Off the Radar Races II: Great Lakes states

The six Midwestern states that touch on the Great Lakes provide an interesting contrast.  They make up the only region in the country to vote against George W. Bush for President yet elect a solidly Republican delegation to the House.  The region represents a chance for Democrats to gain ground both this year and in the mid-term future.

The reason for this odd situation is obvious.  Republicans gerrymandered OH, IL, and MI giving them an edge.  Indiana is a Republican state with a lot of competitive districts.  MN and WI are close states each tied 4-4 in the House.

Democrats won 65% of the region's electoral votes in 2004, hold 7 of 12 Senate seats and 3 of 6 governorships.  The story in the House, though, is reversed.  Here, Democrats hold 32 seats while Republicans hold 45.  This year, 13 Republican seats are ranked as competitive but only 4 Democratic seats.  A summary of the "Solid republican" seats (per Charlie Cook) follows below the fold.

Ohio with 18 House seats sent 12 Republicans and 6 Democrats to the House in 2004.  If Ohio once again seems like election central, maybe that is because the pundits consider that to be the case.  Two of the state's six democratic seats make Cook's list (open seats in OH-6 and OH-13).  Four of Ohio's twelve Republican seats also make the list: OH-1, OH-2, OH-15, and OH-18.

Four of the remaining Republican seats meet my super safe criteria.  In each case, Republicans lead by at Least $500 K in the cash-on-hand race, the Republican won at least 60% of the vote for Congress in 2004, and no buzz has been generated.  In OH-7, Dave Hobson is sitting on more than $1.7 million and won the seat by a 65-35 margin in 2004.  John Boehner in OH-8 might make a lovely target as a GOP leadership member but he has over a million in the bank and won 69-31 in 2004.  Pat Tiberi has $1.7 million and won 62-38 in 2004.  At least the Democrat, Shamansky, is making a fight of it (having $262,131 cash-on-hand).  Steve LaTourette faced off against Capri Cafaro in 2004 and won with 62.75% of the vote.  At least Capri reduced his bank account (to $740,156 cash-on-hand) but Katz has only $44 K in the bank.

Of the remaining 4, the safest Republican seats would be OH-5 which Gillmor won 67-33 in 2004 (he leads the cash battle by $404,510 to $9,802 over Weirach) and OH-16 where the aging Ralph Regula trounced Jeff Seeman in 2004, 66.5-33.5% two years ago.  Regula ran weakly in the primary IIRC but Shaw has a negligible amount of cash (no report) to Ralphie Boy's $339,658.

OH-4 is an open seat as Mike Oxley is retiring.  Oxley won with just 58.6% of the vote in 2004 (the Democrat got the remaining 41.4%).  Jordan, the Gop candidate, has a weak $135,198 cash-on-hand.  Siferd, the Democrat, has just $10,279.  Considering the way the state-wide races look, this one is definitely winnable.

In OH-3, Stephanie Studebaker has made more of an impression in this 62-38 district.  She's got just $37,551 cash-on-hand compared to $387,065 for incumbent Rep. Rep. Turner (not a typo but a deliberate double).

Indiana, of course, is the other state in the region to vote for Bush.  Surprisingly, its seven Republicans include three seats on Charlie Cook's endangered lists (IN-2, Chris Chocola; IN-8, John Hostettler; IN-9, Michael Sodrel).The remaining four seats were all won comfortably by the GOP incumbents in 2004.  Two of the Representatives also have the advantage of a substantial cash-on-hand edge.  That wouild be IN-5 where Dan Burton has $924,588 in the bank to challenger Katherine Carr's $14,511 and IN-6 where Barry Welsh has been running a classic guerrilla campaign on little money and a lot of tire mileage and shoe leather (Mike Pence, $714,466; Barry Welsh, $1,200).  I'd still list Barry because of Buzz factor.

Two underfunded GOP incumbents are Mark Souder in IN-3 (a 69-31 winner in 2004) and Steve Buyer (69-28). Souder has less cash-on-hand ($68,358) than challenger Thomas Hayhurst ($147,758).  Steve Buyer is a Committee Chair and has a more comfortable cash edge ($311,8487 to $14,571) over challenger David Sanders in a 69-28 district in 2004.

