Republicans have held substantial control and a significant majority in the state House of Representatives for six years.
But Democrats are hoping to whittle that margin down and perhaps even regain the majority after Nov. 8.
With Republicans holding a 62-45 majority (there are three vacancies in the chamber), Democrats will have to gain nine seats in order to take control of the House of Representatives — which is challenging, but not unprecedented.
After Barack Obama’s first presidential victory in 2008, Democrats held a 65-42 majority. But after the election in 2010, the GOP flipped the House and won a 63-47 majority that has held relatively steady since.
“I think we’re very competitive to win nine, based on what our data shows us,” said state Rep. Adam Zemke, D-Ann Arbor, who heads up the Democratic caucus’ campaign committee. “We have 17 seats in play, and we only have to win nine of those.”
Playing in the Democrats’ favor is the controversial top of the ticket where Republican Donald Trump has been losing in Michigan polls by double-digit margins, especially among women and minority voters. If those numbers hold up through the election, Democrats are hoping that even more seats will come into play. And in presidential election years, turnout is always higher, which traditionally has helped Democrats.
“I think the top of the ticket is going to do nothing but help us and hurt down-ticket Republicans,” Zemke said.
But state Rep. Aric Nesbitt, R-Lawton, who is the chairman of the House Republican Campaign Committee, said Democrat Hillary Clinton has similar unpopularity numbers among voters that will stunt any down-ballot impact.
“Voters see the difference between the lack of leadership from eight years of Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton and see how the state has improved,” he said. We have the message, we have the resources and we have the candidates who the voters trust locally. And I’d much rather have Donald Trump at the top of the ticket than Hillary Clinton.”
There are 17 House seats in play across the state.