4/22/2014

Filing deadline offers few surprises

It's 5:30 - do you know who your candidates are?

Here's the unofficial list of Democratic and Republican candidates for Governor, US Senate and House, state legislature, and judgeships. Keep in mind that candidates have until 4:00 on Friday to withdraw.

Gongwer had a piece today about some of the big surprises of filing deadlines past, including the Great Schmidt-storm of 2012 and a guy who tried to run for Governor against Posthumus and Schwarz but who didn't get enough valid signatures.

No huge surprises of that sort today, but a few remarks:

Governor and US Senate

No surprise here. It does seem a little odd that, in a year in which the governorship is hotly contested and the US Senate seat is open, neither race has a competitive primary.

Congress

It will officially be a three-way battle with Barnett, Bishop, and McMillin in the 8th. Meanwhile, John Moolenaar's path to Congress is complicated by the candidacies of Paul Mitchell and Peter Konetchy (the latter of whom got in the race while Camp was still expected to run).

I'm surprised that Jeffrey Hank (D-8th) and Raymond Mullins (D-12th) ended up filing. Brian Ellis only turned in 1,200 signatures in the 3rd, while Douglas North only turned in 1,110 in the 7th. Given that 1,000 of them need to be valid, don't be surprised if Amash and Walberg supporters challenge these signatures.

State Senate

District 2 features five Democrats, including incumbent Bert Johnson, John Olumba, Some Dude, and - get this - two people named Lemmons who live at the same address! I'd expect one of them to withdraw their name before this Friday's withdrawal deadline.

After filing only 551 signatures (cutting it close, since 500 needed to be valid), Patrick Colbeck withdrew his candidacy and then re-filed with the $100 filing fee.

In the open-seat 28th (a reliably Republican seat), current Rep. Peter MacGregor faces off against a guy named Kevin Green (who may or may not be this Kevin Green). Also in the race: Tommy Brann of Brann's steakhouse fame. More people are running for the right to Replace MacGRegor in the 73rd House seat.

Geoff Hansen (R-34th) has to face a primary challenge from Nick Sundquist for the right to lose to Cathy Forbes in the fall.

Democrats Chris LaMarche and Chris Germain filed to run against Tom Casperson in the 38th. LaMarche only filed 566 signatures (again, cutting it very close), while Germain went with the filing fee. I don't know much about LaMarche, but I do know Germain is kind of young. Oftentimes young candidates running in swing districts are met with skepticism in terms of their ability to win a tough race, but we'll see how it all plays out.

State House

Three candidates will vie for the right to lose to Winnie Brinks in the 76th: Keith Allard, who ran as an independent in 2012, as well as former GR city comptrollers Donijo DeJonge and Stan Milanowski.

One of the few other area in which Dems have to play defense is the 91st district - Holly Hughes, who was elected in 2010 but lost in 2012, has two primary opponents.

5/07/2013

Vote, run, and get trained

A few quick things for your Tuesday…

1. Today, many communities and school districts - not all, but some - are holding elections for such things as millages, bonds, and the like.Click here to see if your community is holding an election, and if so, remember to VOTE!

2. A week from today, May 14, is the deadline to file to run for local office in Michigan this year. Many cities are electing mayors, city commissioners/councilmembers, and so forth. For more information on running, contact your city clerk's office. We need good progressives at all levels of government - so please consider running for office!

3. Be sure to apply for Center for Progressive Leadership's training in Kalamazoo. Applications are due a week from tomorrow!

2/22/2013

Social media, brand management - and Michigan Democrats

(As we head into the final 24 hours of a hotly contested campaign for MDP Chair, I wanted to express a few thoughts regarding what Democrats - not only on Townsend Street in Lansing, but Democrats in general - need to do regarding communicating our message and managing the Democratic brand.)

Three years ago, we saw one of the most egregious attacks on our Republic since its founding. The Citizens United decision posed - and continues to pose - a substantial threat to the integrity of our elections. Later that year, we saw just how detrimental unregulated corporate funding of our elections can be to our Party and our civic process.

One of the major reasons Citizens United is such a detriment to our elections is that it enables politicians and corporations to manipulate the message voters hear by buying up hundreds - even thousands - of points in TV advertising, plus countless lit pieces, robocalls, and the like. (For those who don't know, for every 100 points of TV advertising bought by a campaign or company, the average viewer will see their ad  once. For example, if a campaign buys 700 points' worth of TV advertising, then the average viewer will see their ad(s) seven times.)

