The Gongwer Blog

by Nick Smith, Staff Writer

Bipartisan Oversight Panel Proposal May Resurface Next Term

Posted: November 21, 2022 12:04 PM

Legislation that would give voters the chance to decide whether a permanent bipartisan legislative oversight committee within the Legislature should be created is not expected to come up during lame-duck session but may reemerge sometime next session, bill sponsors said Monday.

Sponsors of the legislation that was subject to a hearing this past spring said they would be interested in working together to reintroduce the proposal for consideration next legislative term.

Sen. Ed McBroom (R-Vulcan) introduced legislation earlier this year with Sen. Jeff Irwin (D-Ann Arbor) that would create the proposed panel.

The legislation, SJR O and SB 997, was taken up for testimony by the Senate Oversight Committee earlier this year but has not yet been reported (See Gongwer Michigan Report, May 17, 2022).

Under SJR O, the Constitution would be amended, and a section would be added through a vote in the next statewide general election. The resolution would create an eight-member bipartisan permanent oversight committee within the Legislature, split evenly between party representation.

Its powers would include requesting and obtaining audits from the Office of the Auditor General, the executive branch and other sources. It would also be granted investigatory powers regarding state finances.

Under SB 997, the term of members is outlined. Members would meet at least quarterly or as called upon by the chair or a majority of members.

Members would receive all audits from the Office of the Auditor General for review, would be empowered to make recommendations to the full Legislature and have the authority for the hiring of staff and committee functions. The committee also would have subpoena powers.

Mr. McBroom said there have been initial conversations between the senators and some feedback from stakeholders on modifications and language changes to the proposal.

He said it would take "a lot of significant education" to get members up to speed on the topic again.

Mr. Irwin called the proposal a sensible idea that would have a positive impact on the Legislature in the long term. He said it was still too early to know when it might be reintroduced because he needed to have conversations with legislative leadership and Governor Gretchen Whitmer's administration.

"I look forward to making that effort again," Mr. Irwin said. "It's definitely a good government reform."

He said the proposal could have a lasting impact on state government by creating a space where lawmakers must work across the aisle to review government programs and ensure that audit recommendations are being heeded. He said it could also foster serious bipartisan discussions on the effectiveness of government program spending.

"It could impact the culture of the Legislature as well," Mr. Irwin said.

He explained that in the past when there has been one-party control of state government, oversight seems to go into hibernation, but during times of divided government it tends to go into overdrive.

Mr. Irwin said neither of those scenarios is good, adding that the bipartisan committee proposal would lead to a more consistent degree of oversight that better serves the public.

He said having such a committee could lead to "a better overall product" for work within the Legislature.

When the proposal was heard in committee, an official with the Levin Center at Wayne Law told committee members that eight states have joint oversight committees, while another 11 have oversight committees with equal partisan membership, and 10 work closely with their state auditor. They were told states that used any of these three methods tended to rank higher in oversight capacity.

Short-Term Rentals Bill Still Waiting For Vote

Posted: October 3, 2022 8:42 AM

A key supporter of legislation that would put in place limits on local governments' ability to regulate short-term rentals said his hope is to have a deal before the end of the year despite staunch opposition from local government groups and others.

While HB 4722 was reported by the Senate Regulatory Reform Committee on Wednesday morning, it did not come up for a vote before the full chamber during what is expected to be the final legislative session day prior to the November 8 election.

"Still need to work out a deal," Sen. Aric Nesbitt (R-Porter Township) said of reporting the bill from committee in a statement during Wednesday's Senate session. "Hopefully this helps put into place the opportunity to make the deal later this year."

Supporters have said the proposal would protect private property rights while also allowing local governments control over nuisances and traffic concerns. Those in support have said it would also provide locals with registration and regulation of short-term rentals.

Opponents have said the spike in short-term rentals have been adding to the housing crisis in the state and have been impacting safety in neighborhoods. Others have said it provides a hand-out to out-of-state corporations but also hurts a hotel industry that has been reeling from the coronavirus pandemic.

Opponents sought to sound the alarm on the bill's progress in committee Wednesday.

Jennifer Rigterink, assistant director of state and federal affairs for the Michigan Municipal League, pointed to the state's housing crunch and need for compromise in a statement after the committee hearing.

"In the last few months, the state has invested billions of dollars in economic development creating thousands of jobs and increasing the demand for attainable housing. This bill undercuts those efforts and takes housing options away from the families and businesses that need them," she said. "Before the Senate takes further action on this issue, we urge them to find a compromise between homeowners who rent their houses a few times a year and businesses that buy up homes and operate them as mini hotels."

