Thursday, March 03, 2005

Congressional District 7

Congressional District 7

2006 Contest
Republican Candidates – Tim Walberg (Tipton)
Democrat Candidates – Sharon Renier (Munith)

Current Rep – Joe Schwarz (R-Battle Creek - Defeated in Primary)
Years in office – 1 (2005-present)

2004 Results
Joe Schwarz – 58.36%
Sharon Renier – 36.31%

Presidential results:
2004 (Approximate – my numbers)
Bush - 54.24%
Kerry – 44.68%

Barone’s numbers
Bush – 54%, Bush 51%
Kerry – 45%, Gore 46%

Cook’s partisan index – Republicans +2

Republican Michigander’s prognosis – Strongly Republican.

District covers:
All of these Counties: - Branch, Eaton, Hillsdale, Jackson, Lenawee

Calhoun County: - All except Athens and LeRoy Townships

Washtenaw County: - Bridgewater, Dexter, Freedom, Lima, Lodi, Lyndon, Manchester, Northfield, Salem, Saline, Scio(Most), Sharon, Sylvan, and Webster Townships. Cities of Saline and Chelsea.

This could be a major battle due to the primary races and conflicting views. Tim Walberg is running against Joe Schwarz on the republican side. Four democrats are running as well. Joe Schwarz is the incumbent because Michigan primaries are winner take all without a runoff system. The 2004 primary results were as follows.

Joe Schwarz – 27.82%
Brad Smith – 22.44%
Tim Walberg – 17.66%
Clark Bisbee – 14.02%
Gene DeRossett – 11.41%
Paul DeWeese – 6.65%
This was a case of the liberal vs moderates vs conservatives. Right to life and tax hawks disliked Joe Schwarz. Second Amendment activists despise him. There was a failed effort by conservatives to all get behind one candidate in the primary to stop Schwarz. Every candidate had a weakness. Clark Bisbee was good on business issues, but gun owners did not like him for voting against conceal carry. Gene DeRossett was good on gun issues, but the Chamber didn’t care for him. Paul DeWeese moved to Eaton County from Ingham County outside of the district. Brad Smith never ran for office. Tim Walberg did not have the money other candidates had, but had much of the Right to Life MEMBERSHIP support. Right to Life’s leadership and the Chamber endorsed Bisbee. Many 2nd amendment groups backed DeRossett. Club for Growth backed Brad Smith. The conservatives split, and Schwarz won with 28% as expected, mostly based on regional voting. Lenawee voted for Walberg. Jackson split, but Bisbee did his best there. Eaton (where Schwarz was State Senator) and Calhoun went for Schwarz. Washtenaw split, but DeRossett did well there.

Now I will say that Schwarz has been better for conservatives as a congressman than he was as a state senator and gubernatorial candidate in 2002. However, I can not get past him running his mouth calling gun owners “bubbas who strap on a 9mm” in his opposition to conceal carry, nor the fact that he was the only gubernatorial candidate who said that there is no right to keep and bear arms. He campaigned on abortion rights in 2002 and supported tax increases in his gubernatorial campaign as well. Many conservative and libertarian republicans have a lot of problems with some of those positions. If Schwarz is entrenched, I think he will revert to his old self. Right now he’s worried, but if he wins this primary, he will no longer be worried. Tim Walberg is challenging Schwarz in the primary. Walberg has my support, and would have my vote if I lived in the district, based on his state senatorial record and 2002 campaign on taxes, life, and most of all the Second Amendment.

Does Walberg have a chance to win? I believe so, but two things have to happen to do so. Grass roots conservatives need to vote. Fiscal (Club for Growth) and social conservatives (right to life), as well as gun owners, need to unite for Walberg. It also needs to be a one on one battle. Walberg caught one break with a one on one battle. We'll see what happens on the rest of it. Most of the establishment Republicans are backing Schwarz because of incumbency. That is expected.

The 2004 general election was an easy win for Schwarz. His opponent, Sharon Renier spent only $8,000 in her campaign and received 36%. There were significant third party defections for the Greens, Libertarians, and most of all the Constitution Party (Similar to Pat Buchanan in views – Right wing populists), particularly in Hillsdale County where defections reached 10%. Districtwide, defections were 5% which sounds small, but can surely matter in close races. President Bush, Debbie Stabenow, Mike Rogers, and Mike Cox all won their first race for their current office with 49% of the vote or less.

The district itself is marginally republican. President Bush ran ahead of all Republicans at the top of the ticket outside of Engler since 1996. He won this district narrowly in 2000, as did Dick Posthumus in 2002. This is much more of a “Bush” district than a republican district, although the republicans have an advantage here. This is a regional district with few party strongholds, and a large number of social conservative independents. Mavericks are popular here, and there is not as much party loyalty.

Branch and Hillsdale Counties are Republican strongholds, but Hillsdale is conservative first and republican second. Third parties voted 10% in Hillsdale for the congressional race. That said, those are the only county-level strongholds in the district.