While Citizens United puts progressives and democracy itself at a disadvantage, we have a powerful tool up our sleeves. A tool which, if used effectively, can neutralize the harmful effects of Citizens United. A tool which Obama used very effectively in 2008 and 2012 - and one which we Michigan Democrats need to use effectively in order to elect Democrats up and down the ballot.

That tool is social media.


Social media and brand/reputation management
When I say the words "Ann Arbor," what comes to mind? It probably involves the University of Meeeeeeeee-chigan.

What about "Detroit Tigers?" Perhaps you think of one of their players, either past or present. Perhaps Jim Leyland, Sparky Anderson, or Ernie Harwell come to mind. Maybe you think of the 2012 AL championship, Comerica Park, the Illitch family, or perhaps their losing ways of just a few years ago.

Let's try another one: Unions. Many of us on the left think of the word "Solidarity," while others think of good wages and working conditions. Sadly, some think of "union bosses" and "thugs."

What are three things that people associate with you? What are three things they associate with Obama? Romney? Snyder? Urbanowski? (Just kidding - 2022 is still a few years away.)

I could go on, but the point is, your average John Q. LionsSuck is going to associate certain entities with certain things. They draw on those things when deciding what to buy, where to shop, what to watch - and yes, how to vote. The point of brand management is to ensure that people associate you, your campaign, or your company with only positive things - making them more likely to vote for you or buy your product or service.

In 2008, people associated Obama with hope and change, while they associated McCain with "more of the same" (i.e. more Dubya). In 2012, it was Obama's "Forward" versus the out-of-touch Romney. In both years, OFA used social media to effectively paint both Obama and his opponent as they wanted. In 2010, on the other hand, we saw "one tough nerd" beat "the angry mayor." As Bernero's fate reminded us, we can't always control our reputation - but we better do what we can.

People are busy. They hear dozens - even hundreds - of messages each day telling them what to wear, what to drive, where to vacation, and what to eat. During election season, they also see hundreds of messages about how to vote. As you can imagine, it can be hard for the brain to retain all that information. Indeed, the brain only remembers so much about certain entities. That could explain why, with all the ads you have heard over the years for a certain shoe brand, you still associate said brand with the phrase "Just do it."

If a voter sees a TV commercial saying "Vote for X," and then they see something on Facebook saying "Vote for Y," they get two conflicting messages - but one campaign paid a considerable amount of money to spread that message, while the other campaign likely spent little, if anything. (NB: the impact of Facebook ads is not the same as the impact of a TV commercial, which is not the same as the impact of a lit piece in the mail, etc.)

This is why campaigns and parties need to be careful how to spend their communications dollars. Just as the candidate with the most money doesn't always win, the candidate with the most likes and retweets won't always win. Just like money, social media must be used properly and effectively by candidates, in order to ensure that voters have a favorable view of the Democratic brand and its candidates. As George W. Bush would say, candidates need to use "strategery."


When used effectively, social media can also:

Help candidates and electeds stay in touch with their voters. People are more likely to vote for candidates if they feel connected to those candidates.

Remind supporters to vote. Two things are well documented: (1) More Americans lean Democratic than Republican and agree with us on issues - yet (2) Republican voters are more likely to vote consistently, in every election, without missing one. While it's hard to forget about a presidential election - and while few people miss a presidential election because they forgot to vote - people are much more likely to forget about voting in a midterm, primary, or local election. Social media can, and should, supplement phone banking and door-to-door as effective GOTV tools. (Notice I said "supplement," not "replace" - social media cannot replace these more traditional GOTV methods!)

Educate people about issues and candidates. Why is it important to raise the minimum wage? Why should we buy local? What is it about Candidate Z's character that would make her an impeccable public servant? Social media can be an effective way of getting people to understand issues and candidates.

Educate people about the voting process. The 2012 ballot was one of the more confusing ballots in recent Michigan history. Result? Some voters voted straight Democratic, not realizing that that they hadn't voted for our Supreme Court candidates. (Judge Connie Kelley got 45% fewer votes than Obama.) Not understanding everything on the ballot, many people voted No on all 6 statewide proposals. Yet consider the example of Justice McCormack, who credits her victory to Facebook ads, among other things.

