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MIRS Review of State Senate Races

by: pbratt

Fri Mar 29, 2013 at 09:52:59 AM EDT

(Because this is more interesting than mockery. - promoted by Eric B.)

From today's MIRS:

Three open seats based in Kalamazoo, Saginaw and Monroe are shaping up to be the biggest Senate battlegrounds in 2014.

There is more below the fold, but my guess is that this far out, the Dems are looking at getting four seats, bringing the GOP super majority down 22. If we can pick up two more, that would be very interesting. The 32nd and 20th have long been close misses for the Dems, cyle after cycle. With the GOP remap, they made these seats much more democratic in hopes of holding 2010 pick ups, especially the 31st and the 19th. 

pbratt :: MIRS Review of State Senate Races

Three open seats based in Kalamazoo, Saginaw and Monroe are shaping up to be the biggest Senate battlegrounds in 2014.   That's something both Democrats and Republicans agree on, as both sides are busy recruiting candidates and plotting strategy for next year's election. The trio of seats include the newly drawn open 20th District, which is entirely in Kalamazoo County; the 32nd District, which includes much of the area term-limited Sen. Roger KAHN represented of Saginaw and Genesee counties; and the 17th District in Monroe and Lenawee counties being vacated by Senate Majority Leader Randy RICHARDVILLE (R-Monroe).

Overall, there aren't a lot of areas of disagreement over which seats are in play in the upper chamber. That's part of the advantage (or disadvantage, depending on your perspective), with one party enjoying a supermajority and controlling the redistricting process.

 For Republicans, the stated goal is to keep their supermajority of 26, with Richardville arguing they could play in 27 or 28 seats. But after pushing controversial Right to Work (RTW), abortion and tax reform legislation, insiders privately tell MIRS that keeping the majority is enough.

 Complicating matters is the feeling that every Republican senator is convinced s/he could face a GOP primary, which means fighting two-front wars for some incumbents. And if they were to get knocked off -- especially by lesser-known Tea Party types -- that could definitely up the odds of Democrats capturing those seats in the general election.

 On the other side of the aisle, many Democrats are talking about a two-cycle plan to regain the majority in 2018. But new Michigan Democratic Party (MDP) Chair Lon JOHNSON doesn't want to wait that long and is gung ho about the party's chances, even with a caucus that currently stands at 11.   Here's where the races stand with 19 months to go before Election Day.

 1. 20th, Open  With a 53-percent Democratic base and Sen. Tonya SCHUITMAKER (R-Lawton) looking to run in the 26th District, the Dems are hungering for this one. Rep. Sean McCANN (D-Kalamazoo), who already represents the city of Kalamazoo, is already on the case. He's holding fundraisers, making calls and his name ID is pretty strong. And McCann is looking like he'll have a clear primary.   On the GOP side, Rep. Margaret O'BRIEN (R-Portage) is definitely interested. Former Rep. Lorence WENKE, who lost to Schuitmaker in the '10 GOP primary, could give it another go and has never been afraid to open his own wallet. And one-term Rep. Larry DeSHAZOR, who also lost to Schuitmaker, is another possibility. While O'Brien is seen as having a good shot at emerging from a Republican primary, GOP insiders admit a typical right-wing candidate won't have the same crossover appeal in this district in November. And Wenke, who has been the lone voice in the Republican wilderness backing gay rights, is starting to look smarter as polls show Michiganders are increasingly with him.

 2. 32nd, Open  This 54-percent Dem district is another good Dem pickup opportunity, but it will take the right candidate. So far, there's no shortage of possibilities. GarnetLEWIS, who failed to win a House seat in '10 is off and running, holding fundraisers and advertising on Michigan Liberal. Rep. Stacy Erwin OAKES (D-Saginaw) also wants the job. But well-liked Saginaw County Sheriff William FEDERSPIEL just might be the strongest candidate, and some well-known Dems are working on him. Saginaw County Commission Chair Cheryl HADSELL, best-known as former Gov. Jennifer GRANHOLM's hairdresser, could be another good option, as she's hardworking and well-liked. And even former House Floor Leader Mike HANLEY's name has been bandied about.   For Republicans, former Rep. Ken HORN wants it. But there's also businessman Paul MITCHELL, who's committed to spending $250,000 of his own money and has hired pollster and consultant Steve MITCHELL. There's concern Paul Mitchell could force Horn to run right in a primary, which might come back to haunt the winner in the general. And the most interesting rumor out there is that Kahn, who has two years left in the House, could pursue a "swap" with freshman Rep. Tim KELLY (R-Saginaw).

