This is part one of my three part series of diaries that I will be publishing this weekend handicapping the major 2010 races in the state of Michigan.
Today I will be publishing my U.S. House outlook, tomorrow the State Senate, and Sunday the State House of Representatives.
House District 1: Upper Peninsula and Northern Lower Peninsula. On Monday, Republicans announced that they plan to challenge Bart Stupak again in 2010. Apparently Pete Sessions has not learned the lesson that Tom Cole learned in 2008. For those not familiar with the story, State Rep. Tom Casperson was recruited to run against Stupak by Tom Cole, and national Republicans hyped Casperson as a top tier challenger and golden opportunity for Republicans to knock off the popular moderate Democrat. No such thing happened, and Casperson was pounded by Stupak 65-33.
Now, maybe Sessions thinks that Stupak will retire. I’ll admit, it’s possible. But that still leaves them with the problem of recruiting a Republican with any significant name recognition. Casperson may run again, or he may run for the State Senate. Either way, if he couldn’t break 35% against Stupak, I doubt he could win an open seat. Another Republican possibility is State Rep. Kevin Elsenheimer who will be term limited in 2010, but Elsenheimer is from the lower peninsula, not the U.P. I doubt that any Republican could win this if they aren’t from the U.P., and even a downstate Democrat would have a hard time if the Republican is from the U.P. Elsenheimer is the only Republican state legislator who lives in the 1st District, so he may start out as a front runner if he runs.
As for Democrat Candidates if there’s an open seat, the favorite should be term limited State Senator and Minority Leader Mike Prusi, but State Reps. Mike Lindberg, Mike Lahti, and Gary McDowell would all be formidable opponents to any Republican.
Rating: Safe Democrat, (Leans Democrat if Stupak Retires).
District 2: Lake Michigan Shoreline, Muskegon, Ottawa County. The 2nd District is the most Repulbican in the state of Michigan. It is historically conservative, very Evangelical, and has a high Dutch population. Congressman Pete Hoekstra has already announced that he is going to retire in 2010, probably to run for Governor.
Encouraged by Barack Obama’s good showing in this district, some might be inclined to view this as a potential Democratic pickup. I think that the chances of a Democrat winning this district is slim to none. Republican state legislators are already lining up to succeed Hoekstra, and I doubt any notable Democrat would risk there political career to run against any one of them.
State Senator Wayne Kuipers (R) and State Rep. Bill Huizenga (R) are both running already. Both are from Ottawa county, the conservative base of the District. State Senator Gerald VanWoerkom, a Republican from Muskegon, may run as well. VanWoerkom is far more moderate, and if Kuipers and Huizenga split the conservative, Ottawa County vote, VanWoerkom could sneak up and win the Republican primary.
Democrat State Reps. Mary Valentine and Doug Bennett are the only Democrat elected officials in the district, but I doubt either would take on such a suicide mission. Former State Rep. Julie Dennis may run, but I do not think she would be a very legitimate candidate.
Rating: Likely Republican
District 3: Kent County (Grand Rapids). The third District is also very republican, but not as conservative as the second District. Vern Ehlers is safe if he runs for re election. If he retires, Republicans would have a clear advantage, but the right Democrat could win this district.
If Ehlers retires, State Senators Jud Gilbert or Mike Hardiman would be likely replacements. Former State Representative Michael Sak, a Democrat, would make a good candidate. He is moderate, and from Grand Rapids city, but was recently criticized for alledgedly appearing drunk at a Governors assosciation meeting. State Reps. Robert Dean or Wayne Schmidt could also run.
Rating: Safe Republican (Leans Republic an in Ehlers Retires)
District 4: Central lower Peninsula, Midland. Rep. Dave Camp will likely run for re-election in 2010, and Democrats will likely not give him a vigorous challenge, even though the 4th is a swing district that Barack Obama won. Freshman State Rep. Mike Huckleberry may challenge Camp, he already did so in 2006, but he is unlikely to do any better than he did then. And I doubt he would want to give up his new seat, anyway.
Rating: Safe Republican
District 5: Flint, Saginaw, Bay City. If Dale Kildee does not retire in 2010, expect a primary challenge from State Senator John Gleason. Gleason considered challenging Kildee in 2008, but opted to stay in the Senate. He is term limited in 2010. Republicans will not seriously contest this seat, no matter who wins the Democratic Primary.
Rating: Safe Democrat
District 6: South-West MI, Kalamzoo. Moderate Republican Fred Upton may or may not run for re-election in 2010. If he does, he is probably safe. If not, the 6th District becomes a pure tossup. Obama got 54% in this District, but Democrats have no significant bench of candidates here.
Robert Jones is the only elected Democratic legislator in the district, but he and his predeccessor, Alexander Lipsey, are both African-American. I doubt an African American could win this district (it has a lot of conservative voters in Berrien and Van Buren Counties). However, former Kalamazoo mayor and current Vice-Mayor Hannah McKinney would make a decent candidate.
