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While this series is mostly about taking back the Michigan State House of Representatives, I wanted to spend a little time talking about retaining seats. We need to defend our open seats. Many these seats are super Democratic. These primaries give us an opportunity to select our future Democratic leaders. A couple of races have the potential to be competitive. Districts 39 and 25 are the most vulnerable. We need to support the candidates in those districts. In case you missed them, here is Part 1 and Part 2.


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.

Two open Democratic seats do not have primaries. District 16 is a safe seat and everybody should be prepared for State Representative Robert Kosowski. District 25 is not safe. We will need everybody to rally behind Henry Yanez. We cannot lose this seat. I will profile the race first before moving on to the primaries.

The Districts

District 25
Current Rep: Jon Switalski (redistricted to district 28)
Democratic Candidates: Henry Yanez

This open seat was created by redistricting and includes part of Warren and Sterling Heights. Instead of cutting Warren North-South, they split it more East-West (see maps below). As a result, Jon Switalski was left in District 28 with another Democratic incumbent. This 52.8% Obama district is vulnerable.

2001 Map               2011 Map
Photobucket Photobucket

Henry Yanez is a paramedic and firefighter. He served as a delegate to the DNC conventions in 2004 and 2008. He will face either Sean Clark or Ray Gralewski in November. Clark ran in 2010 against Switalski and barely lost. We need to support Yanez so we do not lose this district.

District 109
Current Rep: Steven Lindberg (term-limited)
Democratic Candidates: John Kivela, Tony Retaskie

This Democratic district includes Marquette, Alger, Schoolcraft, and Luce Counties. It is a 56.5% Obama district. Marquette County dominates the district: Over 67,000 of the 87,000 people in this district live in Marquette County.

The race features two candidates from the city of Marquette. John Kivela is the mayor. He previously served on the City Commission and is an auto mechanic by trade. Tony Retaskie is an electrician by trade. He became a union organizer with IBEW. In addition, he serves on a bunch of local boards including the Marquette Area Public School Board. Both Kivela and Retaskie seem like solid candidates.

District 69
Current Rep: Mark Meadows (term-limited)
Democratic Candidates: Sam Sigh, Susan Schmidt

This is dark blue district centers around East Lansing in Ingham County. It also includes Meridan, Williamstown, and Locke Townships. This is a 67.4% Obama district.

Sam Singh is the current mayor of East Lansing. He was elected to East Lansing City Council at the age of 24. Singh was the President and CEO of the Michigan Nonprofit Association. Susan Schmidt is the former the chief of staff for State Representative Mark Meadows, and she has his support. Prior to that, Schmidt worked as an educator specializing with students with learning disabilities. She briefly served on the East Lansing School Board. Overall, we have two solid candidates.

District 68
Current Rep: Joan Bauer (term-limited)
Democratic Candidates:  Anne Clayton, Dale Copedge, Harold Leeman, Ted O’Dell, Griffin Rivers, A’Lynne Robinson, Andy Shor

This 74.7% Obama district includes Lansing Township and parts of Lansing. To see how Lansing is split refer the map below.

2011 Lansing Area Map

In a 7-way primary, anything can happen. Most of these candidates seem qualified. Anne Clayton has the least impressive profile. She teaches biology at Lansing Community College and owns a message company. Dale Copedge is an African American Ingham County commissioner.

Harold Leeman is the former Lansing City Council President. He lost his seat by 15 votes in 2007. Ted O’Dell is currently the chairperson of the Lansing Jobs Coalition. He has a long resume and has worked in all facets of government. Apparently some unions urged him to enter the race. He is openly gay.

Griffin Rivers' expertise is in the criminal justice world: He served as the drug czar in New Orleans, a professor of criminal justice, and an administrator in the Michigan Department of Corrections. In addition, he was the chief of staff for the Michigan House Appropriation Committee, the executive director of the Michigan Legislative Black Caucus and the chair of the Ingham County Democratic Party. A’Lynne Robinson is an African American Lansing City Council member.

Andy Shor was considered the frontrunner, but he could lose in a crowded primary. Shor is an Ingham County commissioner. He worked for Gary Peters and State Representative Paul Condino. Shor is also an assistant director of the Michigan Municipal League. Shor has been in the race since last November.

