Monday, September 03, 2012

Why is Southwest Michigan More Republican at the Local Level?

When you examine election data for Kalamazoo County, one of the things you notice is that Republicans do much better in local races and democrats do better in statewide races. For statewide races, Michigan has voted for the statewide (President, Senate, Governor, SOS, AG) winner in every election since 2000. The most recent exceptions are Spence Abraham in 2000 and John Smietanka in 1998. For local countywide offices, Kalamazoo has voted Republican for everything for decades except Drain Commissioner (2000, 2008) and Sheriff (2008).

A similar pattern holds for other counties in the region. Why?

Southwest Michigan is historically Republican. The GOP has dominated this area since at least the Great Depression, maybe even earlier. Even the city of Kalamazoo used to be Republican until busing in the 70s. In most townships and many counties, anyone who wants to run for office does so as a Republican. People are used to voting for Republicans for those offices.

Locally, democrat candidates usually come from democrat areas, such as Kalamazoo and Benton Harbor. But many local citizens have negative views of these cities due to the extreme dysfunction of Benton Harbor and the moderate dysfunction of Kalamazoo. Local democrats are identified with the problems of these areas. Former democrat state representative Ed LaForge agrees with this theory.
“There is nothing but hidden animosity outside of the city of Kalamazoo for Kalamazoo,” said LaForge, who believes that the city is perceived as too liberal by those who live farther out in the county.
In contrast, people do not identify Obama with the Daley political machine of Chicago, or Granholm with the McNamara machine of Wayne County because they are not familiar with the politics of these areas. They ran as blank slates without the negative baggage that local democrats have.

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