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10 Primaries We’re Watching

May 3, 2016

Dozens of state House primaries formally kicked off a week ago Friday after the withdrawal deadline came and went this afternoon.

It’s impossible to know which ones will turnout to be nail-biters and which ones will turn into laughers. Sometimes candidates with great profiles on paper don’t put in the work while unassuming candidates with little public sector experience sneak into the winner circles with a lot of elbow grease and door knocking. 

But after taking a look at the races in all 110 state House district, MIRS has flagged 10 races that would seem, on paper, to be particularly compelling due to the profiles and fundraising activity of the candidates involved. 

The following is that list — five Republican races and five Democratic races — in no particular order. 

96th House District (Democrat) 
A former county commission chair, the current county commission chair and a middle school principal. All three D’s filing to replace Rep. Charles Brunner (D-Bay City) have a resumé and all three started raising money last year. 

T.L. Handy Middle School Principal Brian DuFresne has 25-years experience in education. Brian Elder gave up his county commission seat in 2010 when he challenged Brunner in the Democratic primary, losing 61 to 39 percent. Donald TILLEY is the current county commission chair. Maybe more importantly, he’s a 25-year union member who chaired the local economic development agency board. 

52nd House District (Democrat)
Combined, Barb Fuller and Donna Lasinski raised a combined $100,000 last year in their bids to replace Rep. Gretchen Driskell (D-Saline), who is making a congressional stab. 

Fuller is the chair of the Washtenaw County Road Commission and organized MI List, a woman’s donor network for Michigan politics. Lasinski is the treasurer of the Ann Arbor school board and the owner of ThinkStretch, a small business that works with students to prevent summer learning loss. 

64th House District (Republican)  
John Griffin’s entrance into this race to succeed Rep. Earl Poleski (R-Jackson) made this Jackson County-seat race much more interesting. The son and brother of a pair of former Jackson-area legislators is running as a Republican while his family members were Democrats. 

Jackson County Commissioner Julie Alexander has Sen. Mike Shirkey and Poleski’s support and has numerous connections in the education field, having been a teacher and a founding member of the Jackson County Cradle to Career Education Network. And then there’s Phil Tripp, the owner of Tripps Auto Shop & Collision, whose business has coincidently stepped up its campaign ad buys in the recent months including spots during the GOP presidential debates. 

106th House District (Republican) 
Jesse Osmer has his Republican Party connections, having been the 1st Congressional District GOP chair and a U.S. Rep. Dan Benishek staffer. But Jackie Krawczak has friends in the business community, having been the president of the Alpena Chamber of Commerce. 

Neither raised the most in this district’s GOP primary last year. That distinction goes to Cheboygan County Commissioner Sue Allor, who dropped $50,000 of her own money into the race. 

85th House District (Republican) 
Former legislative staffer Ben Frederick started early, raising $75,105 by Jan. 1. The former Owosso mayor and city council member will likely see his toughest competition from Shiawassee County Commission Chair Hartmann Aue, who has worked in the Gov. Rick Snyder administration. 

23rd House District (Democrat) 
Democrats privately bemoaned the work ethic of their prior candidates in this Downriver District. Not this year. 

Brownstown Township Clerk Sherry Berecz, high school social studies teacher, and Brownstown Parks and Rec Commissioner Darin Calmilleri and Trenton’s youngest city council member, Steve Rzeppa give the Dems’ confidence this will be a solid R-to-D flip in 2016. 

10th House District (Democrat) 
Rep. Leslie Love (D-Detroit) being primaried by the prior House officeholder’s daughter, Mary Cavanagh, makes Love one of the state’s vulnerable incumbents as of today. Mary Mazur, a longtime public relations professional in Detroit and Wayne County, presumably takes Detroit votes away from Love, adding another dimension to a district split between Northwestern Detroit and Redford Township. 

102nd House District (Republican) 
Is 2016 finally Morris Langworthy Jr.’s year? He came 335 votes away from beating now-Rep. Phil Potvin (R-Cadillac) in his second-place finish in 2010 and 427 votes away from beating now-Sen. Darwin Booher (R-Evart) in his second-place finish in 2004. 

He doesn’t have a clear field this time by any stretch. Big Rapids school psychologist Ormand Hook, the chair of the Mecosta County Republican Party, and Manton Mayor Michele Hoitenga, who own owns a small family energy consulting business, both started raising money early and have the profiles of winners. But Jason Briscoe is a 33-year-old U.S. Marine with a young family, who may have a compelling story to tell if he’s able to share it. 

2nd House District (Democrat) 
Former Rep. Bettie Cook Scott is back in her attempt to fill her third available term under term limits, but the daughter of current officeholder, Rep. Alberta Tinsley-Talabi (D-Detroit), community activist Carla Tinsley-Smith is also in the field. Willie Bell also will get his share of votes as a member of the Detroit Board of Police Commissioners, further muddling this seven-candidate race. 

46th House District (Republican) 
Tea Party supporters threatened to run candidates across the state in reaction to the House and Senate passing $600 million in road funding tax increases. The one notable mano-y-mano race is in Oakland County, where John Reilly is back after nabbing a respectful 44 percent of the vote against incumbent Rep. Bradford Jacobsen (R-Oxford) in 2014. 

The preferred candidate from establishment-types in Oakland County is Joe Kent, the founder of Padgett Business Services, a tax and accounting company for businesses and individuals. 

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