I’ve not written any diaries of my own since joining the site earlier this year, but after reading hoosierdems’s excellent analysis of Indiana earlier this week, I thought I’d give it a go. Here I’ll analyze each of the races in Michigan this year, including a short prediction for the State House, State Senate, Supreme Court and ballot initiatives.
WARNING: This diary will be long, so if you’re looking for brevity, it may not be for you. Also, standard disclaimer that I have dogs in a couple of these fights; friends are managing Rob Steele’s campaign and volunteering for many other candidates, as well as working for the Michigan Republican Party. I will do my best not to let this color my analysis, however.
I’ll begin with the biggest-ticket races, and by far the most boring of the cycle.
Republican businessman Rick Snyder managed to survive a 5-way Republican primary to challenge populist Dem and Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero in the general election. Bernero upset the more establishment choice, House Speaker Andy Dillon in the Democratic primary himself. Since then, however, he has struggled to raise money (only $2 million raised for the cycle compared to Snyder’s $11 million), and to move beyond his base of progressive Dems and union activists. In no survey has he trailed by less than 12 points, and he consistently loses all regions of the state to Snyder (including Lansing-based Mid-Michigan) except for the city of Detroit. In the crucial Wayne-Oakland-Macomb tri-county area, Snyder leads by about 10. Though likely the most boring, this race could have the most far-reaching effects downticket; if depressed Dems stay home rather than vote for a likely loser in Bernero, it could be a bad night for Dems all over in Michigan.
Final Prediction: 58-41 Snyder
Because Lieutenant Governor is elected on the gubernatorial ticket, the next race in Michigan is for Attorney General. Here establishment Republican former Congressman (and MI Ag Secretary, and judge, and everything else under the sun) Bill Schuette won the GOP nomination at the Republican convention, albeit by a smaller margin than many expected after a Tea Party revolt nearly pushed Senate Majority Leader Mike Bishop over the top. In a closely contested Democratic convention vote, Genesee County Prosecutor David Leyton edged trial lawyer and Wayne State Regent Richard Bernstein. Bernstein dropped out thereafter and decided not to contest the nomination (Democratic conventions aren’t binding in MI).
This race has also been fairly boring: Democrats have attacked Schuette for allegedly being in the pocket of corporations and for being bad on the environment, while Republicans have attacked Leyton for allegedly being soft on crime. Pretty standard AG campaign. Leyton has suffered from some of the same money problems as other statewide Dems, and has been for the most part unable to respond effectively to TV ads by the Michigan Republican Party and others. Because of name recognition, money, a GOP year and Leyton’s association with the city of Flint, Schuette will win this in a walk.
Final Prediction: 56-43 Schuette
The race to replace outgoing GOP Secretary of State Terri Lynn Land initially seemed to be the most interesting of the top-tier races. A slew of generic Republicans lined up to face the hard-working Democratic nominee Jocelyn Benson. Benson, a Wayne State University law professor and Jennifer Brunner disciple, had been campaigning for nearly a year before the Dem convention, hitting just about every county and local Democratic party in Michigan. She faced only token opposition at the convention and cruised to the nomination.
The outlines of this race only began to emerge after Oakland County Clerk and 2006 LG nominee Ruth Johnson got into the Republican race late, making her the most visible and well-known candidate. She ultimately prevailed at the convention on the 2nd or 3rd ballot (depending on whom you ask).
Though Benson has run a spirited campaign, and comes off much better on TV (her debate with Johnson on Tim Skubick’s On the Record was uncomfortable to watch), she hasn’t been able to shake either the D next to her name or the attacks leveled on her by Republican groups. Though this race has the potential to close in the last week if Benson uses some of her 500k on TV time in Metro Detroit, she likely won’t be able to overcome Johnson this year. Look for her to run for something in 2012 or 2014. For now, Johnson wins comfortably.
