Saturday, December 30, 2006

7th District moving Dem?

As we come to the end of 2006 it is time to look back at the election. I have looked at the numbers for both Walberg v. Renier and DeVos v. Granholm in the 7th District. I was very surprised by what I found. In the 7th District Granholm defeated DeVos by 15,958 votes. Granholm won 4 of the 7 counties in the district and received better than 55% in Washtenaw, Eaton, and Calhoun. Granholm even won Jackson County by 914 votes.

In the 7th District Tim Walberg defeated Sharon Renier by 9,683 votes. As I looked at this my first thought was that it must be as a result of a large drop off of voters from the Governors race to the Congressional race. While there were 7,421 fewer votes cast for Congress than Governor that is still 2,200 short of what Renier needed to catch Walberg. I would even argue that most of those 7,000 voters were Schwarz Republicans who would not vote for Walberg. I believe that the drop off is a result of a race that no one was interested in. There were 300 more votes cast for State House than for Congress.

It is interesting to look at the percentages that each county voted for Renier and Granholm.

Branch: Renier 39.79% 5,572 votes, Granholm 47.98% 6,901 votes.
Calhoun: Renier 48.83% 21,260 votes, Granholm 57.83% 25,854 votes.
Eaton: Renier 49.51% 22,108 votes, Granholm 57.65% 26,611 votes.
Hillsdale: Renier 32.54% 5,000 votes, Granholm 40.83% 6,408 votes.
Jackson: Renier 45.82% 25,281 votes, Granholm 50.06% 28,450 votes.
Lenawee: Renier 42.36% 14,379 votes, Granholm 47.11% 16,295 votes.
Washtenaw: Renier 43.74% 19,065 votes, Granholm 55.89% 22,402 votes.

In every County Renier under performed.

There has been a lot of speculation that Walberg did not do as well as expected. What is interesting is that he out performed Dick DeVos in every County. In all 7 counties Walberg had a higher percentage and 5,385 more votes than DeVos even with fewer votes cast.

Branch: Walberg 55.30% 7,744 votes, DeVos 50.39% 7,248 votes.
Calhoun: Walberg 43.48% 18,930 votes, DeVos 42.17% 18,852 votes.
Eaton: Walberg 43.33% 21,135 votes, DeVos 41.11% 18,977 votes.
Hillsdale: Walberg 63.77% 9,798 votes, DeVos 57.38% 9,005 votes.
Jackson: Walberg 51.00% 28,140 votes, DeVos 48.46% 27,536 votes.
Lenawee: Walberg 55.20% 18,740 votes, DeVos 51.06% 17,662 votes.
Washtenaw: Walberg 46.60% 17,861 votes, DeVos 44.11% 17,683 votes.

I am not sure what this means. My gut reaction is that this district is trending Democratic. In Eaton Democrats took control of the County Commission. In Calhoun Democrats defeated an incumbent commissioner and now have a 5-2 majority.

There are 10 State House Districts that are at least partially in the 7th Congressional District (52nd, 54th, 55th 57th, 58th 62nd, 63rd, 64th, 65th, and 71st). There were no open seats. The only incumbents who lost were the two Republicans who lost in the 64th and 65th. When you add up the votes in all 10 districts Republicans won by only 3,255 votes 50.66% to 49.33%. The 58th district (Branch and Hillsdale Counties) inflated the Republican numbers. Bruce Caswell won by 13,392 votes 72.9%. If the Democrat in this race had received the same percentage as Renier Democrats would have received 7,000 more votes than Republicans. What these numbers tell me is that this district will support a Democrat if there is a strong Democrat running.

I will be interested to read what others make of these numbers.


Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Gerald Ford, Rest In Peace

President Gerald R. Ford has passed away. He was a little before my time, but in my study of history, I found that I liked the man. He was genuinely decent and honest, restoring public confidence following Watergate. He was never the ambitious, arrogant politician. He was just a guy from Grand Rapids, doing a job in Washington. Politically, he was a moderate in the best of ways, while still standing for fiscal responsibility.

Gerald R. Ford Presidential Library and Museum
Gerald Ford Memorial
Gerald Ford - Wikipedia

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Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Joe Schwarz's Future Plans

The AP has an article out on Joe Schwarz's political future, based on a similar Battle Creek Enquirer article. Both are worth reading. I'm afraid I don't have the time to summarize them, except to note that Congressman Schwarz has a number of issues he plans to work on when Congressman-elect Walberg takes over, including stem cell research and universal healthcare.