 3. 17th, Open  This 50-50 seat was always going to be heavily contested, but if former House Majority Floor Leader Kathy ANGERER goes for it, that's a guarantee. It's no secret that there's bad blood between she and Richardville, the current occupant of the seat, over the failure of autism legislation in 2010 Lame Duck. Even though Richardville won't be on the ballot, he'll make sure the GOP plays hard to keep this one. Angerer, who's no longer with AT&T, is taking a strong look at it, Dems tell MIRS. But former Rep. Doug SPADE is also taking a gander, and being from Lenawee could be a real advantage for the Dem nominee to eat into the GOP's stronghold.   For Republicans, Rep. Dale ZORN (R-Ida) is interested and considered the strongest choice, with his "salt of the earth" persona and vote against RTW. There's been some chatter about Rep. Nancy JENKINS (R-Clayton), but insiders think she's best staying in the House, where she occupies a potentially vulnerable seat. Republicans are somewhat upbeat about keeping this one, as Richardville won the open seat (albeit with different lines) with 56 percent in 2006, a big Dem year. The GOP knows this unique district and that name ID here is crucial.

 4. 34th, Sen. Goeff HANSEN (R-Hart)  This 55-percent Democratic seat in Muskegon, Oceana and Newaygo counties is where Republicans are used to doing battle. But they're also used to winning. Hansen has taken some worrisome votes, especially on RTW, which hasn't played well in Muskegon's industrial base.   The Dems could have former Rep. Doug BENNETT, who remains popular, but also suffered a brain hemorrhage in 2009. Former Muskegon County Prosecutor Tony TAGUE, who retired last year after a quarter-century on the job, has also been mentioned.

 5. 31st, Sen. Mike GREEN (R-Mayville)  This 51-percent GOP seat covers all of Bay, Tuscola and Lapeer counties, and Green raised more money than anyone last year to try to keep it. The first problem for Green is that a primary challenge from Rep. Kevin DALEY (R-Lum) appears real. The second could be Dems painting him as extreme in the general, especially with his push for open carry in churches and schools, even after the Sandy Hook shooting. But Republicans think Green has positioned himself well, as he's coped with his wife having a stroke.   Dems are certainly hoping to be facing a non-incumbent. They're also looking for the right candidate, which could be Rep. Charlie BRUNNER (D-Bay City). Former Rep. Joe RIVET has been mentioned, too. Former Rep. Jeff MAYES, whom Green beat in '10, isn't apparently interested.

 6. 7th, Sen. Pat COLBECK (R-Canton)  This 53-percent GOP seat in Wayne County encompassing Livonia, Northville, Canton and Plymouth should stay in Republican hands. But Colbeck's choice to lead the charge on RTW and to be the leading voice for the Tea Party in the Senate could spook moderate voters. That and his burn rate have caused Dems to take a hard look at this race, even though the district was cut to help Colbeck.   Before any of that, there are whispers that even the conservative Colbeck could face a primary from a well-known challenger. There are rumors about House Speaker Pro-Tem John WALSH (R-Livonia) going for it. Former Rep. John PASTOR could be another option.   For the Democrats, Rep. Dian SLAVENS (R-Canton) looks interested, and Dems say she has proven to be a strong candidate and leader in the House. The name of Dr. Syed TAJ, who lost to now-U.S. Rep. Kerry BENTIVOLIO (R-Milford) in '12, is out there. And it's the worst-kept secret in Lansing that former Rep. John STEWART -- who served as a Republican, ran for the Senate in '10 as an independent and is now a Democrat is laying the groundwork for a possible campaign.

 7. 38th, Sen. Tom CASPERSON (R-Escanaba)  With a 53-percent Democratic base, this sprawling district covers about three-quarters of the Upper Peninsula's land mass, from Gogebic to Schoolcraft counties. That's a lot of real estate to cover, and a couple different media markets. Luckily for the GOP, Casperson is pretty well-liked, which is important because it's "all about who you know up there," and smartly was a "no" on RTW. Republicans aren't "overly concerned." But Casperson has some work to do on fundraising and he's taken some "interesting" votes, like on his crusade against biodiversity.   Dems also don't have a leading candidate at the moment. Two of the best possibilities, former Reps. Steve LINDBERG and Gary McDOWELL, have no interest. Ditto for new Rep. Scott DIANDA (D-Calumet), who's focused on keeping his seat. Former Marquette School Board President Tony RETASKIE, who lost the '12 Dem primary for the 109th House seat, looks interested.

