Michigan 6th District
The southwest corner of Michigan was settled by New England Yankees and Upstate New Yorkers in the 1830s and 1840s. They built small towns with schools and churches and colleges, supported temperance and opposed capital punishment. And in 1854, they started the Republican Party. There are towns in southwest Michigan that still recall proudly their past as termini of the Underground Railroad, and there are black families that claim ancestors who made their way north out of slavery to freedom. Later, big industries transformed some of the small towns into significant cities. Kalamazoo, started by Dutch-Americans who introduced celery to this country, became the home of Upjohn pharmaceuticals, which went through several corporate changes and is now part of Pfizer. Predominantly black and struggling Benton Harbor and predominantly white and prosperous St. Joseph, twin towns on Lake Michigan, were originally known for cherry and peach orchards, but now the dominant local fruit is the blueberry, and Benton Harbor is best known as the headquarters for Whirlpool. But many other local companies and other famous industrial names have moved out, along with their thousands of jobs. Like many other jurisdictions, the region is increasingly turning to casinos for an economic shot in the arm. The Pokagon Indian Tribe opened a large casino resort in Berrien County in 2007. Kalamazoo has had some success keeping its young people in school with a program that pays college tuition for high school students who graduate; it is the model for a statewide plan adopted by Democratic Gov. Jennifer Granholm in 2007. The southwest corner is where the influence of Michigan recedes: People here watch Chicago television and root for the Cubs or White Sox baseball teams rather than the Detroit Tigers.
2008 Presidential Vote
|Cook Partisan Voting Index|
The 6th Congressional District of Michigan occupies the southwest corner of the state, with Kalamazoo and Benton Harbor-St. Joseph its two major urban areas. It takes in three smaller counties and parts of two others. It was for many years arch-Republican territory, represented by a succession of conservative congressmen who deplored federal spending and welfare-state measures: New Deal opponent Clare Hoffman (1935-63), Nixon defender Edward Hutchinson (1963-77), and pork barrel critic and later Reagan Office of Management and Budget Director David Stockman (1977-81). In the 1990s, Kalamazoo trended toward the Democrats, and the 6th District cast small pluralities for Bill Clinton in the 1990s. George W. Bush carried the district twice but lost Kalamazoo County in 2000 and 2004, thanks in part to the influence of the Western Michigan University community and its 25,000 students. In 2008, Barack Obama won the district 54%-44%. Granholm won Kalamazoo County, 59%-39%, over western Michigan Republican Dick DeVos in 2006.