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Top 10 Senate Districts and Top 15 House Districts Most Likely To Flip

October 2, 2018

Top 10 Senate Districts Most Likely To Flip

Sen. Mike Shirkey (R-Clarklake), the likely next Senate Majority Leader if Republicans maintain control, has heard the bleak forecasts about Democrats possibly riding a blue wave into majority this November. He’s not buying it. 

The Jackson County Republican was admittedly nervous after August primary numbers showed strong Democratic turnout numbers in suburban Michigan. But now that the Senate Republican Campaign Committee (SRCC) has had a chance to execute its plans, go up on TV, and “properly frame” the issues important to Michigan residents, Shirkey sees retaining majority as a “virtual certainty.” 

“The questions isn’t if we’ll keep majority, it’s how large that majority will be,” he said. 

Democrats haven’t had control of the Senate since 1983 and Shirkey said the polling he’s seen is not leaving him concerned. 

“Not at all,” he said. “In fact, my polling diametrically opposes these other polls, including the MIRS polling. 

“Not only that, but our field polls show our position has actually been improving,” he added. So that leads me question both the methodology and results of those other polls. I like where we’re at in most of our races right now.” 

MIRS asked Shirkey the question in light of a recently released Reuters poll that lined up with a growing number of polls showing indications that a blue wave could well wash over Michigan in this year’s election. 

For Democrats, the magic number is eight. The D’s are at their low-water mark with 11 seats and they see a path to 19 seats, which would allow the lieutenant governor, who would be Democratic Garlin Gilchrist II if Gretchen Whitmer wins the Governor race, to break ties. 

As mentioned in last month’s Top 10 Most Likely To Flip, the Senate Democrats are being careful not to over-extend their resources, particularly since the R’s have a more than 2:1 cash advantage. 

But to lay the case that eight of the following 11 seats could go Democratic is not only realistic but very possible, according to a source who has seen the Senate D’s recent polling numbers. 

Told about Shirkey’s optimism, Senate Minority Leader Jim Ananich (D-Flint) said, “That’s his prerogative. But you and I know, and so does everyone else in town who’s been watching, that the Senate is in play. However, being in play does not necessarily mean we’ll win it. 

“I could walk you through all of the various things people look at when trying to evaluate an upcoming election,” Ananich continued. “But I’ll just say that it’s going to be a good year for Democrats. The only question is — how good?” 

With that in mind, here is MIRS’ updated list of Top 10 Senate seats likely to flip: 

1. 29th District — *1 – If you assume 13 percent more Republicans will vote in this Kent County district than Democrats, the race between Rep. Winnie Brinks (D-Grand Rapids) and Rep. Chris Afendoulis (R-Grand Rapids Twp.) is tied. Otherwise, look at this number: Target Insyght’s poll on this district for MIRS and GCSI had Brinks up 60 to 14 percent among Independents. 

That’s bad. Now, Republicans believe Afendoulis is cutting into the deficit, but with this district starting with only a 49 percent GOP base, the two-term House member has a steep climb ahead of him. 

2. 13th District — *2 – MIRS has Sen. Marty Knollenberg (R-Troy) and Democrat Mallory McMorrow within the margin of error, which is likely due to the incumbent being better known than his challenger. Knollenberg’s favorable/unfavorable number is underwater (24 percent/37 percent) and around 80 percent of the district didn’t know McMorrow between the Sept. 11-14 polling period. 

Meanwhile, Democrat Gretchen Whitmer is up on Bill Schuette 52 to 36 percent in this district, which puts Knollenberg in a hole despite its 53 percent GOP base number. 

3. 20th District — *3 – Sen. Margaret O’Brien (R-Portage) is on a new hot-stove topic: Ending childhood marriages in Michigan. A local TV station put together a compelling report on the subject this week and O’Brien already has her bill request in. Once it’s introduced, look for Senate Judiciary Committee Chair Rick Jones to hold a hearing on the bill, pronto. In terms of scoring strong earned media, O’Brien has knocked it out of the park this year. 

