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The 8th Congressional District -- It's Not an Ingham District Any More

by: alanfox

Thu Jun 26, 2014 at 10:25:10 AM EDT

( - promoted by ScottyUrb)

     It continues to mystify me why my friends in the Lansing area -- and posters on Michigan Liberal -- believe the 8th Congressional District to be more Democratic than it really is.  Since Mike Rogers' narrow win in 2000 the district has twice been redrawn to flood the Democratic base in Ingham County with more and more heavily Republican areas.  Many don't recall that even the district that existed in 2000 was a tossup for an entire decade.  Bob Carr so narrowly won in 1992 that he jumped at the opportunity to run for the Senate in 1994.  Republican Dick Chrysler won in 1994 and Dems took back the seat in 1996 and won again in 1998 largely because Debbie Stabenow was the candidate.

alanfox :: The 8th Congressional District -- It's Not an Ingham District Any More

     Just as important, the Ingham County portion of the district has for forty years been shrinking as a percentage of the district.  In 2008, for an example, turnout for Obama boosted Ingham's vote in the congressional race to 137,532, 38.0% of the 361,607 cast districtwide.  But the previous record -- 131,509 in 1992 -- represented 46.2% of the total district vote of 284,707.

      The perception of Ingham as a Democratic base and of its congressional district as at least marginally Democratic dates back only to the 1970s, when the student vote in East Lansing and a surge of Democratic candidates and organization throughout the county turned Ingham reliably Democratic for the first time.  In those days, Ingham (except for one small township) was in the 6th District and Ingham did dominate the district:

    1972 114,114  192,880    59.2
    1974   87,264  149,986    58.2
    1976 116,658  206,514    56.5
    1978   96,577  172,706    55.9
    1980 120,612  219,826    54.9

     Note that although the total vote in Ingham increased through the decade the Ingham portion of the total vote declined as Livingston County grew dramatically.

     In the 1982 districting Ingham was split between two districts, the boundary a jagged line through the city of Lansing.  Since 1992 Ingham has remained unsplit and in the renumbered 8th district, which has now existed in three different forms with Ingham and Livingston Counties at their center.  By 1992 Ingham was already less than half the new 8th District.  It has steadily declined in size and influence ever since and is now just over a third of the district -- a far cry from what is generally believed:

    1992  131,509 284,707    46.2
    1994    95,583 212,481    45.0
    1996  116,037 262,421    44.2
    1998    92,479 218,040    42.4
    2000  118,070 297,533    39.7

    2002   89,774 230,597    38.9
    2004 127,007 340,423    37.3
    2006 103,623 284,471    36.4
    2008 137,532 361,607    38.0
    2010   87,014 244,894    35.5

    2012 123,898 345,054    35.9

     Furthermore, since the 2002 redraw the areas outside of Ingham have become more and more Republican.  In the 1990s the district included Democrat portions of Genesee County.  Those were stripped out a decade later.  The current district has 183 precincts outside of Ingham.  Obama carried exactly 16 of them in 2012 by a total of just 1,176 votes.  In only 11 of those 183 precincts in 2012, a good Democratic year, did Dems carry the baseline.  Eleven! There is no Democratic base in this district outside of Ingham County.

     So there is no reason at all to think that if only (fill in the blank) had run the 8th would be at the top of the target lists in a year where Dems appear to be on the defensive.  Nothing in the composition of the district bears that out.

     The goal of Democrats in the 8th is to ensure that if lightning strikes, if the national trends reverse AND the Republicans nominate a weak candidate AND that candidate missteps we will have a nominee who can run a strong districtwide campaign and take advantage of  the opportunity.  I think that is Eric Schertzing, who has a base in Republican areas of Ingham that extends into Livingston, has been involved in previous congressional campaigns in much of the same area and can raise money in the state and outside. 

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Great analysis.
Thank you for the post!

Great Lakes, Great Times.

I've also often wondered why people consider this district winnable by a Dem except in the most extraordinary of circumstances. I'm aware of the history in the 90s, but I'm also aware that in two redistrictings the Reps threw everything they had into it, ending up with gobs and gobs of McMansion territory in North Oakland padding the Livingston Rep margins.

I can win the 8th
As a candidate in the 8th District Democratic Primary, and as a small business owner and a pro-2nd amendment Democrat who works with entrepreneurs, and as someone who has fought for taxpayers and against what I would call the DINO-establishment in East Lansing, I'm receiving lots of good feelings from independents and moderate Republicans. I can win this District for the party if you help get me through the primary. I will bring more crossover voters than any other candidate (although Ken Darga also has this potential). Please research my campaign at Facebook.com/HankForCongress and www.VoteHank.org. We can win if we elect someone who understands policy and can present a clear message of progress and not being your typical politician to the People of this District. I am the best candidate to do that, hands down. Feel free to contact me to discuss.  

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