Saturday, June 10, 2017

2017 Kalamazoo Election Preview

This article was last updated June 22, 2017.

Michigan will see several elections in 2017. This is a preview of elections in Kalamazoo County.   The November election will have Kalamazoo and Portage city elections.

May 2: Kalamazoo County rejected a tax increase to fund consolidation of 911 service 37.9% to 62.1%.  A renewal of the KRESA tax that was first passed in 2005 passed with 61.7%.

November 3: This is the day for local city elections.

Kalamazoo City Commission

The mayor and three seats on the Kalamazoo City Commission are up for election. The seven commissioners are Mayor Bobby Hopewell (on since 2003), Don Cooney (1997), David Anderson (2005), Shannon Sykes (2015), Erin Knott (2015), Jack Urban (2013), and Matt Milcarek (2015).

In 2014, Kalamazoo voters passed a charter amendment changing the charter by electing the mayor separately and implementing staggered four-year terms for the other seats (similar to the system Portage uses).  In 2015, Cooney, Anderson, and Sykes got four-year terms, while Knott, Urban, and Milcarek got two-year terms.

Hopewell, who has been mayor since 2007, is likely to run again.  He is a liberal democrat.

Urban and Knott are running for reelection; Milcarek is not.  Eric Cunningham, who was appointed to a commission seat but narrowly lost in 2015, is running again.

Portage City Council

The mayor and three seats on the Portage City Council are up for election. Peter Strazdas, who has been mayor since 2005, is retirng.  The other councilmembers are Terry Urban (2001), Claudette Reid (2005), Patricia Randall (2009), Jim Pearson (2011), Nasim Ansari (2013), and Richard Ford (2013).  In recent years, a divide has developed on the council between two factions.  One faction consists of Strazdas, Reid and Urban.  The other consists of Randall, Pearson, Ford, and Ansari.

Councilmember Patricia Randall is running for mayor.  Randall had to resign her position to run for mayor.

The three seats up for election are held Ansari, Reid, and Urban.  Ansari is running again.  Reid and Urban have not indicated whether they will run again.  Also running are
Jim Stephanak, former Kalamazoo Gazette publisher
Phil Stinchcomb, a conservative former Kalamazoo County Commissioner (2010-14)

Friday, June 09, 2017

2018 Michigan Primary Election Races

This post was last updated June 9, 2017.

Michigan's top constitutional offices, congressional seats, and the entire state legislature will be up for election November 2018.

US Senate: Likely democrat
Democrat Senator Debbie Stabenow is expected to seek reelection.  She won 50-48 in 2000, 57-41 in 2006, and 59-38 in 2012.  She has mediocre approval ratings.  Businesswoman Lena Epstein, a Trump campaign official, is running.  Former Michigan Supreme Court justice Robert Young, Congressman Fred Upton and former state senator Randy Richardville have mentioned interest in running.

Governor: Tossup
Moderate Republican Governor Rick Snyder is term limited.  Snyder won 58-40 in 2010 and 51-47 in 2014.  The favorite for the R nomination is Attorney General Bill Schuette, who is fairly conservative.  Lieutenant Governor Brian Calley, who inherits Snyder's disadvantages without his advantages (rich outsider, nonpartisan image) is running.  Calley is tying his campaign to a part-time legislature proposal.  State senator Patrick Colbeck, a Tea Party favorite, who led the fight for Right to Work, is running.  Doctor Jim Hines of Saginaw is also running.

Former state senator Gretchen Whitmer is the early front-runner for the D nomination.  She faces Detroit health official Abdul Al-Sayed, who is appealing to Bernie Sanders supporters, businessman William Cobbs, and businessman Shri Thanedar.  Attorney Mark Bernstein and Macomb County Executive Mark Hackel, who are both more moderate, are considering running.  Liberal attorney Geoffrey Feiger, who was the D nominee for governor in 1998, is considering running.

Attorney General: Lean Republican
Republican Attorney General Bill Schuette is term limited and running for governor. He won 53-44 in 2010 and 52-44 in 2014.  Both nominees will be decided at party conventions.  Repubican house speaker Tom Leonard and state senator Tonya Schuitmaker are expected to run.  Leonard is more conservative and has a larger platform, which probably makes him the favorite.  No democrats have announced campaigns yet.

Secretary of State: Tossup
Conservative Republican Secretary of State Ruth Johnson is term limited. She defeated democrat Joscelyn Benson 51-45 in 2010 and Godfrey Dillard 54-43 in 2014.  Possible R candidates include conservative state senator Joanne Emmons, moderate state senator Mike Kowall, and Shelby Township clerk Stan Grot.  Benson is likely to be the D nominee.

