Michigan is an Election 2020 battleground. Here’s what’s at stake – Detroit Free Press

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Todd Spangler

Paul Egan
 
| Detroit Free Press

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Tuesday’s national election holds tremendous implications for Michiganders. Below is a look at the presidential race and other key statewise races.

Presidential race

Michigan once again is among the most hotly contested states in the country in Tuesday’s election. 

Four years ago, President Donald Trump made history by breaking through the Democrats’ “blue wall” in the Rust Belt, becoming the first Republican nominee to win Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania together since President Ronald Reagan in 1984. 

This year, he has trailed in the polls against Democratic former Vice President Joe Biden in all three battleground states and nowhere more so than in Michigan, where the most recent RealClearPolitics.com average has him down 6.5 percentage points The latest Free Press poll has him trailing Biden 48%-41%.

Trump has been been targeting the state in a series of last-minute rallies. Biden was in the state on Saturday.

Third party candidates on the ballot

Four years ago, third party candidates got about 5% of the overall presidential vote in the state, which was just over 1% in 2012.

This year, the lineup of third party candidates include Libertarian Jo Jorgensen, US Taxpayers nominee Don Blankenship, Green Party nominee Howie Hawkins and the Natural Law Party’s Rocky De La Fuente.

What else is on the ballot

But the president’s race isn’t the only race on the ballot, far from it. Here’s a look at the congressional races taking place on Election Day and what’s at stake in each.

U.S. Senate

Running for his second six-year term in office, US Sen. Gary Peters, a Democrat, has faced a strong challenge from Republican businessman John James of Farmington Hills, and if Peters were to lose it could have national ramifications.

Democrats believe they are on the verge of retaking majority control of the U.S. Senate. But to do so, they need to to gain several seats — three overall if Biden wins the presidency and his running mate, U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris of California, becomes the Senate president, and four if Trump is reelected.

If Peters were to lose, it would mean Democrats would have to win another seat in addition to those to retake the majority.

No Republican nominee has won a U.S. Senate seat in Michigan since the Republican wave of 1994 and he was voted out after a term.

Three third party candidates are also  on the ballot: US Taxpayers’ Valerie Willis, Green Party’s Marcia Squire and the Natural Law Party’s Doug Dern.

U.S. House: New members to be elected

No matter what happens on Election Day, Michigan is getting at least two new members of Congress with U.S. Reps. Justin Amash, L-Cascade Township, and Paul Mitchell, R-Dryden, stepping down. 

In both cases, their districts — the 3rd in west Michigan and the 10th in northern Macomb County and the Thumb, respectively — are Republican-leaning. But handicappers are keeping a close eye on the 3rd, which is centered in and around Grand Rapids and has been trending more Democratic in some recent elections.

The race there is between Democratic lawyer Hillary Scholten and Peter Meijer, a Republican veteran of the Iraq War and a member of the family that founded the grocery store of the same name. The Cook Political Report in Washington has deemed it a tossup race and should it flip, it will be huge news for a district once represented by the late Gerald R. Ford and one that has been in GOP hands for decades.

In the 10th, there is far less drama, with businesswoman Lisa McClain widely expected to defeat web director Kimberly Bizon in a district far friendlier to Republicans than Democrats.

Slotkin, Stevens looking to return

The other marquee congressional matchups this year include two suburban Detroit districts, the 8th and the 11th, which Democrats flipped in 2018.

In the 8th, which is comprised of Ingham, Livingston and northern Oakland Counties, U.S. Rep. Elissa Slotkin, D-Holly, is running for her second term after defeating U.S. Rep. Mike Bishop, R-Rochester, two years ago. She faces Paul Junge, a former TV anchor in Lansing who also worked as a prosecutor and on Capitol Hill. A Libertarian, Joe Hartman, is also on the ballot.

In the 11th District, U.S. Rep. Haley Stevens, D-Rochester Hills, is also running for her second term, having won in 2018 and flipping a western Wayne-southeastern Oakland County district that was held by Republicans until U.S. Rep. Dave Trott of Birmingham stepped down two years ago. She faces newcomer Eric Esshaki, a lawyer and former registered nurse, from Birmingham. Libertarian Leonard Schwartz, who ran two years ago, is also on the ballot.

Trump also won this district in 2016 but by a closer 4.4-percentage-point margin, the closest of any congressional district he won in the state.

Upton faces challenge

Finally in terms of top congressional races, keep an eye on what’s happening in the 6th Congressional District in southwestern Michigan. U.S. Rep. Fred Upton, R-St. Joseph, has been representing the area since 1987, making him the dean of the state’s delegation to Washington. But this has been a district where Democrats have won in the past — then-nominee Barack Obama won it on his way to the presidency in 2008 — and they’ve been hoping to flip it ever since. State Rep. Jon Hoadley, D-Kalamazoo, is facing Upton and gives him a challenger well known in a key portion of the district.

There are also two third party candidates on the ballot in the 6th, Libertarian Jeff DePoy and the Green Party’s John Lawrence.

Other U.S. House races

In the nine other congressional races taking place in Michigan on Election Day, all of the incumbents are expected to hold on to their seats, though it’s always possible that upsets could be in the making.

The races below could all represent something of a watershed moment for those involved. After this year’s Census is finalized, Michigan is expected to lose another seat in Congress; a new, independent commission is set to draw a whole new set of congressional boundaries next year, remaking the political map. 

Here are the other races with the district and a rough description of it, the incumbent and the challengers:

1st Congressional District (northern Michigan and the Upper Peninsula): U.S. Rep. Jack Bergman, R-Watersmeet, in running for his third term against Democratic newcomer Dana Ferguson of Negaunee, who works with his family’s business in Ishpeming. Ben Boren, a Libertarian nominee, is also on the ballot.

