Michigan 15th District
Compared with points further north in “the mitten,” the southeast corner of Michigan is elevation challenged. Its flat marshlands along the shore of Lake Erie give way to flat farm lands, with rivers flowing lazily in summer and flashing with ice in winter. Here and there are power plants with giant smokestacks and factories. On the northern horizon is the sprawl of metro Detroit and of the great auto and steel and chemical plants along the Detroit River.
2008 Presidential Vote
|Cook Partisan Voting Index|
The 15th Congressional District of Michigan includes much of the southeastern corner of the state and owes its shape to Republican redistricters, who in 2001 devised one of the most partisan plans of the decennial cycle. In Wayne County, the district takes in parts of Dearborn and most of Dearborn Heights. The most heavily Arab-American parts of Dearborn were put in the 14th District, and these are more middle-class, even affluent areas. All of Monroe County is in the district, as are Ypsilanti and Ann Arbor, home to the University of Michigan, in Washtenaw County.
There are several working-class Detroit suburbs: Taylor, Romulus (home of Detroit’s Metro Airport), and Woodhaven, site of a big Ford plant. Flat Rock is home to a joint Ford-Mazda auto plant, one of the few Japanese plants in Michigan. Monroe County has a statue of Gen. George Armstrong Custer, who grew up there. Once agricultural, the county now is predominately industrial, and the southern part is in many ways an extension of Toledo, Ohio. (Michigan and Ohio almost went to war over the Toledo land in the 1830s; Ohio got Toledo and Michigan got the Upper Peninsula as recompense.) Ann Arbor is one of the nation’s largest university towns, oriented to the university but also home to auto executives and young families who like a town with plenty of bookstores, coffeehouses and liberal neighbors. In 2004, the city voted 74% to legalize medical marijuana. In 2006, it landed the headquarters of Google’s AdWords unit, which operates the company’s “pay-per-click” advertising method, Google’s main revenue source. The company planned to have a workforce of 1,000 in Ann Arbor by 2012. Ypsilanti, though it also has a university, Eastern Michigan, is less bookish and more industrial. With the decline of the auto industry, hard times have affected the entire district and infected other industries, including pharmaceuticals; in 2007 Pfizer announced the closing of a research plant in Ann Arbor. All of these areas tend to vote Democratic, though Monroe is sometimes marginal. But they are different kinds of Democrats. In Wayne County, union operatives have dominated Democratic party politics for 50 years. In Ann Arbor, the party is dominated by leftist peace activists, environmentalists and feminists. Democratic presidential candidates have won this area overwhelmingly.