Nate Smith-Tyge (@smithtyge) & Nick Krieger (@nckrieger):
In early June we brought you our thoughts on the State House of Representatives races to watch (Ending One-Party Control of Michigan State Government). Tuesday’s primary narrowed the field in several of the districts we covered back in June. The updates below cover the districts that had contested primaries last Tuesday; we briefly discuss the impact of the August primary results and prospects for November.
NINE CLOSEST DISTRICTS (no changes in districts 39, 56, 61, 62, 71, and 91):
23rd State House District — Wayne Co. (part)
Pat Somerville (R) 16,060
David Haener (D) 14,754
2014 GOP margin of victory: 1,306 votes
Estimated 2016 Dem Base: 54%
Somerville cannot run again due to term limits, leaving a wide-open contest to succeed him in this 54% base Democratic downriver/southeastern Wayne County district. Three Republicans and four Democrats have filed to run in 2016. Democrat Sherry Berecz, the Brownstown Township Clerk, is the favorite of Lansing Democrats; they will make sure she works hard in the primary after their favored candidate in the 2014 primary (Brownstown Supervisor Andy Linko) was outworked by a little known opponent named David Haener.
UPDATE: Once again in the 23rd, the preferred candidate of Lansing Dems went down to a hardworking candidate. Darin Camilleri took the four-way primary with 36% of the vote to Berecz’s 33%. Camilleri is a teacher and a young candidate (23) and had support from some unions. He appears to have worked the ground game hard, which helped contribute to his primary success. On the GOP side, Bob Howey cruised to victory with 77% of the vote. Howey is a Trenton City Councilman and Democrats will have to rally behind Camilleri to take this seat – a seat they must win to take the majority.
99th State House District — Isabella Co. (part), Midland Co. (part)
Kevin Cotter (R) 11,347
Bryan Mielke (D) 10,676
2014 GOP margin of victory: 671 votes
Estimated 2016 Dem Base: 50%
Cotter is term limited, but Mielke is running again. In November, Mielke will face off against the winner of a two-way Republican primary. Isabella County, thanks in large part to CMU students, faculty, and staff, as well as members of the Saginaw Band of Chippewa Indians, is fast becoming a Democratic stronghold. The Republican-drawn district map, which includes parts of Midland County, is the only factor making this a competitive seat for the GOP.
UPDATE: Democratic candidate and Union Township Trustee Brian Mielke will face off against fellow Union Township Trustee Roger Hauck. Hauck, a builder, won the GOP primary with 65% of the vote. Look for both sides to spend a lot of money and time in the 99th.
101st State House District — Mason Co., Manistee Co., Benzie Co., Leelanau Co.
Ray Franz (R) 18,639
Tom Stobie (D) 18,319
2014 GOP margin of victory: 320 votes
Estimated 2016 Dem Base: 47-48%
Franz cannot seek reelection due to term limits, and Stobie has declined to run this year. In November, former Democratic State Representative Dan Scripps of Northport will face off against the winner of a three-way Republican primary. (FtM note: This is Nick’s home district, and seat where he ran as the Democratic candidate in 2000 and 2002).
UPDATE: In a rather quiet GOP primary, Mason County Board of Commissioners Chair Curt VanderWall took 60% of the vote. VanderWall is a small business owner from Ludington, known as the “Mole Man” thanks to his pest-control business that goes by the same name. This will be an interesting race, in which geography (Leelanau vs. Ludington) could have as much of an influence as party identification for some voters.
TEN OTHER DISTRICTS TO WATCH:
20th State House District — Wayne Co. (part)
Although the 20th is not generally included on lists of highly competitive seats, it was represented by Democrat Marc Corriveau from 2006-2010, and certain areas in the southern portion of the district (Canton Twp.) have been trending Democratic in recent years. Current Republican State Representative Kurt Heise is term limited. Colleen Pobur, a Plymouth City Commissioner and former member of the Michigan Liquor Control Commission, is running in a two-way Democratic primary against former Wayne County Commissioner and frequent circuit court candidate John J. Sullivan. Five Republicans initially filed for the seat, but two have withdrawn. (FtM note: This is Nate’s home district, and seat he sought for the Democrats in 2014, finishing with 40% of the vote).
