Some thoughts on Tuesday’s election

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1. Mike Bishop has no one to blame but himself for losing a Congressional seat held by Republicans for the last 18 years. From the start, his campaign was uninspiring and limp. At the end, it turned into the campaign of a desperate candidate, tossing out a cherry-picked and inaccurate campaign speech video.

What was missing? A single reason to actually vote for Bishop. Indeed, his biggest argument for his re-election was that he wasn’t Nancy Pelosi. Pretty weak, and voters punished him for it.

At the same time, Democrats finally proved that it was their own stupor, rather than gerrymandering, which kept the district red for nearly 20 years despite the fact that the largest county in the district, Ingham, is a Democratic stronghold.

Since Mike Rogers eked out an epic win in 2000, the Dems have put up a string of lackluster and under-funded candidates. That changed this year. Instead of complaining, they actually competed. And won.

Surely, the Republicans will lick their wounds and come out fighting in 2020. But I’m most interested in seeing what the district will look like in 2022, after the so-called gerrymander-proof commission gets its first shot at drawing district lines.

2. Livingston County Democrats must be crushed, just crushed, by Tuesday’s results. Despite the so-called Blue Wave, despite the best candidates and best campaigns I’ve ever seen by local Democrats, the results were just as one-sided as they have ever been.

Democratic candidates struggled and almost universally failed to attract even 40 percent of the countywide vote. That was true with strong ticket-leaders such as Gretchen Whitmer (39 percent) and Debbie Stabenow (38 percent). That was true with Elissa Slotkin who won a U.S. House seat despite being trounced in Livingston County (37 percent). And it was true with the plucky but inevitably doomed campaigns of state rep candidates Mona Shand (38 percent) and Colleen Turk (31 percent). The only Democrat to reach 40 percent, and then just barely, was Hamburg county commissioner hopeful Kristina Drake.

When I was still writing columns for the Livingston Daily, the county Democratic leadership accused me of trying to suppress the vote when I merely rehashed the facts that Democrats can’t win in Livingston County. There was surely no voter suppression Tuesday as nearly 100,000 county residents cast their ballots. And the Democrats still got slammed. I have no idea what they can do about that.

3. The race for the new circuit court judgeship in Livingston County was as close as expected with District Judge Suzanne Geddis narrowly beating Dennis Brewer. What’s telling about this election is that 22,000 voters — about one in five who cast ballots Tuesday — skipped the judge race, a significant number in an election that was decided by about 1,600 votes.

Former Circuit Judge Dan Burress (and king of election statistics) tuned me into this a long time ago: A huge number of voters don’t bother with the non-partisan races. No one knows how those 22,000 would have voted, but surely their failure to cast a ballot in that race must be causing some “what if” moments in the Brewer camp.

4. The relatively large margins for all three statewide ballot proposals are a stark message to Lansing politicians who have either shirked or exploited their jobs. The so-called anti-gerrymandering proposal has a multitude of flaws, but voters supported it enthusiastically because it was clear that politicians — most recently Republicans — were making a mockery of the redistricting process. Reporting by Bridge, an in-depth online publication, particularly showed the cynical nature of Republicans drawing up district boundaries in order to protect party incumbents and guarantee the largest number of safe GOP districts.

Similarly, the mood across the state regarding marijuana was been clear on two counts: Let residents take advantage of the medical benefits of cannabis, and quit locking up people — and diverting tens of millions of tax dollars — on non-violent crimes. Lansing wouldn’t do anything. So voters, for better or worse, took matters into their own hands.

Speaking of marijuana, 54 percent of voters in Livingston County voted in favor of legalizing the drug for recreational purposes. That’s conservative, red-rock, Livingston County. Who knew?


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About Rich Perlberg 5 Articles
Before he retired, Rich Perlberg was the general manager/executive editor of the Livingston County Daily Press & Argus.


