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 Joe Knollenberg, has withdrawn her candidacy for that seat.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: Better Know a District…Michigan’s 9th!

By: Jordan Wells and Kevin Hrit – (Disclosure: Jordan worked as Nancy Skinner’s Online Outreach Organizer in 2006. Kevin worked as Nancy Skinner’s Field Director in 2006, and crunched numbers for Practical Political Consulting in Lansing.)

Michigan’s 9th Congressional District will be one of the top targeted races for 2008. The DCCC has already aired ads exposing Knollenberg’s awful record on veterans. Knollenberg is under fire from citizen action groups, and has been constantly bashed in letters to the editor throughout the district. Knollenberg is beatable. He narrowly won the ’06 election with 51% of the vote, and has 15% less money now than he did this time that cycle.

It appears the 9th District has undergone a sudden blue trend. However the Democratic base in the district has been growing steadily for the last eight years. Despite the growing Democratic base, Joe Knollenberg continues to cruise to electoral success versus weak challengers.

Jump below the fold for an extremely detailed analysis of the numbers from the 9th District.

In 2002 David Fink performed 2.21% below the Democratic base, with 39.89% of the vote, despite raising 1.2 million and contributing 1.2 million of his own.  In 2004 Steve Reifman performed 6.80% below the Democratic base, with 39.54% of the vote. In 2006 Nancy Skinner performed 4.28% below the Democratic base, with 46.21% of the vote. The Democratic base in 2006 was 50.49% (in ’02 it was 42.19%, in ’04 46.34%).

Clearly the 9th District is more competitive than the election results make it appear, which is great news given Knollenberg’s low vote totals in 2006. Democratic candidates in the 9th have failed to win over independent voters and even win over all Democratic voters. This has been due to a lack of fundraising, lack of connection with voters in the district, and lack of clear understanding of the 9th district.

Currently the two potential contenders for the 9th District nomination are Nancy Skinner and Gary Peters. Nancy ran for the 9th in 2006. Gary’s last election was 2002 when he ran for Attorney General.

In the 2002 Attorney General race, Gary Peters performed at or above the Democratic base in 72% of 9th district precincts (234 out of 325). This certainly puts the candidate’s performance in perspective. While losing by 4,677 votes in Bloomfield Township, Peters actually performed above base in all 36 precincts of the township. In his former home city of Rochester Hills, he outperformed base by 4.66%, in 30 of 32 precincts.  Despite losing the AG race Peters out performed the Democratic base in 72% of the 9th District. Consider that this is a statewide election, and each candidate did not necessarily concentrate on persuading 9th District voters. Peters was above base in 19 of 22 jurisdictions, and just slightly under base in the other 3 (within 2.2%).

Let’s look at Peters’ 1998 State Senate campaign, where he could campaign locally. In this election Peters performed at or above base in 99% of the precincts (155 of 156 precincts).  It is worth noting that in his run for State Senate in 1994, he won a five way primary with 51% of the votes, despite facing formidable challenges from Democratic contenders in a district stretching from Pontiac down through Southfield.  Then went on to win his first term in the Senate.

In 2004 Steve Reifman performed 6.80% below the Democratic base, taking 39.54% of the vote. These results have negatively effected the perception of our district and promoted the idea that no Democrat could win there.

In 2006 Nancy Skinner performed 4.28% below the Democratic base, with 46.21% of the vote. She only performed over base in 18 precincts out of 319 precincts (over base in 5.64%) and only 1 jurisdiction.

In 2004 Nancy also ran for Senate in Illinois. She lost in the primary (to Barack Obama), and as Kevin can tell you, being a first time candidate is really tough.

In Royal Oak City, where Nancy grew up, she performed 4.00% below base. In Birmingham, where the campaign office was located, where her dad coached high school football and where she lived during the campaign, she still performed 0.38% below base.

Gary Peters strong performances are due to the stances he has taken. He was a leader in the fight to protect Great Lakes water, earning him the Sierra Club's Environmentalist of the Year Award. Peters was the Democratic Caucus Chair in the State Senate, and ranking member on more policy committees than any other Senator. You can read more about Gary's biography at this profile article about him in the Michigan Bar Journal.

Nancy Skinner's support comes from her time on a radio talk show in the district. She promoted sustainable living, and worked on the Chicago Climate Exchange. She won a medal from working with the Clinton administration in 1993 for her efforts in rebuilding flood ravaged communities with sustainable building techniques on the Mississippi river delta. You can read more about Nancy on her bio page from her campaign website.

Neither candidate has filed with the FEC. Nancy Skinner's federal committee from 2006 remains open with $18,000+…although she has not filed any of the required reports for 2007. Gary Peters maintains a State Leadership PAC with $20,000+ (as of July '07) which can not be spent on a federal campaign, although he has been supportive of the State and County Party and candidates.



98 Base 14SD : 61.08% 

98 Peters :.65.48% 

98 Peters Performance v. Base : +4.40

02 Base : 42.19% 

02 Fink : 39.89%

02 Fink Performance v. Base : -2.29%

02 Peters : 45.52%

02 Peters Performance v. Base : +3.33%

04 Base : 46.34%

04 Reifman : 39.54%

04 Reifman Performance v. Base : -6.80%

06 Base : 50.49% 

06 Skinner : 46.21%

06 Skinner Performance v. Base : -4.28%


Here are the numbers and facts, please draw your own conclusions.