UPDATE: Pobur waltzed to victory in the Democratic primary by a 70%-to-30% margin. The GOP candidate will be Ted Cruz/Pat Colbeck disciple “Pastor Jeff” Nobel. Nobel won the Republican primary by 116 votes out of 8,352 total votes cast (so we might have to wait and see if Chris Roosen will file for a recount). If Nobel is the GOP candidate in November, expect Democrats to push for Pobur (especially after primary developments in other districts – i.e., the 106th) as Nobel’s brand of far-right social conservatism is likely to put off a fair number of moderate Republican voters in Plymouth and Northville.
30th State House District — Macomb Co. (part)
In this district, which encompasses the western half of the City of Sterling Heights, Republican State Representative Jeff Farrington beat his Democratic challenger by only 2,199 votes in 2014. Farrington cannot run again due to term limits. Farrington’s wife is running in this year’s four-way Republican primary; the son of late Sterling Heights Mayor Richard Notte is running in a two-way Democratic primary. If Notte wins the primary, expect Democrats to put resources into the 30th.
UPDATE: In another razor-thin GOP primary, Diana Farrington (wife of term-limited Rep. Jeff Farrington) appears to have edged out Michael Shallal by 54 votes. Mike Notte easily won the Democratic primary, garnering 77% of the vote on the Dem side of the ballot. This contest will garner a great deal of attention as two candidates' with popular last names battle in a race that could determine control of the State House.
41st State House District — Oakland Co. (part)
In 2014, Republican State Representative Martin Howrylak of Troy beat his Democratic challenger, Mary Kerwin, by 3,782 votes. In 2012 Howrylak beat Kerwin by only 427 votes, so this district is much more competitive in Presidential years. Howrylak has a Republican primary challenger in August 2016; but assuming that Howrylak wins the GOP primary, he will face Democrat Cyndi Peltonen in November. Peltonen, a teacher and former school board member from Clawson, was a Democratic candidate for the Michigan Senate in 2014.
UPDATE: Howrylak took 83% of the vote in the GOP primary, and will face Peltonen in November.
57th State House District — Lenawee Co. (part)
Although Republican State Representative Nancy Jenkins beat her Democratic challenger by 4,489 votes in 2014, Jenkins cannot run again because of term limits. Pharmacist and former Tecumseh Mayor Harvey Schmidt is running as a Democrat this year. In November, he will face off against the winner of a three-way Republican primary. The voters of Lenawee County have been known to elect Democrats in the past (Doug and Dudley Spade).
UPDATE: Former Adrian Senior Citizen Center Director Bronna Kahle will be the GOP candidate in the 57th after taking 63% of the primary vote. This could be an interesting race between Schmidt and Kahle, and might be another pick-up chance for the Democrats.
64th State House District — Jackson Co. (part)
In this district that includes the City of Jackson, as well as much of central and western Jackson County, current Republican State Representative Earl Poleski cannot run again due to term limits. In November 2014, Poleski defeated his Democratic challenger, Brenda Pilgrim, by a wide margin. However, this district has gone Democratic in the past, and with incumbent Poleski leaving office the Democratic numbers should rebound a bit. Ron Brooks, a pastor in the United Methodist Church, will face Peter Bormuth in a two-way Democratic primary. Three Republicans, including the brother of former State Representative Martin Griffin (who was elected as a Democrat, just like their father Michael who held the seat for almost 30 years - Thanksgiving must be interesting at the Griffin household), have filed for the seat.
UPDATE: In the three-way GOP primary, Jackson County Commissioner Julie Alexander emerged victorious with 42% of the vote. John Griffin finished third with 27% of the vote. Ron Brooks easily won the Democratic primary with 75% of the vote. This district could be in play for the Democrats since they have a good candidate, especially if the top of the ticket maintains a double-digit lead statewide.
85th State House District — Shiawassee Co.
