So... did last week's election really change anything in Michigan?
It’s time for a post-mortem edition of It’s Just Politics and, as the saying goes, it’s time for political reporters to come down from the hills after the battle to bayonet the wounded. Are your blades sharpened?
All six of the state’s ballot questions were voted down with a majority of “no” votes. “No” was what the people who put Proposal One on the ballot wanted – voter rejection of the state’s super controversial emergency manager law. That was bad news for Governor Rick Snyder. Public Act Four was one of the first laws he signed as a big supporter of tough medicine for cities and school districts that find themselves in big financial trouble. The Governor’s chosen candidate for U.S. Senate, former West Michigan Congressman Pete Hoekstra, lost to incumbent Democratic Senator Debbie Stabenow. His endorsement didn’t seem to do Mitt Romney much good in Michigan either. But still, he’s a happy guy… you can’t keep this nerd down.
In fact, the Governor has five reasons to be happy: Proposals Two through Six went down in defeat, just as he wanted. It’s pretty interesting to note that after millions and millions of dollars were spent – on both sides of the proposals – that they all went down by pretty large margins. Proposal One made a race of it. But we just have to wonder if it didn’t get pulled down by the “just say ‘no’” campaign waged by Snyder, business groups, and many Republicans.
On the very top of the ticket, however, voters said “Yes” to Democrats. For the sixth time in a row, Michigan voted for the Democratic candidate for President. And, the Obama machine was just that – a machine. Data-driven, organized and relentless. Republicans thought they had a shot at Michigan – never happened. Meanwhile, as we mentioned, incumbent Senator Debbie Stabenow won a third term in the U.S. Senate. The GOP thought they had a shot at the seat. Never happened. Pete Hoekstra never seemed to recover after the China Super Bowl ad debacle. He won the primary, true, but his campaign never picked up steam.
Democrats also won on the very bottom of the ballot. The Democrats won all of the vacancies on education and university boards; races where the candidates are not well-known and thus, are considered a pretty reliable measure of party-strength. Democrats also picked up five seats in the state House. Five Republican incumbents lost their jobs this year. But one could still argue that Democrats underperformed in the middle of the ballot compared to what we saw at the top and the bottom. Yes, Democrats did pick up five state House seats. But that was only half the number of seats that was needed to take control of that chamber from the Republicans.
Speaking of the state House, we couldn’t not mention (we love us some double-negatives here at It’s Just Politics) Republican Speaker Jase Bolger. In the last few weeks of the campaign there was talk that maybe he would lose his seat due to his involvement in the Roy Schmidt party-switching scandal. But, the Speaker hung on by a few hundred votes and it looks like he will - once again - be the House Speaker. Roy Schmidt, however, was not so lucky. It was no surprise that he lost his seat in Grand Rapids to Democratic newcomer Winnie Brinks.
So, we saw a lot of churn, but not a lot of upheaval. Experts and amateurs will be parsing the results, looking for lessons. Democrats will be looking for ways to improve their prospects for legislative seats. In four years, every House seat and every Senate seat is up, plus all the big statewide offices: governor, attorney general, and secretary of state. Senator Carl Levin, if he decides to run again, will also be up for reelection in 2014.
But this year, what we really saw was very little change. Same president. Michigan continues to vote for the Democratic nominee. Who is in charge in the Legislature remains unchanged. No new constitutional amendments and voters rejecting the emergency manager law – all of which basically brings us back to where we were in January of last year. For all we heard about how dissatisfied voters were, they apparently weren’t ready to give the heave-ho to the status quo.