign. If Wadsworth can hold the 20th, which covers Plymouth Township and Northville in Wayne County, it will be a testament to her political skill.

The remaining sixteen seats are swing districts, with five held by the GOP. 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, an advantage which the Democratic State House caucus will certainly supplement over the next two months. The six open-Democratic held seats are much more open to a Republican takeover. The Republicans look especially competitive in Districts 52 (western Washtenaw County), 65 (Jackson County) and 91 (Muskegon County), thanks to three self-financing candidates in Mark Ouimet, Mike Shirkey and Holly Hughes. While I suspect that Christine Green will be able to benefit from strong institutional support in Washtenaw County, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Shirkey and Hughes win their districts. The 106th also looks like a possible flip, with Republican Peter Pettalia out raising 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. MDP will likely steer resources towards these two districts.

Of the five Republican held swing seats, all are open seats. Of these, Districts 30 (Sterling Heights), 97 (Clare, Gladwin, and Arenac Counties), and 99 (Isabella and Midland Counties) all look like potential Democratic pickups opportunities in November. Each Democratic candidate has a significant financial edge over their Republican opponent. Districts 71 (Eaton County) and 85 (Shiawassee County) are also potential opportunities, although the Republican candidates might be aided by a better political climate this fall.

With two months to go, I expect the Democrats to lose between four and seven seats in the Michigan State House. While the political environment is not favorable for the Democratic Party this cycle, the Michigan Democratic House caucus has a two to one financial advantage over the Republican House caucus (As of July 20, 2010 the Democratic House Caucus had $850,469 versus the Republican’s $394,231) that will be used to effect over the next few weeks. While a Republican gain might be larger, I suspect the state party will choose instead to focus money on regaining control over the Michigan Supreme Court and retaining the State Senate. For folks interested where these house districts are located, please see the maps below









State Senate

The financial situation in the Michigan State Senate is a 180 degree reversal of the State House. The Republican Senate caucus has a three to one money advantage, with $1,584,502 cash on hand versus the Democratic Senate caucus total of $505,007 (as of July 20). This deep financial advantage, along with the unfavorable political environment will make it difficult, but not impossible, for the Democrats to take control of the State Senate.

Of the 38 seats, 30 are open in the 2010 cycle. While the turnover in senators will be significant, the partisan makeup of the chamber will not be significantly altered. Eleven seats are safe in the hands of the Democratic Party, while the Republicans will assuredly return eight senators in January 2011. Of the eleven Democrats running for safe seats, nine have Republicans who have filed financial waivers, while Republicans Michael Ennis (District 9) and Kyle Haubrich (District 23) have raised insignificant amounts of funds, ensuring that Democrats Steve Bieda and Gretchen Whitmer will be reelected in November. Of the eight safe Republicans, two are incumbents (Mike Nofs in District 19 and Mark Jansen in District 28) and their opponents filed financial waivers. Democratic candidates also filed financial waivers in the 24th and 30th Districts, while none of the remaining four Democratic candidates have raised more than $5,000 against well-financed opponents.

10 seats are leaning Republican for a number of reasons. Republicans Jack Brandenburg (District 11-Macomb County) and Philip Pavlov (Lapeer and St. Clair Counties) face opponents who filed financial waivers, and Jim Marleau in the 12th District (Oakland County) and Mike Kowall in the 15th (northern Oakland) have significant financial advantages over Casandra Ulbrich and Pamela Jackson respectively. Incumbent Republican senators John Pappageorge (13th District-eastern Oakland County), Randy Richardville (17th District-Monroe and Washtenaw Counties), and Roger Kahn (32nd District-Saginaw County) have significant cash on hand advantages over their Democratic challengers. However, Aaron Bailey in the 13th and Debasish Mridha in the 32nd have raised significant funds that would allow them to make a play at these seats in a better political environment. A similar situation exists in the open 16th and 36th district seats, where popular Democrats Douglas Spade and Andy Neumann are running against Bruce Caswell and John Moolenaar. Neumann narrowly lost in 2002 in a bid for a senate seat, and it appears that Moolenaar has a significant financial advantage of more than $200,000 at the beginning of September. Democrats might consider making a play at the 16th District, where Douglas Spade will face Caswell, who provided a personal fortune for his attempt for higher office. Finally, in the 37th District, while Republican Howard Walker’s campaign account was depleted after a bitter primary battle, Democrat Bob Carr hasn’t caught on fire financially.

The four Democratic-leaning seats are a mixed bag for the defending party. Incumbent Glenn Anderson (6th District-Livonia and Westland) and Jeff Mayes (Bay County and the Thumb region) have significant cash on hand advantages, meaning they will avoid being targeted by the Republicans. However, in the 10th (Macomb County) and 38th (Upper Peninsula) Districts, two excellent candidates for each party (Paul Gieleghem versus Tory Rocca in the former and Michael Lahti and Tom Casperson in the latter) mean that there will be a contested race with significant funding from each party. While the Republican candidates are strong, the seats both have historic Democratic leanings, which will be crucial to retaining these seats in November.

The five remaining seats will decide control of the Senate. If the Republicans can hold two of their four seats, they will have a 20 to 18 edge in the chamber. The Democrats need to hold the 26th District (Genesee and Oakland Counties) and pick up three of the Republican seats. The problem for the Democrats is that their candidates in two of the five districts are in at a distinct financial disadvantage. In the 20th District Democrat Robert Jones has just over $10,000 on hand (and has loaned himself an equal amount), and is going up against Tonya Schuitmaker, who is personally wealthy and willing to spend significant sums to hold this Kalamazoo County seat, although she only has $6,000 on hand after an expensive primary. Democrat David LaGrand ($30,648 cash on hand) trails opponent David Hildenbrand ($134,352 cash on hand) by more than $100,000, and edge that the senate Democrats will have to try and overcome to contest this seat. Democratic candidates in the 7th (Kathleen Law with $21,577 cash on hand), 26th (Paula Zelenko with $23,041 cash on hand) and Mary Valentine ($49,231) are at rough financial parity with their Republican opponents Patrick Colbeck ($13,267), David Robertson ($10,648), and Geoff Hansen ($57,371).

Given the number of strong candidates in each party competing in some competitive districts, it seems that the parties will likely exchange some seats. However, given the Republican Senate caucus’ strong financial edge, I suspect the Democratic gain will be limited to a one to two seat gain, keeping the Republicans in control of the upper chamber.

Politics is about candidates and their message competing in a political landscape strongly shaped by partisan boundaries. With two months to go, both parties will be racing to the finish line. So, enjoy the last few weeks of peace and quiet before the robocalls start, and enjoy some beautiful state senate district photos below.








Poorly armed and somewhat dangerous: Tea Party candidates in the 2010 Michigan primary

(Cross-posted at ML, BFM, and WMR-pb)

Since early 2009, the Tea Party movement has gained an enormous amount of media attention. While claiming to be a non-partisan movement, the Tea Party is remarkably consistent with some of the core constituencies at the heart of Republican Party since the late 1960s. In particular, the themes commonly evoked by Tea Party participants (economic libertarianism, fervent individualism, and deep distrust of any governmental intervention) largely mirror the platform of Republican Representative Ron Paul’s 2008 candidacy for the GOP presidential nomination. Indeed, many organizers of Paul’s campaign and leaders in the Young American for Freedom (YAF) were behind many of the early Tea Party events in 2009.

