Saturday, November 11, 2006

Analysis: Michigan

This was a tough election for Michigan Republicans. We can be glad that it wasn't even worse. The results for all the Michigan races can be found at the Detroit News.

The gubernatorial race is the subject of a separate post.

Democratic Senator Debbie Stabenow beat Republican Michael Bouchard by 57% to 41%. Bouchard trailed DeVos by about 1%. This race was uphill from the beginning, against a well-funded incumbent Senator. Bouchard had to deal with a tough primary with Keith Butler that left him short on cash.

Bouchard hit many of the right themes in his campaign, particularly immigration and government spending. But the national environment was too difficult, and Bouchard didn't have enough money to hammer them home. Stabenow's smartest move in office was voting against the Senate amnesty bill, which let her run against the President and shamelessly lie about her vote to give Social Security benefits to beneficiaries of an amnesty. The theme of ineffectiveness was weaker, given that some people don't consider not passing bills to be a bad thing.

Republican Attorney General Mike Cox defeated his Democratic challenger Amos Williams. He won 54% to 43%, a significant improvement over 2002, when he won by only a few thousand votes. Cox benefited from a weak Democrat challenger. He may well have lost if Democrats had nominated Scott Bowen or even Alexander Lipsey.

Republican Secretary of State Terri Lynn Land easily defeated Democrat Carmella Sabaugh. She won by 56% to 42%, about the same margin as in 2002. Both Land and Cox are likely Republican nominees in future races.

As expected, both incumbent members of the Supreme Court won easily. Democrat nominee Michael Cavanaugh got 40%, and Republican nominee Maura Corrigan got 34%. Interestingly, Republican nominee Marc Shulman got only 8%, compared to Libertarian nominee Kerry Morgan's 7%.

Republicans lost all eight education board races, with four incumbents defeated. Democrats consistently got about 1.6 million votes, to about 1.4 million votes for Republicans. Interestingly, the top Republican vote-getter was staunch conservative Tom McMillin. Local Republican Susan Brown was next, trailing McMillin by about 2000 votes. I wonder if Brown would have done better if she had campaigned on support for the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative.

Michigan Republicans held all nine of their seats in Congress. Conservative Republican Tim Walberg won the 7th district race against Democrat Sharon Renier. He won by a relatively close 51% to 46% margin. This is a big victory for conservatives, as Walberg defeated moderate Republican Joe Schwarz in the primary. Schwarz had refused to endorse Walberg, and filed as a write-in candidate at the last minute. Schwarz received 1935 votes, slightly less than 1% of the vote. Why the Democrats didn't target this seat remains a mystery. If they had recruited a credible candidate and raised money, they would have had a good chance to win.

In other races, Republican Joe Knollenberg won by only 6%. Thaddeus McCotter won by 11%, and Mike Rogers won by 12%. In the 6th district, Republican Fred Upton defeated Democrat Kim Clark by 61% to 38%, a few points below his usual margin. Libertarian Ken Howe got 1%.

In a bright spot, Republicans held the State Senate. They now control it 21-17. Republicans never had a chance of picking up seats, the only question was how many they would lose. The answer was only one. Republican incumbent Laura Toy was defeated in her Livonia area district. Republican incumbents Tom George and Jerry VanWoerkem won narrow victories in Kalamazoo and Muskegon. Republicans John Pappageorge and Roger Khan won very narrow open seat victories in Troy and Saginaw. Marginal changes in Troy and Flint districts mean the senate will be equally conservative. It will serve as a bulwark against liberal policies in Michigan. In four years, Republicans will have a good chance to pick up several Democrat seats.

Republicans lost six State House seats and control of the State House. They went from a 58-52 majority to a 52-58 minority. They lost incumbents Rick Baxter and Leslie Mortimer in Jackson County and David Farhat in Muskegon. They lost open seats in Grand Rapids, Plymouth/Northville, and the Thumb. Several incumbents survived close races.

With the defeat of Laura Toy, the Republicans in the Michigan legislature are 100% Right to Life endorsed. Although Republicans lost the State House, it retains a pro-life majority. Pro-life Democrat Andy Dillon is a serious candidate for House Speaker.

Proposal 1, the conservation fund, passed easily, 81% to 19%. Without visible support or opposition, it seems to have passed based on support from the state legislature and some newspapers.

Proposal 2, the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative, is the subject of a separate post.

Proposal 3, dove hunting, failed 69% to 31%. This vote was based on emotion rather than reason. The opposition ran an effective campaign, with many letters to the editor. The proponents needed to tie the opponents to animal rights extremists. A few ads did this, but not enough.

Proposal 4, restricting eminent domain, passed easily, 80% to 20%. This was an easy choice for voters.

Proposal 5, the K-16 initiative, failed 62% to 38%. This proposal started with a large lead in the polls, but I knew it would fail once everyone came out against it and voters considered the cost. This was a money grab by the teachers unions. A similar money grab by several medical organizations failed four years ago.

Overall, it was a bad year for Michigan Republicans, but it could have been worse. We can be proud of reelecting Land and Cox, holding the State Senate, passing the MCRI and stopping K-16. Principled conservatism can help us to reclaim Michigan.

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