Republican State Representative Ben Glardon beat his Democratic challenger by 3,167 votes in 2014. Glardon is term limited, leaving a wide-open contest in this once-competitive Shiawassee County district. Democrats are bullish on Shiawassee County Commissioner John Horvath’s chances in the 85th, even though he faces three fellow Democrats in the primary. Republicans also have a four-way primary, but Dems have a chance to return this seat to their caucus for the first time since Democratic State Representative Clark Harder was termed out in 1998.
UPDATE: Owosso City Councilman and Republican State House staffer Ben Frederick took the crowded GOP primary with 65% of the vote. On the Democratic side, John Horvath appears to have lost by 46 votes to Anthony Karhoff, the Shiawassee Township Supervisor and a Vernon Township firefighter. Karhoff is a strong candidate, so Democratic fortunes are probably equal with either Horvath or Karhoff as the candidate. Let’s hope Lansing Democrats get behind whichever candidate emerges from this extremely close primary.
97th State House District —Osceola Co. (part), Clare Co., Gladwin Co., Arenac Co.
While the 2014 numbers from this district don’t exactly look promising for Democrats, the voters in this part of the state have sent Democratic state representatives to Lansing in the past. Current Republican State Representative Joel Johnson is not seeking reelection due to term limits. Five Republicans and two Democrats are running to succeed him.
UPDATE: Military veteran and current State Department of Veterans Affairs Administrator Jason Wentworth will be the Republican candidate after taking 42% in the primary. He will face Democrat Robert Townsend, a medical doctor from Clare who is also a military veteran. Townsend is a credible candidate who could make this an interesting race (especially given his background and the issues currently facing the department where Mr. Wentworth works).
104th State House District — Grand Traverse Co.
In 2014, Republican Larry Inman defeated Democrat Betsy Coffia by 2,077 votes, the closest this district has been since 1992 when Gerri Greene almost defeated Michelle McManus. Inman is running again, but has a Tea Party primary challenger. Coffia is also running again, with a primary challenger of her own. Coffia is a determined campaigner and refuses PAC donations while running a “people powered campaign.” Assuming that Inman and Coffia win their respective primaries, this race will be a rematch—but 2016 is a presidential election year, and will have a higher Democratic turnout.
UPDATE: It will be a 2014 rematch, as Inman and Coffia won their respective primaries. Look for Coffia to run a spirited campaign with a real chance at an upset if the top of the ticket drives high turnout.
106th State House District — Cheboygan Co. (part), Presque Isle Co., Alpena Co., Alcona Co., Iosco Co.
Republican State Representative Peter Pettalia defeated his Democratic challenger, Robert Kennedy, by 3,392 votes in 2014. Pettalia is now term limited, and Kennedy is running again. Much like in the 23rd District, Kennedy upset the party’s favored candidate in the 2014 primary. This time around Democrat Erin Kieliszewski, a teacher and the wife of Alpena County Sheriff Steven Kieliszewski is the Dem Caucus’ supported candidate – expect her to get the same message as Sherry Berecz in the 23rd and work hard in the primary. In November, the Democratic nominee will face the winner of a four-way Republican primary.
UPDATE: Lansing Democrats just can’t seem to figure out how to get their preferred candidate to win the primary in the 106th (much like in the 23rd). Once again, Robert Kennedy has emerged from the Democratic primary, and it looks like time for Lansing Democrats to rally behind him. On the GOP side, Sue Allor, a Cheboygan County Commissioner, appears to have won - she holds a 211 vote lead. Kennedy has demonstrated his strong community ties; he was born and raised in NE Michigan, and taught in Oscoda for 38 years. While Lansing Democrats might be tempted to write off the 106th, they shouldn’t. In a Presidential year, and with the proper support, Kennedy can be a successful candidate.
108th State House District — Dickinson Co., Menominee Co., Delta Co.
Republican State Representative Ed McBroom is term limited. Dickinson County Sheriff Scott Celello and former school board member Dana Dziedzic are both running as Democrats. The winner of the Democratic primary will face off against one of three Republican candidates in the fall.
