Outside of the districts that flipped in 2010, Democrats have few pickup opportunities. If everything works out perfectly, it is possible to pick up one of the districts below. Each of these districts has a story that could make the Republican vulnerable. This diary mainly focuses on Democratic primaries. This diary will also discuss districts with 2 Democratic incumbents. We have a chance to selected the better Democrats in these districts. To read part 1, go HERE.
I tried making the districts in Dave's Redistricting App (DRA). This spreadsheet summarizes the results (H/T:sawolf). The Partisan Voting Index (PVI) numbers listed in this diary are the 2010 averages. You can find the 08 number in the spreadsheet. You can refer to these maps. I found most of the information by reading newspaper articles, campaign websites, and Facebook pages.
Incumbent: Al Pscholka
Democratic Challengers: Mary Brown, Jim Hahn
AVG PVI: R+6
Republicans won this seat in 2008 despite the fact that it is a 52.9% Obama district. Redistricting barely altered the district. The district’s core is composed of St Joseph and Benton Harbor. Obama won the district by running up huge margins in Benton Harbor and Benton Township while keeping close in St Joseph.
It is worth noting that Pscholka sponsored Public Act 4, the notorious emergency financial manager law. This law was used to take over Benton Harbor’s government!
Democrat Mary Brown ran in 2010 and lost badly. She is a teacher in Benton Harbor but lives in St Joseph. Jim Hahn was the 2008 Democratic candidate. Hahn got a higher percentage of the vote but ran in a better year for Democrats. Hahn was the training director for the Michigan Carpenters and Apprenticeship & Training Fund.
Incumbent: Open (Sharon Tyler (R) is running for Berrien County Clerk)
Democratic Candidates: Jack Arbanas, Gerry Welling
Republican Candidates: Dave Pagel, Brian Savage, David Mann
AVG PVI: R+3
In 2008, Sharon Tyler barely won an open seat race. This district becomes less Democratic as a result of redistricting because it loses Dowagiac. Obama still won the new district with 50% of the vote.
Both Arbanas and Welling are new to politics. Arbanas is a pilot and a former store owner. He and his wife also started the Cystic Fibrosis Fun Run in Buchanan. Welling is a building inspector.
The Republican primary is interesting. Dave Pagel is the chairman of the Berrien County Board of Commissioners. He also owns a fruit selling business. Brian Savage is a restaurant manager at Four Winds Casino. David Mann is a Niles City Council member. He is only 21 years old and would become the youngest State Rep in Michigan’s history.
Incumbent: Deb Shaughnessy
Democratic Challengers: Theresa Abed, Andrea Cascarilla, Douglas Drake
AVG PVI: R+2
Obama won this Eaton County district with 53.9% of the vote. That is a slight improvement from the old district (53.6%). Even though Obama did well, Republicans managed to keep control of the State House seat. Deb Shaughnessy won the open seat in 2010. Shaughnessy is the primary sponsor of HB 5713, part of the anti-abortion package.
Three Democrats stepped up to take on Shaughnessy. Theresa Abed is a school social worker and the 2010 Democratic nominee. Andrea Cascarilla is a legislative aid that has worked for State Rep Greg Pitoniak, State Senator Ray Basham, and State Senator Hoon-Yung Hopgood. Douglas Drake is a policy consultant that specializes in taxation and finance. He has worked for the State House Taxation Committee, the Michigan Department of Management and Budget, and the State Policy Center at Wayne State University.
Incumbent: Wayne Schmidt
Republican Challenger: Jason Gillman
Democratic Challengers: Betsy Coffia, Joseph Sloan
AVG PVI: R+8
This district condenses to Grand Traverse County because of population growth. The district is rapidly trending towards Democrats but probably won’t be competitive this year. I wanted to highlight this district because we need to make sure we run strong candidates here. This would have been only a 47.7% Obama district in 2008 but that number should be higher this year. Wayne Schmidt faces a serious primary challenge. Jason Gillman is the publisher of Right Michigan and a county commissioner.
The Democratic primary features 2 candidates. Betsy Coffia claims that she is an “independent” running as a Democrat. She does not have any allegiance to the Democratic Party. I think Joseph Sloan is associated with Traverse City Common Sense, a Democratic-leaning PAC.
Incumbent v Incumbent Battles
I did something a little bit different to analyze these districts. Since these are Democratic districts, I determined the percentage of district represented by each incumbent. I also used Michigan Votes to search their voting records. I will highlight the votes that may hurt them in the primary.
Incumbents: Lesia Liss, Jon Switalski
Lesia Liss and Jon Switalski are second term State Reps. Prior to becoming a Sate Rep, Liss was a nurse and worked in the emergency department of the Henry Ford Medical System. Switalski is a former Macomb County Commissioner and aide to Congressman David Bonior.
