Michigan Democrats have been able to score a net gain in their representation in the state’s U.S. House of Representatives delegation only once in the past two decades.. That was in 2008, when Mark Schauer (D-Battle Creek) and Gary Peters (D-Bloomfield Twp) knocked off a pair of Republican incumbents in the Barack Obama landslide.
Schauer lasted just a single term, being defeated for re-election in 2010 by the Republican he had ousted two years earlier, Tim Walberg (R-Tipton). Peters survived in 2010 and 2012, but two years ago he gave up re-election to successfully pursue the retiring Carl Levin’s U.S. Senate seat. Brenda Lawrence (D-Southfield) was elected to succeed Peters in the reapportioned 14th district, which GOP mapmakers made much more heavily Democratic.
Otherwise, the only real partisan change in the past two decades was in the huge 1st district, blanketing the entire U.P. + most of the northern third of the Lower Peninsula. Democrat Bart Stupak of Menominee represented the 1st for 18 years, but when Stupak called it quits in 2010, Republican Dan Benishek of Crystal Falls was elected to succeed him and Jack Bergman (R-Watersmeet) was elected to succeed the retiring Benishek last fall.
When it comes to Congress, the really significant development during the 21st Century has been the continuing attrition of the Michigan delegation’s size following the censes of 2000 and 2010. The state’s population has actually decreased since the turn of the century, while most of the rest of the nation has surged ahead. That means that, after successive reapportionments, Michigan’s U.S. House delegation has fallen to only 14 members from as high as 19 as recently as 1982.
The shriveling numbers of Michigan MCs, combined with the retirement or defeat of longtime veterans like John Dingell (D-Dearborn), David Bonior (D-Mt. Clemens), Dale Kildee (D-Flint), Joe Knollenberg (R-Oakland Co.), and Stupak has meant a diminution in influence on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. For three decades, Michigan was a fixture in the “Top 10” chart of states with the “Most Clout” in Congress. No more. Because of loss of representation and seniority, we’re on the way down.
However, when it comes to stability and consistency in the delegation’s partisan split, Michigan Republicans have maintained their nine-member majority in every Congress beginning with the 108th, save one. Except for the 111th (in 2009-10), the Democrats have boasted no more than five or six members for eight straight Congresses.
It’s that way today — 9R/5D. Despite speculation in the last three election cycles that Democrats could pick up seats, it hasn’t happened— not even close. Democratic challengers in what were thought to be “marginal” seats (the 1st and 7th, for example) have been blown away in 2014 and 2016. Democratic prospects look no rosier for next year unless something cataclysmic happens on the national level.
Following is an updated table summarizing election prospects next year in all 14 U.S. House districts that Michigan is now allotted. Democrats are in regular type, Republicans in italics.
In most cases, “solid” or “likely” or “lean” refers to the district itself, although in a couple of cases a particularly strong incumbent or dominant party candidate (or, conversely, a weak one on the other side) enhances his or her chances of winning the seat: