MI-9: Rep. Sander Levin (D) will not Seek Re-election

Rep. Sander Levin (D) has joined the (seemingly unusual) exodus of very long-time Reps. leaving this year. Levin has had a marathon political career, beginning in the State Leigslature in the 60s, through two failed Gov runs in the 70s, before eighteen terms in the House representing a seat that started in Detroit and moved into the northern suburbs. Levin’s decision opens up MI-9, a D+4 district based in the working-class-white southern half of Macomb County and also including some upscale suburbs in Oakland County to the west. The Macomb portion of the district is home to a lot of Democrats who swung toward Trump, but the union tradition and upscale liberals here were enough to keep this seat in the Clinton column with a solid 8-point win.

For Democrats, the Great Mentioner needs to start with Levin’s son Andy (D), who lost a state Senate race in 2006 and later held a low-level post in the Gov. Granholm administration. However, Andy’s only asset is his name and he may have a tough time. From the Macomb side of the district, Macomb CE Mark Hackel (D) would likely be a very strong favorite for the seat if he wanted it. Macomb DA Eric Smith (D) also could be a strong candidate. State Sen. Steven Bieda (D) and State Reps. Patrick Sowerby (D), Patrick Green (D), Henry Yanez (D), John Chirkun (D), and Kevin Hertel (D) all live in or near the seat, as do ex-State Reps. Derek Miller (D), Fred Miller (D), Sarah Roberts (D), and Marilyn Lane (D). From the Oakland side of the seat, State Reps. Robert Wittenberg (D), Jim Ellison (D), and ex-State Rep. Jim Townsend (D) live in or near the seat. Local officials worth watching from the Oakland County part of the seat could include County Treasurer Andy Meisner (D) and DA Jessica Cooper (D). Oakland County Clerk Lisa Brown (D) lives outside the seat but could carpetbag.

The seat seems enticing enough for the GOP to at least make a play for it in a year with few offensive targets, though it will be an uphill race for any Republican. Oakland County Sheriff Mike Bouchard (R) might be the strongest candidate, but he has turned down other opportunities to run for more GOP-friendly House seats so that seems unlikely. More realistic prospects might be a couple of candidates who lost primary runs for the redder MI-10 in 2016, ex-State Sen. Alan Sanborn (R) and ex-State Rep. Anthony Forlini (R). Republicans have some legislators in or near the seat, State Sens. Jack Brandenburg (R), Tory Rocca (R), and Marty Knollenberg (R), and State Reps. Diana Farrington (R) (and her husband, ex-State Rep. Jeff (R)), and State Reps. Mike McCready (R), Marilyn Howrylak (R), and Steve Marlino (R). Possibilities from local office could include a pair of Macomb county officers who won in something of upsets in 2016, county Treasurer Larry Roca (R) and county Clerk Karen Spranger (R).

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22 Comments

  • Son_of_the_South December 2, 2017 at 12:13 pm

    What’s the filing deadline for Michigan?


    24, R, TN-09
    Classical liberals are a minority. Fusionism is the answer.

  • Conservative First December 2, 2017 at 1:06 pm

    Likely D candidates include Andy Levin and State senator Steve Bieda.
    http://www.detroitnews.com/story/news/politics/2017/12/02/us-rep-sander-levin-michigan-retires/108223266/

    I know the great mentioner casts a wide net, but a bunch of the people mentioned aren’t in this seat. Marty Knollenberg just passed on MI-11 this cycle, and Mike Bouchard passed in MI-8 in 2014. Karen Spranger is mired in controversy and not a realistic possibility. Tory Rocca is the only R who has a chance of putting this seat in play.

  • Greyhound December 2, 2017 at 2:38 pm

    Likely D. This seat is moving our way, but we’re not quite there yet, and the fact that we also shoved SE Oakland county here notably hurt our chances at picking it up. Still, we should be contesting this seat heavily, as making inroads into the Macomb county portion is going to be a big part of how we hold Michigan in 2020 and beyond.