That brings us to Illinois.  Three of the GOPers nine seats have hit the national list (IL-6,IL-10, and IL-11).  Only one other seat meets my criteria but it is a doozy.  Tim Johnson in IL-15 won by 61-39 and has a very modest cash edge of $118,905 to $32,152 over Dr. Gill. (IL-13,14,16,18, and 19 look safe for the moment).

Two of Minnesota's four Republican House seats made Cook's list.  Mark Kennedy's now open seat (MN-6 were Democrat Patty Wetterling has a solid cash advantage) and Gil Gutknecht in MN-1.  In Minnesota 2, John Kline won by 56.4-40.3%.  Colleen Rowley has a national name and is currently at the fring of the national screen.  Only Jim Ramstad in MN-3 looks in totally safe condition.

WI is a different story.  WI-8 is on the lists.  The other three seats look safe.  Tom Petri (WI-6) is the only Republican in the region to go unopposed.  Paul Ryan (Wi-1) got over 65% of the vote in 2004 and has $1.6 million uin the bank.  Jim Sensenbrenner got pretty much exactly 2/3 of the vote in 2004 (66.6%) and has a solid lead in cash of $706 K ($787,806 to $81,773).  As the Judiciary Chair, Sensenbrenner has the ability to raise funds but also the ability to draw in money for an opponent.  If there is blood in the water, look for this one to get a lot of Democratic money in a hurry.

Michigan is the only state in the region to draw no national attention.  Democrats figured to be in a tough US Senate race (Stabenow) and Governor's race (Granholm v. DeVos aka Amway, Jr.).  The gerrymandered delegation includes 9 of 15 Republican seats.  In three of the nine, the GOP drew 58% or less of the congressional vote in 2004.

To start with, at least three Michigan GOP House seats are super safe.  Michigan 4 (Dave Camp, 64-35, $1,212,568 cash-on-hand), Michigan 6 (Fred Upton, 65-32, $1,014,212 cash), and Michigan 10 (Candice Miller, 69-30, $1,086,649) define "safe seat." Two other seats are virtually safe.  Peter Hoekstra won 69-29 in 2004.  He may have only $367,331 in the bank but challenger Kimon Kotos has just $491.  Vernon Ehlers won 67-31 and has an edge of $407,190 to $1,372 over James Rinck, the best-funded of his challengers.  That brings us to the competitive four.

Joe Schwarz won 58% of the vote in 2004 but the Democrat got just 36%.  Schwarz has a huge $389,090 to $2,603 for Democrat Fred Strack.  Schwarz' problem is that primary challenger Tim Walberg ($397,043) has more cash than he does.  Obviously, the Democratic hope here is that the two Republicans knock each other out by emphasizing how extreme their views are and by launching personal attacks.

In MI-8,Mike Rogers has $1,148,665 in the bank and won 61-37.  His opponent, ex-CIA employee James Marcinkowski has made a little stir and has raised $225,733.  That is probably the minimum he neeeded to keep this race (barely) alive.

Joe Knollenberg (MI-9) won by 58-40 in 2004.  He's got $1,431,461 but does face a primary challenge from Patricia Godchaux ($214,623).  Nancy Skinner in the general election has a modest $84,288.

MI-11 was the worst district won by a MI Republican in 2004, 57% to 41%.  Thaddeus McCotter is one of those Cro-Magnons:  not as conservative as a lot of the Republican pack but definitely a Republican cave man.  ("Me advanced cave man.")
Talk show host Tony Trupiano can talk the talk but can he raise the funds (behind $521,506 to $31,199 in cash-on-hand).

Tags: 2006 elections, Fundraising, GOP, Great lakes, House, midwest (all tags)



Mi 9 -- Knollenberg

On July 15, The Detroit News endorsed Patricia Godchaux over Joe Knollenberg.  They acknowledged that losing Knollenberg would result in less clout for the region, but suggested that Knollenberg has become part of the problem in Washington.

by The lurking ecologist 2006-07-24 10:41AM | 0 recs
Re: Mi 9 -- Knollenberg

The Detroit News is the city's conservative paper.  The Free Press is more liberal.  This endorsement could have some meaning.  Fascinating.

by David Kowalski 2006-07-24 11:41AM | 0 recs
Re: Off the Radar Races II: Great Lakes states

Joe Schwarz won 58% of the vote in 2004 but the Democrat got just 36%.  Schwarz has a huge $389,090 to $2,603 for Democrat Fred Strack.  Schwarz' problem is that primary challenger Tim Walberg ($397,043) has more cash than he does.  Obviously, the Democratic hope here is that the two Republicans knock each other out by emphasizing how extreme their views are and by launching personal attacks.

