In last week’s blog post, Grassroots Midwest took a look at two House districts that Democrats must win to take the Majority in the House. In Part 2 of this series, this week we continue our look at 2020 and ask: Can House Democrats win a majority in the Michigan House of Representatives?
We previously focused on two seats (HD 38-Crawford, and HD 61-Iden) that will be open in 2020 due to term limits that Democrats have to win to gain a majority.
The other open seat that is certainly on the Democrats target list is HD 104, held by indicted State Rep. Larry Inman. The seat has a 58% GOP base, and Trump received 56% of the vote in 2016. Traverse City has become more Dem, but the county outside Traverse City and the Old Mission Peninsula is still strongly Republican. Larry Inman has always underperformed at the ballot and has barely squeaked by even against candidates that never should’ve had a chance. Any Republican will do better than Larry Inman, so long as it isn’t some wild-eyed tea party type. As for Inman’s indictment and possible conviction, it doesn’t matter and shouldn’t have much impact on the election, other than tarnishing the Republican brand at the margins. This seat is a bit of a reach for Democrats, but if they get Dan O’Neil and his impressive fundraising again we might have a race, especially if Republicans nominate someone from the far-right wing of the party.
Of the seats currently held by a Republican who can run for reelection, Democrats only legitimate chance is HD 39 (Rep. Ryan Berman). Democrats nearly flipped this seat in 2018, but their candidate was charged and pled guilty to a felony just before the election – and she still almost won. Assuming the Dems can find a credible candidate to run in this seat with a 53% GOP base, where Trump received 52% of the vote, they can compete. And right now, rumors out of Oakland County point to a female Chaldean candidate with some fundraising potential ready to jump in and take on Berman. With Oakland County on it’s current trend this will be a tough one for Republicans to defend especially with President Trump on the ballot.
While these seats, and the two in the previous blog post, represent Democrats’ four best opportunities needed to gain a majority, they still have to hold on to all the seats they currently hold. Of the seven vulnerable seats that Democrats won in 2018 (HD’s 19-Pohutsky, 20-Koleszar, 25-Shannon, 40-Manoogian, 41-Kuppa, 62-Haadsma, 71-Witwer), Trump carried four of them (HD’s 19, 25, 62 and 71). One of those four are arguably the Republicans best chance of flipping a seat back. HD 41 is possible, but probably a bit of stretch at this point the way Oakland County has been trending. Any chance of flipping any of those seats is contingent on the GOP recruiting good candidates, which has yet to come into focus.
As of today, our prediction is Democrats have a 40% chance to take majority, though they have a strong chance to pick up seats. Simply because, while picking up HD’s 38 & 61 is very possible, it seems unlikely HD 104 changes and HD 39 will be a battleground. It’s even more unlikely that HD 110, which Republicans flipped in 2018, will flip back because the UP is becoming increasingly more Republican (President Trump got 60% there in 2016 .) The lack of many strong opportunities makes the likelihood of a change in majority much smaller, requiring Democrats to run the table in all of the aforementioned seats, or to have all the stars align in seats where they have not been competitive in nearly a decade.
Of course, there are still 13 months to go until election day and anything can happen. We shall see what the landscape looks like in the coming months – candidate recruitment, budget showdowns & vetoes, the damn roads, and presidential impeachment hearings will all play a role in deciding majority, because in this town, things are always changing.