Here are my thoughts on the local elections in Kalamazoo County.
State Senate--20th District
Incumbent Republican Tom George will seek reelection against Democratic State Rep. Alexander Lipsey of Kalamazoo. Lipsey had been running for Michigan Attorney General, but the State Democratic establishment, led by Governor Granholm, succeeded in forcing him out of the race.
The district is competitive, as Kerry won it in 2004, but George won it by about 10 points as an open seat against a capable Democrat four years ago. This time, he's the incumbent, and he remains capable and popular. Lipsey has a liberal record that should provide plenty of ammunition. There's no reason to think that George won't get at least as large a percentage this time.
State House--60th District
Rep. Lipsey is vacating this seat due to term limits. On the Democratic side, former Kalamazoo Mayor Robert Jones is seeking the seat. Jones received the most votes in four consecutive city commission elections.
He is opposed by Rev. Jerry McNeely, who can best be described as Kalamazoo's Al Sharpton. This race can only be seen as a grudge match for McNeely. He attacked Jones and the city as racist and caused significant racial problems last year. In response, Jones got him transferred out of his church.
Jones is the candidate that the Democratic Party wants, and there's no reason to think that he won't win this primary easily. However, it could be an ugly campaign to get there.
On the Republican side, there are two candidates--frequent candidate Gloria Ham and Armando Romero, owner of a translation business. Romero is the preferred candidate of the local Republican party.
Romero is a credible candidate, but he will be a definite underdog in a liberal district that has not elected a Republican in recent memory.
State House--61st District
Conservative State Rep. Jack Hoogendyk is running for a third and final term. He is a hero to conservatives who has sponsored a bill to make English the official language of Michigan, amongst other measures. He is being challenged by two candidates in the primary, including moderate Portage City Councilman Larry DeShazor. Hoogendyk is a popular incumbent with a strong base of support, and he is likely to win the primary.
The Republican nominee is almost certain to win against an unknown Democrat.
State House--63rd District
State Rep. Lorence Wenke is running for reelection. He is being challenged in the primary by former State Rep. Jerry VanderRoest. Due to term limits, both candidates can only serve one more term in the State House.
Wenke is known as a moderate, and VanderRoest is a staunch conservative. Two years ago, VanderRoest challenged Wenke in the primary and came within 80 votes of defeating him. The main issue was Wenke's vote against a constitutional amendment defining marriage to be the union of one man and one woman. It failed in the legislature and was subsequently passed through the referendum process. Taxes and abortion were also issues in the race.
VanderRoest nearly defeated Wenke despite being vastly outspent. His chances this time depend on his ability to raise money, and Wenke's willingness to spend his own money.
The Republican nominee should have no problems in November.
Most of the seventeen county commission races will not be particularly competitive, and six will not have any competition in the general election. All of the Republican incumbents are running for reelection. I'm not familiar with any of their Democratic challengers, so I don't know if any of them are in any danger. Here are my thoughts on a few of the Democrat-held seats.
In District 1, Democrat Dan McGlinn is retiring. Democrat Jack Urban will take on Republican Mark Liddle. This district is the campus of WMU and the Westnedge Hill area.
In District 2, Democrat Eva Ozier is retiring. Surprisingly, Democrat Carolyn Alford is the only candidate in either party. This district is the heavily Democratic Northside.
In District 4, Democratic incumbent John Taylor faces a strong challenge from Republican Army veteran Tom Barrett. This district is the Arcadia, Knollwood, Winchell, Oakwood, and Parkview Hills neighborhood.
In District 5, Democratic incumbent Brian Johnson is being challenged by Republican Rob Bricker.
In District 6, Democratic incumbent Franklin Thompson is being challenged in the primary by Larry Stieglitz. The Democratic establishment may be backing Stieglitz. Thompson has been convicted of domestic violence and is known for erratic behavior. No Republican filed for the seat.
In District 7, Democratic incumbent David Buskirk is being challenged by Republican Brandon Moore.