Refute lies. True or false? In non-"right-to-work" states, you must join a union and pay union dues in order to work in a unionized environment. That, of course, is false. Thanks to a long-ago Supreme Court ruling, no American is required to join any union under any circumstances. It is shocking how many people don't realize that. Yet because they don't, Right-to-freeload supporters are more likely to get away with their lies."If the Republicans will stop telling lies about the Democrats," Adlai Stevenson promised, "we will stop telling the truth about them." The way things are going, we won't have to stop telling the truth about them anytime soon. OFA's Truth Team was a great example of using the power of the Internet to speak the truth about the President's record.

A look at demographics
With any type of marketing, you have to know your audience.

Pew recently published a report on internet users and social media. Among their key findings: Social media users tend to be younger, with 83% of 18- to 29-year-old Internet users on at least one social network. Internet users who make less than $30,000 per year are more likely to use social media than those who make more than $30,000. Furthermore, among internet users, women, residents of urban areas, and minorities are more likely to use social media than men, rural residents, and Caucasians, respectively.

Youth, lower-income Americans, minorities, women, urban residents... Notice a trend? This is our base! These are the people whose support we need in order to win. These are the people to whom we need to be reaching out.

Because it is such a new phenomenon, the role of social media on politics is the subject of much debate. But there is little doubt that social media does play a role in elections by affecting how voters view candidates and brands. For this reason, unless you are a 'paper candidate' who has no chance of winning (as this blogger was in 2012), your campaign needs to use social media. And that is why social media needs to play a bigger role in Democrats' communication efforts going forward.

2/15/2013

So, if there's a floor fight at Cobo...

(Note: I prepared this based on the rules that have been used in recent conventions, including the 2010 Endorsement Convention. It's possible that things have changed/will change for the upcoming convention; I am not aware of any such changes.)

So it's looking very likely that we will have a contested vote (a.k.a. "floor fight") for Chair at the MDP Convention two weeks from tomorrow! Okay, a part of me thinks it will be settled before it gets to the floor, but what happens if we go to a floor fight?

No, it won't be a 'direct' or 'popular' vote. If 1,501 people show up at Cobo and vote for one candidate, while 1,502 people vote for the other, the latter won't necessarily be Chair.


For purposes of voting at conventions, the MDP divides up the state based on two things: Counties and Congressional districts. Currently, 73 of our 83 counties are entirely within a congressional district; eight counties are covered by parts of two congressional districts; and Oakland and Wayne each cover part of four congressional districts. That gives us 97 different territories (to use a field term, I'll call them "turfs") to which votes are allocated.

Each turf gets one convention vote for every 500 votes Jocelyn Benson got in 2010 in said turf. For example, I live in Kent County and the 2nd District, where Jocelyn received almost 16,000 votes; 16,000/500=32 delegate votes.

When it comes time to vote on the 23rd, a person will note our county and congressional district (it will be printed on our name tag that we pick up when we register at Cobo), and we will tell them whom we support. (Alternatively, those supporting Johnson will be asked to stand in one place, while those supporting Brewer will be in a separate group.) Keep in mind that this will be a public vote; MDP (and I think DNC) rules proibit secret ballots.

The person chairing the convention will call on the chair of each District Party, who will then announce how many convention attendees from each county in the district voted for each candidate. The secretary will then plug those numbers into a spreadsheet that is projected onto a screen for all to see.

A turf's delegate votes are then allocated to candidates in proportion to how many people voted for that candidate. (This is where that spreadsheet comes in handy!) So if there are 32 of us from the Kent/2CD turf, and 17 vote for Candidate A while 15 vote for Candidate B, then A gets 17 votes while B gets 15. In the unlikely event that I'm the only person from this turf to show up at Cobo, then my candidate of choice will receive 32 votes. If there are five of us there, and we vote 4-1, then our votes will be divided up 25.6 to 6.4. Note that those numbers are not rounded; decimals do play a role.

What if no one from a turf comes to Cobo?

Now, of those 97 turfs, I can almost guarantee you one thing: Some turfs will not have any voting MDP members on the floor at Cobo. That will particularly be likely for counties in the UP and Northern LP. So, what happens to their delegate votes? Are they lost into the ether, never to he seen or heard from again? Nope. They will get allocated to candidates based on how well candidates do in the rest of the congressional district.

