Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Gary Peters v Joe Knollenberg - Heavyweight Fight in the making?

(I'm assuming Knollenberg is running for re-election)

Former Lottery Chief and Granholm buddy Gary Peters is going to try and make his political comeback. This is going to be a very competitive race, and most likely the toughest defense for the GOP in this state outside of a couple of state rep districts. Some think Tim Walberg will have the tougest defense, but I think he's a lot safer than people think. Knollenberg is not safe at all.

From the Detroit News

Outgoing Michigan Lottery Commissioner Gary Peters will again try his luck at elective office and seek the Democratic nomination to challenge veteran U.S. Rep. Joe Knollenberg, R-Bloomfield Township, in what could be Michigan's most competitive and costly congressional race in 2008.

I wrote this up last year before the 06 primaries. profile of District 9. It's out of date, but still good.

Unfortunately, I haven't had the time to update the county profiles and political districts since before the election. The ratings I gave for the races were around May of last year, when I expected the democrats to be weaker in Michigan than they were due to the atrocious job by Granholm (and I expected DeVos to be a stronger candidate). Even then, I said that Gary Peters would have been a very strong candidate. Peters was a state senator representing much of the area, and came within 5500 votes of Mike Cox statewide for the attorney general position back in 2002. Peters lost Oakland County as a whole, but ran well in much of the 9th district's area. He took Auburn Hills, Berkley, Keego Harbor, Royal Oak, and West Bloomfield. The areas in Oakland where Peters got clobbered were in McCotter's district. (Lyon Township, Milford, etc) That's not to mention that Peters won those areas despite running for an office he was unqualified for against a prosecutor.

Knollenberg has beaten back several spirited challenges and until last year, always seemed to win with about 58% of the vote, performing well in all areas outside of Pontiac, including those like Royal Oak and West Bloomfield that lean heavily democrat. David Fink spent a lot of money, Steven Reifman did not. It didn't matter. Same results. Nancy Skinner was another B team candidate, but almost got the upset. This put a chink in Knollenberg's armor.

In 2002 and 2004, Knollenberg won everywhere except Pontiac which is about 80% democrat. In 2006 against Nancy Skinner (who I still consider a B team candidate who was nearly lucky due to Bush fatigue), we had a different story. Auburn Hills flipped. Berkley flipped big - with Skinner outperforming John Kerry. Clawson was 50/50, same as 2004. Farmington Hills flipped and was slightly less than 50/50 (same as Bush 2000). Keego Harbor flipped. Pontiac was an even bigger loss than normal. Royal Oak flipped big. West Bloomfield flipped. All the areas that flipped were blue areas already at the top of the ticket - which leans Republican (circa 2004) by about 6000 votes. Knollenberg won by 15,000 votes. You can look at that two ways.
A. He STILL won by over twice Bush's 04 numbers despite a big democrat year in 2006.
B. He barely beat a B team opponent.

Will this district flip to blue? I think that depends on a few factors.
1. Who are the general election candidates? There's still primaries. Who is on the top of the ticket?
2. Age. Knollenberg will be 75 years old in 2008. That's still average by Michigan Congress standards (Carl Levin 74, Vern Ehlers 74, Dale Kildee 79, Sander Levin 78, John Conyers 79, John Dingell 82) but it may be an issue against a much younger opponent.
3. Do people remember Peters, and if so, is he remembered in a good or bad way?
4. Demographic shifts. Bad for Knollenberg since the fast growing Republican areas are in McCotter and Rogers' districts. Orion and Oakland townships are going in his favor. The Bloomfields and Farmingtons are not.
5. The auto industry. Will the democrats and their hostility to the auto industry cost them here. Bush's bad rep here was partly due to his reputation that he doesn't
care about the auto industry. Knollenberg is known as a defender of the auto industry. That probably saved him in 06.
6. U-Haul. A lot of people are fleeing this state. That has a major effect on elections. How it affects here, I'm not sure outside of uneasiness of the economy.
7. Last but not least, Iraq.

15,000 is not much to make up. Bush won this district by 6,000 votes. While this election is still favored for Knollenberg to win, I'd be lying to you if I said I was not a little uneasy about it. We have a lot of work to do here.

3 comments: said...

Good analysis. Though I think you're giving Peters too much credit for "almost" beating Cox in 2002.

If you think back, that office hadn't been won by a Republican in, what, 48 years?

And Peters had the electoral / campaign experience. Cox was a relative novice when it came to the campaign game and was a prohibitive underdog in the race.

It's funny how we think about it now all these years later. The AG coasted to re-election last year and we assume with TLL at SoS that the statewides are just supposed to go GOP but it isn't the case.

He's in for a real dog fight with Nancy Skinner, to boot.


Republican Michigander said...

I'd rather err on giving too much credit to the opponent than being caught offguard.

I looked at where Peters ran well in 02 in Oakland, and it was in that part of the district. He lost Oakland since he was clobbered in places like South Lyon and Milford. Cox may have been a novice campaigner, but he ran a very very good campaign (politician v prosecutor) IMO in 02 and predicted hhis win (although I was in the minority at that time who thought so among a lot of the political circles I'm in).

I think Knollenberg will win by a hair as things stand now. 5000 votes or so.

Jared said...

It is also interesting to note that Gary Peters is double-dipping as all of this is going on because he recently accepted a Professor job at Central Michigan University, all the while knowing he is going to be a politician while he is getting paid to teach Political Science students at CMU.

Wrong? I won't be the judge on that, but figured it was interesting to through the info out there.....