Primary voter turnout
Only 19% of all voters in Michigan showed up to vote in this past Tuesday's primary election, following a 34% turnout for the presidential primary earlier this year.
Demas described the low level of voter participation as “sadly predictable.”
“August tends to be one of the worst times in Michigan,” Demas said. “Our weather is finally starting to get good, people are looking at other things like getting their kids ready for school, and time and time again, we see this abysmal turnout.”
According to the Secretary of State’s website, primary voter turnout has been as low as 15% back in 1990. In ‘88 it was 16.5% and in 2014 it was 17.4%. So while 19% is bad, it could be - and has been - worse.
Republican Congressional primaries
The 1st Congressional District primary was not won by either of the two candidates with legislative experience, but by retired Marine Lieutenant General Jack Bergman.
Sikkema told us Bergman’s win looks to be another example of voters’ tendency to support “outsider” candidates, but added, “I don’t want to make too much of that.”
“Jack Bergman was able to rise to the top. He was an outsider, [has an] attractive military background, and I think he was running a much better campaign below the surface than anyone realized,” Demas said.
Congresswoman Candace Miller is retiring, and a five-way Republican primary was held to determine who might take her seat in the 10th Congressional District. Paul Mitchell won that race.
Mitchell ran in the 4th Congressional District in 2014, and Demas thinks he learned from that experience.
“Paul Mitchell just dominated the airwaves. He was willing to spend heavily, as he did last time,” she said. “He had Candace Miller’s ex-chief of staff as his chief adviser, which is helpful in the district, and the result was not very surprising.”
Voters sour on Snyder
The Detroit News and WDIV-TV released a poll this week that showed Governor Snyder’s approval rating has fallen below 40%, while his disapproval rating has risen to 54%.
Sikkema told us that Snyder’s reputation will likely have a “political impact” in the 2018 gubernatorial election.
“I think with this Flint situation, it’s going to be a challenge for whoever the Republican nominee is to sort of fight that off,” he said.
Sikkema and Demas point out, however, that whatever impact the Flint water crisis may have had on Snyder’s favorability, governors tend to experience a slump in approval during their last couple years in office.
“Governors, after two terms, tend to struggle with favorability,” Demas told us. “People tend to tire of them and look for something new.”
“No matter what, Flint aside, it’s just tougher and tougher to advance a robust agenda through your last two years,” Sikkema said.
Ken Sikkema is a senior policy fellow at Public Sector Consultants.