Take Dickinson County, for example. Located entirely in the 1st District, Dickinson County gave 3,224 votes to Jocelyn in 2010; thus, they can expect to have 6 votes at Cobo. Suppose that no one from Dickinson shows up at Cobo, and that in those 1st District counties that do have representation, one candidate gets 58% of the delegate vote, while the other gets 42%. In that case, Dickinson's 6 votes get divided up 3.48 to 2.52.

If I'm a candidate for Chair, I'm making sure I get at least some support from as many of those northern counties as I can. That way I can "run up the score" by winning all of the delegates from some of those counties, while simultaneously getting votes from the counties from which no one showed up.

But how will we know if the count is accurate?

As the votes for each turf are announced, we will see those votes plugged into the spreadsheet - and each turf's delegate votes will appear instantaneously. At any point during the process, check the spreadsheet to see how many votes each candidate has amassed. I'd bet the house that both Brewer and Johnson will have folks keeping an eagle's eye on process to ensure that no foul-ups take place.

But Scott, I gotta say: This doesn't seem like a fair process! What happened to "One Person, One Vote?"

I'm reminded of what Winston Churchill once said: "Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all those others that have been tried." Likewise, the MDP's delegate allocation method is the worst way to select party officers and nominees - except for all the other methods. I'd submit to you that this system offers the following advantages:

  1. It ensures that the interests of Democrats across the state are represented, and that candidates have to listen to the views of people from across the state and ask for their votes.
  2. It gives yet another incentive for Democratic activists to get out the vote in their county/district. Had 26 more Dickinson County residents shown up to vote for Jocelyn in 2010, they would have 7 delegate votes instead of 6.
  3. Let's be honest: Some of us don't have to drive as far to Cobo as others. If you live in Hamtramck, Cobo is a quick jaunt down Woodward. It's about three hours for me to drive in from Kentwood. And for our friends in Marquette, it's almost a half-day-long trip. This system rewards those of us who are dedicated enough and who care enough to make a long trip down to Cobo.

12/04/2012

Democrats Favored to Retain Senate in 2014

2012 was supposed to be the year the Republicans regained the Senate.  Just a year ago, with the retirements of Democratic Senators in Hawaii, Nebraska, New Mexico, North Dakota, Virginia, and Wisconsin, and potentially vulnerable Democratic Senators in Florida, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia, Republicans were seen as the favorites to gain the four seats they needed to win back control of the Senate. Some pundits were even suggesting, as far back as two years ago, that Republicans were a lock to win the Senate in 2012.

Then, things happened.

Olympia Snowe retired in Maine. Republicans failed to recruit  top-quality candidates against Senators Bob Casey, Debbie Stabenow, and Joe Manchin. Republican candidates underwhelmed in states like Hawaii. Democrats scored major recruitment victories in all of the open seats they had to defend, as well as in Indiana and Massachusetts. Oh, and Republicans nominated candidates who stuck their feet in their mouth (Todd Akin, Pete Hoekstra, Richard Mourdock, and who could forget George Allen?).

Now, instead of being in the minority and facing near-impossible odds of gaining back the majority,  Democrats will enter the 2014 campaign with an even bigger majority then they had in 2012. Instead of looking to expand a majority, Republicans now must face an even steeper climb en route to a majority in 2014. They need to gain six seats - a feat which is rare outside of wave elections. Only 8 of the last 35 elections saw a swing of 6+ seats in the Senate: 1946, 1948, 1958, 1980, 1994, 2006, 2008, and 2010.

No doubt, the Republicans have a chance. In the wave election that was 2008, Democrats gained eight seats; only a handful of vulnerable Republican-held seats stayed in Republican hands. Those Senators elected in 2008 will now have to face re-election in 2014. If Republicans win every Senate seat in every state that Romney won in 2012, they will win the six seats they need. Put another way, Democrats need to win two seats in states that Romney won. Plus, historical precedent tells us that midterm elections are, in general, bad for the party that holds the White House.

There are a number of other factors which could affect things. In 2014, all of the Affordable Care Act will be in effect, and support for it will likely grow. Also, will the economy continue to rebound? Will each party do what they need to do in terms of recruitment? To what degree will OFA be more involved in 2014 than they were in 2010? The effort and resources that are put into various states will also depend, in part, on competitive races for Governor and Congress in those states; as I will explain in a later post, states like Maine, Michigan, New Hampshire, and New Mexico might have some hotter-than-Hades races for Governor. Oh, and how many Republicans will come down with Foot-in-Mouth Disease?

