Traverse City Record-Eagle

November 7, 2012

Dems look to narrow gap in House


---- — DETROIT (AP) — All 110 seats in the Michigan House were up for grabs Tuesday, with Democrats looking to narrow the gap with the Republican majority that took over of the chamber just two years ago.

Republicans currently hold a 64-46 edge in the House, meaning Democrats would need a big net gain — 10 seats — to retake control.

It's unlikely the GOP will lose the majority after the party gained 20 House seats in 2010, winning back in one night all it had lost in the previous six years. Still, Democrats see vulnerabilities in the chamber leadership that they believe could help them reap gains.

Many races remained too close to call late Tuesday night, though several incumbents were re-elected.

House Speaker Jase Bolger remained in tight race against Democrat Bill Farmer amid criticisms surrounding the Republican leader's involvement in former Democratic Rep. Roy Schmidt's decision to change parties. Bolger has said he's cooperating with an Ingham County judge who is deciding whether to charge him, or anyone else, in the case of Schmidt's switch to the GOP just before the Aug. 7 primary election deadline.

Authorities have said Schmidt offered money to a political novice to run as a Democrat against him. Kent County Prosecutor William Forsyth said in July that Bolger and Schmidt broke no laws, but that their actions represented a fraud on the public. Both have apologized.

Democrats retaking control of the House certainly would upend the recent status quo in Lansing, where Republicans also took over the governor's office and built on their advantage in the Senate in 2010.

If Republicans find themselves with little remaining time to exercise their power, there likely would be a pre-January rush to press GOP-led legislation, including an overhaul of Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan. Republicans also would be likely to rewrite the state law that lets emergency managers take over local governments in the event voters strike it down in a referendum that's also on the ballot.

The GOP has moved swiftly with party initiatives over the past two years, including enacting the sweeping emergency manager law and lowering the number of weeks the unemployed can get state-level jobless benefits. Lawmakers also have moved to require public school employees to pay more for pensions while ending state-provided health coverage in retirement for new hires, though full implementation of that measure has been temporarily blocked by a judge.