Final Prediction: 54-45 Johnson
The dynamics of the Supreme Court races got very interesting this year when Elizabeth Weaver, the Republican-appointed swing justice on the otherwise 3-3 Court(often siding with the Democrats) cut a deal with Gov. Jennifer Granholm to retire in exchange for Granholm to appoint a judge from Northern Michigan. Weaver had had a falling out with other Republicans on the Court, particularly Robert Young. In exchange for Weaver’s retirement, Granholm appointed now-Justice Alton Davis, who will be running along with Oakland Circuit Court Judge Denise Langford-Morris as the Democratic candidates for the cycle’s two seats. Republicans re-nominated Robert Young for the seat he currently holds, and put up Wayne County Circuit Court Judge Mary Beth Kelly for the seat currently held by Davis. All public polling has shown the two Republicans leading the races by 5-10 point margins, and the Republicans have had the benefit of strong TV advertising on their behalf. The two Democrats have had trouble raising money, for their part, and have only been able to afford sparse TV advertising. Give the advantage in this race to the Republicans.
Final Prediction: Robert Young retained, Mary Beth Kelly elected
This would result in a 4-3 Republican court, from a 4-3 Democratic SC now.
This race appears to have tightened somewhat in recent weeks, with Democratic State Rep. Gary McDowell within single digits of Republican nominee Dan Benishek, a heart surgeon. Benishek beat out Republican State Senator Jason Allen by a very small margin in the September primary.
There is also a conservative independent in the race,Glenn Wilson, who seems to be drawing more votes from Benishek than McDowell (a point echoed by his former campaign manager, who quit for this reason). Wilson has been unable to use much of the $2 million he had hoped to dump into the race for campaign finance reasons, but has perhaps been buoyed by Democratic psy-ops. In recent weeks, the State Democratic Central Committee has sent mailers to Republican-oriented voters with messages like “Glenn Wilson has a dangerous plan to shrink size and scope of government,” obviously designed to move conservative support to Wilson.
Still, the most recent polls give Benishek a small lead, while McDowell has not led this year. Notably, surveys show Benishek winning by a nearly 10-point margin in the Lower Peninsula and carrying places like Alpena (where his signs are everywhere). This is important, because counterintuitively, most of the votes in this district are actually cast in the LP. If Benishek maintains this and continues to run close in the UP, where he has a solid base in the west (McDowell’s is in the east), he’ll win.
Final Prediction Benishek 46-44-9
This is Michigan’s most conservative district, at R+7. Though Democrats made gains here in 2008, this was largely a result of elevated African American and Hispanic turnout in Muskegon and elsewhere, coupled with McCain’s abandonment of the state. Congressman Pete Hoekstra retired this year to run unsuccessfully for Governor, leading to a crowded Republican primary to replace him. In the end, State Rep. Bill Huizenga beat out Tea Party favorite Bill Cooper and others to emerge as the GOP candidate. He faces Democrat Fred Johnson in the general election. Though Johnson is a credible enough candidate, this race will not be competitive, especially with the Tea Party so active in Western and Northern Michigan this year.
Final Prediction: Huizenga 60-40
Republican Congressman Vern Ehlers retired from Grand Rapids-based MI-03 this year, leaving the seat up for grabs. Republican State Rep. Justin Amash beat out Sen. Bill Hardiman and two other establishment candidates to win the GOP primary, while the Democrats nominated attorney Pat Miles. Though some have speculated that Amash is too far to the right of the district that elected moderate GOPer Ehlers, this race won’t be competitive. Ehlers endorsed Amash shortly after the primary, and he has been aided by the Club for Growth and others in his bid. Public polling places Amash ahead by 9-10, his internals have him up 19. Splitting the difference, his lead is probably in the 12-14 range. Miles has been plagued by poor name recognition and mediocre fundraising, and will need to hope for astronomical African-American turnout in Grand Rapids to keep this close. Miles will likely show up in other races soon, however. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him run for a State Senate seat in the area and win soon.
Final Prediction Amash 54-44
This district winds its way from Traverse City in the north, down through Mount Pleasant to Owosso. It’s GOP Rep. Dave Camp country, and will continue to be for the foreseeable future. His opponent is Some Dude Jerry Campbell.