The rise of the Tea Party movement represents in part a return of many conservative libertarians to the GOP. The candidacy of Barry Goldwater in 1964 did much to bring libertarians into the Republican Party, were they largely remained for following four decades. During his second term, George W. Bush was responsible for driving some libertarians out, as many became extremely disenchanted with the Republican Party’s focus on social issues and increased governmental expansion. While not abandoning the Republican Party entirely, a sizable percentage of libertarians voted from Democratic candidates in 2006 and 2008 for reasons similar to those voiced in blogger Markos Moulitsas’s 2006 Cato Unbound article.

Thus, the Tea Party movement should be viewed as a campaign bus returning disenchanted Republicans to an active role in the GOP. As numerous polls show, members of the movement are overwhelming conservative, white, older, well off, and evangelical Protestant in religious identity. The overriding narrative should not be that the Tea Party is a bunch of angry independents ready to forge an independent political movement, but rather that libertarians will be an active participant in the ideological battles within in the Republican Party following the November 2010 elections that will likely last until the end of the 2012 GOP Presidential primary.

Of course, American politics are decided at the ballot box, not at Ron Paul forums. The 2010 Michigan State House and State Senate primaries offer a good perspective on whether the Tea Party movement will be able to translate its message resurgent libertarianism into political success.

I identified the candidates running in the Republican or Democratic primary for the State House (508 total) and the State Senate (164 total), and used the endorsements from the Republican Liberty Caucus (RLC) and the Independence Caucus (IC) to determined if candidates could be considered authentic supporters of the Tea Party Movement. The RLC has long been a libertarian action group within the Republican Party. Founded in 1991, the RLC’s website states that it strongly supports “individual rights, limited government and free enterprise,” hallmarks of conservative libertarianism. The IC was created in 2008 by supporters of Jason Chaffetz, a libertarian Republican who defeated long-time Republican Congressman Chris Cannon in Utah’s 3rd Congressional District. The IC’s website also supports libertarian principles, including “limited government, fiscal responsibility, and constitutional authority.” I used the endorsements from the RLC and IC to determine a candidate’s adherence to the Tea Party movement since many candidates, while stating vague solidarity, at heart want to run away from being associated with the conservative libertarian principles of the movement.

As shown in the linked Google document, both the RLC and IC endorsed a number of candidates in the 2010 primary. 25 State House and 12 State Senate candidates were endorsed by either the RLC or the IC, and four (two in the State House and two in the State Senate) were endorsed by both groups. All candidates were Republicans, and two were GOP incumbents in the State House (David Agema-74th and Bob Genetski-88th).

The Tea Party candidates had a lousy record in state house primary races. Of the 25 candidates in State House primaries, five did not face a primary challenge (including Agema and Genteski). However, only Agema and Genteski are likely to head to Lansing after November 2010, as the three challengers are in districts that are either safely Democratic (Bret Allen-29th and Chase Ingersoll-53rd) or have a strong Democratic incumbent (Steven Mobley-62nd). The remaining 20 candidates faced competitive primaries, resulting in only two Tea Party candidates winning the Republican nomination. One winner (Cynthia Kallgren-13th) is a sure loser this November, leaving Lori Levi (District 21) as the only non-incumbent Tea Party candidate who has a legitimate shot at winning.

Why did the remaining 18 Tea Party candidates lose their primaries? One (Dave Ryan-103rd) signed a financial waiver, dooming himself to sure defeat with promising not to raise more than $1,000 for the entire election cycle. While nearly all of the candidates provided personal loans to support their campaigns, many Tea Party candidates were simply unable to raise the money to compete successfully in the primary. Only 10 candidates raised more than $10,000 during the pre-primary filing period, and only five were able to raise more than $10,000 without personal loans to carry them over to the top. Thus, a large number of Tea Party candidates simply starved for a lack of funding.

Three races in Kent County are instructive to the struggle that Tea Party candidates faced in the 2010 primary season. Two of the races (Eric Larson-72nd and Jordan Bush-75th) featured aggressive first-time candidates who ran against more moderate Republicans who raised more traditional GOP themes. While Larson had an overwhelming financial advantage he lost to Ken Yonker by a narrow margin, a defeat that some say was caused by his over-reliance on direct mail and Yonker’s out-hustling him door-to-door. Bush faced a more uphill struggle against Goei, who had a financial advantage and establishment support, and while connecting well in his Alger Heights neighborhood and portions of the 2nd Ward, did not connect with voters in the Calvin Ghetto (east of Plymouth Street, south of Hall Street). In the 86th District, Walker Mayor Rob Ver Heulen lost to Lisa Lyons, daughter of former GOP State Senator Dick Posthumus, in a classic west/east side battle that once again, the more populated east side one. Lyons’ membership in the Posthumus political dynasty did not hurt, nor did the fact that candidates John Schwartz and Kimberly Cummings help divide up the Republican vote outside of Lyons’ political base in Ada Township and Lowell.

In the State Senate, a somewhat more mixed picture appears. The RLC and IC parted ways and endorsed opposing candidates in the 7th and 30th State Senate districts, with the IC supported candidate winning in the 7th (Patrick Colbeck) and the RLC candidate victorious in the 30th (Arlan Meekhof). Meekhof will win easily in November, while Colbeck will likely be in the crosshairs in an extremely competitive swing district. While 7th District Democratic candidate Kathleen Law is flawed in so many ways, the presence of former Republican John Stewart as an independent candidate could steal a large number of moderate Republican votes from Colbeck. This will be a race to watch in November. Kyle Haubrich was unopposed in the 23rd District GOP primary, and will be defeated handily in November by Democratic Senator Gretchen Whitmer.

Of the remaining seven Tea Party candidates with primaries, only David Hildenbrand (District 29) won. Hildenbrand is a sitting State Representative with strong conservative backing from his Lowell-based district, and will face strong general election opponent in former Grand Rapids City Commissioner David LaGrand. The remaining six faced challenges similar to those faced by their state house counterparts: low fundraising numbers and opposition from the GOP establishment.

Will the Tea Party movement have a future in Michigan politics past November 2010? I suspect that there will be no more than two Tea Party-endorsed members in both the Michigan State Senate and State House. However, the ideological battle within the Michigan Republican Party will continue unabated in the coming two years, particularly if GOP gubernatorial candidate Rick Snyder is elected. Of all the GOP candidates, Snyder is the one that raised the more ire among Tea Party supporters in Michigan, who seem him as the second coming of William Milliken. It will be fascinating to see how Snyder campaigns as a moderate while keeping the Tea Party movement within the GOP. Regardless, I am sure John Yob will play a role.  

Michigan 3rd Congressional District Primary Analysis

(cross-posted on WMR-pb)


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 multicandidate 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.