Meanwhile, the numbers are still tough for O’Brien. In her old House district, Target Insyght has her essentially tied with Democrat Sean McCann 47 and 46 percent with Libertarian Lorence Wenke at 6 percent. 

4. 12th District — *7 – President Donald Trump’s name is dirt in Oakland County and the numbers are bearing that out. Rep. Mike McCready (R-Birmingham) isn’t going to flip many swing voters in Democratic-heavy Pontiac. He doesn’t start with much of a political base, coming from the far southern part of the district, and Rosemary Bayer already has future Sens. Stephanie Chang and Adam Hollier knocking doors with her. 

That said, the moderate McCready, and the funds he brings to the table, shouldn’t be underestimated. 

5. 34th District — *6 – Democrat Poppy Sias-Hernandez was described by one source as having the best grassroots organization of any state Senate candidate, either side of the aisle. Since the primary, her band of Bernie-crats have religiously knocked doors throughout this Muskegon-based district. 

Meanwhile, Jon Bumstead is standing with his motorcycle in his new 30-second TV ad, talking about lowering auto insurance rates and fixing Michigan’s roads. Being on the air is good. 

6. 38th District — *4 – Rocker Ted Nugent may not play well in other parts of the state, but he’s still a celebrity in the Upper Peninsula. Bringing Mr. Cat Scratch Fever to Marquette for Republicans Ed McBroom and Beau LaFave is a boost, any way you look at. 

Rep. Scott Dianda (D-Escanaba) still has the edge, coming from the swing 110th House District, particularly after he won the backing of the National Rifle Association (NRA), which more than erases any advantage McBroom earned with his Michigan Nursing Association endorsement. 

7. 10th District — *5 – The numbers for Democrat Henry Yanez in Trump-loving Macomb County aren’t what he wants them. Target Insyght’s numbers for MIRS has newcomer Michael MacDonald up 49 to 41 percent, but MacDonald is still underperforming other Republicans in this Sterling Heights district like longshot U.S. Senate candidate John James, who is at 53 percent in the 10th. 

Now that Democrats are up on the air with how an intoxicated MacDonald crashed into a motorcyclist during an early, early morning McDonald’s run and the victim’s family is crushing MacDonald on social media, the first-time candidate will likely see some erosion. 

8. 24th District — *9 – Democrat Kelly Rossman-McKinney is seeing movement from her numerous TV campaign ads. She’s not done spending and her allies aren’t either. The AFL-CIO is doing labor walks for her, too, as the recent Target Insyght/MIRS poll in this district showed her up 38 to 20 percent among Independents. 

Republicans still don’t believe she’s for real. If they find polling that contradicts this, they feel a little bit of paid media spending that paints her as a Lansing lobbyist should finish her off. 

9. 15th District — *10 – In the 39th House District, which makes up at least a third of this district, Democrat Julia Pulver was up 52 to 36 percent on Republican Jim Runestad, according to the Target Insyght/MIRS poll. Clearly, the numbers would be much different in the northern part of this Oakland County district, but it shows that the conservative Runestad is not a slam dunk. 

10. 7th District — *8 — The extent of the “Blue Wave” will be tested in suburban Wayne County, where the 2018 Teacher of the Year, Dayna Polehanki, is up against one of the most powerful members of the state House in Appropriations Committee Chair Laura Cox. 

* = Rankings from Aug. 22, 2018  

Honorable Mention: 31st Senate District. If Democrat Cindy Luczak can make this close, the Democrats could make an appearance here, but Republican Kevin Daley has done nothing but campaign up in this Bay County/Thumb district for the last two years, at least.

Top 15 House Districts Most Likely To Flip

In previous years, House Democrats were guarded in making predictions on a takeover. 

But with a supposed “Blue Wave” forming on the horizon, House Democratic Campaign Co-Chair Kevin Hertel (D-St. Clair Shores) is forecasting an 85 percent chance of re-capturing control of the lower house. 

