Redistricting Michigan: Take 2

Lately there has been a lot of Debate over the number of Democratic Congressional Districts that Democrats could gerrymander out of the state of Michigan if they had complete control (right now they hold the Governorship and State House.  They stand a good chance at taking control of the State Senate while the Governor’s race is a tossup).  A few people, namely IHateBush, have said that it is possible to succesfully draw a map that would yield 12 Democratic seats and only 2 Republican seats.  I’ve been trying for several weeks to draw a 12-2 map, meanwhile protecting endangered incumbents (specifically Schauer) and I’ve determined that a 12-2 map would be far overeaching and in a neutral or Republican leaning year might end up 9-5 or worse. I think the best Michigan Democrats could do is create 11 safe or Democrat leaning districts and 3 strongly Republican districts.  I’ve drawn a map that I think does just that, although I still am not entirely confident that we could hold both of my “Thumb” districts in a Republican year.  But without further ado, here’s my map.

District 1 (Bart Stupak D):  Since this is my home district, and I couldn’t face the specter of Tom Casperson or some other Republican becoming my Congressman when Bart Stupak retires, I’ve gone to pretty great lengths to make this one safer.  I added the remainder of Bay County, Isabella County (home to CMU) Clare County, and Roscommon County, all counties that President Obama won.  I took out the Republican leaning counties of Charlevoix, Antrim, Crawford, Oscoda, Otsego, and Montmorency.  Overall Obama’s performance in this district goes from about 50% to about 53%.

District 2 (Vern Ehlers R) this is probably the most gerrymandered looking of all of my new districts, but it has to be if we are going to have a Democrat leaning district in Western Michigan.  It takes in the Dem leaning Counties of Leelanau, Benzie, Manistee, Lake, Mason, and Oceana along the Lake Michigan shore, the Strongly Democratic County of Muskegon, and then tentacles into Kent County and picks up the cities of Grand Rapids, Kentwood, East Grand Rapids, and Wyoming.  Barack Obama won this district 57.2-41.1 giving it a nice, healthy PVI of D+4.3. Vern Ehlers likely would not be reelected to this district.

District 3 (Fred Upton R + TBD [successor to Pete Hoekstra] R) I’ve combined the old 2nd and 6th districts to form this heavily Republican District.  It takes in Ottawa, Allegan, Van Buren, Northern Berrien, and suburban Kent Counties.  Whoever succeeds Pete Hoekstra next year would probably be favored in a Primary against Upton, who is somewhat too moderate for this very conservative district.

District 4 (Dave Camp R) another one of my heavily Republican districts, this one takes in some of the rural and conservative Counties in Northern and Central Lower Peninsula, but it is based in Midland and Traverse City (Grand Traverse County) Barack Obama only won 2 counties in this new district, Gratiot and Clinton.  Dave Camp’s home in Midland is preserved in the new 4th.

District 5 (Open, leans D)  The new 5th district is the one that I would be least confident of us holding in a Republican year, but still in a neutral year it favors us. It has a PVI of about D+2-3 and it includes the Democratic County of Saginaw, about 2/3 of staunchly Democratic Genesee county (minus the city of flint) the Dem leaning Shiawassee County, sparsely populated Republican Counties in “the Thumb” and Tossup St. Clair County. Luckily former Democratic Congressman James Barcia’s home in Bay City is not in this district, for we really could get a more progressive Congressperson from this district. (State Sen. John Gleason, perhaps?)

District 6 (Mark Schauer D) I increased the Democratic performance in this district by drawing strongly Democratic Kalamazoo County out of Upton’s district and into this one.  I also added tossup county Cass and the Democrat leaning portions of Berrien County.  I took out Jackson and Lenawee County as well as the portion of Washtenaw that was in this district.

District 7 (Open, Democrat) It’s high time that Lansing is put into a Democratic district again, and that’s just what I’ve done.  This new district is L shaped and contains Ingham, Jackson, Hillsdale, Lenawee, and Monroe Counties.  Barack Obama won all these counties, except Hillsdale. Obama won the district 56.4-41.9 giving it a 2008 PVI of D+3.5.  If I had to guess what Democrat might win this district, I’d say State Rep. Barb Byrum (daughter of 2000 candidate Diane Byrum), State Sen. Gretchen Whitmer (distinction of being the “most liberal” Senator), or Lansing mayor and Former state Senator Virg Bernero.

District 8 (Gary Peters D) I’ve made this one a bit more Democratic by removing the cities of Rochester and Troy while adding Berkley, Southfield, and the rest of Waterford Township.  Removing the city of Troy also removes a potential future challenger to Peters, State Rep. Marty Knollenberg (son of Joe Knollenberg).  This district should be safe for Peters or a future Democrat if he runs for higher office.