Rundown of the Michigan State Senate Campaign Filing Statements

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

Following my earlier analysis of the 2009 Compliance Statements from the Michigan State House, the State Senate is also worth examining. It is important to remember how wide open the Senate is for turnover in 2010,  as there are 30 of 38 State Senate seats open. In the past decade, only one state senate incumbent has lost to a challenger (Laura Toy to Glenn Anderson in 2006), underscoring how much easier open seats are to capture.


Figure 1: State Senate Partisan Status

Figure 1 is a chart displaying the expected competitiveness for Michigan State Senate races. 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 Senate District 34, the Democrats have invested party resources in the seat one time, while the GOP has invested in it twice. It quickly becomes apparent that rarely spends money defending or challenging seats in their Safe or Strong category or that of the opposing party.

For an upset occur in these races means that the challenger needs to be self-financing, as the party will pay for nothing.  Given the sheer number of competitive races in 2010, I have also included districts that have a GOP lean in the safe category, bringing the number of safe Republican seats up to 11. For the Democrats, I have included one of the three leaning Democratic districts (District 10) in the safe column, bringing the number of safe Democratic seats to 12 (more on this later). Thus, this analysis consists of two parts. The first looks at the 23 safe Republican and Democratic seats that feature an array of interesting primaries. The second part will focus on the 15 districts that are considered tossup, weak 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: Safe DEM/GOP Seats

There are 12 safe Democratic seats that will return Democrats to Lansing next year. These are largely concentrated in Detroit (Districts 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5), Wayne County (District 8), southern Oakland and Macomb Counties (District 9, 10, and 14), Ann Arbor (District 18), Lansing (District 23), and Flint (District 27). Of these seats, Districts 5 (Tupac Hunter), 23 (Gretchen Whitmer), and 27 (John Gleason) have incumbents that are not are not expected to face a serious primary challenge. The other nine districts are open seats and are another story. District 2 has Olivia Boykins and Hans Barbe vying for the nomination, and neither have filed a CS yet. Representative George Cushingberry has filed for District 4 and presently does not have primary opposition. Former Representative Hoon Yung Hopgood ($62,182 cash on hand) is the only candidate in the 8th District (Dearborn and downriver municipalities in Wayne County). District 10 (Sterling Heights, Clinton Township, Utica, and Roseville) features a primary between former Macomb County Prosecutor Carl Marlinga and Macomb County Commissioner Paul Gieleghem ($49,238 cash on hand), and the former is expect to have a significant financial edge. Vincent Gregory ($10,582 cash on hand) and David Coulter ($32,952 cash on hand) are the two Democrats seeking the party’s nomination in the 14th District, while their potential Republican opponent James Hardin has filed a financial wavier, ensuring his defeat in November. Finally, in the 18th District, Representatives Pam Byrnes (7,100 cash on hand, although she has $104,133 in her State House account) and Rebekah Warren ($59,089 cash on hand with an additional $2,120 in her State House account) will slug it out Washtenaw County. This race should be extremely interesting to watch, and could be an excellent proxy test on the fate of Andy Dillon’s candidacy with the Democratic electorate (Byrnes is one of Dillon’s strongest supporters in the House, and Warren is an extremely harsh critic).

There are 11 safe Republican seats that will have Republicans Senators next year. These are largely located in the “out-state” region outside of metropolitan Detroit (Districts 16, 21, 22, 24, 28, 30, 33, 35, and 37) and in northern Oakland County (Districts 12 and 15). Only one of these seats (District 28-Mark Jansen) has a Republican incumbent. District 12 has four Republicans running to replace Mike Bishop, and thus far Representative Jim Marleau is the leading money raiser, with $77,149 cash on hand (although $73,000 is from his own pocket). In District 15 there are three Republicans running for the nomination, and Robert Gatt is the only candidate who has raised funds ($4,587 cash on hand), while Democratic candidate Pamela Jackson has $829 cash on hand. Republican Representative John Proos is running unopposed in the 21st District ($91,439 cash on hand), and in District 22 Joe Hune leads the money race ($160,559 cash on hand) against Paul Rogers. Representative Rick Jones ($60,127 cash on hand) is the only candidate in the 24th District, and Arlan Meekhof ($0 cash on hand, although has $29,600 in his State House account) is the only candidate in the 30th. District 33 features a primary between Representative Brian Calley ($84,835) and businessman Hong Trebesh ($307,641 cash on hand, with $335,023 from his own pockets) that will be costly to say the least, while District 35 has three Republicans slugging it out to face Democratic candidate Roger Dunigan ($3,658).

There are two traditional Republican seats that could cause the GOP some trouble in 2010. The first is in District 16 where Democratic Representative Douglas Spade ($69,725 cash on hand) is running against Republican Representative Bruce Caswell ($175,223 cash on hand-$116,000 from his own pocket). Spade has done well in a Republican leaning district while serving in the House (District 57), and is the strongest candidate the Democrats could nominate in a seat that has seen few challenges. Likewise, in District 37 Democratic Representative Gary McDowell ($38,603 cash on hand and an additional $95,219 in his State House account) has more money than his opponent Republican Representative Howard Walker ($81,517). While the 37th District has a long-standing GOP lean, McDowell has had similar success that Spade has had in the 57th, winning a traditionally GOP district (District 107) with room to spare. Both of these seats are examples of a smart Democratic strategy to expand the playing field.


Figure 3: Weak & Swing Seats

Of the remaining 15 seats, 4 are weak Democratic seats, meaning that with the right candidate, the party will likely not need to step in with resources. Two of these are currently held by Democrats, with Districts 6 (Wayne County) represented by incumbent Glenn Anderson, who knocked off Republican Senator Laura Toy in a hard-fought matchup in 2006. Anderson spent 2009 accumulating funds, and currently has $229,221 cash on hand with no Republican challenger in sight. With such a well-funded incumbent and no viable GOP prospect, it is unlikely that the GOP will make a serious effort to challenge Anderson in 2010. A different situation prevails in District 38 (Upper Peninsula), which is being vacated by term-limited Democratic Senator Mike Prusi. The 38th has a long Democratic heritage and a deep farm-system with talent ready to move up, and expect the state party to make holding this seat a priority. The Republicans have perhaps their strongest Upper Peninsula challenger in years with former Representative Tom Casperson running for this seat. Yet Casperson is relatively weak at fundraising, with debt left over from his failed challenge to Bart Stupak in 2008 for the 1st Congressional District, and only has $9,911 cash on hand. To make this seat a possible pickup, the GOP will have to make a significant financial contribution, something unlikely given all the other seats the party needs to hold.

In a sign of Democratic failure in the 2006 election, two other weak Democratic seats are currently held by the GOP. District 34 (Muskegon County & Lakeshore) is an open seat, with the Republican Jerry VanWoerkom term-limited after two closely fought elections in 2002 and 2006 that were each one by fewer than 1,500 votes. While VanWoerkom had electoral success in this district, over the past decade this seat had strongly trended Democratic. The Democrats also have a candidate in Representative Mary Valentine ($20,955 cash on hand, with another $24,982 in her State House account) who has a reputation for running excellent campaigns in 2006 and 2008 in the swing 91st District. Valentine will face either former Representative David Farhat (whom was beaten by Valentine in 2006 and has $75 cash on hand) or Representative Geoff Hansen ($97,384 cash on hand including a personal loan of almost $80,000). Regardless of candidate, both parties will likely spend an ample amount of money for this seat, and in an even financial contest, I would pick Valentine any day.