Living in MI-07, it's been a fun race to watch. I tend to think that it's a better pick-up opportunity than most, as the 2004 numbers are deceptive.

He won the 2004 primary with just 28% and there's a very real possibility that Tim Walberg could win the primary. That alone should make it a top priority, because we don't want Tim "Abolish the Income Tax and Separation of Church and State" Walberg to win in November.

Schwarz did get 58% in 2004, but that was against a Democrat that refused to raise any real money and was never heard from. It was a pathetic performance for an open seat. Against someone that really tries, it could be different.

Let's not forget that Kerry got 45% in the district.

I just wrote a diary on this at DailyKos.

by Fitzy 2006-07-24 12:48PM | 0 recs
Re: Off the Radar Races II: Great Lakes states

Schwarz and Walberg may drain their bank accounts in this one allowing Strack to compete on an even playing field.  Yes, Michigan was gerrymandered beautifully but if 2006 is as strong a Democratic year as it may be, that can work in iour favor.

From your article, it sounds like a nasty Republican fight is in store.  Good!

by David Kowalski 2006-07-24 01:38PM | 0 recs
Donnelly Indiana 2nd

We are looking to turn Indiana blue, and that means America as well.  Joe Donnelly is looking real good and this is the chance to take back the House.

Organized by: Democracy for Lake County

We will get the boots on the ground and begin our phone calling for the next Congressman for the Indiana 2nd District, Joe Donnelly.

Work will be done on July 25th, 26th, and August 1st from 6-9 PM.

The address will be:
Congressman Pete Vilosky's Campaign Office
45 W. 80th Pl
Merriville IN 46410

Tell your friends, and then join us as we show them what mission accomplished really means.

Event Date: Tuesday, July 25, 2006
Event Time: 6:00 PM  

Venue Name: Congressman Pete Visclosky's campain office
Address: 45 W. 80th PL
City: Merriville
State: IN
Zip Code: 46410

by skeeters 2006-07-24 02:05PM | 0 recs

Timmy Johnson's support is kind of like Lieberman's, wide but shallow. It's an uphill climb for the Doc as Johnson is very good at keeping quiet and playing the faux moderate republican. What's really really frustrating is that Dr. Gill's fundraising could really get some help from the unions. But they're sending all their money to Johnson! Supposedly he's one of the republican labor members and he was one of the people that urged Bush to reinstate Davis-Bacon after Katrina. But that's it. They've gotten nothing from him. But they keep giving him money and he keeps screwing them. It makes no sense.

I'm not talking about a pittance of PAC money either. Unions make up the LARGEST source of PAC money for Tim Johnson (almost 50k this cycle). Now let that sink in and then tell me if they've got their priorities straight.

by adamterando 2006-07-24 06:59PM | 0 recs
Re: IL-15

Switch 50 K from Johnson to Gill and Gill has more cash-on-hand.  This one is winnable.  Not a sure thing by any means but exactly the kind of race that stretching Republican resources can provide.  

by David Kowalski 2006-07-25 04:14AM | 0 recs
Re: IL-15

Exactly! Which is why the unions support of Johnson is so infuriating. I'm extremely pro-union, but the guys in charge of these PACs (and to be fair, most (but definately not all) of the union PAC money is from the more conservative unions like the building trades that are more open to republicans and are trying to influence Johnson through his seat on the transportation committee) have got their heads up their asses. This is one we could make really competitive and we could get a Democrat in the house that would vote for the working class 100% of the time instead of 8% of the time.

by adamterando 2006-07-25 05:30AM | 0 recs
Re: IL-15

I'm Dr. Gill's Bloomington-Normal coordinator. You are so right about Johnson's support from unions. Astonishingly, he gets support from environmentalists. His strategy is to tell them anything they want to hear, and vote their issue if the 'Pubs don't need his vote to win against them.