District 9 (Candice Miller R + Dale Kildee D)  In 2002, Republicans drew David Bonior’s (D) Congressional District… much more Republican, forcing him to retire or face certain defeat at the hands of their preffered candidate, Secretary of State Candice Miller.  It’s payback time.  I’ve drawn the most Democratic parts of Macomb County, including Miller’s home, into a district with exurban Republican Lapeer County, as well as the 90-10 Obama city of Flint, and other staunchly Democratic portions of Genesse County.  This includes Dale Kildee’s home, but he’ll be in his eightees by 2012 so he probably won’t be the one running against Miller, if Miller runs at all.

District 10 (Mike Rogers R) The last Republican district that I drew, the 10th includes fast growing and largely Republican Livingston County (home to Mike Rogers), Northern and Western Oakland County, and Shelby township in Macomb County. I considered drawing Livonia (Thad McCotter’s home) into this district as well, but I don’t want there to be any chance that he returns to Congress

District 11 (Sander Levin D) This distric largely reverts to it’s pre-2002 boundaries.  It now would contain all of Sterling Heights, Warren, Troy, Clawson, and Royal Oak, along with the most Democratic south Oakland Suburbs.  This district would be safe for Levin’s successor (hopefully state Rep. Ellen Cogen Lipton).

District 12 (Carolyn Cheeks Kilpatrict D) Doesn’t change much except that it moves farther south and includes all of Dearborn.  It’s still majority African American and very strongly Democrat.  The only problem with the configuration of this district is that John Dingell lives in Dearborn.  If he is still serving in 2012 (which I doubt) a tendril can be drawn from the 14th District to pick up his home so that he wouldn’t be drawn into Kilpatrick’s district.

District 13 (John Conyers D + Thad McCotter R) Contains all of Northern Detroit and also reaches all the was west to include Redford Township, Livonia, Northville and Plymouth.  There’s no way Thad McCotter could win this majority African American Detroit District.  Safe for Conyers and his successors.

District 14 (Open D) This one looks very much like Lynn River’s old district… and would probably elect an Ann Arbor Democrat (State Sen. Liz Brater, fmr. State Rep. Chris Kolb, who would be the first openly gay congressman from Michigan, or maybe even Rivers if she wants to get back into politics.) Also includes a large portion of Suburban Wayne County taking in the Democratic cities of Canton and Westland. If John Dingell is still serving and runs for re-election in 2012, then a tendril will have to be drawn to include his home in Dearborn, but when he finally retires it will probably elect someone more progressive.  Obama won this district 64.5-32.6.

What does everyone think of my map? Suggestions, corrections, questions, comments? I want to hear them.

MI-09, OH-15: Dem Poll Bonanza

Grove Insight for DCCC (10/21, likely voters, 10/4-5):

Gary Peters (D): 46 (46)

Joe Knollenberg (R-inc): 36 (37)

Jack Kevorkian (I): 2 (n/a)

(MoE: ±4.9%)

Greenberg Quinlan Rosner for DCCC (10/19-20, likely voters, 9/30-10/1):

Mary Jo Kilroy (D): 44 (44)

Steve Stivers (R): 36 (36)

Don Eckhart (I): 11 (7)

(MoE: ±4.9%)

Two new polls from the DCCC show Democratic candidates in midwestern swing district races maintaining their sizable leads from last time. In the open seat in the Columbus-based 15th, the head-to-head numbers stay exactly the same; the only movement, unfortunately for Stivers, seems to be to pro-life independent Don Eckhart. (At the presidential level, Obama leads McCain 51-39 in OH-15.)

MI-09 continues to be a big surprise, as Gary Peters puts up a bigger margin against incumbent Joe Knollenberg than in the open seat in OH-15. This one just seems like a perfect storm: the Detroit area was already suffering economically more than any other part of the country, it’s suffering even more with the financial crisis and subsequent free fall in the auto industry, and we have an old incumbent who hasn’t faced a top-tier challenge before.

MI-09: Another Poll Shows a Tight Race

Mitchell Research & Communications (9/30-10/2, likely voters):

Gary Peters (D): 43

Joe Knollenberg (R-inc): 43

(MoE: ±6%)

The sample size is a bit small, but add it to the growing pile of polls showing crumb-bum Joe Knollenberg in a tight spot.

SSP currently rates this race as a Tossup.

MI-09: Joe Knollenberg Gets Ugly

Get a load of this:

That’s what currently pops up when you conduct a Google blog search for Knollenberg. If you click through to the actual article, Knollenberg has scrubbed his original title and replaced it with a new headline: “Protecting Our Families From Harmful Products”.

This sort of thing — especially coming from a United States congressman — is disgusting.

