In depth analysis on MI-01 Benishek/Allen race (geography matters)

I wrote a long column on Michigan’s 1st district back in April . It’s a district unlike any other in this country. It’s a district pundits pretend to understand, but are clueless about.

It is a conservative, but not republican district. It takes the right kind of Republican to win there, and if it has any leaning, is “conservative democrat” for one with populist, pro-life, pro-gun, and pro-labor reputation. Gary McDowell is a strong democrat candidate and is unopposed in the primary, so whoever gets the nomination needs to be ready for a battle.

Right now, one vote separates Benishek and Allen. This is good news for one person. Gary McDowell. Recounts take time and cost a lot of money. If you have extra, send it to your candidate’s campaign. The cost of recount go to the campaigns in Michigan, if they choose to have them.

This district can be separated into three parts for this race. Allen’s State Senate district, the Northern Lower Peninsula outside of Allen’s District, and most of the UP. This race was touted as a one on one race, but it really a six way primary. Two candidates were “trolls” and four candidates were “yoopers.” For those who don’t know, a troll lives below the Mackinac Bridge. A yooper is from the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. A “Trooper” is a troll who moves to the UP. While “troll” is not an insulting term in this sense, it does matter in politics. Trolls will vote for yoopers, but yoopers rarely vote for trolls. You’ll notice this in the results here.

The candidates are:

Dan Benishek – A doctor from Crystal Falls in Iron County. (Yooper)
Jason Allen – A state senator who moved from Traverse City to Emmet County (Troll)
Tom Stillings – A township trustee and activist from Eastport/Torch Lake in Antrim County (Troll)
Linda Goldthorpe – A frequent candidate and attorney from McMillan in Luce County. (Yooper)
Don Hooper – A frequent candidate from Iron River (Yooper) in Iron County.
Patrick Donlon – A candidate from St Ignace in Mackinac County (Yooper)

Yoopers took 54% of the vote. Trolls took 45% of the vote.
Benishek – 38.12% – leading by one vote before possible recount.
Allen – 38.12% – trailing by one vote before possible recount.
Stillings – 7.63%
Goldthorpe – 7.03%
Hooper – 5.59%
Donlon – 3.57%

Stillings probably hurt Allen in most areas, but Benishek in others. Hooper hurt Benishek badly. Goldthorpe and Donlon probably damaged both sides. It’s really hard to tell who took votes from whom, especially in Stillings case. Stillings was from Allen’s geographic base, but ideologically damaged Benishek.

The first area is Allen’s State Senate district. As expected, Jason Allen was strong here, winning every county, including his usually difficult Presque Isle County which voted for his democrat opponent in the past. There are seven counties here, three (Emmet, Antrim, Charlevoix) of which are in Northwestern Lower Michigan, two in Northeastern Lower Michigan (Cheboygan, Presque Isle), and two of which are in the Eastern UP (Mackinac and Chippewa). The Northwestern Lower counties are base republican counties. The Northeastern ones are competitive, as are the UP counties. Interesting, this is also Gary McDowell’s district. He is from Chippewa County and is the state rep from this area. This state senate district has been republican for a long time, at least since 94, maybe earlier. The state rep district that covered the parts of the UP here voted for both republicans and democrats. Chippewa and Mackinac counties are historically the two most republican areas in the UP, compared to the rest of the area. The UP as a whole is competitive today and ticket-splits. It goes democrat locally and state, but leans slightly republican federally outside of Stupak. Mackinac and Chippewa Counties are also more willing to vote for trolls than in the past. Allen showed some strength there.

Here’s Allen’s State Senate district:

Allen’s District Allen Benishek Total Allen Benishek
ANTRIM 2,549 910 4,794 53.17% 18.98%
CHARLEVOIX 2,282 907 4,224 54.02% 21.47%
CHEBOYGAN 2,228 1,293 4,202 53.02% 30.77%
CHIPPEWA 1,788 921 3,348 53.41% 27.51%
EMMET 2,634 1,186 4,555 57.83% 26.04%
MACKINAC 763 591 1,756 43.45% 33.66%
PRESQUE ISLE 845 828 1,888 44.76% 43.86%
13,089 6,636 24,767 52.85% 26.79%

Allen whopped Benishek here, and won every county. Benishek was strongest in Presque Isle, which voted for Allen’s democrat opponent in 06. Benishek was stronger in Cheboygan and Mackinac than other areas, but surprising weak in Chippewa County.

Of the rest of the pack:
Surprising Patrick Donlon didn’t do well in his home base (Mackinac County). His best area was actually near Standish.
Don Hooper was not strong in the Eastern UP. His base is in the Western UP, 200+ miles away.
Linda Goldthorpe is from Luce County, next to Chippewa and Mackinac. She pulled 11% in Mackinac County.
Tom Stillings pulled 16% in his home county of Antrim, and 12% in neighboring Charlevoix county. Those 1350 votes are significant considering the margin of victory in this race.

The Western UP is further away from Allen’s district and is much more hostile to trolls. Benishek was strongest here and it wasn’t close.

ALGER 527 469 1,234 42.71% 38.01%
BARAGA 159 497 852 18.66% 58.33%
DELTA 568 1,892 3,199 17.76% 59.14%
DICKINSON 533 2,322 3,244 16.43% 71.58%
GOGEBIC 146 523 898 16.26% 58.24%
HOUGHTON 422 1,883 2,883 14.64% 65.31%
IRON 165 897 1,311 12.59% 68.42%
KEWEENAW 26 223 342 7.60% 65.20%
LUCE 219 337 775 28.26% 43.48%
MARQUETTE 1,101 2,351 4,331 25.42% 54.28%
MENOMINEE 248 708 1,245 19.92% 56.87%
ONTONAGON 133 321 743 17.90% 43.20%
SCHOOLCRAFT 278 541 1,139 24.41% 47.50%
4525 12964 22,196 20.39% 58.41%

Allen won Alger County. I don’t know the reason, although it could be crossovers. Alger is one of the most democrat counties in the UP, but not like Marquette or Gogebic, which voted for Benishek. Luce County, next door to the east, voted for Benishek over Allen, despite its neighbors Chippewa and Mackinac Counties. Luce isn’t part of Allen’s district.

Benishek’s from Iron County, but more Republican Dickinson County next door was his best area. 71.58%. The western UP is his primary stronghold. Can he repeat this against McDowell? The Central/Western UP, particulary Marquette, Gogebic and Iron Counties are more democrat. Houghton is more Republican. The numbers in Houghton, Dickinson, Menominee, and Delta are encouraging.

Of the rest of the pack:

Goldthorpe took 20% in Luce County and 14% in Schoolcraft County.

Hooper took between 9% and 17% in 8 counties, most of which were in both Hooper and Benishek’s home territory. Hooper and Benishek are both from Iron county.

Tom Stillings grabbed 13% in Ontonagon County. He must have had a big event there or something because that’s an outlier.

With the home bases decided, that made the Northern Lower Peninsula outside of Allen’s district the decider. Allen won the area, but by a narrow margin. Interesting, Alpena once again voted against the Lake Michigan Coast. Benishek won there.  Allen did best in the areas influenced by his district. Traverse City media has a lot of simulcasted stations, often in Cheboygan and the Soo.  Crawford, Montmorency, and Otsego are influenced by the Traverse City area. The rest of the area is not, and that meant narrower wins and split votes that benefited Benishek.

Allen Benishek Total Allen Benishek
ALCONA 559 545 1,574 35.51% 34.63%
ALPENA 1,293 1,424 3,208 40.31% 44.39%
ARENAC 498 450 1,469 33.90% 30.63%
BAY 904 776 2,613 34.60% 29.70%
CRAWFORD 834 376 1,784 46.75% 21.08%
GLADWIN 941 624 2,374 39.64% 26.28%
IOSCO 721 988 2,586 27.88% 38.21%
MONTMORENCY 803 365 1,564 51.34% 23.34%
OGEMAW 679 644 1,940 35.00% 33.20%
OTSEGO 1,769 1,022 3,793 46.64% 26.94%
9846 8042 24,793 39.71% 32.44%

Of the rest of the pack:

Goldthorpe took 10%+ in 7 districts. There a significant Ron Paul ideology in much of this district. Goldthorpe would do well there. Rugged individualism and America first plays well in these parts.

Donlon took 9% in the Bay County portion of the district (not including Bay City).

Hooper did fairly well (8%+) in Arenac, Gladwin, and Bay for someone 400 miles away.  Those were his best areas outside of the Western UP.

Stillings took 10% in Crawford, Iosco, and Otsego Counties. Iosco is an outlier, the other two are not.  Stillings did not do bad outside of his NW base in lower Michigan however with the exception of Alpena. He probably hurt Allen in Crawford/Otsego, but Benishek elsewhere.

Of that part of the district, Otsego, Montmorency, Oscoda, and to a lesser extent Crawford are base counties. Alpena, Arenac, and Bay lean democrat. Alcona leans our way.  Ogemaw, Iosco and Gladwin are swing counties. The southern part of this area, along with Alpena (Democrat state rep for about 15 years) have a significant labor population of union retirees and corrections workers. Ogemaw, Iosco, and the Gladwin area have been largely represented by a democrat state rep for 16 years. They prefer social conservative democrats.

This entire district is populist to an extent outside of the Lake Michigan coast. Almost all of the district leans pro-life and pro-gun. Labor however is strong. This will be a tough pickup test for the GOP, based on McDowell’s strength and geographical advantage. Benishek can neutralize some of the UP strength. Allen can bring big numbers from his Antrim/Emmet/Otsego base. Will either be enough. We’ll find out in November.