District 67
Current Rep: Barb Byrum (term-limited)
Democratic Candidates: Tom Cochran, Jerry Ketchum, Walt Sorg

This district includes the rest of Ingham County. This 56.1% Obama district contains swingy rural areas and part of Lansing. If Democrats don’t watch out, they could lose this district. Luckily, the Michigan GOP leadership censored Barb Byrum after the abortion debate and hopefully galvanized the Democrats in this district. Byrum was elected to replace her mother Dianne Byrum. Sadly we have no Byrums (or females) to elect this year. Instead we have to choose between Tom Cochran, Jerry Ketchum, and Walt Sorg.

Tom Cochran is the former Lansing fire chief. He also served as their union president. Jerry Ketchum is a long time Delhi Township trustee. He worked at the Michigan Department of Transportation. Walt Sorg is probably the most progressive candidate in this race. He was planning to run in the 68th district before redistricting. Sorg worked as a broadcast journalist (radio), a consultant, and in various government positions. He can self-fund his campaign, but some have questioned if he is too liberal.

District 48
Current Rep: Richard Hammel (term-limited)
Democratic Candidates: Pam Faris, Patrick Gleason, Stephen Kennedy

This district is composed of the northern and western parts of Genesee County. It includes the cities of Montrose, Davidson and Clio. It also includes Vienna, Montrose, Davidson, Thetford, Forest, Genesee, and Richfield Townships. This 60.3% Obama district should be safe.

Pam Faris is a Mott Community College trustee. Her husband is John Cherry, and she should have enough connections and money to win this race. Cherry was never the most progressive Democrat, but it would be unfair to characterize Faris by her husband’s reputation. Patrick Gleason is a Genesee County commissioner and former Richfield Township Trustee. He serves on the state AFL-CIO executive board and as President of the Michigan Building and Construction Council. His union background may appeal to more progressive Democrats. Stephen Kennedy is a lawyer running a very Some Dude campaign.

District 39
Current Rep: Lisa Brown (running for Oakland County Clerk)
Democratic Candidates: Pam Jackson, Regina Strong
AVG PVI: R+6   

This district will be hard to retain. The district includes Commerce Township, Wixom, and part of West Bloomfield. Lisa Brown won tough races in 2008 and 2010. This 52.7% Obama district trends more Republican on the local level. Brown was an amazing candidate, and forced Republicans to run a pro-choice candidate in 2010. It is too early to predict, but I think Republicans are favored to win this district. Republicans have a loaded all-male primary this year. Meanwhile, Democrats must pick between two female candidates. The War on Women may give Democrats a boost.

Pam Jackson is a professor at Oakland Community College. She taught mathematics at numerous public schools and owned and operated a construction company. Regina Strong has worked for nonprofit organizations and companies. She has led a nonprofit organization and global director of a corporation. She also serves on the executive board of the Bloomfield High School Parent-Teacher Organization (PTO). It is worth noting that she is African American.

District 18
Current Rep: Richard LeBlanc (term-limited)
Democratic Candidates: Patrick Biange, Philip DiMaria, John Maynard, Sarah Roberts

Remember how District 24 changed? Well this district was made from part of the old 24th (see below). St Clair Shores and Eastpointe make up the district. We will win this 57.5% Obama seat.

2001 Map               2011 Map
Photobucket Photobucket

Patrick Biange seems like one of those infamous locals. I can’t find much about him besides people trolling him on forums. Philip DiMaria is a Macomb County Commissioner that represents Eastpointe. DiMaria has served for 20 years and is a retired police officer. John Maynard is seeking a political comeback. He served in State House of Representatives from 1975-90! He is best known for supporting the death penalty. Sarah Roberts is a former State Rep. She lost in 2010 in the old 24th.

District 17
Current Rep: Phil Cavanagh (redistricted to district 10)
Democratic Candidates: Brian Hensley, Bill LaVoy, Jim Pedersen

This district also is nothing like the old 17th. It is somewhat like the old 56 (see maps below). It consists of parts of Monroe and Wayne Counties. We should win this 55% Obama district.

