Michigan House to Stay Democratic

At the start of the year, the Michigan House looked to be one of the more competitive chambers. Democrats narrowly captured control in 2006 and hold ...
by | October 28, 2008

Michigan House At the start of the year, the Michigan House looked to be one of the more competitive chambers. Democrats narrowly captured control in 2006 and hold just a three-seat majority. With Michigan in the economic doldrums deeper and longer than other states and several legislators facing recall efforts due to last year's highly unpopular tax code rewrite, including Speaker Andy Dillon, it appeared that Republicans would have a real shot.

It's not playing out that way, however.

Republicans are having to defend a lot more seats left open due to term limits -- 29, compared with the Democrats' 16 vacancies. And they are all being hurt by John McCain's now-infamous decision to pull resources out of Michigan early.

In addition, Democrats are benefiting from one of the deep-pocketed sugar daddies who have become an unfortunate fixture, in my view, in the battles over state legislative control. In Michigan's case, Kalamazoo billionaire Jon Stryker, the heir to a medical equipment fortune, has given $4 million to fund the Coalition for Progress, which in turn helps Democrats with ads, phone calls, polling and other research.

That's more than either state party has raised and it's still an early estimat. He spent $5 million in 2006, but then that was a gubenatorial year.

Referring to one frustrated Republican House candidate, the Battle Creek Enquirer recently editorialized,

Moore's recent distribution of a flier "exposing the money behind Kate Segal" from "billionaire homosexual activist Jon Stryker" - a $500 contribution - was as offensive as it was unnecessary.

Putting Stryker aside, it's clearly bad times for the Michigan GOP. State Rep. Brian Calley, who is chairing the House GOP's campaign efforts, told the Detroit News last week, "I fully acknowledge the environment is horrible for us. We just have to keep at it."

Indeed, Republican campaign spokesmen have been reduced to saying that the people deserve better than the Democratic majority that they're clearly going to keep and arguing, despite Barack Obama's 14 or so-point polling lead, that the coattails effect is largely a mythical beast whose presence is rarely actually felt come Election Day.

But other observers are predicting it will have a real impact. EPIC-MRA pollster Bernie Porn predicts Democrats will pick up seven to 10 seats, comparing the upcoming drubbing to GOP gains in 1984 thanks to the coattails of Ronald Reagan.

Bill Ballenger, a former legislator and editor of Inside Michigan Politics, thinks it will be even worse for Republicans. "Democrats are going to pick up more seats," he says. "I think it could be a lot, it could be as many as a dozen.

"They could end up with a 70-40 majority."

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