Trump Endorsements Test Of Strength In Two GOP Senate Primaries

Posted: July 18, 2022 9:25 AM

Two sitting Republican senators are facing primary election challengers endorsed by former President Donald Trump that could test the strength of the former commander in chief's pull among the conservative base.

A third sitting GOP senator, despite having drawn the ire of the former president for the Senate Oversight Committee report he authored stating there was no evidence of widespread voter fraud in the 2020 elections, does not have a Trump-backed challenger and instead faces two little-known primary opponents.

Both Sen. Lana Theis of Brighton and Sen. Kim LaSata of Niles are running in strongly Republican districts, the 22nd and 17th Senate districts, respectively.

Ms. Theis is being challenged by Mike Detmer of Howell, who ran unsuccessfully in the 2020 GOP primary for the 8th U.S. House District. He has criticized Ms. Theis for signing on to the Senate Oversight Committee report that stated no widespread voter fraud occurred during the 2020 elections. Mr. Trump endorsed Mr. Detmer in late 2021 (See Gongwer Michigan Report, November 15, 2021).

As for Ms. LaSata, she faces a newcomer in Jonathan Lindsey of Bronson, a former service member who served in the U.S. Army Special Forces.

Sources familiar with the two races have said Ms. Theis is well known in her district and voters are familiar with her conservative stance. Ms. LaSata may have a bigger fight on her hands as she moved into the new district, losing some of her old turf. Mr. Lindsey, while endorsed by Mr. Trump, is not necessarily hanging his hat on that issue and working hard.

Sen. Ed McBroom (R-Vulcan), who authored the 2020 election report, appears to have an easier primary election path in the 38th Senate District: he faces Matthew Furyk of Chocolay Township and Kayla Wikstrom of Perkins.

Ms. Theis chairs the Senate Education and Career Readiness Committee and the Senate Insurance and Banking Committee. She also serves on several other committees.

Prior to being elected to the Senate, Ms. Theis served in the House from 2015 to 2018 and before that was Brighton Township treasurer from 2008 to 2014. She also previously served as Livingston County Republican Party chair. She co-owns a small business.

Mr. Detmer for his part drew attention earlier this year in a video during an event with other candidates in Livingston County in which he encouraged people to show up armed at the polls (See Gongwer Michigan Report, January 31, 2022).

As chair of the education panel, Ms. Theis during her term has often pushed through or held hearings on legislation on topics involving critical race theory, transgender athletes, pandemic policies and more. Many of the bills have drawn the anger of Democratic committee members and many have been vetoed by the governor.

Earlier this year, Ms. Theis sent a campaign fundraising email that drew fire for referring to a Democratic colleague as a "groomer" (See Gongwer Michigan Report, April 18, 2022).

The email drew a rebuke in a floor speech by Sen. Mallory McMorrow (D-Royal Oak), the target of the email attack. The floor speech went viral, prompting multiple appearances on national media outlets and hundreds of thousands of dollars coming into her reelection campaign within days (See Gongwer Michigan Report, April 19, 2022).

As to the campaign mailer and headlines involving Ms. McMorrow, the senator told Gongwer News Service the response on the campaign trail has been positive and supportive of her views.

Constituents appreciate her stances on parental rights, pandemic education policies and sticking to the basics in schools and not focusing on topics she called potentially dangerous to students, Ms. Theis said.

"They are very, very concerned about what is going on in schools," Ms. Theis said.

Ms. Theis also touted her name identification in the district, which she said is very high and has been helpful when out campaigning. She added that the campaign overall has been very positive.

"I'm very consistent in my voting record, I'm very consistent in my outreach," Ms. Theis said, noting that she pushes to be as accessible as possible.

One thing she enjoys most, she said, is knocking on doors.

"It's a very different conversation than if you're in your office and making calls," Ms. Theis said, adding that on doors, you can get to know people better and make better connections face to face.

While out on doors, she said people are largely talking about federal issues including government spending, government overreach and the cost of gasoline and inflation.

Ms. Theis said one example was a recent grocery store conversation with a woman who vented about the cost of groceries and how, as part of the inflationary process, sizes of various products are shrinking. She said the woman is on a fixed income, so the changes were hitting her pocketbook hard.

The senator also said people should never have to choose between gassing up their vehicles to get to work and providing enough food for themselves and their families, which she said is increasingly where people are at with the financial crunch caused by spiking inflation.

