7 ways Tuesday’s election changes Michigan

With Gov. Rick Snyder’s reelection and a Legislature even more heavily dominated by Republicans, the state’s political course is becoming clearer, and right-er, if that’s a word. Here are seven takeaways from Tuesday’s election:

THE NERD SEES A MANDATE TO CONTINUE ‘REINVENTION’: In his victory speech last night, Gov. Rick Snyder proclaimed he’d taken on Michigan’s toughest problems and made the toughest decisions – and implied voters returned him to office in reward for action. For most of his first term, Snyder’s big moves – business tax reform, introduction of a pension tax, signing off on right to work – met with vocal opposition from Democrats, and, supposedly, some moderates. Snyder’s margin Tuesday night wasn’t as high as his 57.5 percentage point landslide win in 2010. Still, Tuesday’s four-point win is convincing. He won 70 of 83 counties, including large margins in the key suburban swing counties of Oakland and Macomb. It all adds up to majority support in Michigan for more “relentless positive action.”

SNYDER WILL SEE A MANDATE FOR MORE DETROIT REINVENTION, TOO: The Snyder camp argued he’s done more for Detroit than any governor since William Milliken. Surely, it’s been four years of enormous change in Detroit: municipal bankruptcy – and the ‘grand bargain’ financial deal to help spur the emergence from bankruptcy, downtown growth, pursuit of a second bridge to Canada, and the Education Achievement Authority. Again, there was loud opposition from Democratic ranks – but, in the end, no increased opposition from Detroit voters. Indeed, nearly 94 percent voted against Snyder in 2010, and “only” 92 percent voted against the governor Tuesday. In both elections, 31 percent of Detroit voters cast their ballots, putting the lie to predictions that city voters would punish Snyder even more in the voting booth. True-blue Dems in Detroit and the rest of southeast Michigan had the power this year to turn out in droves and unseat Snyder. They didn’t. So Snyder’s policies will continue to take hold in the Motor City. And remaining opposition is muted by Tuesday’s modest turnout and results.

GOP CONSOLIDATES POWER IN LANSING: Business tax reform… The pension tax… Right to work… Statewide voters can be seen as essentially endorsing all those GOP moves. The GOP now has a whopping 63-47 majority in the Michigan House of Representatives after picking up four more seats. And Republicans added one more seat in the Senate to enter 2015 with a 27-11 margin (a close-to-bulletproof Senate majority due to the GOP’s redrawn districts). Democratic opposition to the GOP legislative agenda might be loud – but it’s anemic, according to Tuesday’s results.

DEMOCRATS ARE EVEN MORE MARGINALIZED IN LANSING: Democrats are on a monumental losing streak at the state level. Every four years there are three executive-level seats at the top of the ballot: governor, attorney general, and secretary of state. Jennifer Granholm is the only Democrat to win any of those seats in the past 20 years. The GOP is 6-0 in those races in the past two election cycles. The GOP is 10-2 in those races since 2002. The GOP is 15-6 in those races since 1990 (back when Dem lions Frank Kelley and Richard Austin still commanded the attorney general and secretary of state seats). The Dems remain heavily dependent on labor money. But fewer than one in five Michigan adults belong to a union, and the anti-right-to-work rallying call resulted in very little if any backlash Tuesday. Moreover, four Dem-led, labor-friendly ballot issues have been rejected by statewide voters in the past dozen years. Now, the even larger legislative majorities in place for the GOP in the state House and Senate leave Democratic policymakers further marginalized in state budget negotiations and other policy matters. The dwindling Dems in the House and Senate can loudly protest GOP actions – as they’ve been doing – but unless and until they win over more statewide voters there’s no bite behind the bark.

NO DEM DELIVERY: For more than a year, Michigan Democratic Party chief Lon Johnson touted voter turnout spreadsheets to anyone who would listen. “We vote, we win,” became the Democrats’ slogan, and in the final weeks of this campaign Johnson confidently grinned and said his strategy was working. His confidence, along with tightening poll trends, led the media and campaign strategists to rethink their gubernatorial election assumptions. In the end, Johnson’s confident assurances were hard to reconcile with the facts.