Liss represents 73% of the district. Switalski represents the rest of the district.
Their voting records could not be more different. Liss has a voting record that will make some Democrats angry. She voted for a ban on “partial birth abortion.” In addition, she sided with Republicans on a couple of environmental (de)regulation bills. She also voted to require drug testing for welfare applicants. With Democrats like that, we don’t need Republicans! Switalski has a pretty bland voting record.
While Liss has the demographic advantage, she will face serious questions about her voting record. Democrats should be outraged by some of her votes. Liss might benefit from Michigan’s open primary.
Incumbents: Maureen L. Stapleton, Rashida Tlaib
Other Candidates: Patrick O’Connell (Ran as a Republican in 2010)
This district pits two current State Representatives from different backgrounds against each other. Maureen Stapleton was the Director of Organizational Effectiveness for Wayne County. Rashida Tlaib is the daughter of Palestinian immigrants. She made headlines when she became the first Muslim elected to the Michigan legislature. Prior to becoming a State Rep, she worked for nonprofits that work on civil rights issues and access to human services.
The district is a 59.4% black district. Stapleton represents 30% of the district. Tliab represents 38% of the district. 48.8% of the portion of the district represented by Tliab is Hispanic. 57.8% of the “new” part of the district is black.
Maureen Stapleton has votes that may earn the ire of the Michigan Education Association (MEA). Stapleton voted for Public Act 101 of 2011 which makes it easier to fire “ineffective” teachers. In addition, she voted for Public Act 102. This prohibits the use of seniority in the decision of laying-off teachers. It also requires that "effectiveness" be the deciding factor in layoff decisions. Tliab was one of two State Representatives that voted against the ban on government dealings with “Iran-linked” businesses. This vote might be a liability with less engaged voters. This will be an interesting primary to watch.
Incumbents: John Olumba, Jimmy Womack,
Other Candidates: Veronica Brown, Christopher Owens
This Detroit district is an even fight between two incumbents. John Olumba is a first term State Rep. Prior to being elected he was a lawyer. Jimmy Womack is a second term State Representative. Prior to serving as a State Rep, Womack served as a Detroit School Board member. Womack is also a doctor.
Redistricting does not give either an advantage. 40% of the district is new to both candidates. Both represent about 30% of the district (Womack represents a touch more).
Neither candidate has any votes that will hurt a lot in the Democratic primary. Progressive Democrats will be a little upset that Womack voted with Republicans to change the requirements for resident aliens to obtain state identification. Meanwhile, some will be upset that Olumba voted against medical amnesty.
Overall, this might be an even race between two legislators with similar records but differ in age and professional background.
Incumbents: Tim Bledsoe, Alberta Tinsley-Talabi
Other Candidates: Anthony Zander
Republicans employed a classic redistricting trick to create the district: They purposely placed a white Democrat with a black Democrat in a majority black district. Tim Bledsoe is a second term State Rep. Prior to becoming a State Rep, Bledsoe taught political science at Wayne State University. Alberta Tinsley-Talabi is a first term State Representative. Prior to being a State Rep, she served as a member of the Detroit City Council and a Wayne County Commissioner.
Tim Bledsoe’s old district included the Grosse Point communities, Harper’s Woods and a small part of Detroit. Alberta Tinsley-Talabi represents part of Detroit. They mashed the districts together by combining Grosse Pointe Farms, Gross Pointe, and Grosse Pointe Park with a larger part of Detroit. The result is a 64.7% black district. Tim Bledsoe represents 34.7% of the new district. Tinsley-Talabi represents 52.9% of the new district. Anthony Zander is also black, but I don’t anticipate him being a spoiler.
During this most recent session, Bledsoe’s voted for Public act 169. This act relates the penalties for “partial birth abortions.” Tinsley-Talabi, on the other hand, voted against a bill to end post retirement healthcare benefits for new legislators.
Overall Alberta Tinsley-Talabi looks like the early favorite to continue serving as a State Representative. Turnout in Detroit compared to the Grosse Pointe communities might decide the election though.
We do not have a great chance of picking up any of those seats unless everything goes perfectly. The open seat (78) probably is our best opportunity. Open seats are the best way to pick up new districts and Republicans have only a handful of competitive ones.
Democrats in 4 districts will have a chance to pick which incumbent remains in the State House. Selecting the better Democrat will be key to ensuring we have the votes to pass a progressive contrast to Rick Snyder's policies. That will be the first step towards taking back the Governor's Manson in 2014.
In part 3, we will discuss the open seats held by Democrats. Democrats must retain the vast majority of these seats in order to retake control of the House. In addition, electing better Democrats will help make sure Progressives keep control of the Democratic Party.