"People are definitely concerned with the way things are going," Ms. Theis said.

The senator said she tries to be as visible in the district as possible, attending as many local meetings, local Chamber of Commerce events and ribbon cuttings as she can. She said she also tries to do as much volunteering when she has the time, something she did prior to being elected to office.

If elected to another term, she said issues she has been working on will continue to be priorities for her, especially in education.

"We have a lot of problems within the education system," Ms. Theis said.

These include the issues she outlined in her fundraising email earlier in the spring. Addressing significant learning loss among students stemming from coronavirus pandemic response measures is also critical, she said, to ensure that students do not fall behind and have that lack of educational progress follow them though their entire educational lives.

Mr. Detmer said the campaign has been going very well for him, as well, and he feels there has been a strong groundswell of support for him. He pointed to the endorsement from Mr. Trump along with rock musician Ted Nugent and others showing he has strong backing.

"I've developed a really strong relationship with voters in the district," Mr. Detmer said of his following since his congressional run. "I'm real with people."

"I'm an America First patriot and I am accessible to the public … and my opponent is not," Mr. Detmer said.

Mr. Detmer criticized Ms. Theis for signing onto the election report, which also suggested the Department of Attorney General investigate people who spread misleading and false information about the election results in Antrim County to raise money or publicity for their own benefit.

He said he also decided to run because of issues related to education.

Further, Mr. Detmer said Ms. Theis has not moved any proposed legislation that could address concerns raised over the state's changes made to auto insurance law that has left thousands of people without or lacking in adequate care from serious auto crashes.

Mr. Detmer also blasted what he called "the Betsy DeVos machine" blanketing the district with mailers and attacks on him, which he called slanderous and harsh.

Among them, he said, was an accusation of him being racist or fringe, with an image of him being photobombed by a member of the Proud Boys being circulated. He said the source of previous attacks were from Democrats, but said groups supporting Ms. Theis have repackaged the attack. He said there have also been attacks on him over his history involving a bankruptcy from several years ago.

Mr. Detmer said that "the fact that we're being slandered as severely as we are" is a sign of the momentum his campaign may be building. He said he is cautiously optimistic and will work with what he called a small army of volunteers to get his message out and sprint across the finish line in August.

As to campaign issues, he said the 2020 election is still key to voters in the district.

"I want to see how deep the water goes," Mr. Detmer said.

If elected, he said he would like to work to push bills on several fronts including ensuring election security, lowering taxes and addressing what he called serious problems within the educational system. He said he would push to prevent the state's schools from becoming "centers of indoctrination," voicing opposition to critical race theory being taught among other topics.

For Ms. LaSata, she moved to the new 17th Senate District earlier this year to avoid a primary with Sen. Aric Nesbitt (R-Porter Township) after the two were drawn in together.

The new district Ms. LaSata is running for is strongly Republican territory in southwest Michigan consisting of Branch, Cass and St. Joseph counties along with parts of Berrien, Calhoun, Hillsdale and Jackson counties. Democrats have Scott Starr of Coldwater running.

Ms. LaSata serves as a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee and chairs the Senate Appropriations Universities and Community Colleges Subcommittee. She serves on multiple other committees.

The senator has been active in Berrien County GOP politics for more than 30 years, campaigning for numerous candidates during that time.

Ms. LaSata said she has the backing of each county sheriff and prosecutor in the new district and endorsements from multiple major conservative organizations.

"They know who I am, they know what I'm doing," Ms. LaSata said. "At the end of the day, my constituents know who I work for."

The campaign trail has consisted of knocking on thousands of doors and listening to constituent concerns, she said.

"The price for gas … seems to be the number one issue right now," Ms. LaSata said, adding the U.S. Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade is also a topic of discussion among residents.

As to gas prices, she said she informs people that the GOP caucus in the Legislature has repeatedly pushed for gasoline tax cuts that have been shot down by the governor, with efforts to lower the income tax also failing.

In a second term, Ms. LaSata said whoever is the next governor, whether Governor Gretchen Whitmer were to win a second term, or if a Republican were to defeat her in November, will determine how much can be done in the policy arena.

"We can probably get more things accomplished," Ms. LaSata said of having a GOP governor.

Ms. LaSata said she has previously supported lowering the income tax rate to 3.9 percent and proposed suspensions of the gasoline tax and sales tax on motor fuel sales. Looking at the budget, which she said has grown substantially in recent years, there is room for providing residents relief.

"We have the ability to give the people their money back," Ms. LaSata said.

