Has the Livingston County Press & Argus traditionally leaned left or right? Let’s look at the numbers

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When it comes to political endorsements, has the Livingston County newspaper historically leaned more toward Democrats or Republicans?

There are those who say the Livingston Daily Press & Argus and its forerunners (the Livingston County Press and Brighton Argus) have always leaned left, and there are those who say the paper has always leaned right.

So, which camp are you in? Has the paper traditionally favored Democrats or Republicans?

You’re about to find out the answer. I researched the past 30 years of endorsements, and I’m about to reveal the results.

But first, a few notes:

  • I worked at the paper for 26 years. For 23 of those years, I was one of the editors, and I wrote roughly one billion political endorsements – mostly for local races like school board, city council and township board. Aside from a brief hiatus in 2002-2003, I was an editor from 1986 until my job was eliminated in 2009. So for the most part, these observations come from the inside.
  • If you’re wondering how a newspaper makes its endorsements, the way we did it was this: We would interview the candidates, we would all discuss it, and then the highest-ranking editor in the room would make the final decision as to who we would endorse. At various times over the past 30 years, that person was either me, Dennis Keenon, Maria Stuart, Mike Malott or Rich Perlberg. None of those people still work at the paper.
  • For the most part, the owners of the paper let us make the endorsements on our own with no meddling (Phil Power owned the papers until 2005, at which point he sold them to Gannett).
  • The only exception I can remember was in 1992, when Phil Power (a Democrat) told us that we had to endorse Democrat Bob Carr over Republican Dick Chrysler for U.S. Congress. I was a good soldier and did what I was told, but this did not make me happy. Chrysler, of course, was the local boy from Brighton, and I thought he was a far better choice for Livingston County. I still do.
  • As I’ve detailed before, the paper as it stands now is a joke. Gannett has gutted the news staff, and there are only a handful of reporters left. The paper didn’t do endorsements in 2016, and most of the ones they’re running this year are from the Lansing State Journal. So the history of locally generated Livingston County political endorsements pretty much ends in 2014.

So, now that you know the background, let’s get to the scoreboard! Once again, the question is this: Has the Livingston County newspaper traditionally favored Democrats or Republicans?

The answer is: Yes!

Depending on how you look at it, the paper’s endorsements have either leaned way left or way right. For the main races – President, U.S. Senate, U.S. Congress, Governor, State Senate and State House – this is how the endorsements have gone:

PRESIDENT – The Democrat was endorsed 100 percent of the time.

U.S. SENATE – The Democrat was endorsed 100 percent of the time.

U.S. HOUSE – The Republican was endorsed 64 percent of the time.

GOVERNOR – The Republican was endorsed 75 percent of the time.

STATE SENATE – The Republican was endorsed 100 percent of the time.

STATE HOUSE – The Republican was endorsed 89 percent of the time.

So, if you’re looking at the two biggest offices – President and U.S. Senate – then the Livingston County paper hasn’t just leaned left, it’s toppled over. The Livingston County paper has never endorsed a Republican for those seats, not one.

But if you’re looking at everything else, then the paper has leaned way right. Especially for State Senate and State House. Of the 34 candidates the paper has endorsed in those races over the past 30 years, only three have been Democrats.

Now, a few notes on all this.

The sample size for presidential endorsements is extremely small – two. The paper has only endorsed a presidential candidate twice – Democrat John Kerry in 2004 and Democrat Barack Obama in 2008.

Both of those endorsement decisions were ultimately made by Rich Perlberg, who was the paper’s publisher and executive editor at the time. Those decisions came back to haunt him in 2014, when he ran for State Representative as a Republican. He got asked that question a lot: How can you call yourself a Republican if you endorsed John Kerry and Barack Obama?

Indeed, Rich had endorsed a whole bunch of Republicans through the years (including Dick DeVos over Jennifer Granholm for governor in 2006), but the Kerry and Obama endorsements gave fuel to the fire for those who saw the paper as a liberal rag – and who saw him as anything but a Republican.

Likewise, the sample size for U.S. Senate endorsements is also small – just three. But they were all Democrats – Debbie Stabenow in 2006 and 2012, and Carl Levin in 2008.

But when you look at State Senate and State House, it’s been almost a clean sweep for the Republicans. The only Democrats in the past 30 years to earn an endorsement were all state rep candidates – Clark Harder in 1990 (his district only included three townships in Livingston County), Bill Keith in 1998 (running against Republican Paul DeWeese), and Matt McGivney in 2002 (running against Joe Hune).

And so, we’re pretty much right back where we started, aren’t we? Has the paper leaned left or right?

Yes, it has. And now that you’re armed with the facts, you’re free to believe what you want to believe.

Here’s a year-by-year look at the paper’s main endorsements over the past 30 years:

2016

No endorsements made

2014

Governor – Republican Rick Snyder

U.S. House – Democrat Eric Schertzing

State Senate – Republican Joe Hune

State House – Republican Lana Theis

State House – Republican Hank Vaupel

2012

U.S. Senate – Democrat Debbie Stabenow

U.S. House – Republican Mike Rogers

State House – Republican Bill Rogers

State House – Republican Cindy Denby

2010

Governor – Republican  Rick Snyder

U.S. House – Republican Mike Rogers

State Senate – Republican Joe Hune

State House – Republican Bill Rogers

State House – Republican Cindy Denby

2008

President – Democrat Barack Obama

U.S. Senate – Democrat Carl Levin

U.S. House – Republican  Mike Rogers

State House – Republican Bill Rogers

State House – Republican Cindy Denby

2006

Governor – Republican Dick DeVos

U.S. Senate – Democrat Debbie Stabenow

U.S. House – Republican Mike Rogers

State Senate – Republican Valde Garcia

State House – Republican Joe Hune

State House – Republican Chris Ward

2004

President – Democrat John Kerry

U.S. House – Republican Mike Rogers

State House – Republican Joe Hune

State House – Republican Chris Ward

2002

Governor – Democrat Jennifer Granholm

U.S. House – Republican Mike Rogers

State Senate – Republican Valde Garcia

State House – Democrat Matt McGivney

State House – Republican Chris Ward

2000

U.S. House – Republican Mike Rogers

State House – Republican Judie Scranton

State House – Republican Paul DeWeese

1998

U.S. House – Democrat Debbie Stabenow

State Senate – Republican Mike Rogers

State House – Republican Judie Scranton

State House – Democrat Bill Keith

1996

U.S. House – Republican Dick Chrysler

State House – Republican Judie Scranton

State House – Republican Dan Gustafson

1994

U.S. House – Republican Dick Chrysler

State Senate – Republican Mike Rogers

State House – Republican Susan Grimes Munsell

State House – Republican Dan Gustafson

1992

U.S. House – Democrat Bob Carr

State House – Republican Susan Grimes Munsell

State House – Republican Dan Gustafson

1990

U.S. House – Democrat Walter O. Briggs

State Senate – Republican Fred Dillingham

State House – Democrat Clark Harder

State House – Republican Susan Grimes Munsell

1988

U.S. House – Democrat Bob Carr

State House – Republican Susan Grimes Munsell

About Buddy Moorehouse 164 Articles
Longtime Livingston County journalist Buddy Moorehouse is director of communications at the Michigan Association of Public School Academies.

1 Comment

  1. To be honest…..who cares! You make your own decisions and just like on Facebook, just because someone else likes a candidate does not mean they or anyone else can change your own PERSONNAL decision!

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