2001 Map               2011 Map
Photobucket Photobucket

Brian Hensley is a substitute teacher. He worked as an auto part supplier before being laid off. Bill LaVoy is the Executive Director of Monroe Public Access Cable Television. He comes from a pretty well connected family. His father was the Monroe County Prosecutor and a Monroe County Circuit Court Judge. His mother was a high school principal and host of Monroe Alive. His sister is running for Monroe County Probate Judge. Jim Pederson is a retired automaker. He became the president of UAW Local 892. He also serves on the Southeast Michigan Community Alliance and the Economic Alliance of Michigan. He seems to have the backing of the local Democratic establishment.

District 11
Current Rep: David Nathan (redistricted to district 8)
Democratic Candidates: Cody Bailey, Dorothy Grady, Bill Kaledas, David Knezek

This district is more like the current 16th district than the current 11th (see maps below). It is composed of Garden City, Inkster, parts of Livonia and parts of Dearborn Heights. This 69.6% Obama district should be safe.

2001 Map               2011 Map
Photobucket Photobucket

Cody Bailey is a recent college graduate and small business owner. He may sound weak, but he has endorsements from elected officials. Dorothy Grady doesn't have much information on her website. I did manage to find out that she wrote a memoir. Bill Kaledas is the former mayor of Garden City. He seemed to run all the time, and it might be time to slap the perennial candidate label on him. David Knezek is another recent college graduate. Knezek was the student body president of University of Michigan—Dearborn. He was a Marine and received 24 military awards for service in Iraq. He also has many elected officials supporting his candidacy. Overall, this election seems to be mostly a battle between the two youngsters.

District 4
Current Rep: Maureen Stapleton (redistricted to district 6)
Democratic Candidates: Carol Banks, Marcelus Brice, Paris Canty, Mohammed Hassan, Adam Hollier, Ernest Little, Rose Mary Robinson, Beverly Tran, Mervin White, Jonathan Wright, Robert Zwolak

The district consists of Hamtramck and the surrounding parts of Detroit. It is open because of how Republicans drew the district (see maps below). It is a safe, majority black district. A large number of Bangladeshi and Yemeni Muslims live in Hamtramck.

2001 Map               2011 Map
Photobucket Photobucket

Carol Banks is a Detroit Public School Board member. She works as a policy analyst for the Detroit City Council. Marcelus Brice was the director of community relations for Detroit City Councilman Gary Brown. He also served as the chair of the Michigan Midtown Democratic Party. I can’t find much about Paris Canty. He was named All-PSL Honorable Mention in 1987 for basketball by the Detroit News. He went to Pershing High School.

Mohammed Hassan is a Hamtramck city councilman. He has made some controversial comments. Adam Hollier has a great story. He is a graduate of Cornell with a degree in Labor Relations. After Hurricane Katrina, he went to Mississippi to help with the recovery. He then earn his a degree in urban planning from the University of Michigan. He was district director for State Senator Buzz Thomas and chief of staff for State Senator Bert Johnson.

Ernest Little is a building inspector and potential Some Dude. Rose Mary Robinson is a longtime activist. She was elected to the Wayne County Commission in 1970. More recently she was elected to the Detroit City Charter Commission. She is the former General Council for AFSMCE Council 25. It is worth noting that she is white.

Beverly Tran ran for Hamtramck City Council in 2009. She apparently has done a bunch of different things according to her CV. Mervin White is a recent college graduate. Jonathan Wright is a lawyer and a youth minster. He just completed an internship at the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office. Robert Zwolak is a Hamtramck City Council member.

WOW! There are simply too many candidates. An 11-way primary is pretty much unpredictable.

District 1
Current Rep: Tim Bledsoe (redistricted to district 2)
Democratic Candidates: Brian Banks, Scott Benson, Christopher Cavanagh, Valerie Kindle, Gregory Robinson

This district includes the Grosse Pointe Communities not in the 2nd district and parts of Detroit (see map above). It is a majority black district.

