top of page


Oakland Dem House Candidates Crushing GOP In Funds;
HRCC To Rescue


Three Oakland County women working to flip GOP districts from red to blue raised huge money in the lead up to the general election, campaign finance reports due Friday showed.

Democrats Kelly Breen of Novi in the 38th House District, Julia Pulver of West Bloomfield in the 39th District and Barb Anness of Rochester Hills in the 45th District each raised nearly $300,000.

Their Republican counterparts didn't bring in nearly as much, campaign finance reports covering August 25 until October 18 revealed, though the flush House Republican Campaign Committee PAC gave considerable amounts. Far from the expected edge Republicans were expected to enjoy because of the HRCC, however, the huge sums raised by Democratic candidates has evened the playing field.

In the 38th District, Ms. Breen raised $306,381 and spent $183,741 in her effort to pick up the seat where she came close to unseating the GOP incumbent in 2018. The caucus also kicked in $229,445. She has $166,221 on hand heading into the election.

Republican Chase Turner of Northville raised $40,916 and spent $48,819. The HRCC has spent $316,051 in this district along with another $100,000 in a late contribution this week. Mr. Turner reported $19,459 on hand.

Ms. Pulver raised $299,402 and spent $281,273. The Democratic caucus provided $176,499 in in-kind contributions as well. She has $92,549 on hand.

Rep. Ryan Berman raised $118,735 for the period with the HRCC kicking in $502,391 in in-kind expenditures. The caucus also provided Mr. Berman with another $100,000 this week, a late contribution report showed.

Mr. Berman spent $100,924 and has $185,556 on hand for the final days of the campaign.

Ms. Anness raised a significant $282,790 for the period and spent $266,265. She has $61,403 on hand heading into November. The Democratic caucus spent here, too, bringing in $151,401.

Republican Mark Tisdel of Rochester Hills reported raising $59,430 with the HRCC spending $333,729 on his behalf. Mr. Tisdel spent $72,051 and has $121,749 on hand.

The three Oakland County seats are prime targets for the Democrats as they hope to take majority control of the chamber for the first time in more than a decade. They are all near the top of Gongwer News Service's list of House districts likely to flip (See Gongwer Michigan Report, October 19, 2020).

For Democrats, the momentum is real. Sources said at the beginning of October that Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden was up over President Donald Trump by nearly 30 points in Oakland County. Republican internal polling had that lead at 18 points, still a very concerning spread considering Mr. Trump only lost by 8 points in 2016.

In 2012 and 2016, Democratic presidential candidates had eight-point wins in the county (See Gongwer Michigan Report, October 1, 2020).

Republicans, though, are not giving up in the county. They remain confident in their three Oakland candidates, particularly in the 45th where they think the environment is better. They don't have much of a choice, however, because there are so few seats in play and if Democrats win all three, plus the seat in Portage in Kalamazoo County, the Republican majority is likely gone. (...)

House Districts Most Likely To Flip

It's a little more than two weeks to go before Election Day and the House districts currently in play to tip the scales for either side remain limited, though an additional Democratic-held seat has increased in competitiveness, expanding the list ever so slightly.

The activity in the 96th House District where Rep. Brian Elder (D-Bay City) is seeking a third and final term prompted Gongwer News Service to move the seat from on the radar to the top five.

Mr. Elder is working but Democrats and Republicans agree the environment here favors the GOP in an area where President Donald Trump is popular and their candidate, Timothy Beson of Bay City, who owns a local market and is well known in the community, has traction.

Otherwise, since mid-September, not too much has changed in the battle for House control. The map is limited for Democrats to pick up and Republicans see a few opportunities, such as Mr. Elder's seat, but they all involve knocking out an incumbent, which has historically been a tougher task.

Mr. Trump is running poorly in suburban Oakland and Kalamazoo counties, where many of the districts up for grabs are located. The question is how far down the ticket do voters go to show their distaste for the Republican president.