MI-09: Joe Knollenberg’s $50,000 Capitol Hill Townhouse

Ordinarily, we don’t talk about real estate too much at Swing State Project, but all of a sudden, people seem interested in the issue of officeholders not properly disclosing the true market value of your house on your federal disclosure forms.

So it’s worth noting that Joe Knollenberg, currently embroiled in a tough race to retain his House seat in MI-09, may be in a little trouble himself. Roll Call has the details in an article pithily titled “Knollenberg Lowballs D.C. House:”

On the most recent disclosure forms, Knollenberg reported the value of the property at $50,000 to $100,000, down from the $100,000 to $250,000 range he reported the year before, despite the fact that District of Columbia tax records indicate a current assessed value of $781,840.

Anybody who’s looked at Washington real estate lately knows that the idea of a $50,000 townhouse on Capitol Hill (four blocks from the Capitol) is pretty laughable.

It’s a little subtler than that: Congressional reporting rules don’t require you to give the value of a personal residence, or a mortgage against it… unless there is rental income involved. Knollenberg purchased the townhouse in 2001 (for $490,000), but didn’t start renting the basement apartment unit until 2003. At that point:

His disclosure form for that year reported a “lower level rental” valued from $100,000 to $250,000, generating $5,000 to $15,000 in rent. Knollenberg also reported a mortgage on the property of $100,000 to $250,000.

He reported the value of the basement unit alone, despite:

The instruction manual provided by the House Committee on Standards of Official Conduct for filling out financial disclosure forms requires that when a property provides rental income, “the gross value of the entire property should be reported even if only part of the property (e.g. the basement of a residence) is used for rental purposes.”

However, something changed with his 2007 report, and there’s no explanation for it coming from the Knollenberg camp other than ‘clerical error:’

But on his 2007 disclosure form, filed in May, Knollenberg reported the value of the property at between $50,000 and $100,000, claimed income of $5,000-$15,000 on the rental and no longer listed the mortgage on the property at all. By comparison, one local developer said an indoor parking space in a Capitol Hill condo building would sell for about $40,000.

Bear in mind that no one is talking about criminal charges at this point, only violations of House ethics rules. But with the Stevens story bursting onto the scene, this little ‘clerical error’ can’t be helping Knollenberg, already facing a rocky re-election bid.

MI-07, MI-09: Schauer, Peters Receive Strong Financial Support for First Quarter

The end of the first quarter brings news that bodes well for Democrats in Michigan.  Congressional challengers Mark Schauer (MI-07) and Gary Peters (MI-09), both considered top contenders on the Red-To-Blue list, have ended the quarter with impressive fundraising totals.  

Peters’ campaign reports that it raised over $346,000 for the first quarter, reaching roughly $748,000 total for the cycle.  Furthermore, in sharp contrast to the GOP’s reliance on large-scale wealthy donors and multinational corporations, 90% of Peters’ donations came from within the Wolverine State, and 94% came from individuals.  Nearly 2,000 individual contributors signed on by the end of the quarter, reinforcing the growing power of small donations from individuals via the Internet, a trend that will undoubtedly shape elections going forward.

Schauer’s numbers reflect a similar trend, as his campaign announced that it has raised more than $326,000 in the quarter, and more than $900,000 total to date.  86% of that total came from in-state donors, and, during this quarter, the campaign saw 1,000 new individuals contribute.

Always encouraging to hear news like this, especially from districts in a crucial swing state!

MI-09: One Fewer Democrat in the Primary; Good or Bad?

In a shocking development, Nancy Skinner, the 2006 candidate who ran against Republican Rep. Joe Knollenberg, has withdrawn her candidacy for that seat.  She would have faced state lottery commissioner Gary Peters in the Democratic primary before moving on to face Knollenberg in the fall.  

I’m not quite sure which way this news cuts.  On the one hand, Skinner ran a strong race against Knollenberg the last time around, and has been championed by the netroots, especially Democracy For America.  On the flip side, I remain wary of “grudge match” candidates who were unable to beat the Republicans in 2006.  That was a Democratic year, without any GOP pull at the top of the ticket.  If a candidate couldn’t make it over the finish line then, how would he or she do so this year?

I also don’t know much about Gary Peters.  How strong a candidate is he?  Any Michiganders with insights, I encourage you to chime in!

I yield the floor.

MI-09: Michigan Dem Delegation to Support Peters for Congress

Peters for Congress is proud to announce that the entire Michigan Democratic delegation will be supporting a December fundraiser for Gary Peters and Mark Schauer. The event comes weeks before the next crucial campaign finance reporting deadline.

The unity of the entire delegation, lead by Senators Levin and Stabenow, sends a strong message. DCCC polling shows that Knollenberg’s job approval is at 33%. When voters are given Gary and Joe’s positions on SCHIP, Gary pulls ahead to a 7 point lead. Clearly MI-09 is a serious opportunity to expand our majority in the House.