I have taken the seats each Party will defend in 2014, and I have divided them into two groups: "Safe" and "Maybe." I use the word "maybe" because it is too early to tell whether there will be any significant chance of these seats flipping to the other party. Some of them will end up as toss-ups by November 2014; others will turn out to be duds. Counting the seats I list here as "safe," Republicans can count on 42 seats in the 114th Congress, while Democrats can count on 40. That would leave 18 seats that could go either way - but don't expect all of those seats to actually be very competitive. As the next year unfolds, it will be clear which seats will be hotly contested, and which ones will be safe.

Republican "safe" seats:
Alabama - Jeff Sessions - 1997
Jeff Sessions has had a relatively easy time getting elected and re-elected. That won't change.

Georgia - Saxby Chambliss - 2003
The primary here could be interesting, as Karen Handel may challenge Chambliss, who has renounced Grover Norquist's tax pledge. Still, Democrats' best hope is for the Republican nominee to be caught in a major scandal. And even then, said nominee may fare as well as David Vitter in Louisiana.

Idaho - Jim Risch - 2009
There's a joke about Idaho: "There's only one thing in Idaho: potatoes!" Actually, there are two things: potatoes and Republicans.

Mississippi - Thad Cochran - 1979
Cochran is the most senior Republican whose seat is up in 2014. Even if he does retire, expect the real battle to be in the Republican primary

Nebraska - Mike Johanns - 2009
Johanns is a popular former Governor who served in the Bush Administration.

Oklahoma - Jim Inhofe - 1994
This is Oklahoma. Enough said.

South Carolina - Lindsey Graham - 2003
Graham has made a name for himself as a Senator.

Tennessee - Lamar Alexander - 2003
Alexander is very popular, as is the Republican Party in Tennessee.

Texas - John Cornyn - 2003
Republicans do well statewide in Texas. Perhaps by 2020, Democrats will make a play for this seat and/or for the state's 38 electoral votes. But we're not there yet.

Wyoming - Mike Enzi - 1997
Even if Enzi retires, Republicans shouldn't have any trouble with this seat. Former Gov. Dave Freudenthal (D) could make things interesting, but it's doubtful he would run.

Republican "Maybe" seats:
Kansas - Pat Roberts - 1997
Expect Roberts to be a lock if he runs for re-election. Otherwise, Democrats have two candidates who could make things interesting: Former governors Kathleen Sebelius and Mark Parkinson.

Kentucky - Mitch McConnell - 1985
McConnell, who squeaked into a fifth term in 2008, will be 72 in 2014, making it an uncertainty whether he will run again. Even if he does, Democrats may want to put up a serious challenge to him, if for no other reason than to avenge his actions during the Obama era. Word is that Ashlkey Judd is weighing a challenge to McConnell. Even if she doesn't, Rep. John Yarmuth, recently defeated Rep. Ben Chandler, and Gov. Steve Beshear would all be formidable contenders for Democrats in a state which, despite its Republican lean in presidential contests, has elected Democrats statewide.

Maine - Susan Collins - 1997
If Collins runs again - and if the Tea Party doesn't do to her what they did to Dick Lugar this year - she is a very good bet to win. Despite a wave election and a relatively strong challenge from Tom Allen, Democrats were unable to defeat Collins in 2008. If Collins follows Olympia Snowe into retirement, the Democrats have a golden opportunity here. Representatives Mike Michaud and Chellie Pingree (the latter of whom ran against Collins in 2002 and succeeded Allen in 2008), along with former Governor John Baldacci, could have an excellent chance of winning this seat for Team Blue. They may also be interested in knocking off that state's conservative governor, Paul LePage (who himself could run for Senate, especially if Collins retires).

Democratic "safe" seats:
Delaware - Chris Coons - 2010
Coons was elected in 2010 to fill the remaining four years of Joe Biden's term. Expect Coons to cruise to re-election, just like Biden and Tom Carper.

Illinois - Dick Durbin - 1997
Senate Majority Whip Durbin was elected in 1996 and has yet to face a credible challenger in this Democratic-leaning state.

Minnesota - Al Franken - 2009
First-term Sen. Amy Klobuchar didn't garner significant opposition in 2012; there's little reason to think the better-known Franken will have a tougher race in 2014 than did Klobuchar in 2012.