Gongwer is breaking down its House races into the top seats to flip, seats that are on the radar because of activity from either side and a group of seats that have dropped off the list completely.

The following is a breakdown of House races in order of likelihood to flip:

1. BAD GOP ENVIRONMENT IN 61ST DISTRICT (SAME RANKING): The 61st House District seat in Kalamazoo County's Portage area is not a good environment for Mr. Trump. Democrats are bullish on this seat and think it is theirs. Democratic Kalamazoo County Commissioner Christine Morse of Texas Township is up against Republican Bronwyn Haltom, and while both are working hard, Ms. Haltom is facing increasing headwinds here. A month ago, Republicans were using terms like "goner" to describe this seat and it has only solidified more.

2. TURNER, BREEN IN NOVI'S 38TH DISTRICT (SAME RANKING): Republicans and their candidate Chase Turner of Northville are still working this seat and have attacks on Novi City Councilmember Kelly Breen pointing to the issue of police funding in particular. Still, the 38th House District in southwest Oakland County is changing and its demographics are friendlier to Democrats. Democrats and other allied groups are also spending for Ms. Breen. This one will go to the end and Ms. Breen appears to have an edge.

3. PULVER PUSHING BERMAN TO LIMIT IN 39TH (SAME RANKING): Rep. Ryan Berman (R-Commerce Township) is expected to have a tight race against Democrat Julia Pulver of West Bloomfield in the 39th House District. The environment here also isn't great for the president. Though Mr. Berman is an incumbent and reportedly working hard. Democrats feel good here but it seems likely to go down to the wire.

4. GOP MORE OPTIMISTIC ABOUT ROCHSTER'S 45TH (SAME RANKING): Democrats are hoping their candidate Rochester Community Schools Board of Education member Barb Anness can get a win in the 45th House District covering Rochester and Rochester Hills, but Republicans are still confident in former Rochester Hills City Councilmember Mark Tisdel. Mr. Trump's numbers are purportedly not as bad here as in other Oakland County districts, so Mr. Tisdel could eke it out. That said, this area is changing rapidly in the Democrats' favor and the Democrats think they have a great chance, especially as Mr. Trump falls apart in Oakland.

5. ELDER FACING A CREDIBLE CHALLENGE IN 96TH (UP FROM ON THE RADAR): Rep. Brian Elder (D-Bay City) is bullish about his own chances in the 96th House District, but Democrats are worried. Republicans feel good about Timothy Beson of Bay City, who is well known in the community. Mr. Trump carried this district in 2016 but then Ms. Whitmer did in 2018, though the area is still thought to be trending away from the Democrats. It's a mostly white, heavily Catholic, working class district. That's the prototype for onetime Democratic districts moving GOP.

6. 19TH WILL BE CLOSE AGAIN (PREVIOUSLY FIFTH): Democrats feel Rep. Laurie Pohutsky has done everything right her first two years in office while Republicans think the 19th House District is going to come back to the GOP column with Martha Ptashnik, Livonia Public Schools mathematics department chair. Like when Ms. Pohutsky won it in 2018, it is expected to be close. It's another seat where Mr. Trump carried the district in 2016 only to see Ms. Whitmer carry it in 2018. Even Michigan Republican Party Chair Laura Cox ran well below what was expected as a Senate candidate in 2018 (when she was also a sitting representative). It's hard to say if Livonia will go back to its 2016 self. The GOP, though, feels good about the numbers they are seeing here. It's a whiter, slightly more working-class suburb. Still, the demographics here are those of an emerging Democratic area.

7. BOTH SIDES STILL PLAYING IN 104TH (PREVIOUSLY SIXTH): Republicans and Democrats are committed to the 104th House District covering Grand Traverse County and will stick it out until the end. Democrat Dan O'Neil of Traverse City had a good showing in 2018 but with Mr. Trump on the ballot and Rep. Larry Inman (R-Williamsburg) off the ballot, it's not as friendly of a year. Republicans are happy with John Roth of Traverse City here and have the advantage.


October 27, 2020
bottom of page