 8. 29th, Sen. Dave HILDENBRAND (R-Lowell)  So much of what happens in this 51-percent GOP seat in Kent County depends on who's running for U.S. Senate and Congress. If Hildenbrand stays in, Republicans feel good, noting his "exemplary" fundraising last year. But what happens if U.S. Rep. Justin AMASH (R-Cascade Twp.) goes for U.S. Senate, opening up his 3rd District seat? Sources say Hildenbrand could be interested in that, along with many others like term-limited Sen. Mark JANSEN (R-Gaines Twp.) and former Secretary of State Teri Lynn LAND.   GOP insiders say that if Hildenbrand goes for Congress, Rep. Lisa Posthumus LYONS is in for the 29th. Could she or other House members wage a primary? No one is ruling anything out.   With an open seat, the Dems expect Rep. Brandon DILLON (D-Grand Rapids) to jump in. If not, Trevor THOMAS, who lost in the Dem congressional primary last year, could be an option, though he's sent out a fundraising appeal looking again at Congress. One thing is for sure: Democrats have not approached former Rep. Roy SCHMIDT, who's under a one-person grand jury investigation, about switching back to their side.

 9. 10th, Sen. Tory ROCCA (R-Sterling Heights)  With a name like Rocca -- and the fact that the Senator has taken a pass on most of the controversial votes -- Republicans feel good about keeping this 50-50 Macomb County seat. And Dems know it's a tough nut to crack, particularly with Rocca's alliance with Democratic Macomb County Executive Mark HACKEL, who's made it clear that any Dem who challenges the Republican has crossed him. But what's got Rocca worried is a primary challenge from former Rep. LeonDROLET, an anti-tax advocate.   For the Dems, County Commissioner Paul GIELEGHEM could give it a go.

 10. 24th, Sen. Rick JONES (R-Grand Ledge)  This 53-percent GOP seat covering Clinton, Shiawassee and Eaton counties is another one that shouldn't be in play. But Jones' controversial comments about a Truscott Rossman CEO Kelly ROSSMAN-McKINNEY and tea party activist Joan FABIANO have made Republicans a bit anxious about this suburban Lansing seat and Dems a bit more eager to fight. It's worth noting that Jones wasn't thrilled about the newly redistricted boundaries, which is understandable considering he lost two of his current three counties and picked up two new ones.   Could Jones face a primary? No one's gotten out there, but Tea Party groups aren't necessarily enamored. Former Rep. Deb SHAUGNESSY just got bounced and could make things interesting.   Dems feel Eaton County is trending their way with Rep. Teresa ABED (D-Grand Ledge) winning in the 71st House District last year. It's not clear she'd want to make the leap to Senate, though. Debra WIRTH, who's from Clinton County, and was the Dems' standard-bearer against U.S. Rep. Dave CAMP (R-Midland) last time around, could be a good choice. The Dems are definitely looking for a woman.

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Senate District 38.
It seems bizarre that only one name would be interested on the Democratic side. Has the 2010 nominee, former state representative Mike Lahti, already declined a candidacy? Or 2012 state representative candidate and attorney Sharon Gray?

Great Lakes, Great Times.

Senate District 34.
No return of former state representative Mary Valentine, the 2010 nominee?

Great Lakes, Great Times.

34 and 38
I'm too likewise baffled on the little interested up in the 38th. I am sure we will see some more names. One bet might be to have Gary McDowell run for the seat, a reverse of what Casperson did (ran for the house and lost in 2008, ran for the state senate and won in 2010).

I think that District 34 is probably a district that will determine control of the Senate. It was made friendlier to the dems, losing Mason County, which was always slightly GOP, and generally gave the GOP a 1,500 vote edge, adding to the Newaygo and Oceana GOP totals. Valentine did poorly in Muskegon County in 2010, losing by a 1,890 vote margin (the same county that Obama carried by almost 25,000 votes in 2008 and 14,000 votes in 2012. Even if the Democratic candidate only carries Muskegon by 8,000 votes, it is likely enough to counter GOP margins from Newaygo and Oceana. In the next remap of the State senate in 2021, I'm making the 34 a district that includes Muskegon, Oceana, Mason, and Lake Counties, dropping Newaygo into a GOP vote pit.

I don't think Valentine can recover from her 2010 defeat. A female candidate would be the best person to run for the district in my opinion, especially one from a swingy area of Muskegon County, such as Norton Shores.  

I think she is still strong.
2010 was an implosion in swing areas with the stronger blue-collar and retiree traditions versus the swing areas with white-collar and college degree-holding demographics.

Canton Township's Dian Slavens held on. Downriver's Deb Kennedy lost. The latter seat has a stronger Democratic tradition, but the former has a stronger college education attainment trend.

