The redrawing of Michigan’s district lines for the U.S. House of Representatives may not affect the outcome of the November elections, but the candidates of District 8 are rethinking their campaign strategies.
The new lines nearly halved District 8 from what it had been the past 10 years, smoothly severing both Clinton and Shiawassee counties while tacking on only a few more towns in Oakland County.
“I think it makes it more difficult because it was kind of convenient for (incumbent and Republican candidate Mike Rogers) to have counties stacked on top of each other,” said Norm Shinkle, chair of the Ingham County Republicans. Rogers will have to shift more of his attention to Oakland County than he had in the past, but Shinkle said he “appreciates the Oakland portion of his district.”
The Republican chair said, overall, the boundary change has not affected the proportions of Republicans and Democrats in the district. “I think the percent of the district Republicans is about the same,” he said. “The areas he got in Oakland aren’t any more Democratic than Clinton.”
Winifred Motherwell, secretary-treasurer of the Ingham County Democrats, disagreed. Motherwell said the difference from the district shift is not enormous, but she “thinks it does actually help (Democrat Lance Enderle).” She added that Clinton County had voted heavily Republican and contributed to Rogers’ solid victory over Enderle in 2010, so its secession could prove advantageous to the Democrats, who have lost the House seat for the past six terms.
Mainstream party candidates run on traditional views
Shinkle said Rogers’ campaign is not advocating anything that it hasn’t in the past and that Rogers is “running on his record,” or campaigning in a way that reflects his voting record in the U.S. House.
“(He’s) running for re-election, but he’s not making promises,” Shinkle said. “He’s just doing his job.”
And Republican constituent Bill Bierwirth said Rogers has so far succeeded. Bierwirth said he will be voting for Rogers this November in hopes that the representative will “continue to make the intelligence stuff stronger” and improve the national defense.
Rogers currently serves as the chairmen of the House Intelligence Committee, a position that Shinkle said really trumps voters’ concerns. “It’s hard for the Democrats to get a serious candidate against Mike,” he said. “It’s hard to beat him.”
But Motherwell said Enderle has an advantage in his eagerness to appear at most campaign events. She said he has done a lot of work for the Democratic Party and stands solidly behind all Democratic principles, including “health care, education and taking care of the working man.”
Of these platforms, Enderle is best defined by his stances to reform education.
Constituent Mary Eckart said she will vote for Enderle because she thinks Rogers no longer effectively represents her. “I believe that Mike Rogers has lost touch with the constituency that he’s supposed to represent,” Eckart said.
The Democratic candidate stands apart from Rogers in his support for social security and health care. “Rogers claims he does (support health care), but he doesn’t always campaign on how he voted,” Motherwell said.
Another distinguishing stance is the war. “Lance would certainly do what we can to get out of Afghanistan,” Motherwell said. “He’s not as militaristic (as Rogers is).”
She said the Democratic Party does not provide a lot of financial support to Enderle, but the candidate has received backing from many unions and individuals.
According to OpenSecrets.org, Enderle’s campaign has about $52,500, with 39 percent self-financed and another 39 percent composed of small individual donations. Meanwhile, Rogers has about $1.5 million backing his campaign, with no self-financing and about 61 percent coming from Political Action Committee contributions.
Third-party candidates vie for votes
The battle between Rogers and Enderle entertains other combatants in the form of third-party candidates. Independent candidate Preston Brooks and Libertarian Daniel Goebel delivered their political stances in an Oct. 1 debate on HOMTV.
Brooks’ campaign platform is essentially to fix the two-party system and be an “agent for change in Congress.” He said his independent nature allows sincere consideration of ideas regardless of party affiliations.
The candidate’s philosophies, as stated during the debate, are to build the country from the middle-class out, define the mission of the U.S. armed forces, promote personal responsibility for health care and develop a sustainable, long-term energy policy.
Goebel said he supports nearly all the views of Ron Paul and Gary Johnson, including their isolationist philosophy on foreign policy.
He campaigns to limit the federal government’s role in American lives by returning general power to the states, which he said could address issues more efficiently and responsibly. “I want to take the government back to a point where people have a say,” Goebel said.
On specific issues, the Libertarian said he would vote to repeal the Patriot Act, the 17th Amendment, the Affordable Health Care Act and the legal tender laws to “alleviate the monopoly the Federal Reserve has on money.”
Motherwell said that while past elections were determined by constituents who voted along party lines, the outcome of this election will be more issue-based, which could threaten Rogers’ historical run.
“(The district) is much more urban, much more eastern and has many more people who will vote more on the issues,” she said.