But here's a part I do want to share, from the end of the AP article:

Other plans include teaching public policy at the University of Michigan next fall and helping U.S. Sen. John McCain in his expected bid for the presidency in 2008.

Despite support from the likes of President George W. Bush and the National Rifle Association, Schwarz lost the August primary after Walberg said he was too liberal for the district and used Schwarz's vote in favor of expanding embryonic stem cell research against him. Schwarz said he would be "foolish" to rule out running again to reclaim his House seat but said he has come to terms with the loss.

"You move on," he said. "Life is one reality after another."

... and, from the Enquirer article:
"I would be foolish to rule it out, but I certainly haven't ruled it in either," Schwarz said of a 2008 bid in the 7th Congressional District. "I've given myself at least six months to sit back and look at that situation."
We'll see what happens...

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Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Netroots: MI-07 Competitive in 2008

I've been saying for a long time (even before Tim Walberg defeated Joe Schwarz in the primary) that MI-07 could be won by a Democrat under the right conditions, and 2006 has shown that against Tim Walberg, it's a serious pick-up opportunity. But then, I'm just one blogger. I can't speak for the entire netroots.

Then there's Michigan Liberal, whose contributors have shown considerable interest in making this seat competitive. Still, though, I can only claim that the Michigan netroots think the race could be competitive in 2008, and really only a portion of that group.

But now, as Democratic activists across the country begin looking for ways to solidify the newly-won Democratic majorities, more and more eyes are turning toward Michigan's 7th Congressional District.

Take Democraticavenger, who, at MyDD and elsewhere, has compiled a list of the top 50 targets for 2008. Can you guess which race is number 1? I'll give you a hint: it's currently held by a freshman Republican who defeated a popular moderate in a primary, holds radically conservative positions, and only won because of substantial out-of-state support. That's right-- MI-07 is the top pick-up opportunity listed!

And then there's Predictor at DailyKos. He lists the 35 closest Republican-won districts [UPDATE: My mistake-- 35 closest, both Democratic and Republican] in the country, noting that "the purpose of this Diary is more from a Statistical/Tactical Perspective for 2008." What race snuck in at number 34? Once again, MI-07.

Some might argue that two diaries is hardly an overwhelming wave of support for targeting the district, and that would be correct. But it's only a month and a half after the last election, and already, people around the country agree that the district ought to be competitive. Imagine what people will be saying when they all see Tim Walberg in action!

In 2006, the district was virtually ignored by everyone out of state until the last minute, when netroots support (and even DCCC support) might not have been enough to tip the race for Sharon Renier, with the Club for Growth already active in the district. In 2008, expect a lot more attention and a lot more support.

The next two years will be interesting.

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Monday, December 18, 2006

Walberg Speaks On Iraq

Setting the tone for his next two years in Congress, Congressman-elect Tim Walberg (R) speaks out on Iraq. What are Walberg's thoughts on the situation?
And for Congressman Elect Tim Walberg of the 7th district, this is one of his biggest concerns.

"To say anything other than Iraq and the war that's going on there is necessary is wrong. The reason we got in and the ultimate battle that goes on with terrorism; it's extremely important to me and my constituents," Walberg says.

This is more or less the only quote of substance from the WILX story... I'm always hesitant to use local television news stories because they can be light on information, but I thought this was worth talking about.

So let's look closely at just what Walberg is saying.

  • "To say anything other than Iraq and the war that's going on there is necessary is wrong." It's not the clearest wording I've ever seen, but Congressman-elect Walberg is telling us that American involvement with the war in Iraq is necessary.
  • "The reason we got in and the ultimate battle that goes on with terrorism; it's extremely important to me and my constituents." This part confuses me more. Something (or things), apparently, is (are) extremely important to his constituents. Part of that is "the ultimate battle that goes on with terrorism," but it's not clear if he means that terrorism is the same as "the reason we got in" the situation to begin with.
On Walberg's campaign website, his stance on National Security is given as:
Tim wholeheartedly supports President Bush in the War on Terror. He supports Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld and our troops as they finish the mission in Iraq to assure the victory of freedom over tyranny.
During the debate at Siena Heights University before the election, these were my notes on Walberg's response to the question, "Do you support a withdrawal from Iraq? If not, what future course do you see?":
- "We too easily forget 9/11" [Audience begins booing], "We too easily forget the bombing of the USS Cole"
- Terrorism still an important issue
- No cut and run, must stay in Iraq
- The Iraqi army is working
From all of this, I hope you'll agree it's safe to characterize Congressman-elect Walberg's position as this: He supports President Bush and the Iraq policy of former Sec. of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. He believes withdrawing (and, probably, a timetable for withdrawal) would be a mistake, and believes Iraq is the central front of the War on Terror. In other words, he supports President Bush-- and Bush's rhetoric-- 100 percent.