Dr. Gill is gaining some notice, though. And I get phone calls and emails constantly from people who want to volunteer. He has a veritable army of committed, excited volunteers. His campaign is the epitome of people powered politics. We could use some front page action from the Big Blogs, tho. How about it, Chris?

by mombear 2006-07-25 10:23PM | 0 recs
Re: IL-15

Hey mombear,

I'm working on oppo research right now for the campaign. And I personally knew his environmental support! He was a professor in my department at the U of I (Bruce Hannon). I can't for the life of me figure out how he could be so dense. I feel that so many people are in denial (especially the media) as to how radical these republicans are. You just cannot support a republican these days, even if they claim to be a "moderate". Not as long as Denny Haster, Bill Frist, and Dick Cheney run the show.

by adamterando 2006-07-26 05:02AM | 0 recs
Re: Off the Radar Races II: Great Lakes states

In WI05, where Bryan Kennedy is again challenging Jim Sensenbrenner, there is a totally under the radar chance at a Dem pickup.

In 2004, Kennedy was a longshot challenger with essentially no campaign operation, little cash, and zero name recognition.  But he garnered the highest percentage and the most votes against Crazy Jim that anyone ever has (37% of the vote).  This year, while his campaign has had some struggles, they are looking up.  

His campaign manager left to run in an open state assembly race, where he has pledged to knock on just about every door in the district, not only talking about his candidacy but also Bryan's.  

Just as importantly, the district has trended Democratic recently.  In 2004, Russ Feingold won a number of districts, and John Kerry won slightly less.  Over time, this district, in and around Suburban Milwaukee has gone from being the stronghold of conservativism in Wisconsin to being one where a Democrat has won a mayor's race in the biggest city in the district (Waukesha) and one in which some of the liberal strongholds of the Milwaukee area have emerged (Shorewood, Wauwatosa).

Combine that with State Senate races where there will be serious campaigns to unseat extremist, unfitting Republicans in critical areas for Bryan Kennedy, and you have the making of a race that has flown under the rader.

Best of all, Bryan Kennedy is a progressive Democrat who has started to build a grassroots organization in the near Suburbs of Milwaukee that vote Democrat when there is a candidate that connects with them.  Bryan is that kind of guy.  A well respected professor at UW-Milwaukee who has been active in the community and has garnered endorsements of a number of local organizations, unions, and important political leaders.  

You might remember extremist right-winger Crazy Jim Sensenbrenner from such fine events in American government like shutting down a committee hearing because it was exposing the Bush Administration's follies in Constitutional Law, or promulgating bigotry and racism in the debates over immigration, or just plain old being a rubber-stamp for the Worst President Ever as a card-carrying member of the extremist leadership in the House.  

If you live in or near the district, go to to volunteer.  There are some of us from the Madison area that are organizing some all-volunteer, totally organically-grown trips to knock on doors in neighborhoods where Bryan can pick up a ton of votes.  And if you don't live anywhere near here, but understand that part of taking back Congress in 2006 lies in unseating the extremists, the right-wingers, and the corrupt leadership of the GOP and you want to do something about it, make a contribution to Bryan Kennedy's campaign at  

(Disclosure: I have helped some of the people on the Kennedy campaign on a volunteer basis coordinating some event-creation and grassroots organizing work)

by Peter from WI 2006-07-24 08:23PM | 0 recs
Re: Off the Radar Races II: Great Lakes states

Let me echo the previous comment concerning IN-2.  This is a great story about a Democratic Congressman (and fellow Notre Dame alum) helping a prospective Democratic Congressman in the neighboring district.  Many thanks to Congressman Pete Visclosky for opening his HQ and phone banking for Donnelly.  The Donnelly campaign is busily ID'ing their potential voters and need all the help they can get.  Let's not forget GOTV later this fall, so if anyone in northwest Indiana (or elsewhere for that matter) is interested in pitching in and/or  making a road trip to a hotly contested district, please contact Donnelly for Congress.    


by aguila del norte 2006-07-25 10:37AM | 0 recs
Re: Off the Radar Races II: Great Lakes states

A recent poll in OH-3 makes the race very competititve with Turner (R) leading Studebaker (D) only 42-38%.  The district is definitely NOT a 62-38% GOP district.  When Turner first ran it was rated 57-43%. Montgomery county (Dayton) voted for Kerry.  The key is how well Studebaker can run in the area outside of Montgomery county.

Turner has major problems too with lots of jobs being lost in this district.  Studebaker has been hitting him hard on this issue.  

I read that after positives about both candidates were read to the people being polled, Studebaker actually led 46-40%.

Studebaker is holding a rally this Saturday at 11:15 at the Vietnam Veterans' Park not far from the University of Dayton, and Paul Hackett will be appearing with her.

by Retired in Ohio 2006-07-25 10:41AM | 0 recs


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