The other weak Democratic seat held by the GOP is a tougher nut to crack. Incumbent Republican Roger Kahn won District 32 (Saginaw County) in 2006 by a narrow margin. Kahn currently has $253,203 cash on hand, and is a strong fundraiser who will likely be able to raise even more funds in 2009. The only declared Democratic candidate is Debasish Mridha, who is a doctor and a first-time candidate. Mridha has $124,213 cash on hand, all which was self-contributed. Given that District 32 is represented by a Republican incumbent, the state party might be reluctant to provide funding unless Mridha appears to be in the running after the August primary. Given this, I would say that District 34 is a much more likely Democratic pickup than the 32nd.  

Three of the remaining eleven seats are weak Republican, meaning that with the right sort of candidate and a neutral political environment, the GOP candidate will win election. These include District 11 (northern Macomb County), District 13 (Oakland County-incumbent), and District 36 (northern Lower Peninsula). District 11 has attracted a number of GOP candidates, including State Representative Kim Meltzer ($5,000 cash on hand with another $4,625 in her State House account), former Representative Jack Brandenburg ($607), and Leon Drolet (who has not officially filed yet). Given the Republican lean of this district, and that no strong Democratic candidate has emerged, this seat is looking to be a Republican hold unless the divisive Drolet wins the primary. District 13, which was the site of a hard fought battle between Democrat Andy Levin and eventual winner John Pappageorge that was narrowly decided in the GOP’s favor. Pappageorge raised an enormous amount in 2009, and has $248,884 cash on hand (as well as a $125,000 loan he gave to himself in the 2006 campaign). Aaron Bailey is the only official Democratic candidate, and filed in late January 2010. Given his substantial financial edge in a Republican leaning district, Pappageorge should be considered an early favorite to win reelection.

District 36 is perhaps the most vulnerable to a Democratic challenge. An open seat being vacated by term-limited Republican Tony Stamas, the 36th has attracted three candidates. Two are Democrats, Representatives Andy Neumann and Joel Sheltrown. Sheltrown has a substantial financial edge against Neumann, although the latter previously ran and narrowly lost against Stamas in 2002. Republican Representative John Moolenaar has a substantial $232,731 cash on hand, but hails from the southernmost portion of the district, thus requiring a significant amount of campaigning and funds to familiarize himself with the 36th. If the Democratic candidate emerges from the primary in decent condition, one could easily see the state party spending funds to win this seat.

The remaining eight seats are swing districts, although two are likely to remain in the GOP column. District 17 (Monroe and portions of Washtenaw Counties) is currently held by Republican Randy Richardville ($105,923 cash on hand). Unless Democratic Representative Katie Elbi leaves her safe house seat to challenge Richardville, there are few other potential Democratic challengers. The MDP and Elbi might consider a redrawn 17th District might be easier to take in 2014 when Richardville is unable to run again. Another likely Republican hold is District 19, which was won by Mike Nofs in a 2009 special election against Democratic Representative Marty Griffin. Given Nofs’ thumping of Griffin, few potential Democratic challengers will be interested in facing Nofs ($37,300 cash on hand just months after his November election).

The six other seats are open districts, with two currently held by Democrats, and the remaining four by Republicans. Of the two seats currently held by Democrats, District 31 (Bay County and the Thumb Region) appears to be a more likely hold, with Democratic Representative Jeff Mayes ($122,944 cash on hand) having no Republican challengers as of yet. The situation in District 26 (Genesee and Oakland Counties) is more fluid. There are currently two candidates, Representative Jim Slezak and Paula Zelenko, facing off in the Democratic primary, while former representatives Fran Amos and David Robertson in the GOP primary. Of the four candidates only Robertson has a significant amount of cash on hand ($110,616), while Amos has filed a financial waiver, and both Slezak and Zelenko entered the race in early 2010 (although Slezak has $11,304 cash on hand in his State House account). Robertson has a history of winning tough races while in the state house, and will be a challenge for the Democrats to hold off. Expect the MDP to spend funds to hold this district.

Of the four Republican held seats, District 25 (St. Clair and Lapeer Counties) appears to be the safest hold for the GOP. Representatives Phillip Pavlov ($50,007 cash on hand) and Lauren Harger ($36,715 cash on hand) are vying for the GOP nomination, while Jason Davis and Jason Blauet are relatively unknowns battling for the Democratic nod. The 25th has always been a tempter of Democratic dollars, but funds spent in 2002 did very little.  

The remaining three seats are truly tossup. District 7 (western Wayne County) is be vacated by Republican Bruce Patterson, and has drawn the attention of both parties. Democrats scored a coup when Representative Marc Corriveau entered the race in early January. Corriveau, much like Valentine, is a master campaigner and has one in districts long held by the GOP, and his strong fundraising abilities will surely be needed in both the general and primary elections. Corriveau ($76,314 cash on hand) is facing former Representative Kathleen Law in the Democratic primary. Facing Corriveau or Law in the general election will be either Republican Colleen McDonald or Abe Munfakh ($100,000 cash on hand and a personal contribution). If the GOP wants to hold this Democratic trending district, they’ll need to send plenty of additional funds to assist the winner of the GOP primary.

District 20 (Kalamazoo County and portions of Van Buren County) has contested primaries on both sides. The Republican primary features three candidates; Representatives Tonya Schuitmaker ($126,388 cash on hand) and Larry DeShazor ($2,341 in his state house account) represent the conservative and moderate factions of the GOP base, while former Representative Lorence Wenke ($19,337) is a liberal Republican who has deep personal pockets and is willing to spend freely in the primary. The clash between these three Republicans representing the spectrum of the Republican ideology will be fascinating to watch. That is to say, the Democratic field will be interesting to watch as well. Representative Robert Jones ($10,067 cash on hand with another $14,656 in his State House account) currently represents Kalamazoo City, and has a deep background in local and state politics. He’ll face Kalamazoo County Commissioner John Taylor ($106,330 cash on hand, although $100,000 is from his own funds) and Professor Mark Totten ($120,036 cash on hand, $30,719 of which is a personal loan) in the Democratic primary. While Jones was considered a front-runner earlier this year, Totten’s substantial haul (with a large number of donations coming from small donors across the state in addition to out of state support) has put many on notice. With 2010 shaping up to be an anti-incumbent year, it may be a candidate like Totten that will do better with the electorate than Jones. Regardless, both parties will be watching the 20th District in the next nine months.

