Michigan 8th District
Lansing is Michigan’s state capital, chosen in 1847 because of its geographic position halfway between Lake Huron and Lake Michigan—and away from the border with Canada and the threat of invasion by British forces. The only drawback was fewer days with sunshine than anyplace else in the state. But it is a tidy and pleasant city with more than its share of amenities. It has a beautifully restored Capitol and a fine state history museum and is neighbor to Michigan State University in East Lansing, started in 1855 as America’s first land-grant college. Its Oldsmobile plant stimulated growth in the first half of the 20th century, and state government did the same in the second half. GM closed its Olds line in 2004, but two new highly efficient GM assembly plants have been constructed in the Lansing area, and the Oldsmobile name remains alive at two local museums and at the baseball stadium where the Lansing Lugnuts play. Historically, the Lansing area voted Republican, up through the 1960s. But as public employee unions have grown in membership and strength, Lansing, like some other state capitals, has become heavily Democratic, as is university-influenced East Lansing.
2008 Presidential Vote
|Cook Partisan Voting Index|
Just east of Lansing’s Ingham County is quite another part of Michigan, Livingston County (most of the counties in these parts were named for members of President Andrew Jackson’s Cabinet: Livingston was secretary of State and Ingham secretary of the Treasury). Forty years ago, Livingston County was mostly rural, known mainly for its many lakes. But over the years, thousands of Detroit-area residents have driven out Interstate 96 to Brighton and Howell, and other Livingston townships and subdivisions, schools and shopping malls have sprouted up. Most of these people are conservatives, happy to leave the urban problems of Detroit behind, angry at high taxes, annoyed by government regulations, and hewing to traditional religious faiths. They have made Livingston Michigan’s fastest-growing county—its population rose 59% from 1990 to 2007—and one of its most Republican. Meanwhile, Lansing’s population has been slowly declining, and local leaders have begun to explore a merger with East Lansing. In 1970, Livingston had 58,000 people to Ingham’s 261,000; in 2007, Livingston had 183,000 to Ingham’s 279,000. So as Ingham has grown more Democratic, Livingston has been casting bigger Republican margins as a counterbalance to Ingham’s Democratic margins. In the presidential election of 2004, 93,000 people voted in Livingston and gave George W. Bush a 25,000-vote margin. By comparison, 133,000 voted in Ingham and gave John Kerry a 22,000 vote-margin. In the 2008 election, Barack Obama won in Ingham by 48,000 votes, with 66% of the vote, and lost to John McCain in Livingston by 13,000 votes, getting 42% of the vote.
The 8th Congressional District of Michigan includes all of Ingham and Livingston Counties, Shiawassee County south of Owosso, plus Clinton County, directly north of Lansing. It also takes in the partisan battleground of northern Oakland County.