This five-way primary features 1 white candidate and 4 black candidates. Brian Banks is a lawyer and an adjunct professor at Baker College. Scott Benson is a smaller business owner and Coast Guard veteran. He was involved with the Detroit Brownfield Redevelopment Authority. Chris Cavanagh is a former Wayne County Commissioner and brother of State Representative Phil Cavanagh. Valerie Kindle is a Harper Woods Precinct Delegate. Gregory Robinson seems like a Some Dude that has run before and lost.


If anybody lives in any of these districts, I would love to hear reports from the field. Future Democratic leaders will come from these districts. Keep an eye on Districts 25 and 39. We need to maintain control of those districts in order to take back the House.

This entry will be my last focusing on Democratic primaries. In part 4, I will discuss swingy Republican seats with only one Democratic candidate. If Democrats want to take back the State House, we must get out and support these candidates. Democrats recruited some great candidates in these districts.

Feel free to add more information, provide feedback and ask questions in the comment section.

Originally posted to slacks on Wed Jun 20, 2012 at 12:35 PM PDT.

Also republished by Michigan, My Michigan.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (10+ / 0-)

    M, 22, School: MI-12(new) (Old MI-15), Home: NY-18 (new) (Old NY-19)

    by slacks on Wed Jun 20, 2012 at 12:35:38 PM PDT

  •  As always, good work! (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    2thanks, slacks, bumiputera

    Just a quick point about the 69th: Singh used to be mayor of East Lansing, but is no longer; Diane Goddeeris (sp?) is now.

    "There is a difference between being wealthy and being out of touch. One is remembering where you came from. The other is not knowing where others came from." - BoiseBlue

    by ScottyUrb on Wed Jun 20, 2012 at 12:45:34 PM PDT

  •  Pam Faris is a wonderful, wonderful lady. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    I sincerely hope that she wins her primary, she's just fantastic.

    "It is through disobedience that progress has been made, through disobedience and through rebellion." Oscar Wilde, 1891

    by MichiganGirl on Wed Jun 20, 2012 at 01:06:47 PM PDT

  •  What about McMillin? (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Please, please tell me that teabagger is going to go.   JoAnna Rapaphorst is in the primary running against him.  How's she doing?  God I hate McMillin and Marleau.

    "bin Laden's dead, and GM is alive" ~ Biden

    by dkmich on Wed Jun 20, 2012 at 02:04:00 PM PDT

    •  It will be hard to beat him (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      If we are winning this seat, we are doing more than taking back the House. It had a 2010 PVI of R+12. McMillin won his seat in 2008. If he could win an open race then, he should be able to win as an incumbent now.

      Joanna VanRaaphorst has a pretty solid profile though.

      M, 22, School: MI-12(new) (Old MI-15), Home: NY-18 (new) (Old NY-19)

      by slacks on Wed Jun 20, 2012 at 02:55:59 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  I never knew Rochester/Rochester Hills (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        was full of so many bigoted white males.   Must be the downtown mentality - ain't they special "business men".

        "bin Laden's dead, and GM is alive" ~ Biden

        by dkmich on Thu Jun 21, 2012 at 04:20:13 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  I think Lisa Brown proved (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          that the right candidate can win in areas like this. I don't think the people there are social conservatives. They mostly vote Republican for economic reasons. I think the men are just willing to forgive the social conservatism. Women might be less inclined to tolerate Republican social policy and are key to winning seats like these. We have to convince Republican women to vote Democratic.

          M, 22, School: MI-12(new) (Old MI-15), Home: NY-18 (new) (Old NY-19)

          by slacks on Thu Jun 21, 2012 at 05:38:26 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Do you ever read the Patch? (0+ / 0-)

            If it is any indication, they are delighted the schools are being privatized so now their kids can get their customized educations paid for - religious or private.  Unemployed people are loafers and scum.   I could go on, but you get the point.

            "bin Laden's dead, and GM is alive" ~ Biden

            by dkmich on Thu Jun 21, 2012 at 10:50:53 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

  •  Thanks for posting this... (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    slacks, jennifree2bme

    ... some of us are paying attention.

    For the occasional reluctant tweet

    by Hector Solon on Wed Jun 20, 2012 at 03:04:24 PM PDT

  •  Thanks for this. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Can't wait for part 4.