District 29 (Grand Rapids and eastern suburbs) will be another closely watched seat. I’ve blogged about this race and the potential candidates previously, and I’m still convinced that the race to watch is the GOP primary. While Representative Dave Hildenbrand has $138,000 cash on hand, he is relatively unknown to voters in the Grand Rapids and Kentwood, as he represents Lowell and other rural portions of Kent County. Kent County GOP leaders appear to be aware of this liability as well, and a number of leading Republicans (including Senator Mark Jansen and Congressman Vern Ehlers) are considered to be behind the candidacy of Lori Wiersma. Wiersma is a political neophyte, but has deep ties to the Christian Reformed community that has long been the bedrock of the GOP base in west Michigan. If both candidates stay in the primary, it will be interesting to see if Hildenbrand’s financial edge can win victory against a city-based Republican candidate. On the Democratic side, businessman and City Commissioner David LaGrand (estimated $76,000 cash on hand) begun rolling in endorsements and funds only a few weeks after his entrance into the race. While Representative Robert Dean is also considering running, his weak fundraising totals ($9,033 cash on hand) is leading many to question whether he will instead file run for reelection to his state house seat.

With nine months away from Election Day, control of the Michigan State Senate as of January 2011 remains an open question. The Democrats need to pick up four seats to gain control of the chamber for the first time in 26 years, and there is a clear road to achieving this. At the same time, the GOP has a political climate that is much more favorable than the 2006 cycle. Whether this remains the case in November 2010 is still to be seen.

For reference, I have included some maps of the State Senate Districts discussed in this analysis.


Wayne County


Oakland & Macomb Counties


The Thumb


South Central


North Central


Southwest Michigan


West Michigan


Northern Lower Peninsula


Upper Peninsula

Rundown of the Michigan State House Campaign Filing Statements

(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.  

Where Do the Dollars Go? The 2010 Edition

(Cross-posted at ML and WMR and SSP-PB. If you have any questions, email me at pbratt@umich.edu)

In the 2008 cycle the Michigan Democratic Party emerged victorious for the second straight election, picking up nine seats to bring their seat total to 67 and helping President Barack Obama win the state in a landslide. However the 2010 cycle appears to be challenging for the party; defend its hold on the executive branch and the lower legislative chamber, while picking up the upper chamber, a victory that has eluded the party since 1984.

To better determine which seats in both the House and Senate will likely be targeted by each party, I’ve replicated research I did in the last election cycle on the funding that the MDP and the MRP gives to various candidates in the State House. I used Michigan Campaign Finance Network reports for 2002, 2004, 2006, and 2008 to see on what races each party put their money. Before analyzing the data I suspected that both parties would protect incumbents first, and then spend money on flipping open seats. I suspected that independent expenditures (from both parties) would also follow this logic. Finally, candidates that raised little money on their own would not receive any financial support from the state parties. I listed any race where there was an investment of over $15,000 from either party, and whether the seat was open or whether a party’s incumbent was defending the seat.  

State House


Figure 1: 2002 State House Races

Figure 1 shows the races that each party contested in 2002. The Republicans contested 18 seats, the Democrats 17. The Democrats contested 13 open seats and 3 Republican-held seats, while defending 1 seat. The GOP also contested 13 open seats and 1 Democratic-held seat, while defending 4 Republican seats. Of the 15 seats that each party actively contested, Democrats won 6, while the Republicans won 9.


Figure 2: 2004 State House Races                                                                              

As shown in Figure 2, the 2004 election cycle saw an increase in contested seats. The Republicans spent serious money on 21 seats, while the Democrats challenged in only 11 races. This difference may be a result of the large GOP money advantage for the state level races in this cycle. Regardless, the Democrats contested 7 open seats and 2 seats held by the GOP, while defending 2 Democratic seats. The GOP challenged 13 open seats and 4 Democratic seats, while defending 4 Republican seats. However, in the 10 races contested by each party, the Democrats won 7 seats. Of the 10 seats that the Democrats did not contest, the GOP won 7.


Figure 3: 2006 State House Races

Figure 3 shows the total number of contested races decline in 2006. However, the Democrats increased the number of challenges, spending heavily in 17 races, while the GOP contested only 13 seats. Of the 17 races that the Democrats spent money on, 5 were open seats and 7 were held by the GOP, while 5 seats were defended. The GOP challenged 4 open seats and 2 Democratic seats, while defending 7 GOP seats. Of the 12 seats that both parties challenged, the Democrats won 8.


Figure 4: 2008 State House Races

Figure 4 shows the total number of contested races in 2008. 31 races were seriously contested altogether; however, of these seats the Republicans contested 20, while the Democrats spent on 21. Of the 20 seats the GOP spent on, 14 were open seats, 3 were held by Republican incumbents, and 3 defended by Democratic incumbents. The Democrats challenged 14 open seats, defended 6 incumbents and challenged 1 Republican incumbent. Of the 10 seats that both parties challenged, the Democrats won 7. Interestingly, the Democrats spent large amounts of funds defining two relatively safe incumbents, Speaker of the House Andy Dillon (34% of his total funding was from the MDP) in District 17 and Mike Simpson in District 65 (55% of his total funding was from the MDP).

Over the past 4 election cycles, only 6 incumbents have fall to challengers. Two Democrats have lost (1 in 2002 and 1 in 2004), while 4 Republicans fell (1 in 2004 and 3 in 2006). Of the 47 races contested by each party between 2002 and 2008, the overwhelming majority have been open seats. All these seats are also Weak Democratic or Republican or Swing Seats.


Figure 5: State House Competitiveness Matrix

Figure 5 is a chart displaying the expected competitiveness for Michigan State House races further. Each District has a Democratic baseline number in parenthesis, along with the number of times each party has challenged the seat. The Democratic baseline is determined by the Democratic share of the Board of Education vote for the election cycles between 2000 and 2008. For example, in House District 51 (in which the Democratic baseline is 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 both parties rarely spend money defending or challenging seats in the 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.

Hence both parties put their attention on the remaining 54 leaning, weak, and swing seats. Thus, expect the 11 Democratic and 9 Republican seats outside the Safe or Strong categories of either party that are open to be hotly contested. The Republicans will particularly contest three Republican-leaning seats held by Democratic Representatives in Districts 57, 83, and 107, although the GOP has done poorly in the Upper Peninsula over the past three cycles (This might change with Tom Casperson running for Mike Prusi’s 38th State Senate seat). On the opposing side the Democrats will look to pick up Districts 97, while challenging a number of swing seats (Districts 30, 71, and 85) that the Republicans currently hold. The GOP in turn will certainly try hard to pick up open Democratic swing seats (Districts 52, 91, and 103). Also expect the Republicans to try and knock off first-term Democratic incumbents in Districts 32, 70, and 101, although each of these candidates significantly outperformed the Democratic baseline in the last election cycle with vigorous campaigns.

If the Republican Party is serious about returning to a majority in the lower chamber, the party needs to in seats in Wayne County. Currently it holds only one based in Livonia, and this seat will likely face a Democratic challenger should the district get significantly redrawn in 2011 by the Democrats. While there was a significant Democratic wave in 2008, there is no indication that the Michigan voting population is moving to make the GOP the majority party in the lower chamber any time soon. Indeed, some long-term Republican Party strongholds are increasingly turning Democratic. Berrien County in southwestern Michigan, a long-term Republican stronghold, has seen its two State House districts become increasingly Democratic over the past three election cycles, and could be vulnerable to a strong Democratic candidate, especially in the open 79th District. While the GOP continues to do well in the exurban districts in the state, much of the party’s post 2004 decline has come from candidates losing in first-ring suburbs in metropolitan Detroit and in other metropolitan centers throughout the state.

