Current Rep – Tom Casperson (R-Escanaba)
2010 Results - Old District (38th)
Tom Casperson - 49,868
Michael Lahti - 39,220
This is the most surprising pickup from the 2010 state senate districts. This very populist district has been democrat for years until now. Joe Mack (The Robert Byrd of Michigan in terms of pork) had it forever. Don Koivisto and Michael Prusi had it afterward. While the UP was starting to change federally, it is more democrat at the state level than the federal level. Casperson was the strongest candidate, but lost big to Stupak by a very large margin, although not as large as other candidates. He was a three term rep from a key swing area so he has shown strength. This is not a culturally liberal district on social issues, but it is economically populist. Old school democrats usually do well here. California bay area liberal types are disliked.
The district drops Luce County, but otherwise remains the same. That can help or hurt. Hurt due to its GOP leanings at the top of the ticket. Help due to state workers. The trouble with this district is that it is unable to take in Chippewa or Mackinac Counties which are more favorable to the GOP. Bush barely won this district in 2004 (two of his best yooper counties were Mackinac and Chippewa) and Obama won it in 2008.
While the UP is slowly treading our way, and took a major GOP swing in 2010 across the board, I'm not sold on this being a permanent alignment to anything but independent. While I have less knowledge of yoopers than I have on the sunrise side of the lower peninsula, one thing I learned quickly about Up North is that folks who live there have low tolerance of screw-ups and snake-oil salesmen. Most of the area has been ticket splitting for years. Bush won in 04. Obama in 08. Stupak every time he ran.
The Menominee/Iron Mountain/Escanaba area has been a swing area for years. It was Stupak and Casperson's home base. Dickinson County is slightly more Republican than Menominee, which is slightly more Republican than Delta County. All are winnable for either party.
Most of the Western UP outside of the Houghton area has been strongly democrat for generations. Now it is more independent outside of Ironwood and Gogebic County which still keeps its Joe Mack tradition alive and well. Houghton is now more competitive with the university being dominant, although not as democrat as most university areas.
Marquette tilts this district democrat. It's dominated by Northern Michigan University and is more culturally liberal than the rest of the populist UP. Marquette is also a union area. Casperson lowering the democrat vote spread here to around 500 was a major win. Alger County next to Marquette is also traditionally democrat.
The only way Casperson keeps this seat in 2014 outside of a 2010 type year is to run up big margins in his home areas to counter Marquette and Ironwood. It's possible, and if anyone can do it, it is Casperson. It will still be a very difficult defense for the GOP. The farm club for the democrats is vast. A good preview will be the 2012 state rep districts here, particularly the one in the Western UP. If we survive in the 110th, it will be a good omen for 2014. If not, I expect things to even out and for the SD-38 to be a swing district for Casperson, and democrat leaning for an open seat.
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