Seven candidates for Congress in Michigan were disqualified from the ballot by a state board earlier this month. Gongwer News Service Editor Zach Gorchow says the most controversial case was that of 6th District Democrat Paul Clements.
Gorchow says the other challenges were easy calls for the state Bureau of Elections and Board of State Canvassers. But 77 signatures on Clements’ petitions were declared invalid due to a rule regarding signers that live in a city or township with the same name (like Kalamazoo). If voters check the wrong city or township box they are disqualified, but signers who don’t check a box, or check both are counted if they are registered voters.
Clements is now taking his case to court, saying the rules about checking a city or township box should not keep him off the ballot. Gorchow says if Clements was the only Democratic candidate to file in the 6th district, his lawsuit would probably be getting more attention. But four other Democrats are on the ballot. The winner of the August primary will challenge Republican Congressman Fred Upton in November. Clements was the Democratic candidate who lost to Upton in both 2014 and 2016.
While Democrats nationally are focused on Congress, Gorchow recently blogged about their chances of taking control of the state House and Senate. He says taking the House will be difficult, while Democrats flipping the nine seats required to win control of the state Senate would be unprecedented in modern Michigan political history.
Gorchow says there are factors favoring Democrats, but he says to win control of the state House, they would need to win seats in areas they haven’t won before. Gorchow says that could include Republican Representative Brandt Iden of Oshtemo Township. Gorchow says a couple of factors could make Iden vulnerable. He won two terms in the state House while receiving less than 50% of the vote. Iden was a vocal supporter of President Trump during the 2016 election, and Gorchow says Trump is not popular in Kalamazoo County. Plus Portage is becoming more diverse, with a relatively large percentage of voters with bachelor’s degrees. Gorchow says that is the type of district Democrats are targeting.
Democrats will also be trying to win back the state House district that includes the city of Battle Creek. Gorchow says if Republican Representative John Bizon had run for re-election, it would have been a tougher seat for Democrats to win. But Bizon is running for state Senate in the district currently represented by the term-limited Mike Nofs. Gorchow says if Democrats are going to win back control of the state House, they have to win the 62nd district, which was represented by Democrat Kate Segal for three terms before Bizon’s election in 2014.
Gorchow says Democrats have a good chance to get “out of the wilderness,” in the state Senate. He says winning five seats would be a good year, even though it would leave Republicans with a 22-16 advantage. Gorchow says the rematch of the 2014 state Senate race between Republican Margaret O’Brien and Democrat Sean McCann will be one of the most closely watched in the state. Gorchow says Kalamazoo County is an area that should be moving to Democrats structurally, but it hasn’t happened in past state Senate elections. He says the “Trump factor” may be what does it. But Gorchow says in a rematch the advantage usually goes to candidate that won it the first time. He says Republicans have been raising more money than Democrats for state Legislature. Gorchow says the Democrats’ top priority this year is the race for governor.