Jackson County is the next Republican. While the birthplace of the GOP almost always goes Republican, even for Dole in 96, it’s narrowly republican usually 51-53%. President Bush received almost 56% here running well ahead of most republicans. Jackson City is a democrat stronghold(less so in 04) and Summit and Spring Arbor Townships balance it out. The rest of the county decides the winner, usually narrowly for Republicans.

Lenawee County is conservative, but not necessary Republican. It, like Jackson usually votes narrowly for Republicans. They also vote for very socially conservative republicans such as Tim Walberg. They did vote for democrats like Doug and Dudley Spade who are more moderately socially conservative than most democrats. It is a competitive county, and Bush ran ahead of most republicans here too with almost 55% Adrian goes Democrat, and the rest of the county leans slightly Republican. Jackson County and Lenawee County can not be taken for granted.

Eaton County is treading more democrat lately, but it took a right turn in 2004. Bush won with 53.41% here, ahead of 50% in 2000. Granholm won this county in 2002 due to the state workers. Eaton has the southwestern part of the City of Lansing, which is extremely democrat. Delta Township narrowly went for Bush twice and is more socially liberal than the rest of the county. Eaton Rapids and Grand Ledge swung for Bush. This is a hard county to predict. They voted for Bush, Granholm, Schwarz, Sue Tabor, and Rick Jones covering most of the political spectrum. If I had to generalize, I would guess that Eaton is pro-government, pro-2nd amendment, and like treading more socially liberal outside of the gun issue due to the growing close in suburbs west of Lansing. I may be wrong here though.

Calhoun County is a true swing county. It voted for Gore, Granholm, Joe Schwarz, Mark Schauer, Mike Nofs, and George W Bush - 3 republicans and 3 democrats. Battle Creek leans democrat mostly due to unions, but it is more receptive to Republicans than most core cities. Bush received almost 47% there, up from 44% in 2000. Albion is a democrat stronghold with its high minority population. Springfield and Bedford Township lean democrat. Marshall and the rest of the county lean Republican. This makes for some very competitive matchups countywide. Two of the most republican townships in the county however are in Fred Upton’s district – Athens and LeRoy townships are both 60%+ Republican.

Washtenaw County itself is a democrat stronghold, but the 7th District does not include most of the Ann Arbor area. This portion of Washtenaw County went 51.12% for Bush. It contains most of the western portion of the county, as well as the areas bordering Livingston and Oakland Counties, going east to Salem and the Wayne County line. While the Ann Arbor area is not here, some of the areas are showing its Ann Arbor influence. Western Washtenaw County is still Republican leaning, but Chelsea (and Sylvan Township in 2000 when most of Chelsea was included) went democrat. Dexter has gone for some democrats in the past. Saline is barely hanging on. Manchester is not as Republican as it once was. Northfield, (Washtenaw side of Whitmore Lake), Dexter, and Webster Townships are much less Republican than its Livingston County neighbors are. Salem Township is still solidly Republican. Most of Scio Township is in this district, and it is a democrat stronghold. Scio lies between Dexter (village) and the City of Ann Arbor along the Huron River. Scio went 59% for John Kerry, up from 53% in 2000. There’s no question to the trend there. It would not surprise me to see this area flip with a strong democrat or weak republican candidate.

Four Democrats are taking a shot, three of which are from Washtenaw County. At least two are from Scio Township(part of which has an Ann Arbor mailing address), the most liberal part of the district outside of Eaton County's portion of Lansing. Sharon Renier is taking another shot at this district. She didn't have much help last time. Fred Strack is from the Dexter area. Geography may be a major issue in both the primary and general elections. If the democrat primary heats up, Walberg has an advantage with less crossover votes for Schwarz in the GOP primary. This especially helps him in more liberal areas such as Scio Township. In the general, it may be an outstate vs Ann Arbor/Scio race which will advantage the GOP. Much of Scio Township has an Ann Arbor mailing address which is a disadvantage with the large number of blue collar independents in this district. Lenawee (Walberg) and Calhoun (Schwarz) Counties are both key marginal/swing areas which are must wins in this district.

This district will be one to watch in 2004. We will update this thread as there are more developments, and more information is known about the democrats running. My current prognosis for this district is strongly republican, although with the primaries in both parties and fallout, this is subject to change, possibly to safe, slight lean, or even tossup depending on what happens.

UPDATED 8/11/06

Joe Schwarz was defeated by Tim Walberg in the primary.
Tim Walberg - 33,244
Joe Schwarz - 29,351

Sharon Renier won the democrat field. She was the only woman running, and the only non Washtenaw County candidate.

Sharon Renier - 10401
Fred Strack - 3445 (Establishment pick)
Darryl Campbell - 3004
Chuck Ream - 2900

This race is Walberg's to lose.

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