Oregon - Jeff Merkley - 2009
Make no mistake: Oregon is a blue state. Obama won it handily twice, and Democrats have held the governorship since before I was born. Don't expect a high-profile challenge to Merkley; relative to other US Senate races, this certainly won't be low-hanging fruit for national Republicans. Moreover, the Republican bench here is thinner than a supermodel.

Rhode Island - Jack Reed - 1997
Jack Reed is a popular Senator who may be in line to succeed Carl Levin as Armed Services Chair if Levin retires. Reed was considered by some to be a potential running mate for Obama in 2008.

Democratic "maybe" seats:
Alaska - Mark Begich - 2009
Begich was elected in 2008 on the back of three things: A Democratic wave; Presidential turn-out; and discontent with incumbent Senator ted Stevens. Those latter two factors (and probably the third) won't benefit Begich this time. That makes him one of the incumbents most likely to face a tough challenge.

Arkansas - Mark Pryor - 2003
The son of another former Senator, Mark Pryor has been rather popular in Arkansas. In 2008, he didn't even garner a challenge. 2014 could be different for Pryor, now the only Democrat in the Arkansas congressional delegation. In 2010, Republicans knocked off Sen. Blanche Lincoln; they will hope to do the same with Pryor. Still, Pryor's popularity will give him better odds.

Colorado - Mark Udall - 2009
Udall is part of a very well known political family. The elections of Udall and his cousin, Tom, in 2008 were not foregone conclusions, especially since they were Republican-held seat. Still, Democrats have done rather well in Colorado in recent years. Not only did Obama win the state twice, but Democrats have won every Senate and gubernatorial race since 2004 - including hotly contested races for Governor and US Senate in 2010, of all years. Of the Democrats who could be vulnerable, the Udalls are probably most likely to hold on to their seats for another term.

Iowa - Tom Harkin - 1985
Both Harkin and the state's other Senator, Republican Chuck Grassley, have been fuxtures in Iowa politics since before I was born. Harkin won close races in 1984, 1990, 1996, and 2002, but he got more than 62% in 2008. If Harkin, then 75, runs again, he will be the prohibitive favorite. If he retires, however, expect a wide open race. Potential Democratic candidates include Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack; US Representatives Dave Loebsack and Bruce Braley, each of whom have often done better in their districts than other Democrats; and Leonard Boswell, whose 'lucky streak' of winning close-fought races came to an end this year. Republican contenders could include Representatives Tom Latham and Steve King. Expect a lot of visits from 2016 contenders to this state.

Louisiana - Mary Landrieu - 1997
The Landrieu family is quite popular. Still, Landrieu hasn't had an easy time of it in her previous races. Republicans have a deep bench from which they can draw a challenger to Landrieu.

Massachusetts - John Kerry - 1985
If Kerry is still in the Senate (he is named as a possible Secretary of State or Defense in Obama's second term), and if he runs for a sixth term in 2014, he should be a lock. If Kerry joins the Administration or retires, Republicans will be clamoring for Scott Brown to get back in. If he does, he will be quite formidable. Even so, the state's entire Congressional delegation is Democratic, as is Gov. Deval Patrick (who some mention as a possibility for President in 2016).

Michigan - Carl Levin - 1979
What can I say about Levin? He's funny, he's dedicated, and I look up to him. Unfortunately, he will be 80 in 2014, so he may retire. If he does, Democrats have some possibilities, most notably Rep. Gary Peters. Other contenders include former Rep. Mark Schauer, outgoing Rep. Hansen Clarke (who may run for Peters's House seat if Peters himself runs for Senate), Rep.-elect Dan Kildee, and state Senate Democratic Leader Gretchen Whitmer. All of these individuals' names have also been bandied about as candidates for Governor in 2014. Furthermore, Democrats will hold a combined 24-8 majority of seats on statewide education boards (State Board of Ed, U-M Regent, etc). Of those individuals, Regent-elect Mark Bernstein is perhaps best known across the state. Republicans have a deeper bench, which might include Secretary of State Ruth Johnson, Attorney General Bill Schuette (who ran for the same seat in 1990), and Reps. Dan Benishek, Bill Huizenga, Justin Amash, and Tim Walberg.