Final Prediction Camp 63-35
Democratic Rep. Dale Kildee’s district takes in the plurality-black city of Saginaw and majority-black Flint. Though some Republicans in the state want to dream that this seat is “in play,” Kildee is safe against Some Dude John Kupiec.
Final Prediction Kildee 59-39
Though this district is actually pretty evenly split (R+0 PVI), with ubermajority-black Benton Harbor and heavily-Dem Kalamazoo, it’s also quite rural. Moderate Republican Rep. Fred Upton has held the district for a long time, and survived a Tea Party primary challenge from former State Rep. Jack Hoogendyk this year. He’ll cruise to re-election over 2008 retread Don Cooney.
Final Prediction Upton 54-43
Oh, how I’ve come to hate this race. In 2008, Mark Schauer beat Tim Walberg by a slim margin to take this seat for Democrats. He went on to vote for the stimulus, cap and trade, and the health-care bill, which should have left him dead in the water in this moderately Republican district. But read on, me hearties.
The trouble began brewing in the Republican primary. A political newcomer, attorney and veteran Brian Rooney challenged Walberg for the right to take on Schauer. Rooney, while still a conservative, came off as much more moderate, likable, and truly sane than Walberg. Rooney raised money on par with Walberg and had a strong campaign team, but simply couldn’t overcome the name recognition and Club for Growth advantages that Walberg had built in. He lost, and lost badly. Thus 2008 loser and general dickwad Tim Walberg will be the Republican nominee against Schauer again this year, making what should be a sure thing much closer.
Why, you ask? Because Walberg pissed off many Republicans in the district by primarying and beating former Republican Rep. Joe Schwarz. While ordinarily this would have been an upgrade (Schwarz was out in left field even on economic issues), the sleazy way Walberg beat him in the primary, combined with inflammatory and generally dumb statements in the general election (and in office) turned many against him. He barely beat organic farmer and liberal doormat Sharon Renier in 2006, then lost in ’08. Now the GOP decides to run him again.
Meanwhile, Schauer has built a truly formidable campaign machine. He has 35 people working full-time on his re-election plus volunteers; Walberg has 2 and volunteers. Schauer has spent $2.2 million bucks in addition to money from the DCCC, SEIU, AFSCME, Sierra Club and LCV. Walberg has been forced to depend heavily on the NRCC and the Club for Growth because he’s raised little (state Republicans shut their wallets after he won the primary). Democrats want Schauer in the leadership if he wins and gets a more favorable district, and he’s running the campaign to do it. Public polls give Schauer a small but serviceable lead; Walberg’s internals have him with a comical double-digit advantage. Walberg will also be hurt by the fake Tea Party candidate on the ballot, giving him a further obstacle to overcome (as if he couldn’t create more himself). This one will come down to the wire on Nov. 2, but I’m not optimistic for my team.
Final Prediction: Schauer 49-47
Republican Rep. Mike Rogers scared off Democrat Kande Ngalamulume, and was left without a serious opponent. Not sure if Democrat Lance Enderle managed to get on the ballot after all, but it won’t matter.
Final Prediction: Rogers by a bunch
Another race I’m pissed off about. None of the marquee Oakland County candidates decided to take on freshman Democrat Gary Peters (Sheriff Mike Bouchard was so certain of his gubernatorial chaces, and Majority Leader Mike Bishop just knew he’d be the next AG). Peters won this seat over corrupt old GOP bastard Joe Knollenberg in 2008 (even I didn’t vote for Joe that year, I went Libertarian), and like Schauer, he also voted for just about all major Dem legislation in this swing district. In the end, Republicans nominated former State Rep. and veteran Rocky Raczkowski to challenge Peters. Though polling has shown varying leads for each candidate, the race will likely be very close. Peters has to hope for major turnout in plurality-black Pontiac, while Raczkowski needs the Tea Party voters that put him over the top in the primary to turn out in droves (and Snyder’s coattails here won’t hurt either). I think Peters pulls it out here, but only just; if Snyder depresses Dem turnout, he could be a casualty.
