At least for a while, it looks like Michigan Republican Peter Hoekstra, just elected to his ninth term in the U.S. House of Representatives, is about ready to call it a day.
Less than a week after being reappointed as the top Republican on the House Intelligence Committee, Rep. Pete Hoekstra (Mich.) will announce that he will not seek a tenth term in 2010, according to a source with knowledge of the decision.
Hoekstra, who has denied earlier reports that he will retire and consider a run for governor, will make the announcement on Monday, the source told The Hill.
The Incredible Hoek has represented the Second Congressional District (which has the distinction of having the largest Dutch population of any Congressional district in the United States) since 1992.
The bulk of that time was spent serving in the majority, but with Democrats now enjoying a 79-seat advantage in the House, it seems that Hoekstra felt the call of home - or, it seems, Lansing.
Incumbent Gov. Jennifer Granholm (D) is barred by state law from seeking a third term in 2010. So far, Flint Mayor Don Williamson (D) and Michigan State University trustee George Perles (D), a former Spartan football coach, have declared their candidacies. Lt. Gov. John Cherry (D) is seen as the front-running Democrat in the race.
On the Republican side, Hoekstra will likely face off against Attorney General Mike Cox (R), who has formed a gubernatorial exploratory committee. Secretary of State Terri Lynn Land (R) is also term-limited and has been mentioned as a possible candidate for governor. Oakland County Sheriff Mike Bouchard (R), who ran for Senate in 2006, and Domino’s Pizza CEO David Brandon (R) have not ruled out bids of their own.
Hoekstra has compiled a solidly conservative record in the House, and should be in relatively good shape for the Republican primary, but with two strong candidates already in the race there's no telling at this point how things will shake out. I don't think there's any reason that Hoekstra would necessarily be a stronger candidate than Cox or Land, against a Democrat, but I could be mistaken.
Regardless of who ultimately winds up being the Republican nominee, John McCain's well-publicized bird-flip to the entire state of Michigan, as well as Republican obstruction for the auto bailout, could cause problems for the party as they seek the Governorship in 2010 (with the State Senate also in the balance and an expert Republican gerrymander at stake in redistricting, 2010 is a critical year in Michigan politics).
This being the case, the Governor's race is still very much up in the air and it will be a knock-down, drag-out fight into which both parties dump all available resources.
So with Hoekstra retiring, how good a chance do Democrats have at picking up his House seat? The short answer is, "not very". MI-02 is the most Republican district in Michigan. The district's old PVI was R+9.4, which is pretty ugly; Bush won the district by 21-point margins in 2000 and 2004 even as he lost Michigan both times.
Western Michigan, in general, is not especially friendly for Democrats. Optimists will note that Obama did quite well in the district for a Democrat, losing 51-48 according to Swing State Project (though this is no doubt partly because, as noted, John McCain and his Republican pals don't give a damn for the whole state of Michigan.*) Nevertheless, that's still well below Obama's national performance, and it actually raises the PVI of the district to R+9.8.
Nevertheless, it being an open seat, it's likely national Democrats will at least kick the tires on MI-02 for 2010. They may not get very far, but it's worth a shot; some of these open seats turn into OH-07, some of them turn into MS-01. There are two Democratic state representatives from Dem-leaning Muskegon County, Mary Valentine and Doug Bennett, who might be recruited for the race, and the party will no doubt look around for other folks once Hoekstra makes it official.
Don't expect a top-tier race in the district, or anything near it. Still, when dealing with open seats, sometimes you get lucky even in super-red territory. 14 of the 25 seats captured last cycle by Democrats (counting Don Cazayoux) came in open-seat races.
*That was mean of me, so here's a present for Michiganders: