On the heels of my last Michigan related diary, which received some pretty suprising attention from the DLCC, I’ve decided to overview the potentially competitive State House Races going forward into 2010. By my count, about a third (34 out of 110) of the State House seats will be open in 2010, a far smaller percentage than in the State Senate, where at least 30 of 38 seats will be open. Although Democrats stand to gain several seats in the Senate, the House is not such a rosy picture. The competitive nature of the open seats means that there will be a lot of turnovers in the next election, but Democrats will at best only achieve a net gain of 1-2 seats, While the most likely scenario is a no net change to Republicans gaining 1-2. In a bad year Democrats could lose 5-6 seats, but I don’t envision the Republicans gaining the 13 seats needed to take back control of the body. Democrats control the House by a 67-43 margin, after two successive cycles of huge gains (+6 in 2006 and +9 in 2008). You can view my Senate overview here http://www.swingstateproject.c…
Because most of the districts will be uncompetitive, I’m only listing ones that I consider to be “Lean” or “Tossup” districts. I will include, as in my Senate Diary, a list of announced and potential candidates and 2008 Presidential results.
District 30– Tory Rocca (R) OPEN Northern Sterling Heights (Macomb County)
This district has been represented by the Rocca family consistently for the past 26 years. First the Father, Sal, from 1983 to 1994. Then the mother, Sue, from 1994 to 2000, then Sal again from 2000 to 2004, and finally, the son, Tory from 2004 to present. This district has trended democratic since the beginning of the Rocca reign, and Tory is term limited. According to Sal’s biography, he has another son, Michael, but it is unclear whether he lives in the 30th District or not. The Democratic bench in this district is strong. Macomb County Commissioner Ken Lampar (D), who was elected in 2008, has already announced his candidacy and is considered a strong contender. 23 year old Commissioner Dave Flynn (D) is also a potential candidate. The only Republican commissioner who represents a portion of this district is Matriarch Sue Rocca, who is barred by term limits of running for her old seat. Unless a Rocca steps up, I like Democrats chances here. Still this is a historically Republican district.
Presidential Results- 50.9 – 46.4 Obama
Announced Candidates- Ken Lampar (D) Current Macomb County Commissioner
Potential Candidates- Dave Flynn (D) Current Macomb County Commissioner
District 57– Dudley Spade (D) OPEN Most of Lenawee County
Rep. Dudley Spade is term limited in 2010, and his district will be home to one of the biggest and most heavily contested races in the state. The county is competitive but normally leans slightly Republican nationally, while Democrats usually do well here locally. Prior to Dudley Spade, this seat was represented by his brother, Doug Spade from 1998-2004. If another Spade steps up, our chances for holding this seat improve. (Maybe actor David Spade should move here.) Both sides have deep benches here, but only Harvey Schmidt has announced his candidacy yet. Schmidt, a Democrat, is the mayor of Tecumseh, the 2nd largest city in the district. Former State Senator and brief 2008 candidate for Congress Jim Berryman (D) is considered a possible candidate, and has the name recognition to win. There is a long list of Republican County and City Commissioners who could make this district competitives, as well.
Presidential Results- 51.4 – 46.4 Obama
Announced Candidates- Wayne Schmidt (D) Mayor of Tecumseh
Potential Candidates- Larry Richardson (D) Madison Township Supervisor
Karol Bolton (D) Lenawee County Commissioner
Michael Osborne (D) Adrian City Commissioner
Jim Berryman (D) Former State Senator
James Van Doren (R) Lenawee County Commissioner; Chairman
John Tuckerman (R) Lenawee County Commissioner
David Simpson (R) Lenawee County Commissioner
Rob Hall (R) Lenawee County Commissioner
District 70– Mike Huckleberry (D) Montcalm County, Part of Ionia County
The 70th District was one of the closest districts between Obama and McCain, with Pres. Obama only narrowly prevailing by 313 votes. Yet the same year, Democrat Mike Huckleberry, an entrepreneur and former Congressional candidate, Upset the favorite, Republican Judge Tom Ginster, by a wide 54-46 margin. Republicans will contend that Huckleberry’s election was a fluke in such a Republican district, and will surely run a strong candidate against him. Still, Incumbents almost never lose in the Michigan legislature. In fact, of the Democrats 15 pickups in the last 2 cylces, only one was due to the loss of an incumbent. This is not because Michigan has any particularly strong affinity for its incumbents, it’s just that with so many open seats, the state parties rarely spend money against incumbents. Only businessman Ed Sternisha has yet announced his candidacy, and Republicans will likely need someone stronger than him to defeat Huckleberry.
