Saturday, June 10, 2017

2017 Kalamazoo Election Preview

This article was last updated November 2, 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, will 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.  Also running are
Charley Coss, former R candidate for county commission
Leona Carter, previous candidate for city commission

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 has been Randall, Pearson, Ford, and Ansari.

Councilmember Patricia Randall is running for mayor.  Randall had to resign her position to run for mayor.  Councilmember and former county commissioner (2002-2012) Nasim Ansari is also running.  Ansari is a conservative Republican.

The three seats up for election are held Ansari, Reid, and Urban.  Reid and Urban will both run again.  Nonincumbent candidates are
Jim Stephanak, former Kalamazoo Gazette publisher
Phil Stinchcomb, a conservative former Kalamazoo County Commissioner (2010-14)
Lori Knapp, a lawyer
Tim Earl, fire safety consultant
Chris Burns, accountant
Wayne Stoffer, business consultant, who suspended his campaign

Friday, June 09, 2017

2018 Michigan Primary Election Races

This post was last updated April 29, 2018.

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 seeking reelection.  She won 50-48 in 2000, 57-41 in 2006, and 59-38 in 2012.  She has mediocre approval ratings.

Businessmen John James and Sandy Pensler are running for the R nomination.  James is appealing more to movement conservatives, and has the Right to Life endorsement.  Pensler is self-funding and is positioning himself as a Trump-friendly businessman.

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 his main competition.  State senator Patrick Colbeck, a Tea Party favorite, who led the fight for Right to Work, is the most conservative candidate.  Doctor Jim Hines of Saginaw is the fourth candidate.

Former state senator Gretchen Whitmer of Ingham County is the establishment favorite for the D nomination.  Businessman Shri Thanedar has spent 7 million dollars so far portraying himself as a more progressive alternative.  Detroit health official Abdul Al-Sayed has support from many Bernie Sanders supporters, but faces questions over his residency after recently voting in New York.

Libertarians are now on the primary ballot thanks to the relatively strong showing of Gary Johnson in 2016.  Their voters will choose between Bill Gelineau and John Tatar.

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.  Republican house speaker Tom Leonard and State senator Tonya Schuitmaker are running.  Leonard has a more conservative record.  He has most grassroots support and the majority of establishment support, which makes him the favorite.

Progressive lesbian attorney Dana Nessel defeated former US attorney Pat Miles for the D nomination.  She may be a weaker general election candidate.

Secretary of State: Lean democrat
Conservative Republican Secretary of State Ruth Johnson is term limited and running for state senate. She defeated democrat Joscelyn Benson 51-45 in 2010 and Godfrey Dillard 54-43 in 2014.  Benson is running again in 2018, and is a strong candidate.

Shelby Township clerk Stan Grot, MSU professor Joseph Guzman, Johnson chief of staff Mike Senyko, and accountant Mary Treder Lang are running.  Moderate state senator Mike Kowall announced a run, but later dropped out.

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 Elizabeth Clement and Kurtis Wilder.  Clement was appointed in November 2017 to replace Joan Larsen, who was appointed to a seat on the federal appeals court by President Trump.  Wilder was appointed in May 2017 to replace the retiring Robert Young.  Democrats nominated attorney Megan Kathleen Cavanagh and University of Michigan professor Samuel Bagenstos for Supreme Court.

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:
Democrats:
WSU Board of Governors:
Republicans:
Democrats:

Ballot Propositions
A part time legislature initiative failed to make the ballot.  An initiative to legalize recreational marijuana will be on the ballot.  There are also pending initiatives to
  • shut down the pipeline that runs under the Mackinac Straits
  • change redistricting in ways beneficial to democrats
  • repeal the prevailing wage law
  • change voting rules in ways beneficial to democrats
Michigan Congressional Seats
Republicans hold a 9-5 majority in Michigan's congressional delegation, which is unchanged since 2012. The 11th district is open due to the retirement of Rep. David Trott, and will be competitive.  The post below examines these races in detail.

2018 Michigan Congressional Races

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 NW Wayne (7), Macomb (10), Monroe (17), Kalamazoo County (20), Grand Rapids (29), Bay County (31), Saginaw (32), Muskegon (34), and the UP (38). There will be competitive R primaries in districts 12, 19, 21, 24, 26, 30, 31, 34, 35 to determine the ideological composition of the senate.  The post below examines these races in detail.

2018 Michigan State Senate Elections

20th District (Kalamazoo County) Tossup
Kalamazoo County is a battleground, with Ds usually winning the top of the ticket, and Republicans doing better at the bottom.  In 2014, Margaret O'Brien (10-14) defeated D state rep Sean McCann (10-14) by just 61 votes, with Libertarian former R state rep Lorence Wenke (04-10) taking 9%.  McCann and Wenke are running again, setting up a three-way rematch of 2014.

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 42 open seats due to term limits and candidates running for other offices.  Both parties have potential targets to pickup.

2018 Michigan State House Races

60th District (Kalamazoo City) Safe democrat
Democrat state rep Jon Hoadley was first elected in 2014.  William Baker is the R candidate.
61st District (Portage, Oshtemo) Tossup
Republican state rep Brandt Iden was elected 48-43 in 2014 and 49-44 in 2016, defeating D Pastor John Fisher both times.  Ds will choose between Alberta Griffin, Corey Kendall, and Thomas Whitener.
63rd District (E Kalamazoo, S Calhoun) Safe Republican
R state rep David Maturen was first elected in 2014.  He is being challenged by Republican official Matt Hall and Richland Township Trustee Paul Foust.  Jennifer Aniano is the D candidate.
66th District (Van Buren, Cooper) Safe Republican
R state rep Beth Griffin was first elected in 2016.  The D candidate is Dan Seibert.

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 will target Republican Scott McGraw (district 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.