State Senate - District 34
Republican Candidates –Gerald Van Woerkem (Muskegon)
Democrat Candidates – Julie Dennis (Muskegon), Dave Tibergen (Muskegon)
Current Rep – Gerald Van Woerkem (R-Muskegon)
Gerald Van Woerkem – 49.45%
Bob Shrauger – 48.34%
Kerry – 50.05%
Bush – 48.97%
Republican Michigander’s prognosis – Slight republican edge
Muskegon, Oceana, Newaygo, and Mason Counties.
This was the closest election in 2002. 867 votes was the difference for Van Woerkem. The state rep race in outer Muskegon County (non city) is always one of the closest year in and year out. Close races here are nothing new.
Slightly less than 2/3 of the district is in Muskegon County. The rest is in the other three mostly rural counties. In 2002, Gerald Van Woerkem won the open seat which was 50/50 instead of the republican leaning pre-redistricting seat that had part of Ottawa County in it. The democrat before was Bob Shrauger, who made several congressional runs against Pete Hoekstra. Shrauger never came close to Hoekstra, but won Muskegon, so he set himself up well for this district. Van Woerkem won three tough contests for his state rep district (some within a couple hundred votes) and this state senate seat was another classic.
Van Woerkem ran 2% ahead of Bush in Muskegon County, which is a democrat stronghold. Mason and Oceana Counties lean republican, but are not gimmes. Van Woerkem won both of them narrowly. Newaygo County is a GOP stronghold and put Van Woerkem ahead by enough to win.
There are two democrats running in the primary. Dave Tibergien and Julie Dennis are in the primary. Julie Dennis is a former state rep and ultraliberal. Her gun grabbing ways will not play well in the populist rural areas. She will get a lot of the Muskegon City vote, but will that be enough? I believe Tibergien is a first time candidate.
I expect this race to be close. John Kerry won the district narrowly. Van Woerkem however is a strong campaigner, incumbent, and has been in this boat before. Based on that and the probably nominee in Julie Dennis, I give him a slight edge.