Despite the potential opportunities, it is unlikely that the GOP will pick up the 13 seats it needs to regain a House majority in 2010. To do so the GOP would need to pick up all the open and first-term seats held by Democrats in Swing, Weak Republican, and Leaning Republican seats without the Democrats a single Democratic pickup, an unlikely event.

State Senate


Figure 6: 2002 State Senate Races

Figure 6 shows the total number of contested races State Senate races in 2002. This was the first cycle in which a number of state senators were term-limited, and thus a number of competitive districts drawn up under the 2001 redistricting plan were open seats. Of the 38 seats in the senate, 13 were seriously contested altogether; with the Republicans contested 9, while the Democrats challenged 10. Of the 6 seats that both parties challenged, the Democrats won 2. The Democratic efforts in 2002 met with resounding failure, as the party won only 4 of the 10 seats contested, while the GOP won 7 of the 9 seats they spent substantial sums upon.


Figure 7: 2006 State Senate Races

Figure 7 shows the total number of contested races State Senate races in 2006. With few open seats available to contest, both campaigns spend funds challenging specific races. As opposed to the 13 seats challenged in 2002, only 6 districts caught the attention of the parties in 2006, and the Democrats only challenged 4 districts. Of the 4 districts the Senate Dems challenged, the party picked up only 1 seat, while the GOP successfully held 5 of the 6 seats (including open seats) they were defending. Despite concentrating their financial support on only four districts, the Democrats were outspent by the Republicans in every district, and by substantial margins in the 13th and 34th Districts.


Figure 8: State Senate Competitiveness Matrix

Figure 8 displays the competitiveness of the 38 State Senate seats. There are 11 seats that are Safe or Strong Democratic, while there are 5 Safe or Strong Republican districts. In all likeliness, the 6 Leaning GOP seats are going to be uncontested by the Democrats, simply because there are too many other seats to spent limited financial resources upon.

Districts 32 and 34 are likely to be among the most temping seats for the Democrats to contest. While District 34 is an open seat that has a strong Democratic candidate (State Representative Mary Valentine), District 32 is held by incumbent Republican senator Roger Kahn, who narrowly won against Democrat Carl Williams in 2006. What the Democrats need in the 32nd District is a strong candidate who can make strong contest against Kahn, who is likely to get piles of money from the GOP to hold this seat.

The GOP is in an unenviable situation in 2010. If Republican Mike Nofs picks up the open 19th District seat vacated by Democratic Congressman Mark Schauer, the GOP will have a 22-16 margin in the State Senate. Thus, the Democrats would need to pick up four seats to win the chamber. The Senate Republicans need to hold three seats in western Michigan where the Democrats have made strong electoral gains over the past two election cycles (District 20-Kalamazoo County, District 29-Grand Rapids and surrounding suburbs, and District 34-Muksegon County and three rural counties). If the Democrats pick up two of these three seats, the GOP needs to only lose one more seat to have a tied chamber. Unfortunately for the Republicans, Districts 7 (western Wayne County), District 13 (portions of Oakland County), and District 25 (Lapeer and St. Clair Counties) are all tossup seats.

A few Democratic seats could be potential Republican pickups. Mike Prusi’s 38th Senate District is open, and former Republican State Representative Tom Casperson is running for this district, which has a weak Democratic lean. If any Republican candidate can win this seat it is Casperson, who has a history of winning tough races, despite being pounded by Democratic Congressman Bart Stupak last year. Likewise, District 26 (Genesee County) and 31 (Bay County) are districts represented by popular senators (Jim Barcia and Deborah Cherry, respectively) who romped to victory in seats that are not as strongly Democratic as seem.  

MI-2: Riemersma (R) Officially In

No surprise given the chatter, but the GR Press has coverage of the official announcement this morning:

Eleven months from the 2nd district GOP congressional primary, the race is shaping up as a battle of the insiders vs. the outsider with a familiar name.

Former NFL star Jay Riemersma kicks off his formal campaign today with a speech in Holland. He vows a new brand of politics for the conservative district that U.S. Rep. Pete Hoekstra, R-Holland, has held since 1993. Hoekstra is running for governor.

“The last thing we need right now is legislative experience,” said Riemersma, 36. “What we need is leadership, strong conservative leadership.”

Read the whole story here:


The article is pretty positive towards Riemersma, allowing him to polish quotes bashing the other official GOP candidate Bill Huizenga (State Senator Wayne Kuipers is also expected to run). Riemersma raised $154,244 in the 2nd quarter filing report, of which $100,000 was his own money, compared to $76,201 for Huizenga. Riemersma touts his conservative creed by noting his connections to Focus on the Family, something which might appeal to the hard-core right in the 2nd District.

I’m still waiting on whether Kuipers runs; if he does, that makes this race a Ottawa County battle (three candidates) and provides an opening for a candidate from another portion of the district. Also, the 3rd quarter filing statement (due September 30) will also show how the two declared candidates are faring with raising funds for a sure to be expensive primary.

Redistricting Michigan in 2010

(Cross-posted at West Michigan Rising, Daily Kos, and Michigan Liberal-PB)


In recent months astute political analysts have noted that the real prize in the 2010 election is control of the redistricting process that will follow in the year to come.  While redistricting occurs on every level of government throughout the 50 states, many observers note the importance of redistricting United States House Districts.  In the 2001-2002 redistricting cycle following the 2000 Census, many states, including Texas and Pennsylvania, underwent an aggressive Republican gerrymandering developed to maximize GOP gains in 2002 and 2004.  This strategy largely succeeded, allowing the Republicans to further their control of many state delegations.  

Perhaps the most aggressive GOP redistricting (with the exception of Tom Delay’s Texas redraw) came in Michigan.  Since the adoption of the 1964 Constitution, the state legislature has controlled the redistricting process, with the governor having veto power over the plan.  The redistricting plans offered in 1965, 1971, 1981, and 1991 by the state legislature were rejected by the federal courts, which decried the partisan nature of both the Democratic and Republican plans.  Given that the Republicans controlled the State Senate during each of four cycles (and the Democrats controlling the State House), the plans that were eventually approved by the federal courts strived to adhere to the 1964 State Constitution’s demand that districts be “compact, contiguous, and avoid breaking up political subdivisions (such as municipalities).”

This situation did not repeat itself in 2001. The Michigan Republican Party, which controlled the executive branch starting in 1990 and the State House in 1995, while maintaining its hold on the State Senate, drafted new legislation to guide the redistricting of federal and state legislative districts.  MCL 3.61 (PA 221 1996) often known as the Congressional Redistricting Act, guided redistricting of congressional seats, while State Legislative Redistricting Standards Act (MCL 4.261) charted redistricting of the State House and Senate. Both laws largely adopted the standards established by the Michigan Supreme Court during the previous redistricting battles.  