Montana - Max Baucus - 1979
Democrats are coming off a banner year here. Other than losses in the Presidential and US House races, Democrats swept the other statewide contests in Montana. If Baucus retires, expect a wide-open race that could go either way. Sen. Jon Tester won a hard-fought re-electon race in 2012; expect outgoing Rep. Denny Rehberg, who lost to Tester, to have another go at it. Other candidates may include former US Rep. Rick Hill, who lost the 2012 governor's race in a heartbreaker; Rep.-elect Steve Daines; and former Governors Marc Racicot and Judy Martz. Brian Schweitzer, the populist Democrat who is stepping aside, may run if Baucus retires. Other candidates may include Auditor Monica Lindeen; Superintendent Denise Juneau; and Secretary of State Linda McCulloch.

New Hampshire - Jeanne Shaheen - 2009
New Hampshire is the only state whose entire Congressional delegation is female. Shaheen was the first Democrat to win a Senate race in New Hampshire since John Durkin's two-vote win in 1974. The state was won by Clinton twice, Bush in 2000, Kerry in 2004, and Obama twice. Democrats have won eight of the last nine governor's races in New Hampshire. In 2012, Democrats won both of New Hampshire's competitive congressional races. Either of the state's now-ousted members of Congress, Frank Guinta and Jeb Bradley, could make a run for Senate in 2014, though they may be interested in winning back their House seats. John Sununu, who beat Shaheen in 2002 and lost to her in 2008, might also want this seat back.

New Jersey - Frank Lautenberg - 2003
Lautenberg was first elected in 1982, retired in 2002, and came back in 2002 to replace scandal-plagued Robert Toricelli on the 2002 ballot. Don't be surprised if Lautenberg re-retires. Overall, New Jersey is a Democratic-leaning state; Democrats have won the state's Presidential electoral votes in each election since 1992, and not since 1972 have Republicans won a Senate race here. Still, this is the home of Chris Christie, and the state's House delegation in 2013-2014 will include six Democrats and six Republicans, any of who could run if Lautenberg retires.

New Mexico - Tom Udall - 2009
Udall is the other of the two Udall cousins who were elected in 2008. The state Tom Udall succeeded longtime Republican Sen. Pete Domenici, and just four years later, Democrats held the state's other US Senate seat, as Martin Heinrich easily won the right to succeed Sen. Jeff Bingaman. Given that Udall is now an incumbent, and given the state's growing Latino population, Republicans may not want to put too much effort into this race. Still, it is worth watching, since Bush won New Mexico in 2004 and Gov. Susana Martinez is a Republican.

North Carolina - Kay Hagan - 2009
Hagan won one of the most high-profile races in North Carolina in 2008, defeating Sen. Elizabeth Dole. Since the well-known Dole was unable to defeat a lesser-known Hagan in 2008, Hagan may be in good shape in 2014. Still, the state has a Republican lean. Romney won the state; the other Senator, Richard Burr, is a Republican; and they just elected their first Republican governor in 20 years.

South Dakota - Tim Johnson - 1997
Johnson famously survived a health scare in 2006 - a massive brain hemorrhage which left many Democrats on edge just weeks after Democrats won back control of the Senate in the 2006 elections. Johnson recovered and won 62% of the vote in 2008. Johnson will turn 68 just before his term expires, making it possible that he will decline a fourth term. Gov. Mike Rounds has already announced that he will run for this seat, but Johnson hasn't announced a decision. Regardless, this is poised to be one of the higher-profile races in 2014. Democrats' best hope may be Johnson, but if he retires, former Rep. Stephanie Herseth Sandlin could also make it a race.

Virginia - Mark Warner - 2009
Virginia has shifted Democratic in the past several years, starting with Warner's 2001 election as governor of Virginia and continuing with Tim Kaine's election as Governor in 2005; the elections of Jim Webb, Warner, and Kaine to the US Senate in 2006, 2008, and 2012, respectively; and Obama's wins in 2008 and 2012. Governor Bob McDonnell is known to have higher ambitions, many expected him to be on Romney's vice-presidential shortlist. Still, the popular Warner is in good shape in this state, and he would start the 2014 campaign as a favorite.

West Virginia - Jay Rockefeller - 1985
Rockefeller has enjoyed relatively easy wins in his races, winning more than 60% of the vote. With the entrance of Rep. Shelley Moore Capito on the Republican side, and with Rockefeller's retirement a distinct possibility, that might change. Capito could capitalize on anti-Obama sentiment in West Virginia. It is worth remembering, however, that even as Republicans have been doing better in Presidential elections here, Democrats have dominated statewide races. winning the governorship in six of the last seven elections. The last time a Republican represented West Virginia in the Senate was 1958. Given this, it is possible that Capito may be the Tom Allen of 2014, Allen having been a Congressman from a small state who, despite his popularity, couldn't make much of a race against the popular incumbent.