A ROAD DEAL IN LAME DUCK – OR VOTERS WILL HAVE TO DO IT: Michigan residents want the roads fixed – and they’re willing to pay more to get it done. That’s a clear conclusion from the Center for Michigan’s “Michigan Speaks” public engagement report released last spring. Snyder wants it done in the lame duck legislative session before the end of the year. So does outgoing House Speaker Jase Bolger. New GOP legislative leaders – who will be elected by their caucuses today – won’t want to deal with road tax votes on their watch. Look for serious discussions on a road deal before the holidays. Otherwise, the Michigan Chamber of Commerce, fed up with years of gridlock on the issue, promises to take the road question out of legislators’ hands and ask the voters to decide it.

TOUGH TO BEAT SOMETHING WITH NOTHING: That’s an oldie but goodie, and it proved true in this election. Snyder implemented some controversial issues in his first term: taxing some pension income, big business tax cut/shift, right to work. But he got something done. And for an electorate sick and tired of gridlock, the essence of governing lies in actually getting things done. The largest hole in Schauer’s campaign was explaining just how he was going to pay for his wishlist: middle class tax cuts, ending the pension tax, boosting education funding with no clear outline of how much or to what end. Perhaps the largest challenge facing an amplified Republican majority in Lansing will be to develop a new, robust, but broadly acceptable policy agenda. Tilt too far to the right, they’ll risk Democratic backlash if the Dems can ever find their mojo. Tilt too far left, they’ll face a grumpy right wing. One theory: Now with an even larger GOP majority in the legislature, Snyder & Co. may find a way to marginalize Tea Party influence, even with some more Tea Party adherents in the room. We’ll soon see.