    R, 27, CA-18. Anti-Anti-Trump

    • Red Oaks December 2, 2017 at 3:54 pm

      Yeah I would like Rocca to run here and Macomb Republicans to more seriously contest races in this area but Southeast Oakland had to go here. Putting it elsewhere would have put the 11th more at risk and/or created VRA district problems for the 14th. The redistricting decision that really makes winning the 9th difficult for the GOP is the Macomb County split between the 9th and 10th. Almost all of the strongly Democratic areas were put in the 9th. Switching some of the cities and splits would have given Candice Miller/Paul Mitchell a less safe seat but would have given the GOP a fighting shot at the 9th.


      MI-03: Tired of Presidency; Focused more on downballot races; Chris Afendoulis for State Senate

      • Greyhound December 2, 2017 at 4:59 pm

        I mean, I think the GOP should make a serious effort at this seat not because I expect to win it in 2018, but because I think we need to test the waters here for possibly eliminating the 9th in the next round of redistricting. If we can do well enough in the Macomb portion to justifying condensing the 10th to being entirely Macomb based (top-down), that frees up the Thumb to possibly help flip the 5th. Also, isn’t Southern Warren getting significant black migration? We might able to justify pulling the 14th into Macomb for the rest of the county, as sort of a mashup of the 2002-2012 9th and 14th seats.


        R, 27, CA-18. Anti-Anti-Trump

        • Red Oaks December 2, 2017 at 5:30 pm

          Yes, southern Warren is getting lots of black migration and Eastpointe will probably be majority black by 2020. Assuming there still will be two majority black seats in MI in 2021, it will almost certainly be necessary to put one of them into southern Macomb to keep the black percentage high enough. I don’t think there will be a 14th district at that point though as all projections have Michigan dropping to 13 seats so presumably it would be renumbered the 13th.

          The thing about 2021 redistricting in MI though is that I don’t expect Republicans to have total control of it again. At this point I think it’s more likely than not that Democrats win back the governorship in 2018 (but the GOP keeps both houses of the legislature). Even if there is a GOP trifecta there is a potential 2018 statewide ballot proposal that could limit Republicans ability to redraw the overall map in a favorable way.


          MI-03: Tired of Presidency; Focused more on downballot races; Chris Afendoulis for State Senate

        • Republican Michigander December 2, 2017 at 6:12 pm

          The biggest 2020 question is VRA. Three factors are playing into this some.

          A. Downtown Detroit is getting whiter. That said, a lot of non property owners (who live there) use other addresses than Detroit for insurance purposes.
          B. Current black plurality/majority suburbs are Southfield, Oak Park, Royal Oak Twp, Pontiac, Lathrup Village, Highland Park, Inkster, Ecorse, and River Rouge. Areas that aren’t majority, but have significant black populations and may be a majority by 2020 are Harper Woods, Redford Twp, Romulus, Van Buren Twp, and Eastpointe. Auburn Hills, Belleville, Westland, Dearborn Heights (NE part), Melvindale, Farmington Hills, West Bloomfield, Clinton Twp (eastern part), Roseville, Mt Clemens, Taylor, Grosse Pointe Park, and Warren (due to its size overall) probably won’t have a majority, but could impact VRA directions.
          C. Size of Detroit. Is it possible to have 2 VRA districts under any circumstance? If that’s the case, do you pack Detroit into one district?


          MI-08 - Michigan is a red state again. We need a 50 state strategy and an 83 county strategy.

          • Red Oaks December 2, 2017 at 6:35 pm

            “Is it possible to have 2 VRA districts under any circumstance?”

            I think it is possible but the numbers will be tight and the districts line will look messy and snakelike similar to the current 13th and 14th districts. For purposes of cleanliness it really would be best to put the entire city of Detroit (plus the Grosse Pointes, Harper Woods, Hamtramck, Highland Park and some other inner ring areas) into one district.


            MI-03: Tired of Presidency; Focused more on downballot races; Chris Afendoulis for State Senate

            • Greyhound December 2, 2017 at 6:49 pm

              I mean, Detroit is losing black population mostly to the surrounding areas, right? There’s still almost certainly going to be enough Black people near Detroit for 2 VRA districts for the time being. Even then I can’t imagine a court having too much problem with a ~40% Black VRA district in Michigan, since its not like White Detroiters bloc-vote Republican in the way they do in Mississippi or rural Georgia.

