Note: This preview is for the general election. The primary election preview is available here.
While most political coverage has focused on the 2008 presidential race, there will be many other races on the ballot. Here is an overview of the races relevant to Kalamazoo readers. More detailed profiles of some of the races are linked from this preview.
[List of all Michigan candidates.][List of local candidates] [List of all Kalamazoo County candidates here.]
Senator John McCain will be the Republican nominee. He will face many challenges in his bid for the White House. See his political profile and articles about him. The Democrat nominee will be Senator Barack Obama. Several third party candidates are running, including pastor Chuck Baldwin for the Constitution Party, former Congressman Bob Barr for the Libertarian Party, former Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney of the Green Party, and independent Ralph Nader.
Republicans face many challenges in the battle for Congress. They face higher rates of retirements and more competitive seats in both the House and Senate. If Democrats win larger margins in Congress, they will be more able to pass their legislation.
Michigan leans slightly to the left in Presidential elections. This means that democrats need to win Michigan to win the White House, but Republicans don't. Michigan continues going through a recession during the sixth year of democrat Governor Jennifer Granholm. Will this help Republicans in the presidential race? Perhaps.
Senator Carl Levin will seek yet another term in 2008. Levin has an extremely liberal record which the media has largely refused to report. Hence he is favored for reelection. Levin will face conservative State Representative Jack Hoogendyk.
US House of Representatives
All fifteen Michigan congressmen are seeking reelection. Most will be pretty safe, but a few will have hotly contested races.
Veteran democrat Congressman Bart Stupak will face conservative Republican State Representative Tom Casperson, who will try to make this race competitive after defeating two other Republicans in the primary.
Longtime Congressman Fred Upton will face very liberal Kalamazoo City Commissioner Don Cooney. Upton is strongly favored to win. Libertarian Greg Merle and Green Edward Pinckney are also running.
Freshman Republican Congressman Tim Walberg will face Democrat state senate minority leader Mark Schauer. The democratic establishment succeeded in pushing Schauer's significant primary competitors out of the race, and he defeated Sharon Renier in the primary. Walberg barely won against a weak democrat opponent in 2006, yet he still managed to win an open seat in a bad year for Republicans after a bitter primary with former Rep. Joe Schwarz. The Club for Growth will again provide support to Walberg.
Veteran Republican Congressman Joe Knollenberg will face democrat former state senator Gary Peters. Peters has been a subject of controversy due to the very cushy position that he received at Central Michigan University, which is 122 miles away from the 9th district.
Michigan Supreme Court
Conservative Republican Michigan Supreme Court Justice Cliff Taylor will seek reelection. The democrat nominee is Wayne County judge Diane Hathaway. Michigan Supreme Court races for the last three cycles have been quiet, with incumbents winning easy victories. The last heavily contested races were in 2000, when the democrat campaign against Republican justices "Markman and Taylor and Young" failed to defeat them.
Seats on the Michigan Board of Education and University of Michigan, Michigan State University, and Wayne State University boards of trustees will be up for election. The candidates for these offices can be found on this list. Susan Brown, a Republican from Kalamazoo who lost a race for U of M board in 2006, is running again this election.
Proposal 1: This would legalize the use and growth of marijuana for medical purposes.
Proposal 2: This would allow the destruction of human embryos for the purpose of stem cell research.
Michigan House of Representatives
All 110 seats in the Michigan state house will be up for election. Forty percent (44) of state reps will be term-limited, and all but one of the rest will seek reelection. The democrats currently have a four-seat majority. Republicans will target many of the democrats who won Republican seats in 2006, while democrats will target some of the Republicans who survived close races in 2006. The incompetence of the democrat leadership may hurt them in November.
In the greater Kalamazoo area...
59th District (St. Jospeh, Cass County)
Incumbent Republican Rick Shaffer will leave this safe district due to term limits. St. Joseph County Sheriff Matt Lori will be the Republican nominee after defeating two other Republicans in the primary. Carol Higgins will be the democrat nominee.
60th District (Kalamazoo)
Incumbent democrat Robert Jones will likely be safe against his Republican challenger, libertarian conservative Charles Ybema.
61st District (Portage, Oshtemo)
Conservative Republican Jack Hoogendyk will leave office due to term limits. Democrat Julie Rogers, who narrowly lost to Jack in 2006, will be the democrat nominee. Moderate Portage City Councilman Larry DeShazor will be the Republican nominee after defeating conservative Margaret O'Brien in the primary. This district leans Republican, but will be closely fought.