    • Rick, First let me make clear that gerrymandering was a serious problem in Michigan. There is no doubt that Republicans were abusing the system to protect themselves. Second, it was a false argument that this proposal was a grass-root, non-partisan proposal. It was written, funded and promoted by Democrats who were tired of getting their butts kicked in gerrymandered districts. However, back when Dems controlled the process, they had no problem at all with gerrymandering districts to fit their own needs. But what are my concerns about this proposal? Several. First it is a Rube Goldberg contraption that literally calls for pulling commission members randomly out of a hat. Next time you need a doctor, just close your eyes and point to a name in the phone book. Actually, that wouldn’t work. You would have to eliminate from that phone book anyone who had any background in health care, as well as their spouses, children and parents. That’s right, if you have any background or knowledge of government or politics, you can’t be on the commission. So if someone ran for something as obscure as precinct delegate, not only would he or she be ineligible but so would their spouses, children and parents. If a Brighton Township trustee wanted to serve, she couldn’t because she has held a partisan position. But if a Brighton City Councilmember wanted to serve, he could because Brighton city races are non-partisan. However, an Ann Arbor City Councilmember couldn’t serve because those city elections are partisan. However, if you are the most rightwing conservative or the most liberal leftist, all you have to do is “self-identify” as an independent and you can get one of the five (out of 13) independent slots on the commission. Or you could have voted Republican all your life, but still apply for one of the four Democratic spots. The secretary of state, a partisan position, oversees the selection of the commission. Once named, it is almost impossible to remove a member since it takes the vote of 10 of the remaining 12 commissioners. Basically my objection is that it is unwieldy, very random (half of 200 “finalists” for the job are randomly selected by a “weighted” lottery system, and there is a specific effort to eliminate anyone with any qualifications or experience for the job. That’s like putting education reform in the hands of people who have no experience in the classroom (Oh, wait, they already do that, with horrible results.) There are about 20 states that do not rely on partisan state legislatures to draw lines. Unfortunately, Michigan’s proposal was based on California’s which, in my opinion, is one of the worst. This is a bad solution to a real problem.

      • Rich – Thank you for your reply.

        While the genesis of the proposal was from the grass roots, it’s true that it was heavily funded and promoted by Democrats, and just as vociferously opposed by Republicans, with a lot of deception and backdoor legal challenges, in my view. (Full disclosure – while not involved with any organization, I did personally canvas for and donate some money to the Proposal 2 effort.) The difference is that when the Dems get control again in Lansing, they will be bound by the new system. It wasn’t selfless, but it’s more fair for the long run.

        I am not as concerned about wolves in sheep’s closing identifying themselves dishonestly. The parties can strike a certain number of people off the commission (just like rejections during jury selection) and real partisans will be found out. You mentioned that about 20 states don’t use partisan legislatures. My understanding is that there are 13 states that don’t have them maps by the legislature, but only 6 use independent commissions (per Ballotpedia) and I notice those are not the states where we see the worst gerrymandering. The other 7, in some cases, are appointed by the legislature, so it’s just outsourcing the chicanery. We will, of course, have to see how the proposal is finally implemented, but the fact that the new maps must be passed with support of half of Dems and half GOPers on the commission, along with public hearings should help. It’s not exactly how I would have structured the system, but we didn’t have that choice. It was the current mess or something approaching fairness.

        In any case, I appreciate the exchange of views here. I hope you and your family have great Thanksgiving!

  1. Richard Perlberg: What are your thoughts on the failure of Howell area voters to pass the sinking fund millage for schools?

    • I really don’t have any thoughts about the Howell sinking fund millage because, to be frank, I didn’t even know it was on the ballot until I saw the results Tuesday night on the county clerk election page. Either it was poorly promoted, poorly reported or I just didn’t pay attention (any and all are possible, even likely). Sinking fund millages are a way for school districts to get around tax-hike restrictions embedded in Michigan law. To lose by 28 votes has to be a tough pill to swallow for the school district.

  2. So you think the lasting legacy of Livingston County is the KKK. I would think great schools, strong families, amazing communities, lots of recreation options, an engaged community, great support systems, strong civic clubs would be higher on your list. But maybe you know better how to win over Livingston County voters. Yeah, keep calling them KKK-loving bigots. That’s the way to do it.

  3. Let’s see. I slammed Bishop for an weak and ineffective campaign. I said Democrats put up the best candidates and campaigns that I have ever seen in the county. I criticized the GOP for making a mockery out of the redistricting process. Yep, everything straight out of the Republican playbook.

  4. Yep, Pepsi & Republicans that will always Livingston County’s legacy & the KKK! What a shame! It’s obvious you’re republican!

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