(April 2) Do the impending retirements of U.S. Reps. Dan Benishek (R-MI 1) and Candice Miller (R-MI 10) really change the electoral outlook for the two major political parties come Nov. 8?
Right now, the Michigan GOP enjoys a 9-5 advantage in its Congressional delegation (not counting the state’s two Democratic U.S. Senators). The likeliest chance minority Democrats have to reverse that is to win all three of their targeted seats — in the 1st, 7th and 8th Congressional districts. Barring a cataclysm at the top of the ticket for the GOP, that will be a tall order.
The open 1st, which was reapportioned in 2012 to include not just the Upper Peninsula but a healthy chunk of the northwest Lower Peninsula south of the Mackinac Bridge, is the second-largest land mass CD east of the Mississippi and has an estimated Republican base of roughly 54.4%. Each party is expected to have a contested primary — the Dems between former state Democratic Party Chairman Lon Johnson and ex-Kalkaska Co. Sheriff Jerry Cannon, the Dems’ unsuccessful nominee two years ago, and the Republicans between state Senator Tom Casperson of Escanaba; former Senator Jason Allen of Traverse City; and, it appears, former USMC Lt. General Jack Bergman, 69, of Watersmeet, which is in the western U.P.
In the 7th CD, four-term incumbent Tim Walberg (R-Tipton) faces a challenge from state Rep. Gretchen Driskell (D-Saline), who is giving up her seat in the state House to take him on. The 7th is considered to have a roughly 54.6% GOP base.
In the 8th, “Little House on the Prairie” actress Melissa Gilbert, a former president of the Screen Actors Guild, has moved to Howell with her husband — East Lansing native Timothy Busfield, also an actor — to run against freshman incumbent Mike Bishop (R-Rochester), a former state senate majority leader. The 8th’s Republican base is considered analogous to the 7th’s — about 54.4%.
In the open 10th, with a nearly 57% Republican base, it appears there will be a GOP primary to decide who represents the enclave in 2017-18. The contestants are likely to be wealthy businessman Paul Mitchell of Lapeer County (who ran unsuccessfully in a Republican primary in the neighboring 4th CD two years ago); state Senator Phil Pavlov (R-Algonac); state Rep. Anthony Forlini (R-Harrison Twp); and ex-state Senator Alan Sanborn (R-Richmond). Only Mitchell is not based in Macomb County, which is by far the largest enclave in the district. Former state Rep. Frank Accavitti (D-Eastpointe) has said he’ll seek the Democratic nomination; it appears he’ll have an uphill climb in the general election, but depending on whom the Republicans wind up with as their presidential nominee he could pose a threat..
The rest of the districts are pretty cut-and-dried, because the five Democratic incumbents have bases so strongly Dem no Republican has a chance, and the sitting Republicans also have robust partisan advantages, although not as overwhelming as the Democrats’.
Following is an updated table broadly summarizing election prospects in all 14 Michigan U.S. House districts. In most cases, “solid” or “likely” or “lean” refers to the district itself, although in a few cases a particularly strong incumbent or dominant party candidate (or, conversely, a weak one on the other side) enhances his/her party’s chances of winning the seat.
Check out the table, and let us know in the “Comment” section that follows it whether it signals that Democrats can make inroads in the state’s Congressional delegation this year:
2016 U.S House Ratings
|10th (C. Miller/R)|
|Solid Democrat||Solid Republican|
|Conyers (D)||Amash (R)|
|Dingell (D)||Huizenga (R)|
|Kildee (D)||Moolenaar (R)|
|Lawrence (D)||Trott (R)|
|S. Levin (D)|
So, what do you think? Based on the above projection, will Democrats make it happen this year?