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Top 10 Senate Districts Most Likely to Flip

October 23, 2018

What is going on in Oakland County? The home of Brooks Patterson is either Democrats’ ground zero for a dreamed takeback of the state Senate or their worst Election Day nightmare, one that validates the cultish-like popularity of President Donald Trump.

August primary numbers validated initial polling that showed educated women and trendy millennials pissed off about Trump’s presidency were politically engaged. It gave Democrats dreams of taking traditionally 56/44 percent GOP districts that they’d otherwise have no business competing in.

Republicans were nervous. Where were all their voters going? They may have just needed a reason to show up, figuratively and literally. Recent polling shows that traditional Republican voters are becoming more engaged. 

The spectacle that became the Brett Kavanaugh confirmation hearing may be one reason. An improved economy may be another. Maybe they just started picking up the phones and answering poll questions.

Whatever the reason Senate Republican Campaign Committee (SRCC) Chair Mike Shirkey (R-Clarklake) said he is feeling bullish about his caucus’ prospects to keep a strong majority in the 2019 session.

“We have an excellent chance of running the table in Oakland County, and you can quote me on that,” he said.

Sen. Curtis Hertel (D-East Lansing), a head to the Senate Democratic Fund, was so stunned hearing this prognostication he could only manage, “That is so f***ing crazy I don’t even know what to say.”

His polling is making him so confident in two seats, the question for Dems is if they spend resources in a third and possibly fourth.

Interestingly, the early money being spent on television in state Senate seats isn’t in Oakland County. Oct. 12 numbers from the Michigan Campaign Finance Network (MCFN) show the most money is being spent in the Macomb County-based 10th District, where nearly a half million was spent on TV as of two weeks ago.

In mid-Michigan’s 24th District, $432,000 has been spent on TV while the western Wayne County-based 7th District is next at $428,000. These numbers served as a base for this updated version of the Top 10 Senate District Most Likely To Flip.

1. 29th District — *1 – Rep. Winnie Brinks (D-Grand Rapids) is all over this PFAS contamination in West Michigan. She’s taking control of an emerging local issue that’s earned her priceless local media coverage as an environmental and public health advocate. Neither caucus seems interested in spending a ton of money in the usually pricey Grand Rapids media market, showing that both may be seeing better places to put their money.

2. 13th District — *2 – Sen. Marty Knollenberg’s (R-Troy) attention is split between re-election and his Sedona Steakhouse. The state party is trying to bring down Mallory McMorrow by framing her as an out-of-touch California transplant who’s raised more money from “Berkley, California than Berkley, Michigan.”

3. 12th District — *4 – Rep. Mike McCready doesn’t have the district-wide incumbency advantage of Knollenberg and with this Oakland County seat polling like the 13th, there’s every reason to think Rosemary Bayer, who has lived in three different parts of this district, has a very real chance of winning this one.

4. 20th District — *3 – Sen. Margaret O’Brien (R-Portage) television ads with the Larry Nassar survivors are compelling, which may explain why this race is tightening. If 2018 does end up being the “Year of the Woman,” Republicans are going to be thrilled with having O’Brien on their team.

5. 34th District — *5 – Newaygo and Oceana counties have more first-generation Hispanic voters than you might think, which helps progressive Democrat Poppy Sias-Hernandez, who has been leading in the polls she’s seen. How is conservative Jon Bumstead playing in suburban Muskegon? Based on early spending not well enough to put a ton of money on TV.

6. 38th District — *6 – The daughter of the late Rep. John Kivela went on local TV and radio with her endorsement of Ed McBroom, who appears to be gaining ground on Rep. Scott Dianda (D-Escanaba), even though the latter has established himself as the more fiscally conservative option of the two. McBroom’s genuine salt-of-the-earth charm is catching on as of late. It may be why Senate Dems are trying to frame him as a below-the-bridge troll.

7. 10th District — *7 – Michael MacDonald is strongly contesting what looked initially like a Rep. Henry Yanez (D-Sterling Heights) layup. The network and broadcast television spending the MCFN is reporting shows the hard work this political unknown is putting into this race. It has Democrats playing their first team much longer than they thought they’d need to.

8. 7th District — *10 – Based on the money they’re dumping into Western Wayne County, Republicans are sticking their flag in the ground and saying, “Hell, no.” Getting the public support of popular Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy and Wayne County Executive Warren Evans shows the power of House Appropriations Committee Chair Laura Cox (R-Livonia). 
The increased attention also shows that internal numbers showing Dayna Polehanki doing well may not be that far off.

9. 24th District — *8 – This one is becoming a TV proxy war between the pro-Kelly Rossman-McKiney Bi-partisan Solutions and the pro-Tom Barrett Michigan Citizens for Fiscal Responsibility. Rossman-McKinney’s ability to put her own money into this race is also adding to the ballooning total of spending being seen here. The SRCC isn’t spending here, their polling showing Barrett has this one taken care of.

10. 15th District — *9 – Julia Pulver is having fun with the angry-face mailers that Republicans are sending against her. She also has to like that Citizens for Energizing Michigan’s Economy – the same group that knocked off Gary Glenn – are running television ads for her now. The seat is tempting for Democrats, but it still has that pesky 56 percent GOP base.

* = Rankings from Sept. 27, 2018 

Honorable Mention:

31st District – Republicans’ attack on Cindy Luczak is the Bay County Clerk closes her office for lunch a little longer than she should. She apparently closes sooner than advertised, too. Without united support from her local Democrats, this one race in the middle of Trump country looks like a win for Kevin Daley.

14th District – If Congressional hopeful Elissa Slotkin is changing hearts and minds in typically bright-red northern Oakland County, Renee Watson would a beneficiary, particularly if Republican Ruth Johnson is taking this race for granted.

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