Presidential Results- 49.5 – 49.4 Obama
Announced Candidates- Ed Sternisha (R)
Potential Candidates- Ron Retzloff (R) Montcalm County Commissioner
Pat Carr (R) Montcalm County Commissioner
Amanda Powell (R) Ionia County Commissioner
Rating- Leans Democrat
District 71– Rick Jones (R) OPEN Most of Eaton County
Between 2004 and 2008, Eaton County went from being a slightly Republican leaning swing county, to a slightly Democrat leaning swing county. Eaton voted for Obama, and Mark Schauer, and at the same time gave Democrats control of its County Commission. Democrats control 9 commission seats and Republicans control 6. Almost any of these commissioners would make solid candidates for State House. Republicans Deb Shaughnessy, the mayor of Charlotte, and Cheryl Krapf-Haddock, Executive Director of the Child Abuse Prevention Council have both announced their candidacies, with more Republicans likely to enter. Democrat Robert Robinson has announced his candidacy as well. It looks like both sides will have competitive primaries. At this point, I can’t pick a favorite, and it could stay that way until election day.
Presidential Results- 53.5 – 44.8 Obama
Announced Candidates- Deb Shaughnessy (R) Charlotte Mayor
Cheryl Krapf-Haddock (R)
Robert Robinson (D)
Potential Candidates- Joe Brehler (D) Eaton County Commissioner
Glenn Freeman (D) Eaton County Commissioner
Art Luna (D) Eaton County Commissioner
Leo Farhat (R) Eaton County Commissioner
John Forell (R) Eaton County Commissioner
District 79– John Proos (R) OPEN Northern half of Berrien County
Like much of South-Western Michigan, Berrien County swung strongly Democratic in 2008. In fact, Barack Obama was the first Democrat to win the County since 1964! Much of this is attributed to high African-American turnout in Benton Harbor, but it was perhaps equally because of moderate Republicans abandoning the Republican Party. The question in 2010 is whether those moderates will return to the GOP fold or not. If they do, Republicans will keep this seat in a walk, but if the moderates are still dissatisfied, this seat could be competitive. Lower Black turnout makes this one tougher, but not impossible, for Democrats. No candidates have announced yet, and Republicans have a deeper bench here than Democrats, so I’m going to call them the favorites.
Presidential Results- 53.0 – 45.8 Obama
Potential Candidates- Jim Hahn (D) Chairman of Berrien County Democrats
John Hinkleman (R) Berrien County Commissioner
Al Pscholka (R) Aide to Congressman Fred Upton
Rating: Leans Republican
District 83– John Espinosa (D) OPEN Sanilac County, Port Huron (St. Clair County)
Democrat John Espinosa is vacating his seat to run for State Senate (He’s term limited anyway). Republicans drew this seat in their favor, but Moderate Dem Espinosa has been able to consistently win re-election here easily. Now that he’s vacating it, it becomes a good opportunity for Republicans. Democrat Port Huron City Councilman Alan Lewandowski is apparently interested, but I think Democrats would have more luck with a candidate from Sanilac County, where Espinosa is from. Unfortunately, Republicans control every single seat on the Sanilac County Commission. An city or township official from Sanilac County or an official from Port Huron could make this seat competitive, but right now I feel like this is the Republicans’ most likely pickup next year.
Presidential Results- 51.8 – 46.1 Obama
Potential Candidates- Alan Lewandowski (D) Port Huron City Councilman
Jamie Daws (R) Sanilac County Commissioner
Gary Russell (R) Sanilac County Commissioner
Rating- Leans Republican
District 85– Richard Ball (R) OPEN Shiawassee County, Part of Clinton County
This is another district that Republicans gerrymandered for themselves by pairing swingish Shiawassee County with portions of the normally Republican Clinton County. Yet this area, just north of Lansing, experienced one of the biggest swings in the 2008 elections. Barack Obama not only won the district, but suprisingly won Clinton County as a whole. Both sides have relatively good benches here, but the Democratic nominee with have to get past the historically Republican nature of Clinton County to win here. Three Republicans have announced so far, but only Owosso Mayor Pro-Tem Jim Stechschulte seems like a viable candidate. Republican Owosso Mayor Mike Bruff would be an even better candidate. No Democrat has yet announced but there are several Shiawassee County Commissioners who could win this district.
