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Which 3 House Races Were Added To Top 15 Most Likely To Flip?

June 28, 2016

This year’s unexpected rise of presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald TRUMP and the inaugural year of split-ticket voting for Michigan voters has thrown crystal ball-gazers of the 2016 Michigan House races a couple of curveballs.

The anti-government sentiment Trump brings with him touches a different demographic than your typical Republican voter, which may discourage establishment Republicans from heading to the polls for down-ballot races. 

But Trump could also bring out a different type of voter, like the type of blue-collar moderate Democrats that Ronald REAGAN courted in 1980 and 1984 and those with lower educational achievement, whose past voting history is spotty. 

Trump’s support also appears to be more regionalized than past Republican nominees, which may actually help House Republicans this election cycle. As MIRS documented in April, Trump is doing well with voters in Northern Michigan and Macomb County, where the swing seats in play happen to have closer base numbers. 

This could end up helping Republican candidates in the 24th, the 30th, the 99th, the 106th, and the 108th. 

Meanwhile, Trump isn’t doing well along the Interstate-94 corridor, Oakland County and Western Wayne County, but Republicans have a stronger base number advantage in many of those seats — the 20th, 39th, 41st and 61st, for example. 

The stakes are high this cycle. If Democrats want to draw the next state House maps in 2021, they’ll need to start with a majority in 2016. In 2018, the focus will be split with the gubernatorial, state senate, attorney general and secretary of states races, and in 2020 the types of seats opening up favor Republicans. 

With candidates hitting the sidewalks and knocking voters’ doors this week, MIRS has updated its Top 15 “Most Likely Seats To Flip” list from April. 

1. 23rd District (R to D) — *1 
Republican Bob HOWEY picked up the endorsements of the Michigan Chamber of Commerce, Michigan Right to Life and the Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC), which more than bolster his conservative credentials and, conceivably, his campaign fund. Trump registered 6,348 votes here, compared to Hillary CLINTON‘s 4,989, which gives the GOP some hope in a district where the 52-percent Dem base number doesn’t work to their advantage. 

2. 62nd District (R to D) — *2 
Rep. John BIZON was a no vote on the Detroit Public Schools package, the bill that got rid of the insurance’s industry’s tax credit and the dark stories legislation, among other bills. Does that help him in a Calhoun County that saw more votes for Clinton (3,925) and Bernie SANDERS (3,981) than Trump (3,315)? Have we mentioned this district has a 56 percent Democratic base before? 

3. 108th District (R to D) — *3 
How much effort will Republicans put into this district if Tea Party favorite Alan ARCAND defeats Darryl SHANN in the primary? Trump did well up here, but the Upper Peninsula tends to vote people over party so what happens at the top of the ticket may not translate well in what happens in this race with Dickinson County Sheriff Scott CELELLO being the Dems’ option. 

4. 91st District (R to D) — *5 
Muskegon County has shown up big for Democratic presidential nominees in the past several elections, which will make it tough for Rep. Holly HUGHES (R-Montague) to overcome. Hughes and her deep campaign coffers always make it competitive, however. 

5. 24th District (R to D) — *6 
This Rep. Anthony FORLINI (R-Harrison Twp.) district may see a strong Republican pull due to the “Trump effect,” but popularity falls among suburban women falters. Macomb County Commissioner Steve MARINO is ready and willing to up the fundraising numbers needed to win for Republican, but it looks like he may have a primary opponent after all. 

6. 99th District (R to D) — *4 
If only Sanders was the nominee, Democrat Brian MIELKE would be loving life. Sanders’ 4,881 votes in the primary outdistanced Trump’s 3,201 votes. Democratic presidential candidates have done well in Isabella County over the years, but that hasn’t translated in victories for Democratic House candidates due to the heavy Republican Midland County portion of the district. 

7. 30th District (R to D) — *7 
The 30th and 24th Districts are two of the few competitive House seats where Democrat Hillary CLINTON actually beat Bernie SANDERS. She still only garnered 3,728 votes to Trump’s 5,830, for whatever that’s worth. 

Both Republican Diana FARRINGTON, wife of current officeholder Rep. Jeff FARRINGTON (D-Utica) and Democrat Michael NOTTE have primaries. If either loses, the ranking on this race likely changes drastically. 

