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Posted on 01.02.2018 Under Legislative, Recent Post

Judy Augenstein, Legislative Consultant

While all 38 Senate seats are up for election next year, 10 at this point can be considered competitive at least on paper.

While 10 seats that could be competitive are in Republican hands. Candidate recruitment, district dynamics and money are among the key elements that will make all the difference between individual races becoming dogged fights or remaining safe turf for Republicans.

Following is a look at the state of play in the competitive seats in the order of best chance to change party control.

POSSIBLE SLUGFEST IN 29TH: Democrats will be itching to make this race a high priority to flip a seat, with two evenly matched House members set to square off. Rep. Winnie Brinks (D-Grand Rapids) will be facing Rep. Chris Afendoulis (R-Grand Rapids Township) to replace term-limited Sen. Dave Hildenbrand (R-Lowell). While Ms. Brinks should have a strong performance in Grand Rapids, the suburban areas of this Kent County district favor

Republicans, so something will have to give. Both have shown the ability to raise big money, and this race could wind up the most expensive in the state. President Donald Trump ran below the Republican base in Kent County, so if there’s an anti-Trump wave, this is a seat where it could show up.

TOUGH FIGHT AHEAD IN 38TH: District dynamics and strength of campaign will be critical in this competitive district in an area that is trending Republican. It is currently held by Sen. Tom Casperson (R-Escanaba) and features candidates who are strong in their respective House district areas. Rep. Scott Dianda (D-Calumet) is expected to perform well in his western U.P. base against former Republican Rep. Ed McBroom of Vulcan, who will run well in his base in the Bay de Noc region. Mr. Dianda has a natural edge in the area of the seat neither has represented, the Democratic-leaning Marquette region. Both are strong campaigners who have voted their district with Mr. Dianda breaking with Democrats and Mr. McBroom breaking with Republicans. Mr. McBroom will need to hope the U.P.’s shift to the GOP undermines Mr. Dianda’s base in the western U.P.

10TH DISTRICT FAVORS GOP, BUT DEMS EARLY LEAD IN CANDIDATE: This Macomb County district moved further Republican in 2016 and has multiple conservative strongholds lying within its boundaries. Democrats have the edge in the candidate part of the equation early on, enlisting Rep. Henry Yanez (D-Sterling Heights), considered a top recruit for Democrats who has a history of winning tough races. Business owner Michael Shallal is running for the Republicans so far to replace term-limited Sen. Tory Rocca (R-Sterling Heights). Republicans would like to see a more proven candidate, like Macomb County Commissioner and former Rep. Leon Drolet get into the race.

REMATCH IN 20TH LIKELY TO BE TOUGH FIGHT: This is the one Democrats want to have back after former Rep. Sean McCann of Kalamazoo lost by 61 votes to Sen. Margaret O’Brien (R-Portage). Rematches historically favor the incumbent, and incumbent senators rarely lose in re-election bids. However, Kalamazoo has been moving ever more Democratic and backed Hillary Clinton over Mr. Trump in the presidential election. It’s a diverse county with a higher percentage of voters with bachelor’s degrees, promising territory for Democrats in the Trump era. But after Democrats thought Mr. McCann had it in the bag in 2014 only to see Ms. O’Brien win it as the last precinct came in, nothing can be assumed. Ms. O’Brien is a personable, talented campaigner.

REPUBLICANS HAVE THE CANDIDATES IN 34TH: Republicans have a head start in the candidate department in the 34th Senate District that covers Muskegon, Newaygo and Oceana counties. Rep. Holly Hughes (R-White River Township) has put a large amount of money into the campaign already, and former Rep. Jon Bumstead (R-Newaygo) is running too. Democrats so far have fielded DeMario Phillips as a candidate, expected to be a bit player in the eventual outcome.

COMPETITIVE, BUT LEANS REPUBLICAN

STRONG DEM COULD PUT 31ST IN PLAY: Republicans have the upper hand in the three-county 31st Senate District in the Saginaw Bay region that tends to lean their way. Rep. Gary Glenn (R-Williams Township) and former Rep. Kevin Daley (R-Lum) will be fighting for the GOP nod to face Democratic longtime Bay County Clerk Cynthia Luczak. Ms. Luzcak is considered a strong candidate but will face the typical Democratic obstacle in the district: picking up support outside of more Democratic Bay County to mount a strong challenge.
This district is in the heart of Trump country. It’s mostly white with a lower percentage of those with bachelor’s degrees. The Democrats likely need to hope for the Daley-Glenn primary to produce a damaged victor and for a statewide wave to have a chance.

LIKELY REPUBLICAN, BUT COULD FLIP IN A DEMOCRATIC WAVE

COX EARLY FAVORITE IN 7TH: This district chock-full of higher-income voters with bachelor’s degrees is historically Republican, but could be vulnerable to an anti-Trump Democratic wave. Still, Republicans have highly popular Rep. Laura Cox (R-Livonia) in the race, who has represented most of the district either in the House or on the Wayne County Commission, making it an uphill climb for Democrats. The eventual Democratic candidate appears at this point to be either psychiatrist Ghulam Qadir of Northville or business owner Dayna Polehanki of Livonia. This is a seat where Democrats need a wave to have a chance.

DEMS NEED HELP TO MAKE 12TH HIGHLY COMPETITIVE: Republicans have the edge in this district and Democrats would need to score big with a great candidate and campaign here as well as pick off a number of anti-Trump voters in the high-income, high-educated district to have a shot. A huge turnout in heavily Democratic Pontiac also is essential. Rep. Jim Tedder (R-Clarkston) is in so far, with Rep. Michael McCready (R-Bloomfield Hills) weighing a run, too. So far business owner Rosemary Bayer of Beverly Hills and Jeremy Haines of Lake Orion are vying for the Democratic nomination. Again, Democrats need an anti-Trump wave to pull off the upset here.

KNOLLENBERG TOUGH TO BEAT IN 13TH: The heart of this district, Rochester Hills and Troy, have shown signs of becoming more Democratic, but Sen. Marty Knollenberg(R-Troy) will be difficult to dislodge in an area that historically backs Republican candidates. It will take a Democratic wave to deny Mr. Knollenberg a second term. Facing him is Mallory McMorrow of Royal Oak, a freelance consultant and one of a number of women candidate recruits Democratic officials have been touting. She’s off to a strong start in fundraising.

ROSSMAN-MCKINNEY COULD PUT 24TH IN PLAY: A tough Republican primary in this fairly strong Republican district will be followed by the winner squaring off against what Democrats hope is a strong candidate that might be able to make an ordinarily out-of-reach district competitive. Rep. Brett Roberts (R-Eaton Township) and Rep. Tom Barrett (R-Potterville) are in for the Republicans. In for the Democrats is Kelly Rossman-McKinney of Delta Township, a longtime Lansing public relations executive. Democrats are hoping her connections, fundraising ability and outmigration from Lansing of Democratic voters to places like Delta Township and DeWitt can put the seat in play.

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