Political storylines to watch this year in Michigan

This year’s elections could reshape state government in ways most of us haven’t seen in our lifetimes. MichMash breaks down some big stories to watch.

It’s now February. And while it may feel like summer and fall are a long ways away, this is an election year. That means August primaries will be here before we know it, followed by the November elections.

It’s a never-ending cycle. You will very soon be inundated with mailers and TV ads and people knocking on your door.

As part of the weekly series MichMash, hosts Cheyna Roth of Slate and Jake Neher of WDET talk about some of the biggest storylines they’re watching between now and the August and November elections.

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Redistricting literally reshaping government

Michigan’s new district lines are historic. For the first time, a panel of regular Michigan residents has drawn these lines. And they’ve done it using specific criteria approved by voters in 2018. Previously, the state Legislature has drawn Michigan’s congressional and state legislative maps. Those maps were heavily gerrymandered to benefit the political party in control.

There are multiple court battles that will be playing out in the coming weeks and months about whether these new districts stay in place. Last week, the Michigan Supreme Court tossed a legal challenge filed by Detroit lawmakers and activists. The 4-3 majority found that the Detroit Caucus had not provided sufficient evidence that — as currently drawn — the districts would put African Americans at a competitive disadvantage.  There are at least two other major legal challenges still pending.

Related: A Defense of — and Rebuttal to — Michigan’s New Political Maps

Rep. Fred Upton (R-St. Joseph) recent said on WDET that he’s waiting to see what’s going to happen with those court cases before he even decides and announces whether he’ll run for reelection.

There will be many incumbents running against each other in the same new districts. And there’s going to be lots of open seats. The entire state Legislature is going to be up for election this year. And it looks like redistricting is going to mean that there are more open seats than we’ve seen in a  long time. And that means we’ll probably see huge turnover in the individuals representing Michiganders at the state Capitol.

Voter enthusiasm could be biggest factor in election outcomes

This will be especially important on the Democratic side this year. Democratic turnout for the governor’s race, state House, state Senate and other races will likely determine the outcomes of those races. Republicans have proven time and again that — even if they aren’t excited by a candidate — they often fall in line. Democrats usually need motivation, a candidate they’re excited about or an opposition that they really want to take down.

The Trump factor

We’re also in unprecedented territory when it comes to Republican voters. There is a zealous base of Trump loyalists in the party. They have shown that their patience is pretty short for people that they consider disloyal to the former president. So what effect will that have, if any?

However, new polls also show signs that Republicans’ overall love for Trump might be waning. What will that all mean for the slate of candidates that Trump has recently endorsed or shown support for here in Michigan and across the country? And what will it mean for the identity of the GOP moving forward?

We will have some answers to these questions soon. In the meantime, 2022 is shaping up to be a doozy of a year for Michigan politics.

More from MichMash:

The Biggest Political Blunders of 2021 in Michigan

Why Whitmer’s call for in-person school matters

Three initiatives could start gathering signatures soon

Reactions to Michigan’s new district lines are all over the map

Michigan’s top doctor urges people to protect themselves from omicron as hospitals fill

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  • Jake Neher
    Jake Neher is senior producer for Detroit Today and host of MichMash for 101.9 WDET. He previously reported on the Michigan Legislature for the Michigan Public Radio Network.
  • Cheyna Roth
    Cheyna has interned with Michigan Radio and freelanced for WKAR public radio in Lansing. She's also done some online freelancing and worked on documentary films.