2012 is no throwaway primary.
New redistricting across the state has created entire new constituencies for pols. That's had the effect of also creating unlikely races between some of Michigan's biggest political names -- particularly in the case of Reps. Gary Peters and Hansen Clarke, two well-known Democrats now battling in a new district for a single seat.
In addition to these tough races, Metro Detroiters may vote on two important millages. A 10-year 0.938 millage renewal will fund jail operations and juvenile detention facilities in Wayne County may be weakened by the continual scandals emanating from the office of County Executive Robert Ficano. The $38.8 million will also be used on programs like work release and home arrest, that may save money. The county has already begun construction of a new $300 million jail, and the millage would help pay for operations (as well as cost overruns across the department). It will continue to cost residents $74 a year for a $150,000 house.
What's made more headlines is a three-county millage in Wayne, Oakland and Macomb to fund 10 years of support for the Detroit Institute of the Arts. It would generate $23 million annually for 10 years for the cash-strapped institution, costing $20 for the owner of a $200,000 home. Without additional funding, the museum says it will begin layoffs, closures and other cost-saving measures.
On Oakland County ballots in 23 communities is a two-year renewal of SMART bus funding through a 0.59-mills tax. The SMART millage will cost the owners of a $150,000 property $44.25 a year, and raise $16 million annually.
Confused about the issues? Head to publius.org, a nonprofit voter education site built by Detroiter Vince Keenan. Publius, an interactive voter guide, custom builds sample ballots and gives voting locations for Michiganders who are registered to vote. Plus, it gives voters their sample ballot, delivered alongside videos and websites and candidate surveys so you can make an informed decision.
Find out more about some of Michigan's most contentious races below:
Michigan Primary 2012: Politicians On The Line
2012 will go down in history as one of Michigan's most contested primary election seasons. A Republican-led redrawing of voting districts eliminated stronghold Democratic seats and pitted party members against each other. Political careers are on the line in these important races for Michiganders voting on Tuesday, August 7.
13th District: John Conyers, D-Detroit
U.S. Rep. John Conyers, 83, is in the fight of his political life. The co-founder of the Congressional Black Caucus is running against a crowded field in the new 13th Congressional District, which is now about 40 percent white. He may also be weakened by the scandal caused by his wife, Monica Conyers, still in federal prison after accepting bribes as a member of Detroit City Council. Can Conyers hang on for a 24th term? Caption: Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich., ranking Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee, attends a congressional round-table on college sports, offering their perspectives on current state of NCAA athletics, Tuesday, Nov. 1, 2011, on Capitol Hill in Washington.
13th District: Glenn Anderson, D-Westland
The new 13th Congressional District's voting population includes residents from the Pointes, Detroit's East Side, and Downriver communities like River Rouge and Wyandotte. Conyers' fiercest opponent is Glenn Anderson, a former Ford employee with six years' experience in the state Senate. He says he supports urban policies like funding public transportation, improving broadband access across Detroit and working with banks to renegotiate mortgages in troubled neighborhoods.
14th District: Gary Peters, D-Bloomfield Twp.
Rather than unsettle fellow Democrat Sander Levin following Michigan's new redistricting, two-term Representative Gary Peters declared his candidacy in the 14th. Long the frontrunner of the election, Peters' veritable scroll of endorsements runs the gamut, from Oakland County Prosecutor Jessica Cooper to the Detroit Regional Chamber to the Black Slate. He also leads his race in campaign fundraising for 2012.
14th District: Hanson Clarke, D-Detroit
Like opponent Gary Peters, freshman U.S. Representative Hanson Clarke jumped to the 14th in 2012, when new district lines would have pitted him against John Conyers. Clarke has made headlines by sponsoring a bill calling for student loan forgiveness, taking Fannie Mae to task over local mortgage disputes and even badgering President Obama to direct federal aid to Detroit. Yet those populist initiatives still haven't resonated with the 14th's voters, who are polling strongly for Peters. Caption: US Representative Hansen Clarke, Democrat of Michigan, speaks on June 24, 2011 during an interview with Agence France-Presse.
Michigan Senate: Former Rep. Pete Hoekstra, R-Holland
Pete Hoekstra's notoriety may help him clinch the Republican nomination to challenge Debbie Stabenow's Senate seat in November. Hoekstra's taken some hits this year for raking in lobbyist fees and airing a racially-charged campaign ad during the Super Bowl. And his bid for governor in 2010 didn't go far. Good pub or bad, all those things have helped make Hoekstra the only truly statewide name stepping up to challenge Stabenow. Caption: In this June 28, 2010 photo then U.S. Rep. Pete Hoekstra is shown in Grand Rapids, Mich.
Michigan Senate: Clark Durant, R-Grosse Pointe Farms
Cornerstone Schools CEO Clark Durant has created a successful, profitable charter education model in the city of Detroit. Perhaps it was too successful for Durant-- his $500,000 salary raised eyebrows during the campaign. And while Durant touts himself as the "Rebel With A Cause," his core issues don't stray too far from the traditional Republican platform. He still trails Hoekstra in the Republican primary.
11th District: Kerry Bentivolio, R-Milford
Teacher, veteran, Reagan enthusiast and.. reindeer farmer! There are no shortage of twists in the 11th District this year. Rep. Thaddeus McCotter suddenly resigned his seat a few weeks after it was revealed that he had turned in far fewer valid signatures than required to secure a spot in the primary election. Kerry Bentivolio, who had already entered the primary, was left as the heir apparent of the 11th District. Bentivolio doesn't have support of the state's GOP heads -- but he HAS secured the endorsement of Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY).
11th District: Former Rep. Nancy Cassis, R-Novi
Nancy Cassis hadn't planned to run against Rep. Thaddeus McCotter. But when McCotter dropped out, leaving the 11th District with a political newbie, reindeer farmer Kerry Bentivolio, as the only Republican primary candidate, Cassis began to campaign as a write-in choice. Unbelievably, the former state representative is currently leading Bentivolio in the polls. It's reported that she has the support of the Michigan GOP party. And both Bentivolio and Cassis are running as candidates in the special Sept. 5 election to fill the last three months of McCotter's seat. The price tag for the election? A cool $650,000. Caption: This undated photo released by the congressional campaign of Nancy Cassis shows Cassis, a Republican from Novi, Mich. She is running as a write-in candidate for the U.S. House seat that was held by U.S. Rep. Thaddeus McCotter, R-Livonia, until his resignation earlier in July, 2012.
6th District: Rep. Rashida Tlaib, D-Detroit
Rep. Rashida Tlaib is facing not just an opponent, but a friend in the battle over voters within the new lines of the 6th District representative's seat. She's made her name in Detroit voicing the concerns of Southwest Detroiters caught in the bridge battle between Gov. Rick Snyder and billionaire Ambassador Bridge owner Matty Moroun. Tlaib, the daughter of two Palestinian immigrants, is the first Muslim-American woman to be elected to the Michigan legislature. However, she currently represents less than 40% of the district's total population.
6th District: Rep. Maureen Stapleton, D-Detroit
While Rep. Maureen Stapleton only has one term of experience, she's had almost two decades experience working in the city governments of Indianapolis and Detroit. This District 4 incumbent has taken Tlaib to task for opposing municipal lighting authorities to keep streetlights on -- Tlaib says she wants LED lights and guarantees that the money will be spent wisely. Stapleton's advantage may be that the new 6th District has gained a significant African-American population. Politicos say this will be one of the closest statehouse races in Metro Detroit.