She added that looking at education policy and finding the proper funding level while getting students caught back up after experiencing learning loss during the coronavirus pandemic is also a key priority.

Mr. Lindsey said one of the biggest reasons he entered the race was due to disappointment over the performance of sitting elected officials in Lansing. He said he has been dismayed by what he considers weak establishment Republican leadership.

"I decided we needed real leadership," Mr. Lindsey said, adding he did not believe Ms. LaSata would provide the leadership the district needs.

Something he said he finds very disappointing is what he called a lack of ability by Republicans in the state to push for bold, conservative policies. He said there seems to him to be a belief among the GOP that the state is too divided to push for and defend strong conservative stances on issues.

"If we adopt bold conservative policies … we will have a lot of people join our cause," Mr. Lindsey said.

He said his endorsement from Mr. Trump early in the race has helped, adding he also has seen a steady growth in support from residents and those interested in helping his campaign.

Issues coming up at the doors, he said, include gas prices and inflation.

"That hits especially hard in a place like Michigan where we don't have a booming, thriving economy," Mr. Lindsey said.

The 2020 elections and election integrity also come up frequently around the district, he said. Other issues include education, economic and business growth and the response to the coronavirus pandemic.

"We need to go into statute … and remove opportunities for authoritarian government by the governor," Mr. Lindsey said, a reference to various executive branch powers that were used by the administration to respond to the pandemic.

In the long-term, he said there needs to be a discussion on how to "right this ship" that is a state with stalling population growth and not being a destination for people to live or start a business.

"Michigan has been in a long-term decline," Mr. Lindsey said.

As to McBroom's race, the 38th Senate District is a likely Republican hold in November, given the rightward swing politically of the Upper Peninsula over the past decade or more. The district consists of Alger, Baraga, Delta, Dickinson, Gogebic, Houghton, Iron, Keweenaw, Luce, Marquette, Menominee, Ontonagon and Schoolcraft counties and parts of Chippewa and Mackinac counties.

Democrats have John Braamse of Marquette running, who serves as treasurer for the Marquette County Democratic Party and works for the Marquette Area Public Schools.

The 2020 election report that Mr. McBroom authored has drawn a lot of response for months from constituents, he said, and still does (See Gongwer Michigan Report, June 23, 2021).

"I don't expect people to just take my word for it, they have to read it themselves and do their own checking," Mr. McBroom said. "And if they haven't done that, and they've simply dismissed the report out of hand … that's OK."

Mr. McBroom chairs the Senate Oversight Committee and the Senate Natural Resources Committee, along with multiple other committee assignments. He served in the House from 2011 to 2016 and is a dairy farmer.

"A lot of people were just very concerned about where the country is headed, frustrated with the state and the governor in particular," Mr. McBroom said. "And so very frustrated with the economic policies at the federal level, and concerns about is this sustainable, is this financial nonsense? … That's a lot of our conversations are around those issues."

Numerous issues arise during conversations with voters, he said. These include gas prices, education, state land, hunting issues and auto insurance.

He said he continues to talk to residents about issues including local educational flexibility, which he believes there is room for making progress. Natural resources issues are always significant, he added.

"Those continue to be kind of the mainstay issues that we talk a lot about," Mr. McBroom said.

Oversight is a major area of focus, he said, given his chairing the Senate panel tasked with conducted oversight.

Mr. McBroom has in his legislative career worked to expand the Freedom of Information Act to include some records from the governor's office and the Legislature, which has been unsuccessful in past sessions. He also has pushed for a permanent bipartisan oversight panel to strengthen state oversight functions.

In his district, there are many corrections employees, a lot of hunters and fishermen who have permitting issues, and many who have had significant problems with the Unemployment Insurance Agency, especially during the coronavirus pandemic.

"People are very concerned about those issues, and I always wanted to be a champion on those kinds of issues, and so I feel like I finally have really had the chance over this term to really aggressively do that," Mr. McBroom said. "It's great to talk to people about … what results I've gotten, and what results I see being within reach in the next four years."

He said he would like to see the state be as open to permitting and working with industries including mining and forestry with the same enthusiasm as the automobile industry.

"They bend over backwards," Mr. McBroom said of permitting for the auto industry. "Meanwhile, somebody wants to open up a mine or do some project in the U.P. and it's like 'well, you're on your own, come to us when you've finished permits.' And we have to change that attitude. … That's something I want to really dig deep into the next term."

What sets him apart in the race is his experience, he said. He pointed to the work of the late Sen. Tom Casperson of Escanaba. The two shared similar priorities, