Can the GOP finally catch its white whale after 68 years
Michigan’s 109th state house district is the last district north of Clare that sends a Democrat to the state house of representatives. In 1954 Dominic Jacobetti rose from the pits of an Iron Ore mine in western Marquette County to defeat a republican incumbent for a seat in the legislature and held it for 40 years.
Jacobetti, also known as the “Godfather” of the U.P., used his seniority over the years and influence to send state funding to the region. His passing in 1994 coincided with the implementation of term limits in 1992, allowing individuals to serve only six years in the lower house in Lansing. Typically, the winner of the Democratic primary has punched their tickets to Lansing (Mike Prusi, Steve Adamini, Steve Lindberg, John Kivela, and Sara Cambensy each were elected three separate times)
Since the turn of the century, there has been a change in the voting patterns away from the Democratic Party, which has controlled local offices for the last 50 years. In 2012 and 17, the GOP competed for the seat, investing heavily in quality candidates, but John Kivela and Sara Cambensy were able to win at least 57% of the vote and used incumbency to their advantage to win their remaining two terms dashing hopes of state republicans.
When Donald Trump won within the district boundaries in 2016 and narrowly lost it in 2020 showed the GOP that the district could be in play. The non-partisan redistricting commission changed the district by dropping Luce and Schoolcraft counties. The new lines include Alger, Baraga, half of Dickinson (City of Norway, Breen, Felch, Norway, Waucedah, and West Branch Townships), and all Marquette counties. On paper, this is a razer-thin district that could go either way.
The population base is Marquette County, and that will be where most democratic votes come from. The other counties will most likely vote republican based on previous elections; their margins and percentages will be worth watching to see if this is the year the GOP can pick up the seat. Each party has invested heavily in Republican Melody Wagner and Democrat Jenn Hill. Here is a breakdown of each county and the important areas that will decide the next state rep for the 109th district.
(Each area is listed by the municipality; the 2020 presidential election results between Donald Trump and Joe Biden and the 2018 gubernatorial results between Gretchen Whitmer and Bill Schuette are key areas to watch.)
Alger- This county is traditionally democratic but has shifted to the GOP. Many municipalities have bounced back between supporting Gretchen Whitmer's campaign for governor in 2018 and Donald Trump's election campaign in 2020. This county swings back and forth. Key areas are.
Au Train Township: Trump 64%, Schuette 61%
Munising City: Trump 53%, Whitmer 57%
Munising Township: Trump 69%, Schuette 59%
Rock River Township: Trump 53%, Whitmer 54%
Baraga- This is an area in which Wagner has to run up a large margin both in percentage and total votes. This area is a prime example where Trump managed to turn more people out and get crossover support from democrats. The population centers are two townships. Key areas are
Baraga Townships: 61% Trump, Schuette 56%
L’Anse Township: Trump 64%, Schuette 57%
Spur Township: Biden 52%, Schuette 54%
Dickinson- This is another new section of the district that will be heavily republican, like Baraga County Wagner will need to run up the score in the smaller townships (Breen, Felch, Waucedah, and West Branch) to go with the Norway area. Key areas are
Norway City: Trump 59%, Schuette 52%
Norway Township: Trump 67%, Schuette 60%
Marquette- This is where most of the population lives and will decide. The biggest areas to watch will be the “Big Three” cities in Ishpeming, Marquette, and Negaunee, which are heavily democrat to go with other municipalities. Hill will have a built-in advantage, and Wagner will have to lose by closer margins in Chocolay and Marquette townships and flip other western townships (Ishpeming, Negaunee, Tilden, Forsyth, Republic) Key areas to watch are.
Chocolay Township: Biden 53%, Whitmer 55%
Ely Township: Trump 57%, Whitmer 52%
Forsyth Township: Trump 56%, Schuette 50%
Ishpeming City: Biden 56%, Whitmer 62%
Ishpeming Township: Trump 50%, Whitmer 62%
Marquette City: Biden 68%, Whitmer 68%
Marquette Township: Biden 58%, Whitmer 58%
Negaunee City: Biden 59%, Whitmer 62%
Negaunee Township: 51% Biden Whitmer 56%
Republic Township: Trump 55%, Whitmer 53%
Sands Township: Trump 54%, Schuette 51%
Tilden Township: Trump 53%, Schuette 51%
West Branch Township: Trump 54%, Whitmer 51%
The 109th district has a bit of everything. Heavy Democratic areas, staunch Republican areas, townships that have swung back and forth, and each party investing hundreds of thousands of dollars. And it will be up to the voters to decide. Happy election day.