UPDATE: Celello will face off against Kingsford resident and Wayne State Law School student Beau LaFave in November. LaFave is a GLEP-endorsed candidate and no friend of public education. The Democrats need to pick up the 108th, and have their candidate to do it.
DEMOCRATIC HOLDS (no change in district 21):
25th State House District — Macomb Co. (part)
This seat, presently held by second-term Democratic State Representative Henry Yanez, encompasses the eastern half of the City of Sterling Heights and part of the City of Warren. Yanez is running for his third and final term in the Michigan House, but has primary opposition from Democrat Jacqueline Sproles. Assuming that Yanez wins the Democratic primary, he will face the winner of a two-way GOP primary.
UPDATE: Democratic State Rep. Henry Yanez easily won his primary race, and will face Republican Steve Naumovski in November. Republicans have said they will target Yanez (see this Detroit Free Press article), so Democrats will have to make sure Henry is well supported.
52nd State House District — Washtenaw Co. (part)
Democratic State Representative Gretchen Driskell currently holds this seat, which covers western and portions of northern Washtenaw County. Driskell is not seeking reelection to the Michigan House of Representatives because she is running for Congress against Tim Walberg in the 7th Congressional District. There will be a two-way Democratic primary between Barbara Ryan-Fuller, a Washtenaw County Road Commissioner and founder of MI-List, and Donna Lasinski, an author and small business owner. The Democratic primary winner will face off against Republican Randy Clark, a South Lyon School Board member, in November.
UPDATE: In a surprise to some, Lasinski emerged from the Democratic primary with a 337 vote victory over Ryan-Fuller. Democrats must hold the 52nd district, so expect any Lansing folks who backed Ryan-Fuller to get behind Lasinski.
67th State House District — Ingham Co. (part)
Second-term Democratic State Representative Tom Cochran currently holds this seat, which covers a portion of the City of Lansing as well as central and southern Ingham County. Two Republicans are running for the seat, and Cochran has a primary opponent of his own.
UPDATE: C ochran easily won his primary and will face Mason City Councilman Leon Clark in November. Clark could be a formidable opponent for Cochran, so expect Democrats to put resources into making sure Cochran returns for his final House term.
76th State House District — Kent Co. (part)
Second-term Democratic State Representative Winnie Brinks holds this seat, which snakes through portions of southern, central, and northern Grand Rapids. In November, Brinks will face off against the winner of a two-way Republican primary.
UPDATE: Brinks will face Republican and local businessman Casey O’Neill in November.
EVEN MORE DISTRICTS TO WATCH:
In general Democrats did a pretty good job of recruiting candidates for the 2016 cycle. All 110 districts will have a contested election - something that doesn't always happen. Strong candidate recruitment means that some districts could come the Dems way if 2016 turns into a wave year (think Mike Huckleberry in 2008). First on this list is the 38th District that is based in Novi and currently represented by Kathy Crawford. Dems scored a solid candidate in South Lyon School Board Vice-President Amy McCusker, who is also an experience campaign staffer. In the 51st District Republican incumbent Joseph Graves faces two primary challengers and then must contend with Holly Village Council Member and Dem candidate Ryan Bladzik in the general election. In the 100th District Oceana County Road Commissioner and 2014 Senate candidate Cathy Forbes gives the Dems a solid candidate in an open seat. And in the 103rd District two Republicans and four Democrats are seeking an open seat that until 2010 had long been an Ogemaw County-based Democratic seat (Tom Alley through the Sheltrown brothers).
UPDATE: In the 38th district, Democrat Amy McCusker cruised to victory and will face Kathy Crawford in November. If current top-of-the-ticket polling holds, it looks like McCusker could give Crawford a real race. It will be Graves versus Bladzik in the 51st district. In the 100th district, former Lake County Commissioner Sandy Clarke defeated Cathy Forbes on the Democratic side, while Scott VanSingel won the GOP primary. VanSingel will be heavily favored in November. In the 103rd, Democrat Jordan Stancil, owner of the Rialto Movie Theater in Grayling, will face Republican Daire Rendon (wife of term-limited Rep. Bruce Rendon). Stancil has an interesting bio, and could make this a fun race to watch.