If anyone thinks this is a misrepresentation of his position, please say so in the comments. I'd say it's a fair characterization.

So does Walberg's stance line up with most Americans? From (formatting edited and emphasis added):
Los Angeles Times/Bloomberg Poll. Dec. 8-11, 2006. N=1,489 adults nationwide. MoE ± 3. RV = registered voters

"Do you approve or disapprove of the way George W. Bush is handling the situation in Iraq?"
12/8-11/06 - Approve 35% Disapprove 62% Unsure 3%


"All in all, do you think the situation in Iraq was worth going to war over, or not?"
12/8-11/06 - Worth It 40% Not Worth It 56% Unsure 4%


"As you may know, some members of Congress are calling for a timetable for withdrawing American troops from Iraq, while others are saying that our troops should remain in Iraq until the country is secure, and others are proposing that more troops should be sent to Iraq. Do you think the United States should withdraw troops from Iraq on a fixed timetable, or should keep the current level of troops in Iraq as long as it takes to secure the country, or should send more troops to Iraq?"

Withdraw On a Fixed Timetable 52%
Stay as Long as It Takes 26%
Send More Troops 12%
Unsure 10%
... And there's plenty more where that came from, with polling done by several different organizations. Clearly, the country is headed in a different direction than Congressman-elect Walberg.

Still, I'd like to apologize. When I started this post, I had planned to offer a good look at Tim Walberg's position on the war in Iraq, and refute it with solid facts, not polling data. But I can't do that. Why? Because, except for some vague statements and election campaign soundbites, it doesn't seem like Walberg really has any ideas for Iraq.

I'll gladly do another post when he has a position. Until then...

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Tuesday, December 12, 2006

School Vouchers

As Mr. Walberg prepares himself to take office next month, I thought that we could look at one of the issues that he supports: School Vouchers (sometimes called “scholarships” by it's supporters). Public schools get a certain amount of money per student, a school voucher would give the money that would be spent on each student to the parents of those students rather than the school district. This would allow that money to be spent on private school if the parents so choose. This is not a new issue, it has been a hot button issue in this state not that long ago.

The argument for School Vouchers:
  • Parents should be able to choose the school their children attend.
  • Create a “Free Market” in education. Creating an atmosphere in which schools compete would force each school to improve their educational experience in order to attract students and thus funding. Successful schools would improve funding and poor school would be forced to get better or close.
  • Allow lower income students access to private schools.
  • The US university system allows schools to compete and raises the education value of each school.
  • The wealthy are the only ones able to afford the benefits of a private school.

The argument against School Vouchers:
  • School of Choice is possible without School Vouchers (Michigan allows a student to go to a public school of their choosing with certain limitations such as busing).
  • A voucher system would weaken the funding system for public schools.
  • A voucher system would not cover the tuition cost of all private schools.
  • Some private schools worry that if the state funds their school, even indirectly it will demand greater control over what is taught in those schools. They fear that this could also lead to making private schools more like public schools are now.
  • Since private schools are allowed to choose who attends their schools, it would only choose the best students or students with a certain religious belief, making public schools “a dumping ground” for those who do not have good grades and belong to the incorrect religion.
  • Could allow for a two-tiered standard for education.
  • Since most private schools are religious, this would mean a tearing down of the wall between church and state.
  • Vouchers are a way around fixing the problems that some public schools face.

Vouchers actually have been implemented in some areas. Some countries have voucher-like programs installed nation wide. Milwaukee, Wisconsin and Cleveland, Ohio are both cities that enacted a voucher program. The Cleveland program was tested in court over the issue of separation of church and state. A federal district court and an appeals court found the program in volatilization of the issue. The Supreme Court however found that in the area the vouchers were enacted there was sufficient choice for parents and that the underlying goal, improving elementary education, was secular one. Florida also tried to enact the Opportunity Scholarship Program, a voucher system. This system was killed by a Supreme Court ruling against it because it found it violated the state's constitution. Also worth noting is that the federal government runs a voucher program for the evacuees of Hurricane Katrina.

