Identifying and analyzing emerging trends in campaigns and elections.

Rep. Kildee’s Retirement Should Not Affect Balance

In House, Reapportionment on July 18, 2011 at 12:22 pm

Rep. Dale Kildee (D-MI-5)

The number of open 2012 US House campaigns grew to 30 over the weekend. Michigan Rep. Dale Kildee (D-MI-5), who turns 82 years old in September, announced his retirement, saying he will bring his 36-year congressional career to a close when the current Congress ends. Prior to joining the House of Representatives Mr. Kildee spent 12 years in the Michigan state legislature, meaning he has been an elected public official for 48 consecutive years. He becomes the 18th sitting Representative to announce intentions not to seek re-election. Fifteen of these members are running for a different office. Kildee and Reps. Lynn Woolsey (D-CA-6) and Dan Boren (D-OK-2) are retiring from politics. An additional 12 new seats are created via reapportionment.

Michigan Democrats should easily retain the new 5th district because it was designed as a safe seat for Kildee, anchored in the congressman’s home town of Flint. It’s the third most under-populated seat in the state, however, needing to gain 70,845 people.

The new CD 5 will contain four complete counties, Genesee (Flint), Bay (Bay City, bordering Lake Huron Bay in the Thumb Area of Michigan), Arenac, and Iosco. The district also encompasses parts of Saginaw and Tuscola counties. The 64 percent Obama score in 2008 will remain relatively intact, thus removing it from any practical general election competition. Mr. Kildee’s 53-44 winning percentage in 2010 was down from his average of 71.5 percent over his past 17 congressional elections. The new seat is unlikely to get any closer from a partisan perspective, and will probably remain that way for the balance of the new electoral decade.

The Democrats have many choices to replace the outgoing incumbent, including his nephew, Dan Kildee, who is a former Genesee County Treasurer, County Commissioner, and Flint School Board member. He was a Democratic gubernatorial candidate in 2010 for a short time, but dropped out of the race prior to filing time.

Former Lt. Gov. John Cherry, is from this congressional district and would be a strong candidate should he decide to enter the federal race. He also declined to run for governor even though he appeared to be the consensus Democratic candidate when he decided to discontinue his fledging campaign.

Ex-Rep. Jim Barcia (D-MI-5), hailing from Bay City, served in the House for five terms beginning in 1993. He was redistricted out of his 5th district in the 2001 reapportionment (at that time, Mr. Kildee represented District 9) and proceeded to win election to the state Senate where he served the maximum two four-year terms. The MI-5 Democratic primary base vote is centered in Flint, so any candidate hailing from Bay City has an uphill climb to win the party nomination.

Genesee County Treasurer and former state Sen. Deborah Cherry, sister to the former lieutenant governor, is another potential Democratic congressional candidate. Presumably, the political brother and sister combination would not run against each other in the congressional race, but it wouldn’t be surprising to see one of the two eventually enter the field of contenders.

Republican state Sen. Roger Kahn, also from Saginaw, is the most frequently mentioned GOP potential candidate.

Mr. Kildee’s retirement will not alter the balance of power in the House because the eventual MI-5 Democratic is a virtual lock to win the seat in the general election.
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