11/07/2012

A status quo election

Electoral vote: 303-206; Florida's 29 votes still up in the air

Popular vote: Obama 50%, Romney 48%

Michigan: Obama 53%, Romney 46%; Networks called Michigan for Obama right at 9:00.

US Senate: Democrats will retain majority, as Elizabeth Warren and Joe Donnelly gain seats for the Democrats. Democrats had been expected to lose control of the Senate until just a couple months ago; instead, Dems didn't even suffer a net loss of seats. The only seat to go from blue to red was in Nebraska. Congratulations to Senators-elect Elizabeth Warren, Tim Kaine, Chris Murphy, Mazie Hirono, and America's first openly GLBT Senator, Tammy Baldwin! Here in Michigan, it's Stabenow in a landslid; she will be one of 19 (maybe 20) women in the US Senate - an all-time record.

US House: Republicans will stay in charge, but with a slimmer majority. Bentivolio and Amash win; Benishek had a narrow lead at 4:30 AM.

State Supreme Court: Republicans retain majority. Markman and Zahra win reelection. Bridget Mary McCormack wins the seat of retiring Justice Marilyn Kelly.

State House: Gongwer reports Republicans will retain a 59-51 majority. Tough to swallow, but Democrats had so many obstacles to overcome, including name recognition and money. Bolger narrowly won re-election.

Statewide ballot proposals: All six are defeated. The conservative cry of "hands off our Constitution" appears to have worked. Good news is that it took the "choice on the bridge" and 2/3 proposals down too. (The 2/3 proposal went down 69-31%, thank goodness.) Elsewhere in the country, two states have legalized marijuana for recreational use, and three (possibly four) states have approved marriage equality.

Other races: Oakland County saw Democrats gain two countywide offices; State Rep. Lisa Brown (fanous for other reasons) defeated Republican County Clerk Bill Bullard (Ruth Johnson's successor to the same position), while Jim Nash beat an incumbent to be elected Water Resources Commissioner. Troy Mayor Janice Daniels, a Tea Party darling, has been recalled. Rep. Mark Schauer's wife, Christine, is Treasurer-elect of Calhoun County. And from the Every Vote Really Does Count Department, Union Township Supervisor John Barker appears to have been re-elected by three votes, while a Democrat running for County Commissioner here in Kentwood is ahead by five votes.

A great night for Democrats nationally, but not so much in Michigan. Expect a lot of hand-wringing in the aftermath of the defeats of props 2-4, and in light of the fact that in a year like this, Democrats couldn't take back the State House or Supreme Court.

Still, I am proud of our President for all he has done and for all he will do!

8/08/2012

The end of the road... and the beginning of another

A few moments ago, Trevor R. Thomas offered his congratulations and support to Steve Pestka on his victory in the primary.

Trevor is an exceptional person, and I am proud to have worked with him these past few months. For this being his first run for office, he did an outstanding job. He has an outstanding future ahead of him.

I am grateful to Trevor for all he has done, as well as Clint Wallace and the rest of the Trevor for Congress team for giving me this opportunity. This job has meant so much to me, and I hold my head up high, knowing we did so much to engage people and to contribute to the discussion.

A dedicated public servant, Steve Pestka will make a great Congressman following in the footsteps of Gerald Ford, Dick VanderVeen, Paul Henry, and others. I look forward to helping him win in November!

7/06/2012

McCotter resigns

From MIRS:

Citing a "nightmarish" past month and a half, U.S. Rep. Thad McCOTTER (R-Livonia) announced he is resigning today from Congress."After nearly 26 years in elected office, this past nightmarish month and a half have, for the first time, severed the necessary harmony between the needs of my constituency and of my family," he said. "As this harmony is required to serve, its absence requires I leave. "The recent event's totality of calumnies, indignities and deceits have weighed most heavily upon my family. Thus, acutely aware one cannot rebuild their hearth of home amongst the ruins of their U.S. House office, for the sake of my loved ones I must 'strike another match, go start anew' by embracing the promotion back from public servant to sovereign citizen."

What are we going to do now?(/sarcasm)