Now, any one that has read my blog can probably guess where I stand on this issue; vouchers are a bad idea. That being said, I tried to put my bias aside when writing the arguments both for against above.

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Monday, December 11, 2006

Rick Baxter

This is perhaps old news, but still worth looking at.

As former State Rep. Tim Walberg (R) began to make the transition to Congressman Tim Walberg, he named outgoing State Rep. Rick Baxter as his district director.

Baxter, R-Concord, will oversee constituent services and projects for the 7th District's seven counties, which stretch from the Ann Arbor suburbs to Battle Creek.

Jackson will be his main base of operations; Walberg expects to sign a lease here and hire additional staff within the next two weeks.

Pollster Ed Sarpolus said he wasn't surprised Baxter got the nod from Walberg, who won a narrow victory.

Across the state, legislators lost elections when congressional candidates in their districts didn't get out and campaign for them, notes Sarpolus, vice president of Lansing-based EPIC-MRA.

"Tim Walberg cost Baxter the election," Sarpolus said. "It's fitting he gave him a job."

He'll also be the new chairman of the Jackson County Republican Party.

So who is Rick Baxter? As might be expected, he's very close to Congressman-elect Walberg.

He volunteered in Walberg's last legislative race in 1996 for extra credit in his Lenawee Christian High School government class.

When Baxter, 27, ran for his own state House seat in 2004, he hired Wicks as his campaign manager.

Wicks, 27, served as Baxter's chief of staff until this spring when he left to run Walberg's campaign.

He was mentioned at one point as a potential primary challenger to Joe Schwarz, only to step aside in favor of Walberg's challenge. Narrowly elected in 2004 to a state House seat in Jackson County, Baxter filled the vacancy left by Clark Bisbee-- Bisbee was one of the other Republican candidates in the 2004 primary, coming in fourth place (2,600 votes behind Walberg). Baxter was defeated in November by Jackson Mayor Martin Griffin.

So what did Rick Baxter do during is term in the state House?

For one thing, he fought against fiscal responsibility. Following the demise of the Single Business Tax, Republican and Democratic leaders in the state-- including both Governor Granholm and Dick DeVos-- struggled to find a fair way to replace the $1.9 billion in lost revenue (or, in DeVos' case, pretend that he had a plan). What did Baxter say?
This November, I hope the Cit-Pat remembers that Jackson-area state Rep. Rick Baxter (R-Hanover) has proclaimed that NONE(!) of the $1.9 billion should be replaced - and says any possible replacement revenues would be a "tax increase."
Let's just be clear: when a $1.9 billion hole was left in our budget, nearly all responsible leaders recognized that the revenue would have to be replaced in some fairer, more business-friendly way, or else we'd face a fiscal catastrophe. But not Rick Baxter.

Of course, we all have our good days and our bad days. During this legislative session, Baxter had one particularly bad day. What day was it?

LANSING-Michigan Democratic Party Chair Mark Brewer criticized State Representative Rick Baxter (R-Concord) today after Baxter told a Lansing newsletter that the “worst day” of his first term was when the State Legislature approved raising the minimum wage.

“Rick Baxter’s comments are despicable and an insult to our hard working families in Jackson County and throughout the state,” said Brewer. “The minimum wage increase will help thousands of working families. Even Republican House Speaker Craig DeRoche realized the benefits and voted to increase the minimum wage. Baxter’s comments show Jackson County and the entire state just how out-of-touch he is with our working families. Jackson deserves someone in office who understands the people and Baxter is not that person.”

In the July 6th issue of the Lansing-based newsletter MIRS, Baxter was asked about his worst day in the Legislature. He said, “Quite honestly — I'm sure my party will hit me for this — the worst day was when we passed the minimum wage. That was one of those days when I sat back and thought, this day will never come while we're in power. That's pretty easy as far as the worst.”

(Emphasis added. Thanks again to Michigan Liberal.)

Rick Baxter, District Director for Tim Walberg. Fighting for the families of the 7th District?


Thursday, December 07, 2006

The Club for Growth Fights Back

Yay, my first post on Walberg Watch!