Grosse Pointe Park's Tim Bledsoe held on. Saint Clair Shores' Sarah Roberts lost.

Grand Rapids, Farmington Hills, West Bloomfield, Kalamazoo fall into the white collar archetype. Muskegon County, Monroe County, the Thumb, Downriver, Upper Peninsula fall into the blue collar / retiree archetype.

That's my take away and analysis, at least.

Mary Valentine and Kathleen Law were proven vote-getters in competitive house seats, with impressive wins and margins in 2006 and 2008 (with Kennedy as the nominee for the Law seat reaching a comparable blow-out margin with Law's 2006 blow-out margin). Both solidly lost senate districts in 2010 that were narrow gaps for the Democrats in 2006.

Muskegon County voters didn't suddenly turn on Mary Valentine en masse. Those that may have been receptive to her were making a protest against her party -- or were staying home in 2010. No one has had the consistent persuasion exposure to that area for the Democrats like her (2006, 2008, 2010 -- plus the constituent work in the years during that period) on a state legislative level. Was there a Valentine-specific candidate stumble in 2010 that I missed?

Obviously a successful, high-profile countywide official or community business leader might also have had comparable penetration and be a strong candidate.

If the Democrats can't win this Muskegon-anchored district under current redistricting lines, then the 1983-2014 dry spell will continue for a long, long time.  

Great Lakes, Great Times.

[ Parent ]
Great points
About the blue collar, white collar divide. I've heard that Valentine's campaign was poorly run in 2010, but I wasn't on that campaign so that is just hearsay.

Some comments
SD-20 - There's always been a bit of a city/suburb dynamic there. Can McCann do what the others have been unable to do? I don't know.

SD-32 - Like the 20th, there's a big of a city/suburb/rural dynamic there as well. The key here is what happens in the old historically dem now swingy Lew Dodak/Mike Goschka/Jim Howell area.

SD-34 - I've thought this would flip a couple of times and didn't. Probably our toughest defense.

SD-07 - I hope Stewie runs and loses. I think this one is fools gold for the dems, but no district is completely safe.

SD-38 - Casperson's one of the few that can hold this. What makes this real tough is Mackinac and Chippewa counties outside of the district. McDowell's not in the district so he can't run. Very tough defense, even with Casperson.

SD-29 - That's not a 51% GOP district. Hildenbrand had an impressive 2010 win. Grand Rapids City dominating the district makes it double tough.

SD-10 - With Roseville out, this one is much easier.

SD-24 - Eaton County has scared me in an gubernatorial year for a long time (State workers). Clinton as well.  

"He who would trade liberty for some temporary security, deserves neither liberty nor security" - Benjamin Franklin

Opinions are my own and not that of LCRP

I agree with you about 7
That one seems kind of a stretch. On paper it's a bit more Rep than 12 (Bloomfield-Pontiac-NE Oakland) and about the same as 13 (RO-Bham-BHills-Troy-Rochester). I mean yeah, to overcome the gerrymander the Dems are going to have to prevail in some pretty Rep territory, but I think this one would take a real wave election to win.

[ Parent ]
Question about the 32nd...
There are three Dems already in the race, and yet they're still trying to recruit a candidate. Leaving aside the business about Granholm's hairdresser, it seems like all three of the people in have either won races or have worked campaigns.

Anyone know why the Dems are still trying to convince people to get into this race?

Among the Trees

I don't think they are still recruiting. Insiders want Federspiel; the rest of us are pulling for Garn. It'll be interesting to see what happens.  

[ Parent ]
Why did MIRS refer to Cheryl Hadsall only as just Grandholm's hair dresser. I mean she raised 250,000 for her state house bid back in 2000 way before she did her hair. And she's the mother of one of the states best known political strategists. Also, I've heard that Rep. Oaks is now looking for a slot on the ticket at next years nominating convention and not a run for the 32nd.

[ Parent ]
Statewide, that's what she's best known for...
If the local media discussed her mostly as Granholm's hair dresser, I think it'd be an issue. But, statewide and especially for MIRS' readers, she is better known as Granholm's former hair dresser than chairwoman of the Saginaw County Board of Commissioners.

Among the Trees

[ Parent ]
This is pretty much the same list I'd come up with
Based on a few hours with DRA, this is a pretty obvious list. As I mentioned above, 7 seems like a real stretch to me, but if the Dems want to contest a suburban Detroit historically Rep district, I suppose it's as good as any. They did, after all come really close in the old 13 (almost as Rep as the present 7) in '06 with Andy Levin, so it's possible.

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