              Actually, here’s an interesting question–what’s the blackest district in the country where you can say that black voters do not control the Democratic primary? I think its NY-15, but I could be wrong.


              R, 27, CA-18. Anti-Anti-Trump

              • shamlet December 2, 2017 at 7:18 pm

                NY-16 is more black. You could also make an argument for PA-1.


                R, MD-7. Put not your trust in princes. Process is more important than outcome.

              • Red Oaks December 2, 2017 at 7:53 pm

                But the issue is that as Michigan loses congressional seats the size of each district keeps getting bigger which makes majority black seats harder to draw. After 2010 each Michigan seat had just under 706,000 people in it. By 2020 with 13 seats each district will need close to 770,000 people each. That makes drawing two VRA seats a lot messier.

                Also the black population is spreading out in several different directions and sometimes in areas not right next to Detroit. For example, areas with notably growing black populations in Wayne County include Westland, Romulus, Van Buren and even Canton to some extent. Those places are in the western part of the county and you have still very white areas (like Garden City, Dearborn Heights, and Dearborn) in between them and the City of Detroit itself. Some of the black migration is to places like Farmington Hills and West Bloomfield towards central Oakland and some of it is Macomb County. Connecting all these locations into just two districts is possible but it will be ugly.


                MI-03: Tired of Presidency; Focused more on downballot races; Chris Afendoulis for State Senate

            • rdelbov December 2, 2017 at 6:53 pm

              Here’s my thumbnail if the GOP had control in 2021—seat one would be two thirds Washtenaw-balance in SW Wayne–IMO you can double cross into Wayne county.
              Seat two would be roughly 150K from Southern Oakland county (D area and AA area) plus the balance is west Detroit plus more of Wayne county. Then seat three would be 150K from southern Macomb and East Detroit/East Wayne county. The Macomb county seat would everything but the most southern part left in seat #3. I would divide Oakland county into two more seats. One gets the Thumb while the other gets Livingston county. We see a Flint to Lansing seat and MI 1 drops down to Bay County .

          • Jon December 2, 2017 at 6:44 pm

            I can’t see a circumstance past 2020 in which two congressional seats meeting VRA section 2 criteria would be required for Detroit.
            Ironically though, the best shot they’d have of there being 2 AA representatives would be if findings are made saying that in the Detroit area that there isn’t a need for protected seats at all. (If there is a need for a section 2 seat, then that one might of necessity lower the percent of AAs of the other to ensure its above 50.0% (C)VAP. In the absence of requirements they could draw two districts that were each 47% AA.)


            45, M, MO-02

  • Republican Michigander December 2, 2017 at 4:12 pm

    I don’t use the likely rating, so I have this as Lean D (which ranges from D’s should win to barely winnable for R’s if everything goes right) and closer to safe than a tossup. It’s worth a fight. It was also drawn to be a blue sink, although it was less of one than it was in the 2000s when Southfield, Oak Park, and Lathrup Village was in it. There is a path I can see to win. Combining the best of Romney and Trump’s numbers here, it’s within 5%. I don’t think it’s a likely path, but there’s a path. I didn’t think Trump would run the table in Michigan in 2016 either, and I was wrong. That’s why it is worth a fight.

    I’d argue the best candidate would be a cross between Snyder and Trump. They aren’t that far apart outside of style. Snyder didn’t do bad in Macomb either. Snyder did very well in what I call the “Ann Arbor” portion of Oakland County (Ferndale, Pleasant Ridge, Royal Oak, Huntington Woods). Trump did better than expected in Hazel Park and Madison Heights which is more blue collar and not quite as leftist (although it is still left of center) as their neighbors. Bloomfield Twp and the swingish villages of Bingham Farms, Franklin, and Beverly Hills (which combine for Southfield Twp) are must wins for any R to have a chance.

    Unless you’re in Sterling Heights, this is not a good seat to carpetbag to.

    I’ve heard good things about the current R candidate running, Candius Stearns. I don’t know a lot about her, but there’s more buzz than I normally see. That was also before Sander Levin’s retirement.