In case any one hasn't been following the goings on in Michigan's 7th congressional district, Joe Schwarz has filed 3 FEC grievances against Timmy Walberg and The Club for Grownth for illegal campaign contributions. Well it seems like The Club for Grownth doesn't like being called out and has now filed it's own suit with the FEC against Representative Schwarz. THE CLUB now claims that there was “illegal coordination” between the Schwarz campaign and The Republican Main Street Partnership.

The complaint states that Main Street spent more on Schwarz's campaign than Schwarz's records says, and that Schwarz benefited from radio and television ads without the proper disclaimer. THE CLUB states that Schwarz is a member of the Main Street board of directors and therefore finds it hard to believe that Schwarz didn't have a say in the group's ads for his race. David Keating, executive director of THE CLUB, states that spending coordination between candidates and polictial organizations is illegal. The only problem, Schwarz isn't on The Republican Main Street Partnership's Board of Directors.

(Sorry if I did a hack job explaining this, it was really just background for my rant below. Check out the article here for more info.)

Why did THE CLUB file this complaint one could ask? As Keating put it, "The primary reason was we were sick of Schwarz filing bogus complaints against us."

So, when do you think these two will duke it out? In this corner, ultra right-winger Timmy Walberg. In the other corner, moderate Joe Schwarz. A minister and a doctor go round-for-round. Oh boy, isn't this exciting! It wasn't enough to beat Schwarz, now they are trying to drag him down to Walberg's level. Even if the FEC does side with THE CLUB, this complaint never would have been filed if Schwarz hadn't found out about THE CLUB trying to buy an election (the first complaint against Walberg and THE CLUB was filed before the election). This is too bad, Joe Schwarz isn't a bad guy.

I have said it before, and I will say it again, I think Tim Walberg will fight progress every step of the way. Now I know he didn't file the complaint, but it sure shows you the people that are backing this guy; the people that bought his office. It shows you the way they think. I guess you just have to say to yourself, what do you expect from a guy that still tried to make the connection between 9/11 and Iraq in his debate.

Being vindictive is a great first foot forward, so let's just hope that Walberg doesn't follow in the footsteps of his backers.

UPDATE by Fitzy: ... And welcome, InterrupT! There are a few new voices joining the blog as we end the year. Thanks to all of you for volunteering to watch Congressman-elect Walberg during his first (and only) term. (And to the new contributors-- I promise, this is the only time I'm going to edit one of your posts.)



I had finished this post, and was about ready to hit "Publish," when I thought to myself that I should re-check one of the things I said about the August primary. I go on to the MI SOS site, and the computer freezes, and I lose everything I wrote... Such is life. So, this is take two.

Prior to starting Walberg Watch, I was involved in the movement to support Senator Russ Feingold's potential presidential bid. That all ended when Feingold announced he would not run, but I learned quite a bit and grew quite a bit as a blogger.

At the start, the movement was a loose collection of blogs with no clear message or plan. However, things began coming into focus when the very first pro-Feingold blogger-- a guy in Missouri named Dan-- wrote a piece titled "Forward With Feingold." He eloquently set the tone of our message by drawing from Wisconsin's state motto, and further helped us focus our attention on 2008. You can't win anything by refighting old battles. You've got to look forward to the next opportunity to convince voters that your candidate is the right guy for the job. Always move forward.

And so, I now look forward to 2008 here in Michigan's 7th District.

Below is a list of potential Democratic candidates to run against Tim Walberg. Some might say that it's too early to start this speculation, and those who say that would be right. Consider this a "rough draft" for the 2008 field, looking only at the names that are prominent now. A lot will change. This is just playful speculation. I'm certain that plenty of the names I list below aren't interested.

So, here are the possibilities that currently come to mind:

Previous Candidates

Sharon Renier - If she runs again in 2008, it'll be her third attempt at the office (and run total for elective office). Will she run? On Election Night, that's what it looked like she'd do, but a lot can change in two years. In my previous post on the 2006 results, one comment caught my attention:
Renier was in her 3rd run for office, raised no money and changed her position on a reproductive choice. She failed to reach out to any of the active democrats in the district and it apprears she is not a dues paying member of the democratic party. Her drop off from Granholm was consistently 1,400 - 3,000 votes, less than half of which went to Walberg. You don't show the drop-off in Washtenaw, who's western end is trending democratic. You might like her but she is not credible as a congressional candidate.
It may be true that I was a little too friendly to Renier in my look back, so I'll say this: Renier ran behind a gubernatorial candidate that was under constant attack, had atrocious fundraising, was up against a divisive far-right Republican yet still lost, and, at times, her rhetoric was as divisive as Tim Walberg's.