2nd Congressional District (west Michigan, eastern shore of Lake Michigan): U.S. Rep. Bill Huizenga, R-Zeeland, who has held the seat since 2011, is running against ordained minister Bryan Berghoef of Holland, the Democratic nominee. Also running are Libertarian Max Riekse, US Taxpayers Party’s Gerald Van Sickle and Green Party nominee Jean-Michel Creviere.

4th Congressional District (Midland, Mount Pleasant, mid-Michigan): U.S. Rep. John Moolenaar, R-Midland, faces Jerry Hilliard, a former Nabisco Inc. employee and public school teacher who lost to Moolenaar as the Democratic nominee in 2018. David Canny, the Libertarian nominee, and the Green Party’s Amy Slepr are also on the ballot.

5th Congressional District (Flint, Saginaw, stretches around Saginaw Bay): U.S. Rep. Dan Kildee, D-Flint Township, is running for his fifth two-year term against Republican Tim Kelly, a former state House member. Libertarian James Harris and Working Class Party nominee Kathy Goodwin are also in the  race.

7th Congressional District (south-central Michigan): U.S. Rep. Tim Walberg, R-Tipton, who was in Congress 2007-8 and again since 2011, faces Democratic nominee Gretchen Driskell, the former mayor of Saline, for the third time. 

9th Congressional District (southeastern Oakland County, southern Macomb): U.S. Rep. Andy Levin, D-Bloomfield Township, is running for his second term against Navy veteran Charles Langworthy, the Republican nominee. Libertarian Mike Saliba and Andrea Kirby, the Working Class Party nominee, are also on the ballot.

12th Congressional District (Downriver, western Wayne, parts of Washtenaw counties): U.S. Rep. Debbie Dingell, D-Dearborn, is running for her fourth term against Republican Jeff Jones, who faced her in the last two elections. Working Class Party nominee Gary Walkowicz is also on the ballot.

13th Congressional District (parts of Detroit, western Wayne County): U.S. Rep. Rashida Tlaib, D-Detroit, is running for her second term, having defeated Detroit City Council President Brenda Jones in the primary. Republican David Dudenhoefer is facing her again. Others on the ballot include US Taxpayers candidate Articia Bomer, Working Class nominee Sam Johnson and Green Party candidate Etta Wilcoxon.

14th Congressional District (parts of Detroit, eastern Wayne County, southeastern Oakland County): U.S. Rep. Brenda Lawrence, D-Southfield, is running for her fourth term against Republican construction contractor R. Vance Patrick. Others on the ballot include Libertarian Lisa Lane Gioia, Working Class candidate Philip Kolody and Green Party nominee Clyde Shabazz.

Control of state House

Control of the Michigan House of Representatives is at stake, in what is seen as a test for Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, who has campaigned extensively for Democratic House candidates.

Michigan Democrats, who would need to flip four Republican seats, are resting some of their hopes on three seats in Oakland County that are increasingly trending their way.

State Republicans, who are largely playing defense but hoping to flip a seat or two now held by Democrats, are fighting to maintain the 58-52 edge they won in 2018 and the House majority they have enjoyed since the 2010 vote.

Races to watch in Oakland County include the 38th, 39th, and 45th House Districts.

In the 38th, an open seat now held by term-limited state Rep. Kathy Crawford, Novi Republican Chase Turner, a strong backer of President Donald Trump who works in sales and marketing, faces Democrat Kelly Breen, a Novi City Council member and attorney. Both ran in 2018, with Turner nearly defeating Crawford in the primary and Breen nearly winning the general election.

The 39th is held by first-term state Rep. Ryan Berman, R-Commerce Township, who scored a surprisingly easy victory in 2018 after the Democratic candidate, Jennifer Suidan of Wolverine Lake, pleaded no contest to an embezzlement charge and dropped out of the race. This year, Berman faces Democrat Julia Pulver, a nurse from West Bloomfield Township.

The 45th is an open seat held by term-limited state Rep. Michael Webber, R-Rochester Hills. Democrat Barb Anness of Rochester Hills, who serves on the board of Rochester Community Schools, faces Republican Mark Tisdel, a partner in an insurance company and a former Rochester Hills City Council member.

Michigan Supreme Court

Control of the state’s highest court is also at stake.

Though Michigan Supreme Court justices appear on the nonpartisan portion of the ballot, justices are nominated at state party conventions. Currently, Republican-nominated justices hold a 4-3 edge over Democratic-nominated justices on the seven-member court.

The importance of the court was highlighted recently when the justices, in a 4-3 decision along partisan lines, struck down as unconstitutional the Emergency Powers of Governor Act of 1945 that Whitmer had used as the legal underpinning for emergency orders related to the coronavirus.

The court has an open seat this year because Justice Stephen Markman, a Republican nominee, is unable to run again because of age limits for judicial candidates.

Also, Chief Justice Bridget McCormack, a Democratic nominee, is seeking reelection.

McCormack and six other candidates are vying for the two eight-year terms, with the top two candidates winning election.

Joining McCormack as a Democratic nominee is Grand Rapids attorney Elizabeth Welch.

The Republican nominees are Michigan Court of Appeals Judge Brock Swartzle and former St. Clair County assistant prosecutor Mary Kelly.

Other candidates are Kerry Lee Morgan of Redford and Katherine Mary Nepton of Lansing, both nominated by the Libertarian Party, and Susan Hubbard of Grosse Pointe Farms, nominated by the Green Party.

Contact Todd Spangler: [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @tsspangler. Read more on Michigan politics and sign up for our elections newsletter.

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