    Candidate Comments of those listed.
    Andy Levin – He’s beatable. Marty Knollenberg did it once in a terrible year for R’s. That’s the type of guy who I think we can take. If his name was Andy Lewis, nobody would consider him.
    Mark Hackel – I’m not sure if he’s in MI-9 or MI-10 – I think he’s in Sterling Heights. I doubt he runs. If he goes for a promotion, it’s governor.
    Eric Smith – Not sure where he lives.
    Macomb State Legislators – Bieda (North Warren) and Yanez have been in major battles. Yanez is also from Sterling Heights may/may not be in district and ran for old MI-10. Hertel’s also heir force as his relative (Dad? Uncle? Grandfather?) John was a former congressman. Miller is a strong last name in these parts. I’d rather not face a Macomb dem in the general if possible.
    Oakland Dems – I think Brown, Wittenburg, and Ellison could be beat. Townsend and Meisner would be tougher. I don’t know where Cooper lives, but she’s widely disliked by many. Some may vote for her to get her out of the prosecutor’s office.

    Among R’s
    Mike Bouchard (R) – He’s in Birmingham. If he ever goes for Congress, it’s MI-11.
    State Sen. Alan Sanborn (R) and ex-State Rep. Anthony Forlini (R) – Doubt it. Sanborn’s in North Macomb and always represented north of M-59. Forlini’s in Harrison Twp.
    State Sens. Jack Brandenburg (R) – Harrison Twp. He’d run for MI-10
    Tory Rocca (R) – Our best bet for an upset. I’m not sure exactly which district he’s in, but he’s in Sterling Heights.
    Marty Knollenberg (R) – If he runs, it’s for his dad’s seat. MI-11 (most of what was the old MI-09)
    State Reps. Diana Farrington (R) (and her husband, ex-State Rep. Jeff (R)) – Weak candidates IMO.
    State Reps. Mike McCready (R) – Running for State Senate, and I think just moved to this district (was in MI-11)
    Marilyn Howrylak (R) – Troy, MI-11
    Steve Marlino (R) – Not sure if he’s Harrison Twp (MI-10) or Clinton Twp (MI-09). He was lucky to win his state rep district.
    county Treasurer Larry Roca (R) and county Clerk Karen Spranger (R). – Please not Spranger. She’s a disaster as Clerk.


    MI-08 - Michigan is a red state again. We need a 50 state strategy and an 83 county strategy.

    • Conservative First December 2, 2017 at 5:23 pm

      Steve Marino lives in Harrison Township.
      The Farringtons live in Utica.
      Henry Yanez is running for state senate.
      Mark Hackel is from Macomb Township (MI-10).

    • RRR December 3, 2017 at 11:03 pm

      @RM: It was John Pappageorge who beat Andy Levin.


      PA-2/IL-9/NY-7; Bronxville Test conservative
      More Steve Litzows/no Moore Kings or Bannons. Sasse '20

      • Republican Michigander December 4, 2017 at 10:32 am

        Thanks. That’s right. Knollenberg replaced Pappageorge.


        MI-08 - Michigan is a red state again. We need a 50 state strategy and an 83 county strategy.

  • twinpines December 2, 2017 at 4:57 pm

    recent 2-party performance in this seat:

    Pres 2008: 40.8%
    Pres 2012: 42.3%
    Pres 2016: 45.9%
    Sen 2012: 34.7%
    Sen 2014: 37.9%
    AG 2014: 50.8%
    Gov 2014: 51.8%
    SOS 2014: 54.8%


    MI SD-38, Conservative Independent, not associated with either party.

  • rdelbov December 2, 2017 at 5:10 pm

    Levin-Conyers-Elder Dingell-Elder Kildee—–Seniority to the max for one state!! Could have been four chairs at one time.

  • StatenIslandTest December 2, 2017 at 6:30 pm

    Like others said these low D+ PVI seats cant be left on the table especially when the #resistance is going full throttle into some leafier usually R areas. Levin obviously felt this was a safe year to retire but this seat has enough Trumpiness that we shouldnt give the Dems a free pass.


    32, Jersey City

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