62nd District (Battle Creek, Albion)
Republican Mife Nofs will leave this competitive district due to term limits. Calhoun County Commissioner Gregory Moore defeated Battle Creek City Commissioner Susan Baldwin for the Republican nomination. County Commissioner Kate Segal defeated college graduate Tim Nendorf for the democrat nomination.
63rd District (Comstock, Marshall)
Maverick Republican Lorence Wenke will leave this district that leans Republican due to term limits. Calhoun County Commissioner Jase Bolger is unopposed for the Republican nomination. Former State Rep. Jerry VanderRoest withdrew from the race. Phyllis Smith, who lost the race for this seat in 2006 will again be the democrat nominee.
78th District (Southern Berrien County)
Republican Neal Nitz will leave this district due to term limits. Sharon Tyler won the Republican nomination over Bill Baber and two others thanks to a Right to Life endorsement. She will face democrat Judy Truesdell, who came close to winning in 2006, in this republican-leaning but competitive district.
88th District (Allegan County)
Conservative Republican Fulton Sheen will leave office due to term limits. Conservative Bob Genetski won the Republican nomination over Todd Boorsma and six others. Tom Clark will be the democrat nominee for this safe Republican seat.
Republican incumbents will run for reelection in districts 79 (northern Berrien County), 80 (VanBuren County), and 87 (Barry County).
Kalamazoo Countywide Offices
All six countywide offices are up for election. Republicans hold all six offices.
Sheriff: Republican Michael Anderson will seek reelection. He was easily renominated over challenger Ricky Coombs. Richard Fuller won the democrat nomination over Ray Roberts. Anderson is the favorite for reelection.
Prosecutor: Republican Jeff Fink will seek reelection. He will be challenged by democrat Robert Champion. Fink is the favorite for reelection.
Clerk: Republican Tim Snow will seek reelection. He will be challenged by democrat David Kinsey. Snow is the favorite for reelection.
Treasurer: Republican Mary Balkema will seek election after being appointed to replace Sharon Cubitt in 2007. Democrat Julie Kaufman will challenge Mary.
Drain Commissioner: Republican Pat Crouse will seek election after being appointed in 2008 to replace Bill French, who was convicted of a crime. He will be challenged by democrat Patricia Crowley.
Surveyor: Republican Bill Hahn is unopposed for this office. He will replace Republican Bob Snell, who is retiring. The position is unpaid, and its holder must be a licenced surveyor.
8th District Judge
There is one open judicial race in Kalamazoo County, and hence one contested race. Candidates Julie Phillips and Bill Murphy will move on to the general election after Jeff Gagie and Sondra Nowak were eliminated in the primary for this nonpartisan position. Phillips is a Republican and Murphy is an independent.
Transportation Tax Proposal
The Kalamazoo County Transportation Authority put a proposal on the ballot that would raise taxes on most of the county to fund an expansion of the county bus system. The proposal would cost .86 mills by 2011, more than double the .38 mills for all of Kalamazoo County outside Kalamazoo City at present.
Kalamazoo County Commission
Democrats currently have a 9-8 majority on the commission. Republicans will target the districts they lost in 2006, while democrats could target districts that they narrowly failed to win in 2006 in Portage and the southeastern part of the county. Republicans did not file candidates for four county commission seats, and democrats did not file for one seat.
District 10: Thomas Drabik is retiring. Former Portage Mayor James Graham is unopposed for the Republican nomination. Democrat Michael Quinn, who narrowly lost to Drabik in 2006, will again be the democrat nominee.
District 12: Democrat John Nieuwenhuis won this seat from Republican Bob Brink in 2006. Republicans Chris Haenicke won the Republican nomination over Scott Zondervan. Haenicke is the son-in-law of former WMU President Diether Haenicke.
District 15: Democrat Leroy Crabtree won this seat from Republican Joe VanBruggen in 2006. Republicans Ann Nieuwenhius will be the Republican nominee.
There are a few contested township elections, while most of the rest have only Republicans running.
Comstock Township: Controversial Trustee Bill Shields was recalled while also being renominated as a Republican. Incumbent democrat Supervisor Tim Hudson easily defeated two primary challengers and will face Republican Sue Fritz. Four Republicans face three democrats in the trustee races.
Kalamazoo Township: Justin VanderArk won the Republican nomination for supervisor by a significant margin over several others. VanderArk is a conservative who works for the area homebuilders association. The democrat nominee will be Terri Mellinger. Three Republicans face four democrats in the trustee races.
Oshtemo Township: Incumbent Republican Supervisor John VanDyke is not running for reelection. Former County Commissioner Bob Brink, won the Republican nomination over Charles Hill. The democrat nominee will be Elizabeth Heiny-Cogswell. Four incumbent Republicans will face two democrats for four trustee positions.