While many here are looking to target red states across the country and that is by no means a bad strategy for the Democratic party, I think there are some left leaning states that the national party needs to put some more resources into. One of those is the state of Michigan. While Obama received just shy of 55% of the two-party vote in the state, the Republicans currently have a super-majority in the state senate. This is partially due to gerrymandering but also due in part to the state Democratic party doing a less than ideal job of targeting state senate seats.
The state senate in Michigan is only up every 4 years so 2014 will be an especially important election as it is one of only two chances the state Democratic party has to take back seats before the next redistricting. Currently the Democratic party has only 12 seats out of 38 and sort of only holds 11 districts going forward since the last redistricting combined 7 Wayne County Democratic Reps into 6 districts. Follow me below the fold for some election data details as well as for some analysis on what seats the Democratic party should target.
So first off, lets look at the election data. The data for the first couple columns I generated by putting the new senate districts into DRA. Since some of the precincts have been changed, the data is not exact but should be close enough. However more importantly the last couple columns show the Obama/Romney results for 2012. (Please note that districts 1-5 all contain portions of Detroit and are majority African-American districts. Since they are all heavily Dem, and Detroit data is hard to break-down by district, I calculated these districts together and just averaged them.) This data I generated by using the Michigan SOS as well as county/city websites when necessary. I also gave each district a partisan lean based on how Obama performed in them relative to the country in 2012. However it must be remembered that some districts vote very differently down ballot then they do in Federal races. The partisan lean for the districts is the same that I use for most states across the country including the New Jersey data I recently posted. They are as follows.
strong rep: 10+ points to the right of center
mod-rep: 5-10 points right of center
lean-rep: 2-5 points right of center
toss-up: within 2 points of USA average
lean-dem: 2-5 points left of center
mod-dem: 5-10 points left of center
strong dem: 10+ points left of center
Also the columns are sort of color coded for who holds the particular state senate seats currently. Blue for Dem and red for Rep. But note that the Republicans combined the 12 Democratic senators into 11 seats so I only color coded those 11 seats blue on the graph. In addition, the Republicans created a conservative district (district 26) on the west side of the state which I colored red since it will no doubt be a republican district. Thus the graph shows 27 red and 11 blue even though the state had 26 republicans and 12 democratic reps.
Since 20 seats are need to take the senate and the Michigan Democratic party only really starts off with 11 due to the reason stated above, it is necessary to pick-up at least 4 and preferably more seats this election cycle to meet the goal of 20 seats by 2018 in time for redistricting. The good news is that there are several easy targets as well as a couple others that may be doable for the Democratic party.
District 13: This is an open seat as the current Republican senator is term-limited. While it is a mildly Republican district it is necessary for the state Democratic party to win a couple districts like this one to take over the senate. A good candidate for them would be current Democratic Rep Jim Townsend (house district 26) from Royal Oak who has won re-election before. It would be a tough uphill race against whoever the Republicans nominate but definitely doable. Since the minority population is quite small in the district, mid-term drop-offs should be minimal for the Dems.
District 17: This district is also an open seat due to a term-limited Republican and one that the Democratic party does well at sometimes down ballot. It is also a seat absolutely necessary for a Democratic majority. I hear that one of the Spades would be an excellent candidate here.
District 20: The current senator here is Tonya Shuitmaker who will likely seek re-election in neighboring senate district 26 leaving this seat open. On the Dem side Sean McCann from House district 60 would be an excellent candidate while the Reps will quite possibly run Margaret O'Brien from house district 61. This will also be a tough race between the parties but should slightly favor the Democratic party.
District 32: This is another open district due to a term limited Republican senator and like district 20 above, it should favor the Dems. Stacey Oakes from House district 95 could run on the Democratic side but I think she might just be a little too progressive for what the senate district could handle. On the Republican side I am not sure yet who might run.
District 38: This is a rather unique district that has started to vote Republican on the federal level but is still strongly Democratic at the local level. It is currently represented by Republican senator Tom Casperson who was swept in during the 2010 elections. However, it should be a fairly easy flip back for the Dems considering that their candidates did well in the upper peninsula back in 2012 elections. As for who should run on the Democratic side, I think Scott Dianda from House district 110 would be a strong challenger. He also has a somewhat more moderate record that should go over well in this more conservadem area.
Other districts worth targeting include 7, 29, and 34 however they all have incumbent Republican senators and all would be a tough fight at a time when the Democratic party will also be focusing on a Senate race, Gubernatorial race, and taking the state house. Michigan is going to need a lot of resources this coming year however it is important to remember that without capturing the trifecta, it will be hard for the Democratic party to advance their values.