That said, it's not fair to say she wasn't credible. She out-performed any recent Democratic candidate for the office with a campaign which was run with a few thousand dollars and a lot of hard work. With a strong campaign apparatus, she could easily win. Is she the best choice? We'll have to see what happens.

Fred Strack - Veteran of the US Navy and Ford employee, Strack finished second in the 2006 Democratic primary. He's got a good resumé and had a good message, but (like all the Democratic candidates) was drowned out by the tough GOP primary. There's no clear indication that he'd run again, but he's certainly a possibility.

Daryl Campbell - Army veteran and Washtenaw County police officer, Campbell finished third. His campaign never really seemed to get off the ground, but some suggested he might be a "rising star" of the district.

Chuck Ream - If the far-right loves Tim Walberg, they'd hate Chuck Ream, the fourth place finisher in the 2006 primary. Scio Township trustee and supporter of legalization of marijuana, electability becomes a factor. He'd certainly provide contrast with Tim Walberg on the issues, though.

Drew Walker - Walker finished second in the 2004 primary, and did not run in 2006. However, here's his quote in a recent Jackson Citizen-Patriot article:
"The Republicans couldn't possibly have a worse candidate than Tim Walberg," said Drew Walker, D-Battle Creek, who was defeated in the 2004 7th District primary. "He's on the fringe, supporting practically every radical social issue. The tide is turning for our party."
The rumor at the time was that he was the choice of the Spade brothers in Lenawee County, which is some strong support. It was never really clear if that rumor was true, though. Is he interested in running again? I don't know. It's always a possibility.

Elected Officials

For the purposes of this list, I'm only including state representatives and state senators, and only those that have served at least one term already. There's always the possibility that a freshman like Martin Griffin might make a run, but I'd expect him and Mike Simpson to focus on re-election. There may also be more local figures-- mayors, county commissioners, etc.-- that could emerge, but I can't think of anyone now. If you can, mention 'em in the comments.

Mark Schauer - Mark Schauer was the name the Schwarz campaign used to try to scare Republican primary voters with. "Vote for Schwarz," they would say, "because Mark Schauer could beat Walberg in 2008!" State Senator Schauer represents Battle Creek and its surrounding area, the same seat (more or less) that Joe Schwarz occupied. He's certainly a rising star in the party, and is the incoming Senate minority leader (a couple more seats, and he could have been majority leader). He's term-limited out in 2010, so what are his options? Sen. Carl Levin is running for re-election in 2008, so he can't take that seat. Will he run for governor in 2010? Or how about Congress in 2008?

Or will he retire from public life? It's impossible to predict. Still, Schauer's one to watch.

UPDATE: From the comments:
Point of order. The Schwarz campaign did not use Schauer as a scare tactic, the GOP did. Fact is, Schauer and Schwarz work together very well. He was the Rep. and Schwarz was the Senator in Calhoun County when Schwarz was in the MI Legislature. They both respect each other and work hard together for Calhoun County and Battle Creek. They have political differences, but Schwarz would never "threaten" the voters by using Schauer's name. That's just not his style.
Maybe "scare Republican primary voters" wasn't the best way to put it... That said, John Truscott, at the time working with the Schwarz campaign, did use Schauer's name, and Schauer said he felt like a "political bogeyman".

Doug Spade - Incredibly popular former state representative from Lenawee County, he was the first legally blind member of the Michigan House, and would be the first such member of Congress. The rumor was that he was heavily courted in 2004, but backed out to help his brother, Dudley, win his seat after being term-limited out of office. Still, he's popular and might decide to return to public life.

If he doesn't run for Congress, watch him when current State Senator Cameron Brown is term-limited out in a few years. In an open seat, Doug could win where Dudley failed in 2002.

Dudley Spade - The other half of Lenawee County's dynamic duo, State Representative Dudley Spade now holds the seat his brother left, winning in 2004 (after a failed 2002 state Senate bid), and re-elected in 2006 by a 2 to 1 margin. He won't be term-limited out in 2008, but he might see it as a great opportunity for any ambitions he might have.