Presidential Results- 53.9 – 44.2 Obama
Announced Candidates- Jim Stechschulte (R) Owosso Mayor Pro-Tem
David Lazar (R)
Harold Kuisel (R)
Potential Candidates- Judy Ford (D) 2008 Candidate
Dan Stewart (D) Shiawassee County Commissioner
Jaime Pavlica (D) Shiawassee County Commissioner
Mike Bruff (R) Owosso Mayor
District 91– Mary Valentine (D) OPEN Suburban Muskegon County, Part of Ottawa County
Although she is not term-limited, talented Democrat Mary Valentine is vacating her house seat to run for the State Senate. This seat was held for years by Republicans until Valentine came along in 2006 and pummeled incumbent Republican David Farhat 54-46. She was easily re-elected in 2008 over highly touted Republican recruit Holly Hughes, while Barack Obama won the district very comfortably. Democrats hold most of the County Commissioners seats in this district, and State Treasurer Tony Moulatsiotis lives in Norton Shores and would make a strong candidate. Still, few Democrats can match Valentine’s charisma and skillful campaigning. Republican Ken Punter is running. Juggernaut fundraiser and 2006 candidate may also run.
Presidential Results- 56.2 – 42.6 Obama
Announced Candidates- Ken Punter (R)
Potential Candidates- Tony Moulatsiotis (D) Muskegon County Treasurer
Kenneth Mahoney (D) Muskegon County Commissioner; Chairman
James Derezinski (D) Muskegon County Commissioner
Holly Hughes (R) 2008 Candidate
97th District– Tim Moore (R) OPEN Clare, Gladwin, Arenac, northern Bay Counties
In 2004, Republican Tim Moore defeated one-term Democratic State Rep. Jennifer Elkins by a narrow margin. Since then he’s faced only token opposition, despite the swingishness of his district and its historic Democratic nature (it’s also the birth place of Sen. Debbie Stabenow). President Obama won every County in this district, and the Republican bench here isn’t great. For the Democrats, Fmr. Rep. Elkins want to try to regain her seat. Freeman Township supervisor Mark Lightfoot (D) has already announced his candidacy, but several other local officeholders may join him. Two Republicans have announced their candidacy, Kim Emmons and Joel Johnson. Neither has held political office or seems viable against a strong Dem nominee. radio personality Bobby Randall has been talked about for the Republican primary.
Presidential Results- 51.4 – 46.5 Obama
Announced Candidates- Mark Lightfoot (D) Freeman Township supervisor
Kim Emmons (R) Activist
Joel Johnson (R)
Potential Candidates- Jennifer Elkins (D) Former State Representative
Mike Shea (D) Gladwin County Sherrif
Josh Reid (D) Gladwin County Commissioner
Bobby Randall (R) Radio Personality
District 99– Bill Caul (R) OPEN Isabella County, part of Midland County
The 99th is another district customized by Republicans. And once again, the district has moved significantly to the left. The main anchor of the district is Isabella County, a former swing district that gave president Obama huge margin in 2008. The rest of the district is rural Republican townships in Midland County. High Native American populations and the fact that Mount Pleasant is home to Central Michigan University makes this district one of the best pickup opportunities for Democrats. Democrats also recruited the woman who is probably their strongest candidate, well known attorney and Chair of the Isabella County Democrats Toni Sessoms. Sessoms is also independently wealthy and if elected she would become the first openly lesbian State Representative. Former Republican County Commissioner and unsuccessful 2008 candidate for an at-large commissioner seat Christine Alwood is running. Alwood is not nearly as strong as Republican Mount Pleasant mayor Jim Holton, but Holton hasn’t shown any inclination towards running yet. I like Sessoms chances against Alwood, but Holton would be more of an uphill climb.