“I feel that confident,” said Hertel, who has access to the internal House polling data. That means he is 85 percent confident of picking up the nine seats for full control or eight seats for shared power control. The Republicans enjoy a 63-to 46-seat majority at this point, with the 47th seat being the bright-blue 68th District. 

“I remember (shared control),” said Hertel, recalling when his father, former co-Speaker Curtis Hertel Sr., shared the gavel with Republicans during a two-year shared-power term with the GOP during 1993 and 1994. 

He sees an electorate ready for change, driven by the President Donald Trump administration, a lackluster Congress under GOP control and “the last eight years in Michigan of GOP control.” 

“Today we have very good chances,” despite the apparent loss of the Oakland County seat with the Democratic candidate being forced to suspend her campaign while facing embezzlement charges.   

So now the chances are down to 80 percent? 

Hertel rejected that, suggesting that while it is a political setback any time you lose a candidate this close to an election, “there are still many other opportunities out there.” 

Republicans looking at the same map are not as confident. They concede that they’re in trouble in five, maybe six seats. But the last four or five will require a sizable “blue wave” to give Democrats majority. 

The head of the House Republicans’ campaign operation, Speaker Pro Tem Lee Chatfield (R-Levering) said of Hertel’s 85 percent prediction, “I’m 85 percent confident they’ve been saying this 85 percent of the time since 2010. What’s new?” 

With that, here is the updated House Districts Most Likely to Flip: 

1. 62nd District (R to D) — *3 – In a northern Calhoun seat where U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow is at 51 percent, Democrat Jim Haadsma is at 54 percent. That type of overperformance at the top of the ticket, particularly from a non-incumbent, is rare and it’s hard to see how Republican Dave Morgan is going to chip into that, particularly with Haadsma having about $20,000 more in the bank. 

2. 20th District (R to D) — *2 – Republicans’ numbers in this Plymouth-based district are lousy and with his ailing wife hospitalized, Rep. Jeff Noble (R-Plymouth) is not in a position to do what he needs to reverse the numbers. 

Meanwhile, Democrat Matt Koleszar released his first 30-second spot Friday about how he blew $500 on fixing his pothole-damaged car. The Republicans will do what they can to bail out their first-term incumbent, but Noble is in one heck of a hole. 

3. 40th District (R to D) — *1 – If Mari Manoogian were in serious trouble, you would expect organized labor to help out the daughter of the former CEO of the utilities workers, George Manoogian. Downtown Publications has backed her. U.S. Sen. Gary Peters (D-Bloomfield Twp.) has shot a video for her. 

David Wolkinson is up with his first ad talking about how he received his law degree from the University of Michigan before he was 24. But with 55 percent of the district believing President Donald Trump is doing a poor job, all Republicans in this Birmingham-based district should be nervous. 

4. 41st District (R to D) — *4 – Reports from the field have Democrat Padma Kuppa targeting South Asian Republicans in this growingly diverse, Troy-based district, which Hillary Clinton won two years ago. Doug Tietz is working the Indian community and recognizing the multicultural feel of this district, as well, but Kuppa’s nearly 4-to-1 cash-on-hand number and her stronger ground game gives her the advantage. 

5. 61st District (R to D) — *5 – With polls showing Rep. Brandt Iden (R-Oshtemo Twp.) down 52 to 43 percent, the chair of the House Regulatory Reform Committee must be feeling nervous. Part of the issue could be name ID. The Target Insyght survey showed that 48 percent say they’ve never heard of Iden before or have no opinion. Meanwhile, Trump is viewed negatively by 54 percent of voters in this Kalamazoo County District, which isn’t good considering Iden was a Trump delegate two years ago. 

Iden’s high position on the “wined and dined” list won’t help him, and neither will large numbers of Western Michigan University voters showing up Nov. 6. 