In regards to congressional redistricting, MCL 3.61 establishes the following requirements. First, the principle of “least cost” holds throughout, and states that municipalities should be incorporated within districts if the population of a municipality is smaller than the size of an average Congressional District. Secondly, populations for Congressional districts must equal (MCL 3.63d). Finally, the preservation of municipal and county identity is encouraged, and district lines should be drawn on municipal or county boundaries (3.61g).

Since the GOP controlled all three branches of the state government in 2001, the Republican drawn redistricting plan upheld by the Michigan Supreme Court in the same year had profound effects on Michigan Congressional Representation.  The state lost a seat, and two Democratic incumbents were thrown into one district (John Dingell and Lynn Rivers), while a number of marginal seats were stacked with Republicans. While the Michigan Delegation had 9 Democrats and 7 Republicans prior to the 2002 elections, afterwards the GOP held 9 of 15 seats.   Despite two Democratic tidal wave in the 2006 and 2008 elections, the Democrats only gained two seats, and currently hold a 9 to 7 edge in the Congressional delegation.  

As 2010 approaches, it appears that the Democrats will likely control at least one leg of the redistricting chair.  The 67 to 43 Democratic edge in the State House is likely to ensure that the Democrats will remain the majority party in the lower chamber.  While the gubernatorial race remains an open contest, the Michigan Democratic Party has made a serious effort to recapture the State Senate, something which has not happened since the tax-revolt elections in 1984.  Should the Democrats gain four seats (The current margin is 21 Republicans to 16 Democrats with one open seat), the Democrats will be in solid control of the redistricting process.  Given that the Michigan State Supreme Court also has a Democratic majority it is likely that a reasonably drawn plan by a Democratic legislature adhering to MCL 3.61 would receive judicial sanction.  

Two previous redistricting efforts have been made on the blosphere redraw Michigan’s congressional districts.  Both (rightly so) assume that Michigan will lose one congressional district after the 2010 Census.  The first, drawn by Menhen and was first posted on the Swing State Project creates 11 safe Democratic seats and three Republican districts.  The second, drawn by ArkDem, and also posted on the Swing State Project, that provides 10 Democratic seats with four Republican districts.  With both redistricting plans are ingenious, and do an excellent job at screwing the GOP, both have some flaws that limit their usefulness.  First, the vote analysis relies on the Presidential vote percentages from the 2008, which represents the strongest Democratic vote percentage in Michigan since Johnson’s landslide in 1964.  Obama’s excellent performance should be viewed as a high watermark of the Democratic vote in 2008, as his opponent has effectively conceded the state in early October.  Thus, Obama’s decisive win in Michigan makes the state appears far more Democratic than it really is.  Likewise, there is no examination of the Democratic performance in previous election cycles, which hinders a long-term analysis of how stable Democratic majorities are in the proposed Congressional Districts.  Finally, voters tend to vote for the candidate for races on the top of the ballot (such as in the Presidential, Senate, and Gubernatorial races) that limits the effectiveness of using this data for determining the underlying partisan affiliation of a proposed district.


I created a redistricting plan that tries to avoid some of the pitfalls mentioned earlier.  First, rather than using the Obama vote percentage in 2008, I used another indication to determine the underlying Democratic partisan edge.  While Michigan does not have partisan registration, it does have a wonderful obscure State Board of Education (BOE) that has eight members, of which two are elected every two years.  Each party is allowed to nominate two candidates, and the top two vote getters join the BOE.  BOE races often have candidates largely unknown by voters, who generally vote according to their partisan preference. I calculated the Republican and Democratic baseline by finding the average Democratic share of the vote cast for the two major parties. I calculated the Democratic Baseline on the municipal and county level for the 2000, 2002, 2004, 2006, and 2008 elections.  Mark Gerbner, the famous guru of Michigan Democratic politics helpfully provided the raw data for all but the 2008 election cycle, which I tabulated myself from the Michigan Secretary of State website.  The Democratic Baseline generally runs slight behind successful top of the ticket candidates (such as Obama, Granholm and Levin), but provides an elected approach to examining long-term voting trends within communities across the state.

I used Census Data from the 2007 American Community Survey (ACS) to determine the current population of municipalities in Michigan.  With Michigan’s current population at 10,287,460, I calculated that each congressional district needs to have 734,818 residents.  Under MCL 3.63, each district is allowed to have a 5% variation (ranging from 95% to 105% of the average), giving each district a population range of 698,077 to 771,558.  In Google Docs I provide the county level voting data for each district, and when I need to divide further, I provide the municipal data.  The link can be found below:


All the maps were created in ArcGIS 9.3, which I use for my career and for fun.  



The overall state map is shown above without the Upper Peninsula, which is part of the 1st Congressional District.  


1st Congressional District (2008 Democratic Baseline of 53%).  The First Congressional District is relatively similar to its 2001 incarnation, with a few moderate changes.  The district loses Bay County, and gains some smaller rural counties on the western edge of the district from David Camp’s district.  Stupak has always done very well in the 1st District, and ran 3% ahead of the Democratic Baseline in his current district.  He will likely continue to do well in the new district, although the Democratic Baseline dropped slightly below 50% in 2004 and 2002, two very Republican years.  Until Stupak retires, it will be hard for a Republican to win this district.


2nd Congressional District (2008 Democratic Baseline of 40.2%).  This is one of the three safe Republicans seats in Michigan.  Essentially this new seat flips Republican Pete Hoekstra’s current 2nd District, running from GOP bastion Ottawa County south along the Lake Michigan shoreline.  The district would take a majority of the 6th District (represented by Republican Fred Upton), moving Cass, Berrien, Van Buren, and Allegan Counties to Ottawa County and the four southern townships in Kent County (Byron, Gains, Caledonia, and Bowne Townships).  The new 2nd District would likely force the current 2nd District Representative (whoever replaces Pete Hoekstra in 2010) into a nice runoff against Fred Upton, who lives in Berrien County (St. Joseph). I would suspect that Upton would be able to win a primary, and given that he is a relative moderate in the GOP caucus, it would be beneficial long-term for moderates in the GOP.  


3rd Congressional District (2008 Democratic Baseline of 52.7%).  This district is a likely swing seat since Muskegon and Kent Counties (minus the southern four townships) have trended Democratic over the past decade, and Obama carried 54.5% of the total vote in the two counties. An important case can be made for congressional districts that follow regions land use patterns, and this district certainly encompasses the heart and soul of western Michigan.  This proposed 3rd district allows for issues addressing the urban core (Grand Rapids and Muskegon), and provide two centers of Democratic voters that gave baselines of 64% and 72% respectively.  The district loses the largely rural counties of Ionia and Barry, allowing for strong economic development efforts for metropolitan Grand Rapids. On an off-Democratic year this seat may be difficult for the Democratic Party to hold, but it also provides an excellent excuse for further party building.  Some strong Democratic candidates would be former State Representative Steve Pestka or Scott Bowen. Should current Republican Representative Vern Ehlers retire, the GOP primary battle would be between Secretary of State Terri Lynn Land and State Senator Bill Hardiman. However, to run competitively in this district the GOP will need to find candidates that can speak on urban and metropolitan issues, something which the party of no has a difficult time even thinking about.  