8. 101st District (R to D) — *8 
Current Mason County Commissioner Curt VanderWALL is starting to clean up on the endorsement front and may be pulling away with the Republican nomination. The question will be if Dan Democrat SCRIPPS can tap into those 7,397 Northwestern Michigan voters who voted Sanders in the primary. 

9. 106th District (R to D) — *9 
Democrats like their candidate in Erin KIELISZEWSKI, but Robert KENNEDY has won that primary before. Republicans have a competitive primary with Jesse OSMER and Jackie KRAWCZAK, David CHANDLER and Sue ALLOR 

Fun fact: Sanders and Clinton, combined, only received 1,100 more votes that Trump’s 7,060 in this Northern Michigan district. 

10. 61st District (R to D) — *11 
Trump struggled in this college-town district in March, while Rep. Brandt IDEN (R-Kalamazoo), is a committed as a Trump delegate in the upcoming RNC convention. How many days will he stay there during the prime door-knocking season? Republican U.S. Congressman Fred UPTON, who’s district includes Kalamazoo, announced he would not supporting Trump for president — a first for the 30-year congressman. Iden’s Democratic challenge John FISHER came within less than 2,000 votes of beating Iden in 2014. 

11. 71st District (R to D) — *12 
Democrats have their eye fixed on this seat. Republicans play up freshman Rep. Tom BARRETT‘s (R-Potterville) work ethic on the campaign trail, while Democrats tout Theresa ABED‘s record unseating incumbents. In 2012, Abed beat fellow former Republican Rep. Deb SHAUGHNESSY

Some say Barrett’s voting record in Lansing is too conservative for this district with a slight Dem. lean. Both candidates have been active on the campaign trail knocking doors and bringing in endorsements. 

12. 104th District (R to D) — *NR 
This one is a wild card. Will returning Democrat Betsy COFFIA will mount a strong enough campaign to unseat Rep. Larry INMAN (R-Williamsburg)? Some say the district’s strong Republican base is enough to carry the district, while others think the right campaign could take this seat from Republican hands. Coffia is insistent about not take any money from the PACs of the Democratic Party. She only lost by six percentage points in 2014. Sanders won this district in the primary with more than 8,000 votes. FYI. 

13. 56th District (R to D) — *14 
This Monroe County district has a slight Republican base, where incumbent Rep. Jason SHEPPARD (R-Lambertville) could be at the mercy of top-of-the-ticket tide winds putting it on the list. Sheppard faces former Monroe County detective Tom REDMOND in a rematch. In 2014 Redmond lost to Sheppard 50 to 47 percent. Trump had 5,107 votes here while Clinton had 3,712. 

14. 41st District (R to D) — *NR 
This race makes is on the MIRS radar because of the unpredictable effect of — yes, that’s right, Trump. This suburban Oakland County district could be a bit of a wildcard. Despite it’s strong Republican base, the district also includes a high Asian minority population and Trump received relatively low marks in the primary — it’s possible Trump’s anti-immigrant rhetoric and superficial comments about women may not help incumbent Rep. Martin HOWRYLAK (R-Troy). 

15. 39th District (R to D) — *NR 
The same goes for this seat held by Rep. Klint KESTO (R-Walled Lake). For Kesto is depends how much the top of the ticket will carry. In the primary, Clinton and Trump took the district and garnered roughly the same number of votes. Voters cast 5,527 votes for Clinton and 5,643 for Trump. 

R’s Eye 3 Dem Seats 
While Republicans will be playing defense in the top 15 races, there are three seats were it appears the majority party is looking for a pick up. In the 67th District, there’s a long-shot attempt at Rep. Tom COCHRAN (D-Mason). Right To Life of Michigan decided to throw its support behind both Republicans in that race. 

The most talk is probably around the Republican challenger in the 17th district, Joe BELLINO. Bellino, a local liquor store owner in the district and longtime Macomb Community College trustee, is well-known in the district sources say. R’s are hopeful about Bellino’s chances against incumbent Rep. Bill LAVOY (D-Monroe), although the Democratic base number here is 56 percent.

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