Final Prediction: Peters 49-48
It’s Candice Miller, yo. Northern Macomb is strongly GOP, while the Thumb can be swingy, but is culturally very conservative. Miller will romp over Demcratic fireman Henry Yanez.
Final Prediction Miller by a bunch
Thad McCotter‘s an odd, odd dude. I’ve met him a few times, and the way he speaks (all the time) leaves you with the impression that he’s just disgusted by everything. Still, this GOP rep isn’t being seriously challenged this year after surviving in 2010. Luckily for him, State Sen. Glenn Anderson and State Rep. Marc Corriveau didn’t decide to go for the promotion in this Western Wayne County district. He’ll beat Democrat and teacher Natalie Mosher in a walk.
Final Prediction McCotter 58-40
New Ways and Means Chairman Sander Levin currently holds this solidly Dem district. Anchored by majority-black Southfield, it also takes in the most Democratic parts of Macomb County, like Warren and Sterling Heights. Levin will have no trouble with Republican insurance agent Don Volaric.
Final Prediction: Levin 61-36
This Detroit and Grosse Pointes district ousted Congresswoman Carolyn Cheeks Kilpatrick in the primary in favor of State Sen. Hansen Clarke. Clark will win the general, and will no doubt provide better representation for the city than another Kilpatrick. Clarke beats Grosse Pointe businessman John Hauler, no sweat.
Final Prediction: Clarke 75-25
John Conyers’ wife, a former Detroit City Councilwoman, is currently in jail on bribery charges. He also misses many, many important votes, and he has been chastised for using staffers to do menial chores for him. But this is Detroit; corruption is part of the game and people love Conyers for some reason. In a just world he’d lose, but in reality, Conyers stomps Republican businessman Don Ukrainec.
Final Prediction: Conyers by I can’t count that high
Democratic Congressman John Dingell is old. Like, really old. And a guy named John Dingell has held this seat since before your momma and your momma’s momma were born (depending on your age, very possibly true). He’s also facing a very strong challenge this year from Republican doctor Rob Steele (sounds like a Bond villain). Yet this district is anchored in the People’s Republic of Ann Arbor and Downriver Detroit. Though Steele is running the campaign of his life, and comes off much better on television, in person and in debates, he won’t be able to overcome the partisan lean of this district. Some polling to the contrary aside, Dingell wins by single digits.
Final Prediction: Dingell 53-46
So after this cycle, we end up with an 8-7 Republican congressional delegation, from an 8-7 Dem one now.
I won’t go through these races in detail, but the GOP currently holds a 21-17 advantage in the State Senate. Based on candidates, polling and the year, I think they expand this to about 24-13. The Dems lost probably their best pickup opportunity when State Rep. Robert Jones, the Dem candidate for a Kalamazoo-based Senate seat, died unexpectedly of cancer. His replacement will probably be unable to overcome the advantage this leaves his Republican opponent, Tonya Schuitmaker with.
Republicans need 12 seats for a tie here, and 13 to take back the 110-member State House. I think there are two possible scenarios for the House: if turnout is about average and Dems come out in spite of the bloodbath at the top of the ticket, they’ll maintain a 2 or 3 seat majority in the House. If turnout is lower or simply more skewed in favor of Republicans and against incumbents, Republicans take the House by a couple of seats. This one remains up in the air, though I think the massive spending by the RGA and the cash-rich Michigan Republican Party bodes well for Rs.
Proposal 1 (Constitutional Convention)
This is just about the only bipartisan initiative on the ballot ever. Both progressive and conservative, Chamber and unions alike oppose a new convention. They’ll get their wish.
Final Prediction: NO 60-40
Proposal 2 (Ban felons from political office)
Public support for this proposal regularly polls in the 70s. It’s a lock
Final Prediction: YES 80-20
These are, based on the polling, news and what inside information I’m able to get, the best projections I can make for now. What do you guys think?