Michigan Supreme Court Lean Republican
Republicans currently hold a 5-2 majority on the court.  There are two full-term seats up for election on the Michigan Supreme Court. They are those of Joan Larsen and Kurtis Wilder.  Larsen was appointed to a vacancy by Governor Snyder in 2015, and won a partial term 58-29 in 2016.  She has been nominated for a seat on the federal appeals court by President Trump; if confirmed Snyder will appoint a replacement.  Wilder was appointed in May 2017 to replace the retiring Robert Young.

Other Statewide Offices
Two seats on the state Board of Education and boards of trustees of U of M, MSU, and WSU will be up for election. All eight seats up are held by Republicans. Democrats have swept these elections in 2006, 2008, and 2012, while Republicans swept in 2010.  The candidates are
State Board of Education:
Republicans: Eileen Weiser, Richard Zeille
Democrats:
UM Board of Regents:
Republicans: Andrew Richner, Andrea Newman
Democrats:
MSU Board of Trustees:
Republicans: Mitch Lyons, Brian Breslin
Democrats:
WSU Board of Governors:
Republicans:
Democrats:

Ballot Propositions
There may be several ballot propositions.  Brian Calley is pushing a part time legislature initiative.  There is an initiative to legalize recreational marijuana.  There is also an initiative to shut down the pipeline that runs under the Mackinaw Straits.

Michigan Congressional Seats
Republicans hold a 9-5 majority in Michigan's congressional delegation, which is unchanged since 2012. It is not yet clear if any races will be competitive.

Michigan Senate
All 38 seats in the Michigan state senate are up for election, and 26 have no incumbent due to term limits and retirements. Republicans currently hold a 27-11 supermajority after winning landslides in 2010 and 2014. Democrats will likely target Republican-held seats in Kalamazoo County (20), Grand Rapids (29), Bay County (31), Muskegon (34), and the UP (38). There may be competitive primaries in some seats.  The post below examines these races in detail.

2018 Michigan State Senate Elections

20th District (Kalamazoo County) Tossup
Republican Senator Margaret O'Brien beat Sean McCann by only 61 votes in 2014.  Either McCann or rep Jon Hoadley is likely to be the D candidate in 2018.

Michigan House
All 110 seats in the Michigan House of Representatives are up for election. Republicans won a 63-47 majority in 2016.  There will be 24 open seats due to term limits and some additional open seats due to candidates running for state senate.  Both parties have potential targets to pickup.

60th District (Kalamazoo City) Safe democrat
Democrat state rep Jon Hoadley was first elected in 2014.  He may run for state senate or reelection.
61st District (Portage, Oshtemo) Lean Republican
Republican state rep Brandt Iden was elected 48-43 in 2014 and 49-44 in 2016, defeating D Pastor John Fisher both times.  He is expected to run again.
63rd District (E Kalamazoo, S Calhoun) Safe Republican
R state rep David Maturen was first elected in 2014.  He is expected to run again.

Kalamazoo County Commission
All 11 seats on the Kalamazoo County Commission will be up for election. Ds hold a 6-5 majority. Republicans will target democrat Michael Quinn (district 10). Democrats may target districts 7 and 11.

Thursday, June 08, 2017

Michigan House Passes Constitutional Carry

On Wednesday, the Michigan state house passed a package of bills to implement constitutional carry in Michigan.  Constitutional carry means that the government does not impose any permits or fees before citizens can exercise their constitutional right to carry firearms. Around five years ago, support for constitutional carry moved from the fringe to a mainstream Republican position.  Twelve states now have constitutional carry, and more are considering it.

The four bills received 59 to 61 yes votes, and 47 to 49 no votes.  Three democrats voted for all four bills.  They are
  • John Chirkun - district 22 (Roseville)
  • Phil Phelps - district 49 (Flint suburbs)
  • Scott Dianda - district 110 (western UP) - running for state senate (district 38) in 2018
Seven Republicans voted against some or all of the bills.  They are
  • Kathy Crawford (against 3 of 4) - district 38 (Novi) - termed out in 2020
  • Michael McCready (against all 4) - district 40 (Bloomfield) - termed out in 2018 - may run for senate (district 12)
  • Martin Howrylak  (against 2 of 4) - district 41 (Troy) - termed out in 2018
  • David Maturen (against all 4) - district 63 (E Kalamazoo) - termed out in 2020
  • Chris Afendoulis (against all 4) - district 73 (GR Township) - termed out in 2020 - may run for senate (district 29)
  • Rob Verhuelen (against all 4) - district 74 (Walker) - termed out in 2018.  Verhuelen ran against Tom Leonard for Speaker last year.
  • Dave Pagel (against all 4) - district 78 (S Berrien) - termed out in 2018
The bills now go to the state senate, where it is not certain whether they will be taken up.  It is also unclear whether Governor Snyder, who has a mixed record on gun rights, would sign them.  Nonetheless, Speaker Tom Leonard and most Republicans in the state house deserve credit for getting them this far.