(Source: MIRS.news, Published 06/13/2022) Black representation in the state House may drop to as few as 11 members in the 2023-24 session, but could also hit an historic high of 19 or 20 depending on how the chips fall, based on an analysis of all 110 districts.
Unlike the state Senate, where safe projections have the number of Black members falling from five to three, the House isn't as certain. Currently, 14 members of the state House are of African-American ancestry, slightly above the 30-year average of 13.
While Black representation from Detroit could fall to five members, races in Southfield, Grand Rapids, Washtenaw County, Flint and Pontiac will keep numbers from falling below the 30-year low of nine Black members from the 1993-94 session.
But it is possible that several candidates could see successes this August and November in winnable seats and the number of Black House members could break the 30-year record of 18 from the 2001-2002 session.
Several Black political observers tell MIRS they're doubtful it will happen, though.
In years past, redistricting guaranteed at least 10 Detroit districts, with nearly off the members being Black. This year, the Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission connected every single House district in Detroit with another municipality.
It created more safe Democratic districts, but it may also have halved the number of Detroit House members and doesn't guarantee as many Black seats.
"The Michigan Democratic Party's most loyal constituency got the short end of the stick," said Rep. Ronnie Peterson (D-Ypsilanti).
Peterson said voters should have paid more attention to the fine print of the citizens redistricting ballot proposal before it went on the ballot. When the Legislature drew the map, Republicans and Democrats put a priority on creating racially equitable districts so the minority party doesn't have grounds in a federal lawsuit based on the Voting Rights Act.
These maps were created by out-of-state attorneys who were more interested in making lines more fair for Democrats, as a whole, than Detroit's Black population, Peterson said.
"To see this happen, it's almost unbelievable," he said.
Speaking on the MIRS Monday podcast, Adrian Hemond of Grassroots Midwest went as far as to call the House maps a "racial gerrymander" that he believes is ripe for a Voting Rights Act challenge after the results of the 2022 election.
"The House of Representatives will be significantly whiter next year," he said.
In theory, the Redistricting Commission drew opportunities in its "Hickory" House map for more Black politicians to be successful. Thirteen House districts were drawn with a majority population being of an ethnic background, with seven of those being districts made up of a majority of Black voters.
However, 24 districts were drawn as minority "opportunity districts," where the population was at least 40% of some ethnic minority. Of those, 13 were Black. There's 20 districts were the Black voting age population makes up at least 30% of the district.
Voting age population is one thing. Voting is quite another. In a gubernatorial primary in Detroit, where 77.1% of the population was Black according to the 2020 Census, longtime political consultant Adolph MONGO expects voter turnout arounds 15% to 20%.
In 2018, despite a competitive Democratic gubernatorial primary, only 21.5% of registered Detroit voters cast a ballot. By comparison, turnout was 55% in Huntington Woods, 42.3% in Ferndale, 38% in Birmingham and 26.5% in Warren.
"People don't vote," Mongo said. "You could have a week of voting with a polling location across the street and the people won't go and vote."
That's why Black candidates from Detroit are concerned with all these sliver-shaped House districts that connect Detroit with the suburbs, Mongo said.
"When you start crossing the border, things change," he said. Many times, Detroit candidates can win with shoe leather and little money. In the suburbs, you need mail and mail costs money.
All that said, MIRS had identified 11 House seats where an African-American candidate will win. They are:
- District 1 - Rep. Tyrone Carter (D-Detroit). It's a 93% Democratic district and his primary challenger is also Black.
- District 4 - Rep. Karen Whitsett (D-Detroit). It's a 94% Democratic district and two of her primary challengers are Black and the third is candidate from Dearborn who is not considered serious.
- District 10 - Rep. Joe Tate (D-Detroit). It's a 65% Democratic district and his only primary challenger is Black
- District 16 - Rep. Stephanie Young (D-Detroit). It's a 77% Democratic district and she has no primary challenger.
- District 19 - It's a 79.5% Democratic district in Southfield and both Democratic candidates -- Jason HOSKINS and Caprice Jackson -- are Black.
- District 32 - It's a 77% Democratic district in Ypsilanti and all three major candidates -- Robyn McCOY, Jimmie WILSON Jr. and Roderick Casey Sr. are Black.
- District 33 - Rep. Felicia Brabec (D-Pittsfield). It's a 71.5% Democratic district in Ann Arbor and she has no primary opponent.
- District 53 - Rep. Brenda Carter (D-Pontiac). It's a 70.3% Democratic district in Pontiac and she has no primary opponent.
- District 70 - Rep. Cynthia Neeley (D-Flint). It's an 84.9% Democratic district in Flint and her primary opponents are Black.
- District 82 - It's 71.7% Democratic district and the two main candidates -- Kristian Grant and Robert WOMACK -- are Black running in a district in which 44.25% are considered a minority voting population.
- District 94 - Rep. Amos O’Neal (D-Saginaw). It's a 69.4% Democratic district and he has no primary opponent.
MIRS has identified seven more House seats where an African-American candidate has at least a 50/50 shot of winning.
- District 7 - Rep. Helena Scott (D-Detroit). There's no Republicans, but Scott is running against two Royal Oak opponents, one of whom is a city commissioner. Roughly 50% of the district is Detroit, but that's assuming the Detroiters vote.
- District 11 - Union-backed Richardo White of Detroit and Regina Williams are strong contenders in this 67.7% Democratic district made up of Detroit, St. Clair Shores and Harper Woods. Williams and fellow Harper Woods Councilmember Veronica PAIZ could split the vote and open the door for a St. Clair Shores candidate, if one emerges.
- District 14 - Donovan McKinney finished a strong second to Rep. Shri Thanedar (D-Detroit) in 2020, but with only 30% of his district Detroit, he has work to do against Center Line Councilmember Aaron Delikta and Warren Democratic Club Vice President Kristina Lodovisi.
- District 26 - Inkster City Councilmember Steven Chisholm and UAW senior administrative assistant Allen WILSON are good candidates, but Dylan Wegela from Garden City is working the hardest and Garden City represents a 34% plurality of the vote.
- District 46 - In a 50/50 seat, Maurice Imhoff is looking to become the youngest person ever elected to the state House. He has no primary and is running against a couple candidates without any local success on the ballot.
- District 47 - In a 61.6% Democratic district, IBEW official James Johnson Jr. and Ann Arbor resident Carrie RHEINGANS are the only two candidates.
- District 77 - In a 61.5% Democratic district, basketball standout Jon Horford is running against civil rights activist Emily Dievendorf and attorney Logan Byrne.
MIRS has identified two more House districts where an African-American candidate has an arguable shot of winning.
- District 5 - Radio host Reggie Davis is running against a pair of quality suburban candidates in Michelle Wooddell and Natalie Price in a district that is 44% Detroit.
- District 55 - Cheri Hardmon is a local newscaster with great name ID going up against Rep. David MARTIN (R-Davison) in a 50%-50% district. At the moment, Martin represents about 30% of his current district.
Other Black candidates are running in the 6th, 8th, 9th, 13th, 55th, 69th, 79th, 86th, 87th and 102nd.