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Theresa Root
Thu, 11/06/2014 - 8:02am
I want to know exactly who was "polled" in these statements that the people in Michigan ar ewilling to pay more for road repairs. When I read articles in newspapers, the comment sections do not reflect that statement. I see comments wondering where the money is that is already supposed to be going to the roads? I see comments indicating that Michigan needs to toughen up the weight restrictions for semis. I RARELY see a comment supporting giving more money to this. Why should we pay more when no one tells us where the current allocation seems to be going? Are we just going to see more "bait and switch"?
Ron French
Thu, 11/06/2014 - 10:03am
Hi Theresa, I think this article about two polls and hundreds of community conversations will answer your question. More than half of Michigan residents are willing to pay more taxes to fix roads.http://bridgemi.com/2014/05/public-to-politicians-fix-our-roads/thanks for reading Ron French Bridge Magazine
Thu, 11/06/2014 - 10:09am
Broadly acceptable policy agenda? An end to the Tea Party? Hardly. This is the mandate that gives Snyder and his cronies dictatorial powers most politicians can only dream about, and there is no indication they'll use those powers for the common good. You don't actually think they're going to give the Dems in the legislature the time of day, do you? Why should they? They just won nearly every post, and they'll take it as permission--which it is- to screw the working class and retirees even more. I hope the Republican working class voters get a taste of what they've foisted on us. Snyder has four more years to do his damage. May his allies, the voters, suffer as the rest of us will.
Sun, 11/09/2014 - 12:19pm
If this bridge thing is to be real then can we please stop this juvenile talk of working class vs . . . well, vs what? I am a retired newsman, a professional if you will. I worked like a dog. During one 5-year stretch, I took Easter, Thanksgiving and Christmas off and that was it . . . no weekends, no vacations. Nada. My neighbor who worked at Continental Motors considered himself "working class" even though he put in 40-hour weeks and, with his longevity, got four weeks' vacation. He even owned a cabin cruiser. I'm not griping, but I'm sick and tired of hearing pubescent yammer about the GOP "screwing that working class." Such loaded talk doesn't encourage conversation or reaching out for understanding. It destroys the bridge before the approaches are even graded. Let's see if we can actually converse rather than flinging around politically loaded buzz words. Please!
Thu, 11/06/2014 - 10:22am
Definition of "reinvention" includes: to bring back; revive... It's time for Michigan to bring back or revive the industrial hemp industry! Hemp = prosperity!
Thu, 11/06/2014 - 10:23am
I too am sick and tired of not knowing where our money goes, or worse, being told where it goes and then finding out it was a lie. I am sick and tired of having 5% of the zoo or DIA tax going to street beautification in lovely downtown Podunk, or having the gas tax that is supposed to go toward the roads instead going into the cesspool of a general fund. Let us have true visibility in all matters that deal with our tax dollars. Make it a crime with the penalty of instant and automatic impeachment for any politician to be not truthful.
Karen Graham
Thu, 11/06/2014 - 10:37am
All those voters who think Snyder will make things better are in for a big surprise. I do not agree with paying more to fix the roads when I am already paying 200 extra a month in retirement taxes. What is Snyder doing with that money? It certainly is not being used to fix the roads. Tax the corporations he gave the big breaks to and let them pay for the roads. I am currently researching the companies that were given breaks and making a point to boycott their products and encourage others to do the same.
Tracy Davis
Thu, 11/06/2014 - 11:38am
At $200.00 a month, that would put your retirement income around $60,000.00 annually. That is well above the average for the state; yet in your mind it isn’t fair that you pay income tax???? You follow that up by saying that someone else should pay to fix the roads. I would suggest it is precisely that ideology that put Michigan in the shape it was four years ago.
Thu, 11/06/2014 - 10:55am
Theresa: READ the results of the election. MANY communities passed mileages to pay for road repair.
James Fuscaldo
Thu, 11/06/2014 - 11:02am
In the financial world leveraging of assets is a common practice to raise capital. Capital is what the state needs to fix the roads. The state has several significant assets in Interstates 94 and 69 that are part of the NAFTA superhighway which is a planned project for MDOT. Interstate 96 is another significant asset. It is time to evaluate leasing these assets to a Public Private Partnership to raise capital to fund a permanent and protected "capital fund" for road repairs necessary throughout the state. We need more creative thinkers and risk takers in Lansing. There should be efforts to do a thorough financial and economic analysis of selective road PPP's in lieu of the legislators ringing there hands and blathering about what taxes to raise and how much to fund the roads. Many states have created PPP's for roads. There are significant real world examples that should be studied as part of a thorough financial and economic analysis. Lansing like Washington must divorce themselves from the concept that taxation is the only way to fund government responsibilities.
John Q. Public
Thu, 11/06/2014 - 11:04pm
Yeah, PPPs have worked so well in education and corrections; let's apply them to transportation. Government-sanctioned rip-offs of the taxpayers to benefit the dark-money benefactors of the Republican Party.
dan brown
Fri, 11/07/2014 - 4:02pm