Republicans Tonya Schuitimaker, John Proos, and Ron Jelinek could all run to succeed Upton if he retired.
Rating: Safe Republican (Tossup if Upton retires)
District 7: South MI, Battle Creek, Jackson. Freshman Mark Schauer will likely face a difficult re-election in 2010. He only beat Rep. Tim Walberg 49-46 in 2008, certainly a smaller margin than I expected.
Possible Republican candidates include former Rep. Mike Nofs, Sen. Cameron Brown, and Rep. Rick Jones. Walberg may run agian, but he is unlikely to beat Schauer in a rematch.
Obama won this district, and the Republicans in this district tend to vote for Conservative Republicans in the Primary, rather than moderates (See Schwarz, Joe vs. Walberg, Tim). A conservative Republican would have an uphill climb against Schauer. All in all, Schauer will have the advantage of incumbency going for him, and should be favored.
Rating: Leans Democrat
District 8: Lansing, Livingston County, N. Oakland County. This may finally be the year that Democrats seriously challenge Mike Rogers. In 2000, Rogers barely beat Democrat Diane Byrum to succeed Democrat Debbie Stabenow, who ran successfully for the Senate. Since then, he has not been seriously challenged in this marginal district.
Rogers may run for governor, which would give Democrats an even better chance at picking up this district. we have a strong bench here, as the district is centered around heavily Democratic Ingham County, home of Lansing. Possible Democrats include Lansing mayor and former State Senator Virg Bernero, State Rep. and former East Lansing Mayor Mark Meadows, State Senator Gretchen Whitimer, State Rep. Joan Bauer, and State Rep. Barb Byrum, daughter of 2000 candidate Diane Byrum.
If Rogers does run for Governor, Livingston State Senator Valde Garcia would be the likely Republican candidate.
Rating: Likely Republican (Tossup if Rogers runs for Governor)
District 9: Central Oakland County. Freshman Gary Peters is the heavy favorite in this suburban Detroit district, even though he just defeated Republican incumbent Joe Knollenberg last November. Like many suburban districts nationwide, this one has been trending Democratic for a while now. Joe Knollenberg’s son state Rep. Marty Knollenberg may try to retak his father’s seat, but when an incumbent loses by 9%, his son is unlikely to do much better.
Rating: Likely Democrat
District 10: “The Thumb”, Northern Macomb County. Republican Candice Miller is not likely to be challenged in 2010. The former secretary of state may run for governor, however. If she does, advantage still goes to the Republicans here. Dem. John Espinoza may run for the open seat. Republican Sen. Alan Sanborn is the likely favorite in an open seat.
Rating: Safe Republican
District 11: West Oakland County, North-East Wayne County. Thad McCotter is in a very dangerous spot right now, and he knows it. He only managed 51% in this once strongly Republican suburban district against a nobody in 2010. He apparently senses the danger, and is willing to sell his soul to save his seat.
Democrats have a very strong bench in this district. House speaker Andy Dillon lives here, and the DCCC will likely try to recruit him, as well as State Senator Glenn Anderson, who represents the Conservative city of Livonia. Other candidates include State Reps. Marc Courriveau and Richard LeBlanc.
McCotter used to be able to count on his base in Livonia to get re elected, but Livonia, like all of Wayne county, continues to trend Democratic. Novi, in Oakland County, was also a reliably Democratic part of the District. But like the 11th District as a whole, Novi was won by Barack Obama.
District 12: Parts of Oakland and Macomb Counties. Sander Levin is likely to run for re-election, but if he doesn’t look for his son, Andy Levin to run for his seat. If not Levin, State Senator Gilda Jacobs may run. Either way, the district is safe.
Rating: Safe Democrat
District 13: Detroit. The big question here is: Has the Kilpatrick scandal blown over? If so, Carolyn Cheeks Kilpatrick will be safe. If there are still lingering doubts about her suport for her son, then she may well see a another vigorous Primary Challenge. Mary Waters will probably run again, but there are other Detroit area legislators that may want to take her on as well. Barack Obama may have broken 90% in this majority Black District, so the winning the Democratic Primary will be tantamount to winning the General Election.
Rating: Safe Democrat.
District 14: Detroit. Nothing to see here. John Conyers is safe.
Rating: Safe Democrat
District 15: Detroit suburbs, Monroe County, Ann Arbor. I fully expect John Dingell to retire in 2010. He just lost his committee chairmanship, and on top of that, he can barely walk. If he does, watch either his wife, Debbie Dingell, or his son, Christopher Dingell. Also watch former Congresswoman Lynn Rivers, who lost the 2002 primary to Dingell after the two were drawn together by redistricting. Rivers is quite liberal and would made a very good congresswoman, in my opinion.
Rating: Safe Democrat