4th Congressional District (2008 Democratic Baseline of 47.5%)  While this district is slightly less Republican than the 2nd, it is the third most Republican district in the state.  Moving westward from the current 4th District, it collects the portions of the 2nd District north of Muskegon County, follows the current district boundaries to Midland County, and gains Ionia and Barry Counties.  Like the current 4th, the district mostly consists of rural areas, along with a few mid-side cities, including Midland, Big Rapids, and Traverse City.  This district will likely reelect Republican David Camp.


5th Congressional District (2008 Democratic Baseline of 60.8%).  This is among the most reconfigured districts from its 2001 incarnation.  While the current 5th  district covers Genesee, Tuscola, and portions of Bay and Saginaw Counties, the new 5th includes Bay, Saginaw, Clinton, Shiawassee, and Ingham Counties.  Much like the existing 5th District, it is a Democratic stronghold, but unlike the current 5th it steals the western half of Republican Mike Rodgers gerrymandered seat and restores its Democratic edge.  This district combines the urban centers of Lansing, Saginaw, Bay City, and will be easily held by a Democratic candidate like Lasing Mayor Virgil Bernero or former Democratic Representative Jim Barcia.  Good luck to any Republican running in this safe Democratic seat.  


6th Congressional District (2008 Democratic Baseline of 90.3%).  Similar to the current 13th Congressional District, this district reflects the painful reality that Detroit continues to lose population.  According to the 2007 ACS, Detroit’s population is 916,000, and I suspect it might fall below 900,000 by 2010.  The 6th District contains the eastern Wayne County suburbs, Highland Park, Hamtramck, and two-thirds of the city of Detroit.  This seat is a safe Democratic stronghold, and complies with the Voting Rights Act by being a minority-majority district.  Let’s hope that State Senator Martha Scott once again primaries Carolyn Kirkpatrick.  

7th Congressional District (2008 Democratic Baseline of 72.5%).  The 7th District is a greatly modified version of the 14th District currently represented by Democratic Congressman John Conyers.  The new district includes the western third of Detroit, and the western Wayne County suburbs of Redford Township, Livonia, Canton Township, Westland, Garden City, Inkster, Northville City and Township, and Plymouth City and Township.  While this district is much less Democratic than the 6th District, it is still a strong Democratic seat that accomplishes the beautiful task of eliminating Republican Thad McCotter’s seat. McCotter could try to run against Conyers (or State Senator Buzz Thomas should Conyers retire), but he’d lose.  Too bad.


8th Congressional District (2008 Democratic Baseline of 65.3%).  Much like John Dingell’s 15th District, this seat is a strong suburban working-class district that covers southern Wayne County, Monroe County, and a portion of eastern Lenawee County.  While the new 8th Congressional District loses Ann Arbor and its surroundings, the new district remains a strong Democratic seat, anchored by Democratic communities in Dearborn, Monroe, and Romulus.  While it remains unlikely that Dingell will stay in US House much longer, I would not be surprised to see Debbie Dingell run for this seat when John retires.  It would be hard to see a Dingell lose this safe Democratic seat to a Republican.  

9th Congressional District (2008 Democratic Baseline of 63.6%).  The new 9th District is all about providing incumbency protection for Democratic Representative Gary Peters.  Peters currently represents much of Oakland County, and this redraw would add the southern portions of the county that are currently represented by Democratic Representative Sander Levin.  This district would shed the conservative northern suburbs of Rochester and Rochester Hills and would become increasingly Democratic.  Even in the Republican year of 2002, this safe Democratic seat still had a Democratic Baseline of 54.4%.  

10th Congressional District (2008 Democratic Baseline of 60.2%).  This district covers the southern portion of Macomb County.  Much like former Democratic Representative David Bonior’s old Macomb County seat, this district would be a working class Democratic stronghold, providing two districts (the 8th and the 10th) that would be platforms for labor voices to be heard from Michigan.  Sander Levin will have no problem holding this safe Democratic seat.


11th Congressional District (2008 Democratic Baseline of 46.0%).  This safe Republican seat would give Representative Candice Miller a vastly new district to represent, which is good for her.  Covering the northern and western portions of Oakland County, northern Macomb County, and much of St. Clair County, this district has some suburban communities along with a strong rural character.  This district is the third safe Republican seat in the state.


12th Congressional District (2008 Democratic Baseline of 61.7%).  This is a modified version of Dale Kildee’s current 5th Congressional District, and is centered in Genesee County.  Many people don’t know that the “thumb” of Michigan is a pretty swing district, and adding Huron, Tuscola, Lapeer, Sanilac Counties, and a portion of St. Clair County (largely metropolitan Port Huron) would not significantly dent the Democratic base around greater Flint.  This district has a a couple major urban centers, but is largely rural as well, which might call for some vigorous constituency work to ensure the Democrats holding this seat.  


13th Congressional District (2008 Democratic Baseline of 54.3%).  Much like Gary Peter’s 9th District, Democratic Representative Mark Schauer won election to a traditionally Republican district.  Should Schauer win reelection in 2010, his district should shed some GOP votes and pick up some Democratic voters.  The new 13th District does just that, losing a portion of Jackson County and Washtenaw County that are largely Republican.  In return, the district adds Kalamazoo and St. Joseph Counties, the latter, along with Calhoun County, provides a strong Democratic base for the 7th District.  This district, while increasingly Democratic, was a swing seat from 2000 to 2006, giving it swing district status on an off year.  Given that Schauer has done a great job in the State Senate and in 2008 in running effective constituency service and electoral campaigns, a GOP would need a determined candidate to knock him off.  Someone more likable than Taxing Tim Walberg would be needed.


14th Congressional District (2008 Democratic Baseline of 57.6%).  This District covers Livingston and Washtenaw Counties, while also including portions of Lenawee and Jackson Counties.  Largely rural, the district’s heart is Ann Arbor, which provides the Democratic base for this seat.  A strong Democratic candidate from eastern Washtenaw County could win this district, although he or she would need to appear to the conservative Livingston County voters.  That said, this new district would invite Republican Representative Mike Rogers to run a losing campaign to hold his seat.  This isn’t Mr. Rogers neighborhood anymore.


This proposed 2011 redistrict makes Michigan’s congressional boundaries much more friendly for Democratic candidates.  There are seven safe Democratic seats (Districts 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, and 12), one strongly Democratic District (District 14), and two leaning Democratic Districts (District 1 and 13), giving the MDP 10 Congressional Seats.  The Michigan Republicans would have three safe seats (Districts 2, 4, and 11), while the 3rd Congressional District is arguably a swing seat.  

This proposal also forces many GOP incumbents into retirement, which is something a good plan always does.  Forcing Upton to run against Hoekstra’s replacement in the new 2nd District, and placing Mike Rogers and Thad McCotter into unwinnable seats is something sure to give Democratic loyalists a smile on Election Day.  Should the Michigan Democrats win control of the Michigan State Senate in November 2010, 10 Democratic Congressional seats are a real possibility.