I am thrilled to see the men and women of our Democratic Delegation stepping up to support two proven progressives.

Also, be sure to join our email list!

MI-09: Congress is NOT Just for Millionaires

You may have seen some of the  YouTube drama surrounding MI-09 and candidate Gary Peters. Peters is currently serving as the Griffin Endowed Chair of American Government at Central Michigan University. As a former State Senator, State Lottery Commissioner, and Lt. Commander in the Navy Reserve he brings a unique perspective to the university.

In fact, the story was on the frontpage of today.

Another unique perspective found at CMU belongs to young conservative Dennis Lennox. Lennox has been complaining that Peters should not be able to run for Congress at teach at CMU at the same time.

The root of his complaint poses a very significant question: should you be able to hold a job and run for office? We don’t mind that incumbents, who earn a salary from the taxpayers, campaign for their re-election. Should a candidate have to be independently wealthy to run for office?

First I should point out that Peters’ salary comes from a privately funded endowment. In fact, Robert Griffin (a former Republican Senator and MI Supreme Court Justice) who funds the endowment is supportive of Peters. The first two Griffin Chairs were prominent Republicans.

If we limit ourselves to just those who can afford to take time off work to run, given the ever quickening pace of the campaign trail, we certainly are cutting off our options. How will we get the candidates ready to stand up for us, not special interests, if they have to give up their paycheck to run?

We certainly wouldn’t have candidates ready to stand up and fight to end the war. We know the mega wealthy don’t care about protecting our jobs, since they are the ones that promote outsourcing. We’d be lucky to get candidates that want to provide access to quality, affordable health care.

In Michigan last year we saw Amway CEO Dick Devos spend over $41 million in his run for Governor. But over $35 million was his own money! The pundits are saying MI-09 in 2008 could be the most expensive Congressional race in Michigan’s history. Do we want to limit our choices of our representative to the People’s House to only millionaires?

I don’t. Who hasn’t worked a part time job in order to pay the bills while in school or volunteering your service? Gary Peters is running for Congress to provide representation to those in MI-09 who feel no one has stood up for them.

I can see why conservatives would try and use any means necessary to stop Gary. He is Knollenberg’s first opponent that has ever held office before. He has a long list of endorsements, including the AFL-CIO, MI Building Trades, Triangle Pride PAC, and nearly every MI-09 elected official. He has already raised over $215k.

I’ve created an ActBlue fundraising page called “The People’s House” for those of you who believe that candidates should be allowed to work part time while running for office. Whether they are Professors, Teachers, Doctors, or Farmers…we need to support candidate’s that represent US!

Support Gary Peters at ActBlue! Donate to the People’s House page to let everyone know that Congress is not just for millionaires.

MI-09: Knollenberg First House Target on LCV Dirty Dozen List

On Tuesday, the League of Conservation Voters named the first two members of the “Dirty Dozen” list of the 12 worst members of Congress on environmental issues.

The first additions to the 2008 Dirty Dozen are Senator James Inhofe (R-OK) and Congressman Joe Knollenberg (R-MI09).

We all know where Inhofe stands on the environment. If you can justify ignoring the threat of global warming by claiming it is a scam to raise the Weather Channel’s ratings, then you can justify voting against any environmental protections. However, I was very glad to see the LCV recognize that Joe Knollenberg is in the same class as Inhofe.

You may not have heard of Joe Knollenberg. He is the Republican Ranking Member of an Appropriations Sub Committee, and brags about all the money he has “secured” for local interests, taking advantage of earmarks, on his website. But his record on issues important to 9th district voters is atrocious. The LCV gives him a lifetime score of just 7%.

In fact, an amendment that bans the EPA from hosting educational seminars about global warming is known as the “Knollenberg Amendment”.

MI-09 is arguably the most progressive district in Michigan. Polling on social issues shows that 9th District voters stand with us on a woman’s right to choose, stem cell research, protecting our environment for future generations, and moving in a new direction. It is about time for us to get a new Representative in Congress!

The LCV adding Knollenberg to the Dirty Dozen list was the earliest any member of Congress has been targeted by the group. This isn’t the first early buzz we’ve seen in MI-09 however. The AFL-CIO announced their earliest ever endorsement for Democratic candidate Gary Peters.

For more early buzz, yesterday Peters for Congress announced raising $217k from over 430 individuals in just 6 weeks of campaigning. Over $41k came from ActBlue, where the average donation was under $250.

Everything about this district seems to be moving quickly…before Gary even announced he would run for Congress, Knollenberg was already attacking him.

MI-09 will be one of the hottest races in 2008.

Get Involved Today!