Both Spades tend to be moderates, and could easily carry Lenawee County against Tim Walberg.

Pam Byrnes - State Representative Byrnes is in the same position as Dudley Spade-- she won't be term-limited out, but could seize the opportunity to fulfill greater ambitions. She represents western Washtenaw County, an area which has been trending slightly more Democratic lately.

Fantasy Candidates

Joe Schwarz - A former member of Congress, veteran, distinguished mayor of Battle Creek and state senator, and one-time gubernatorial candidate, Schwarz has the perfect resumé. Too bad he's a Republican.

Seriously, though, Matt at Michigan Liberal suggested that Schwarz running as a Democrat wasn't outside the realm of possibility in 2004. Now, I really doubt that he'll make such a switch in 2008, but it'd make for a great race.

If Schwarz does run, it would probably be as a primary challenge to Tim Walberg, making it the third such match-up in a row, or as an independent. I know that a lot of readers of this blog were more loyal to Schwarz than to the Democratic Party, and I understand that. If he runs, though, it'll make 2008 the race to watch.

Regardless of who runs, I make this promise: this blog will not endorse any candidate prior to the primary, and is committed to supporting the Democratic nominee that challenges Congressman-elect Walberg. While I may have personal preferences in the primary, I'll try to stay impartial on this site (when the time comes, check Michigan Liberal, Capital Viewpoint, etc., for my opinions).

So, an open question for the comments: who's your pick? If you could run anyone in the 7th District against Walberg, who would it be, and why?


Wednesday, December 06, 2006

MI-07 -- 2006

This post should have come a few weeks ago. It's far from comprehensive, and the way I look at the data isn't perfect. That said, it shows real gains made by Democrats, and the potential for more gains-- and victory-- in 2008.

In 2004, the Republican nominee (Joe Schwarz) emerged from a tough and nasty primary with a slight plurality, while the Democratic nominee (Sharon Renier) surprised observers by winning a majority of votes with little money in a largely ignored primary. The Republican went on to win in November 58-36 (plus minor party candidates).

In 2006, the Republican nominee (Tim Walberg) emerged from a tough and nasty primary with a slight majority, while the Democratic nominee (Sharon Renier) surprised observers by winning a majority of votes with little money in a largely ignored primary. The Republican went on to win in November 51-46 (plus minor party candidates).

What happened between 2004 and 2006?

The Numbers

In both years, the 7th District race was largely overshadowed by an up-ticket, big-spending race-- Bush versus Kerry in 2004, and Granholm versus DeVos in 2006.

Below are the Schwarz-Renier and Walberg-Renier race results for each county, 2004 and 2006 (I've omitted minor party candidates for simplicity-- see below). Also included the 2004 presidential and 2006 gubernatorial results. Italics indicate that the winning party for that county changed.