6. 71st District (R to D) — *7 – Outside polling is all over the place with Democrat Angela Witwer doing well in Democratic circles, although Republicans have Witwer making statements in support of raising the gas tax and banning semi-automatic weapons, which isn’t going to play in rural Eaton County, where Christine Barnes is presumably strong. 

Witwer’s name ID after years in Eaton County and at the Waverly School Board is strong, but Barnes is knocking a lot of doors and is pushing her National Rifle Association (NRA) certification as a gun safety trainer hard. 

7. 38th District (R to D) — *10 – The math gets a bit harder for Democrats starting right about here. Rep. Kathy Crawford (R-Novi) might not register well on a generic ballot test, but her name is so well known that she starts with an advantage, Trump numbers be damned. 

It took Kelly Breen 20 minutes to drive her daughter two miles to the doctor to treat an ear infection and she’s talking about it in her new 30-second video. She needs to keep her fundraising numbers up to keep that ad on the air. Breen also needs Haley Stevens to keep rocking and rolling in the 11th Congressional District. 

8. 19th District (R to D) — *8 – Nobody has a stronger social media presence than Laurie Pohutsky and that’s propelled her to a break-even point with Republican Brian Meakin based on polling shared with MIRS. If the “blue wave” is anything substantial, Pohutsky will be among the first ones to splash over the Republicans’ breakwall. 

9. 104th District (R to D) — *9 – Dan O’Neil has been campaigning for well over a year and he’s got Rep. Larry Inman (R-Traverse City) working hard. O’Neil has two campaign offices, plus several volunteer teams working all the time. 

The base numbers don’t look great for the Democrat, but if the building trades run a negative program on Inman for his role in repealing the state’s prevailing wage, it may give the Traverse City attorney the push he needs. 

10. 91th District (R to D) — *13 – Trump’s numbers aren’t bad in Muskegon County and so Republicans like Greg VanWoerkom start with a bit of an edge. In years past, the 91st was a necessity if Democrats had any hope to take the majority. This year, Democrats have nine better options. 

The enthusiasm Dr. Rob Davidson and Poppy Sias-Hernandez is ginning up only helps Tanya Cabala as the campaigns work together to get Democrats elected. 

11. 99th District (R to D) — *14 – The question is whether Kristen Brown can get enough Central Michigan University students to more than make up for the support Rep. Roger Hauck (R-Mt. Pleasant) is presumably going to get out of the Midland County horseshoe. The Democrats have been let down by the Chips several times before. 

12. 98th District (R to D) — *NR – The base numbers are wretched for Democrats up here, but the Glenn name was dragged through the mud most of 2018 and Sarah Schulz is running one of the best campaigns on the Democrat side this cycle. She’s raising some money, received the Farm Bureau endorsement, has some volunteers and she’s getting under Annette Glenn’s skin. 

13. 39th District (R to D) — *6 – The criminal charges against Jennifer Suidan are coming and even if she is elected, the House won’t seat her with embezzlement hanging over her head. But the numbers here are very bad for Republicans. Stabenow is up 62 to 33 percent on Republican John James so the R’s will need to spend money to make sure Ryan Berman gets through without incident. 

It doesn’t appear a write-in candidate is an option. 

14. 101st District (R to D) — *12 – Jack O’Malley’s name ID after 30 years on the radio is through the roof. Democrats are playing here because prior races were close and if Kathy Wiejackzka wasn’t running against the voice of Northern Michigan, it probably would be close again. 

15. 24th District (D to R) — *NR – Yes, this is Macomb County and Rep. Steve Marino (R-Harrison Twp.) survived a brutal 2016 campaign as a non-incumbent, but Laura Winn’s campaign is worth looking at, as is the 8,088 votes she received in the primary. 

Dropped Out: 

110th District (D to R) — *11 – Little money, little hope for Gregory Markkanen. 

17th District (R to D) — *15 – Referred in a New York Times article as having “Prom King”-like popularity, Rep. Joe Bellino (R-Monroe) relates to folks in this blue-collar area that is likely more pro-Trump than Macomb County. 

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