    "Be who you are and say what you feel because those who mind don't matter and those who matter don't mind." -Theodore Seuss Geisel

    by KingofSpades on Wed Jun 20, 2012 at 04:25:12 PM PDT

  •  I live in the 109th (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    and I will probably vote for Tony Retaskie. It's unfortunate that the left isn't really represented in this primary at all, as both of our candidates are fairly moderate (or at least downplay the significance of social issues). Of the two, Retaskie would almost certainly be a more reliable Democratic vote; he is extremely pro-union, which plays here anyways, and his campaign has focused heavily on supporting the teachers union, which has been taking a lot of hits, especially in Marquette County. I was hard pressed to find any information about either candidate's views on social issues, but it stands out to me that Retaskie has been endorsed by both the Progressive Majority and the Michigan chapter of the National Organization for Women.

    John Kivela, on the other hand, is far more pro-business. He has no real union credentials, and that is certainly a handicap in this district. I've heard it said by people who know him personally that John would run as a Republican if he could (he wouldn't win, of course). For all I know, he may be socially liberal, but the "Issues" section of his campaign website focuses only on one "issue," which is keeping special interests out of elections.

    In the end, I think that Kivela is probably the narrow favorite simply because he is a lot more well known and has a larger institutional backing than Retaskie does - white collar Marquette County residents are likely to back Kivela heavily. But I also am cautious to underestimate the union machine power - Retaskie has all of the union endorsements so far - hopefully on election day that will be enough for him to pull it out.

    •  Thanks for the info (0+ / 0-)

      Has campaigning picked up yet? Are yard signs popping up? Union endorsements will help, especially if they campaign in the more sparsely populated areas. Getting a good chunk of that vote may be able to offset a narrowish loss in the city.

      M, 22, School: MI-12(new) (Old MI-15), Home: NY-18 (new) (Old NY-19)

      by slacks on Wed Jun 20, 2012 at 05:24:39 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Kivela (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      I don't know much about the guy, but he seems to be a fairly popular mayor who has enthusiastically hosted Obama when he's come to town.  I haven't really got the vibe from him that he would be a problem for Dems in the house, particularly serving the district that he's serving.

  •  68th, here. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    This is Andy Schor's to lose, and with so many African Americans running, if anything, this makes him even more of a shoe-in.  A'Lynne Robinson is his most credible opponent.  I'm actually not sure who I'm voting for.  I haven't heard from any of their campaigns.

    The 67th is definitely a vulnerable district, but not so vulnerable as to be somewhere in which we have to panic.  Byrum kept it in a wave year.  Sure, she has a popular name, but this one should be easy to keep in a presidential election year which will bring higher turnout in south Lansing.

    •  I try to keep my bias out of the diary (0+ / 0-)

      but I like Andy Shor. I know some of his campaign staff. I am surprised that you haven't heard from them yet. They are churning through the district. From what I hear everybody is using Grebner's. Maybe you are not on it.

      I agree with your assessment on the 67th. It is a district that we should always win, but we could lose if we forget to actually campaign there.

      M, 22, School: MI-12(new) (Old MI-15), Home: NY-18 (new) (Old NY-19)

      by slacks on Wed Jun 20, 2012 at 09:19:06 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Andy (0+ / 0-)

        I don't know much about Andy, but what little I have seen of his work, I'm a bit wary of him.  Basically ANY of these candidates would be decent reps, but as more a labor Democrat in a blue collar city (with white collar sensibilities, though), I feel that his priorities might not match up with mine as much as I'd like.  I may end up voting for him, because I wasn't too impressed by A'Lynne's term as council president (the whole idea that she was going to get glass partitions, or some shit, because some council regulars were "mean"), but Andy doesn't exactly strike me as a warrior for the working class, either.

  •  Cool, didn't know Lisa Brown held (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    such a swingy district.  I hope she successfully wins her election to County Clerk.

    "Be who you are and say what you feel because those who mind don't matter and those who matter don't mind." -Theodore Seuss Geisel

    by KingofSpades on Wed Jun 20, 2012 at 10:12:23 PM PDT

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