Schwarz - 10,554 - 62%
Renier - 5,487 - 32%

Bush - 10,784 - 60%
Kerry - 7,004 - 39%

Walberg - 7,744 - 56%
Renier - 5,572 - 40%

DeVos - 7,248 - 50%
Granholm - 6,901 - 48%


Schwarz - 35,557 - 61%
Renier - 20,368 - 35%

Bush - 32,093 - 51%
Kerry - 29,891 - 48%

Walberg - 18,930 - 45%
Renier - 21,257 - 51%

DeVos - 19,726 - 42%
Granholm - 26,670 - 57%


Schwarz - 31,600 - 60%
Renier - 19,087 - 36%

Bush - 29,781 - 53%
Kerry - 25,411 - 46%

Walberg - 21,133 - 48%
Renier - 22,105 - 50%

DeVos - 18,975 - 41%
Granholm - 26,608 - 58%


Schwarz - 10,785 - 60%
Renier - 5,227 - 29%

Bush - 12,804 - 64%
Kerry - 7,123 - 35%

Walberg - 9,798 - 64%
Renier - 5,000 - 33%

DeVos - 9,005 - 57%
Granholm - 6,408 - 41%


Schwarz - 39,007 - 58%
Renier - 24,736 - 36%

Bush - 40,029 - 56%
Kerry - 31,025 - 43%

Walberg - 28,138 - 51%
Renier - 25,280 - 46%

DeVos - 27,534 - 48%
Granholm - 28,450 - 50%


Schwarz - 22,837 - 53%
Renier - 16,726 - 39%

Bush - 25,675 - 55%
Kerry - 20,787 - 44%

Walberg - 19,036 - 56%
Renier - 14,344 - 42%

DeVos - 17,641 - 51%
Granholm - 16,502 - 47%


Schwarz - 25,713 - 57%
Renier - 17,896 - 39%

Walberg - 17,861 - 47%
Renier - 19,065 - 50%

*Part of Calhoun County is in the 6th District. However, as the vast majority of the county is in the 7th, and no major population centers are in the excluded section, full presidential and gubernatorial data are included.
**Only the western portion of Washtenaw County is in the 7th District. The rest is in the 15th District, represented by Rep. John Dingell. Only the congressional results have been included.

Sharon Renier made gains in every county, picking up anywhere from 3 to 16 percent of the vote, in Lenawee and Calhoun Counties, respectively. Perhaps worth noting is the fact that her smallest gain was in Walberg's home county and her largest gain was in Joe Schwarz's home county. In 2006, Renier won three of the counties of the district, having lost all of them to Schwarz two years earlier. Walberg's percentage of the vote was thus lower than Schwarz's in all but two counties (Lenawee and Hillsdale, where 2004 had strong minor party candidates).

However, Renier was not the only Democrat to make gains in a "Democratic Year." Nationally, Democrats took the House and Senate, as well as picking up six new governorships. In Michigan, Democrats took the state House and narrowed the gap in the state Senate, and re-elected a Democratic governor by 14 points. Were Renier's gains just Granholm coattails?

In both years, Sharon Renier underperformed when compared to the top of the ticket. Yet, the average difference between Kerry and Renier in each county (except Washtenaw) was 8 percent, a difference that narrowed to 6.5 percent between Granholm and Renier. Renier wasn't merely being carried by Granholm and other Democrats-- other factors were in play, whether they were Renier's campaign successes or Walberg's campaign blunders. Given the considerable difference in campaign funding-- Renier's final FEC report showed only $39,000 raised, compared to Walberg's $1,000,000+ -- Renier performed incredibly well.

Perhaps most striking, however, is Jackson County. In both 2004 and 2006, it proved to be the bellwether, accurately reflecting the Democratic and Republican percentages in both elections. Birthplace of the Republican Party, this is the center of the district and the most populous county. Renier showed considerable strength, but still finished four points behind Granholm. This was the only county that Granholm carried and Renier did not. It also included other significant Democratic gains-- two state House Republican incumbents were defeated by Democratic challengers in Jackson County. (For what it's worth, the Renier campaign blamed

What Does This Mean?

Unfortunately, there's no easy answer that I see. If Renier had picked up four or five percent more, she would have won (or been close enough for a recount). Such voters could have been gotten-- after all, they did vote for Governor Granholm over Dick DeVos. That said, she certainly wasn't just a weak candidate, being carried by Granholm's momentum. Her message was genuine (if unpolished, at times), and despite poor funding and little support, she reached a lot of people.

Nor can everything be attributed to Tim Walberg. He's certainly a weak candidate that alienates moderates, but he's got an (R) next to his name, and old habits die hard in a district like this one. Despite hopes to the contrary, plenty of Schwarz Republicans stayed with Walberg. Had Renier been nothing more than a "sacrificial lamb" candidate, she might have received a bump in support, but not much more.

In short, Sharon Renier was a legitimate (if not the strongest possible) candidate, yet Tim Walberg, despite alienating many moderates, still has a loyal base.

The sequence of events that made this race competitive were unlikely, and there's no one factor which shaped the race. Still, it's a race that can be won in 2008.


Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood

Inspired by some other Congressional District blog (ahem), some of the giants of the Michigan blogosphere are teaming up to create Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood, a blog dedicated to Mike Rogers, Republican of the 8th District. This will be an incredibly important blog, as Rogers is one of the most vulnerable incumbents going into 2008 (second only to Tim Walberg), and has even been named as a possible Senate candidate against Sen. Carl Levin.

Add this blog to the list of blogs you check on a daily basis.

Also, one other note: As always, I'm open to others joining me on the Walberg Watch blog. Although the day-to-day blogging was mainly a solo effort prior to the election, I'd love to see some new (and better) writers take on Tim Walberg too. E-mail me if you're interested.



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