Presidential Results- 54.1 – 43.9 Obama
Announced Candidates- Toni Sessoms (D) Isabella County Dems Chair
Christine Alwood (R) Former Isabella County Commissioner
Potential Candidates- Jim Holton (R) Mount Pleasant Mayor
District 103– Joel Sheltrown (D) OPEN Iosco, Ogemaw, Roscommon, and Missaukee Counties
Another district that’s all in the family. Before Joel Sheltrown, this district was represented by his brother, Dale. And who’s the most likely Democratic candidate in 2010? Van Sheltrown, the third brother and current Ogemaw County Road Commissioner. The Sheltrown name is popular here, but there’s no guarantee that Van will have the primary to himself. And this district is Republican in nature (McCain won it). Republicans have a somewhat deep bench here, but so far only Phil Bendily has announced his candidacy. Against Bendily, the Democrat should be favored, but against a stronger candidate like Missaukee County Sheriff Jim Bosscher, the result is less certain.
Presidential Results- 49.3 – 48.8 McCain
Announced Candidates- Phil Bendily (R)
Potential Candidates- Van Sheltrown (D) Ogemaw County Road Commission
Howie Hanft (D) Ogemaw County Sheriff
Marc Milburn (R) Roscommon County Commissioner
Jim Bosscher (R) Missauke County Sheriff
District 105– Kevin Elsenheimer (R) OPEN Charlevoix, Otsego, and part of Cheboygan Counties
Kevin Elsenheimer, who retired in 2008 and then un-retired, is now term limited for real. If the short lived primary from last year is any indication, the Republican primary will be crowded and may include, as it did last year and in 2004, John Ramsey, yes the John Ramsey. Last year Cheboygan County Commissioner Connie Saltonstall ran a tough campaign against Elsenheimer, and she may run again. If the crowded Republican primary yields a damaged or unelectable candidate like Ramsey, Saltonstall has a good shot. But if not, this district will probably go with the Republican. MSU student and Controversial figure Dennis Lennox, who’s currently being sued for Defamation by Ingham County Commissioner Mark Grebner. He currently serves as Cheboygan County Drain Commissioner, even though he thinks his job should be eliminated to save money. A Saltonstall-Lennox race would be competitive, as well, in my opinion.
Presidential Results- 52.1 – 46.1 McCain
Announced Candidates- Dennis Lennox (R) Cheboygan County Drain Commissioner
Ken Glasser (R) Otsego County Commissioner
Potential Candidates- Connie Saltonstall (D) former Cheboygan county Commissioner
Tim Boyko (R) Former County Commissioner (R)
Greg MacMaster (R)
John Ramsey (R) 2008 Candidate (dropped out) and 2004 Candidate
Rating- Leans Republican
District 106– Andy Neumann (D) OPEN Alcona, Alpena, Presque Isle, Crawford, Montmorency, and Oscoda Counties
Andy Neumann, who was state Rep from 1998-2002 and who ran for his seat again last year, is term limited. The district leans Republican nationally, but it’s anchored by Democratic bastion Alpena and leans Democrat statewide. Neumann won comfortably in 2008 over Republican Pete Pettalia. Democrats have several Alpena elected officials who could do well here, although Republicans control the Alpena County Commission. No Democrats or Republicans have yet announced their candidacies yet, but both have good benches.
Presidential Results- 49.8 – 48.1 McCain
Potential Candidates- Mark Hall (D) Alpena County Commissioner
Casey Viegelahn (D) 2008 Primary Candidate
Peter Pettalia (R) 2008 Candidate
Mike Nunneley (R) Alpena City Councilman
District 107– Gary McDowell (D) OPEN Chippewa, Mackinac, Emmet, and part of Cheboygan Counties
Former UPS delivery man and conservative Dem Gary McDowell is term limited. The two westernmost Counties in the Upper Peninsula, Chippewa and Mackinac, are the only two that aren’t comfortably Democratic on the local and statewide level. President Obama nearly won both, but downstate Emmet County is much more Republican. The Republican bench is a bit stronger than the Democratic bench. Former Chippewa County Prosecutor Patrick Shannon would probably be the strongest Democratic candidate. St. Ignace Mayor Paul Grondin would make a strong Republican candidate as well. Who’s favored here depends entirely on who each side nominates. So far only Republican Frank Foster has filed to run here.
Presidential Results- 50.6 – 47.7 McCain
Announced Candidates- Frank Foster (R)
Potential Candidates- Patrick Shannon (D) former Chippewa County Prosecutor
Keith Massaway (D) Sault Indian Tribe leader
Paul Grondin (R) St. Ignace Mayor
Michael Patrick (R) Mackinac County Commissioner
Jim Moore (R) Chippewa County Commissioner
Special thanks to Peter Bratt for compiling This spreadsheet compiling all announced candidates. Also thanks to whomever created this website.