Michigan 11th District
The inexorable pattern of growth and its consequences is a vivid tale in the western suburbs of Wayne County, 15 miles from downtown Detroit. Just west of northwest Detroit is Livonia. Sixty years ago, the 36 square miles of Livonia had 17,000 people. By 1960, there were 66,000, and by 2000, 100,000. Similar growth was taking place just to the south in Westland, named after a shopping center. To the west, around the old towns of Plymouth and Northville, affluent subdivisions sprang up. To the southwest, Canton Township grew 34% with more modest subdivisions. To the northwest, Novi, in Oakland County, is one of the metro area’s highest-income suburbs. Lyon Township has been another growth area. Livonia is aging now—its school-age population was 38,000 in the 1970s and 17,000 in 2002—with some vacant factories and closed malls. In June 2009, General Motors announced it would close an engine plant here and lay off 120 employees. But these suburbs all have been thriving in relation to troubled Detroit. Tying them together is Interstate 275, which runs along the western edge of Livonia and Westland and provides easy access to Metro Airport.
2008 Presidential Vote
|Cook Partisan Voting Index|
Livonia was originally the political base of longtime Wayne County Executive Ed McNamara (1986-2002), an old-style political boss who built the beautiful new midfield terminal at Metro, which is named after him. Livonia, originally settled by Detroiters, was long closely divided between the two major parties, but the recent affluent influx into western Wayne County has made those areas more Republican. Racial minorities have become a majority in Wayne County, due partly to the rapid growth of Hispanics and Asian-Americans, many of them doing high-tech work in what local officials trumpet as the Automation Alley, the long miles of open road between Detroit and Ann Arbor.
The 11th Congressional District of Michigan covers much of the territory in western Wayne and Oakland counties—Livonia and Redford Township just to the east, Westland and Canton Township, Northville and Plymouth, Novi and several fast-growing townships to the north and west. The lines were carefully drawn to produce a district that voted 51% for George W. Bush in 2000 and with the clear intention of electing a Republican representative. But like nearby districts, Republican allegiance here has been slipping. Barack Obama won the district 54%-45% in 2008.