Snyder deserves to be governor. He won decisively. Beyond that ................ Come on, Phil Power, get some balls. Michigan does not have representative government. And you let Bridge Magazine publish this pathetic column. It's amazing and disgusting that you should write such a piece of junk without expressing rage about the effects of gerrymandering. FACT: State-wide, Democratic candidates for the Michigan House of (non) Representatives out-polled Republican candidates by some 70,000 votes. The Dems got over 50 percent of the vote but end up with less than 43 percent of the seats in the House. Proportionately, they should have a seat or two advantage in the House. FACT: State-wide, Democratic candidates for the Michigan Senate came within 45,000 votes of the Republicans. The Dems got 48.9 percent of the vote but end up with 31.6 percent of the seats. Proportionately, the split in seats should be about even. FACT: State-wide, Democratic candidates for the U.S. Congress out-polled Republican candidates by over 50,000 votes. The Dems got 49 percent of the vote compared to 47.5 percent for the Republicans but end up with only 40 percent of the seats. So, Phil, it's time you show some guts and start advocating for representative government. Remember, there was a time when you had the courage to speak up for what's right.
Sat, 11/08/2014 - 12:41pm
Dan, Help understand your reasoning. You believe that all votes throughout the state should be pooled and representatives should be assigned to the legislature based on those pooled numbers. That suggest you believe that all current legislative districts should be dissolved and there would be no geographic area relationship to any legislator, it would not matter where a legislature came from they would simply be selected from a partisan pool. So an area in the UP would not have to have someone that had any link to their situations be there to represent their interests, similarly there would not necessarily be anyone link to Detroit representing their interests. That suggests that you believe all elected offices should only be filled based on state wide voting and individual selection by the respective Parties, there could be no independents. It appears you have fallen into the Mr. Power logic trap of only paying attention to the numbers as they relate to what frustrates you or that you see as wrong. Mr. Power makes no effort to understand if and how campaigning money impacts the actual voting. You make no effort to understand what representation is and can be, you show no interest for people (locals) who have different issues and concerns having and needing a sense of legitimacy to the person identified as their legislator. You don’t seem to see that our state is made up of a diverse group of people, you only see Party names, you seem to ignore the individuals and the individuality of candidates even when they link to a Party. You may want, “…Phil Power, get some balls.” Well I want you to pause to think pass your wants and respect the wants and choices of others. What we have may not be perfect by your expectations, but it allows people to make their own choices. I may not make the same choices of my neighbors, but I am glad they have the opportunity to make their choices because that allows me to make my choices. Both you and Mr. Power have a misconception that the most important thing is to have THE answer. In reality it is so much more important to ask the right question and listen to other people’s answers. It is the collective wisdom that our system has flushed under, not the answers of a self-ordained ‘elite.’ It seems the next step in your voting logic would be that offices like the Governor would have the candidates serve only the portion of a term as it match the portion of the votes they received, so Gov. Snyder would only serve a bit over 2 years. I would strongly oppose that approach even if I am disappointed in how he executes the office of Governor.
Sun, 11/09/2014 - 8:47am
I think what has touched a nerve with Dan is something that should concern all of us looking for opportunities for and structure that afford more creative and open dialogue about public policy. The one-two punch of gerrymandering and demographic clustering is giving a disproportionate voice to some factions and downing out reasonable debate that results in more moderate policies from both sides. The statewide offices are the fairest selected here and the Republican sep was the result of a
Conan Smith
Sun, 11/09/2014 - 8:56am
solid campaigning. The same can't be said for the legislature where a truly representative system would result in much closer margins of not a tip in control in the House. This phenomenon plays out nationally in state legislators and in Congress, and it's something anyone who baked democracy should be deeply concerned about. And there are ways to fix it. From changing the redistricting process to rethinking how seats are selected (Duane, e.g., many more advanced democracies than ours have figured out how to blend both party preference and the selection of individual lawmakers in determining the makeup of their legislatures).
Conan Smith
Sun, 11/09/2014 - 8:58am
Gracious. Lots of typing trouble this morning. Apologies for the mistakes.
Sun, 11/09/2014 - 1:23pm
Conan, What criteria do you use to determine what and how other 'democracies' are more advanced?
Sat, 11/08/2014 - 9:37am
In the words of your President, we won get over it! Are you listening to yourself? The guy in the White House has created such a divisive country that all everyone can do is point fingers at one another and squeal like pigs when they lose. How about we all jump on the bandwagon of reinventing Michigan so we can all have decent jobs and a future for our kids. And at the core of it, I believe that Dems & Repubs all want the same thing. Are we ever going to agree on the "how"- probably not. But when I delegate a task at work I give the end result I need and I don't dictate "how" to do it as everyone has their own style and ideas. My taxes went up under Snyder too. Did I jump up & down with joy? No. I have worked for 35 years and am still working. I do care about the under served. I don't care about the lazy. Lets find some balance and tolerance. We cannot fix in 4 years something that has taken decades to break. We are never going to find the perfect politician (oxymoron) that is going to make everyone happy. So let's just "suck it up buttercup" because it is what it is. Lets take the red & blue out of the equation and just be Michigander's fighting for a better future.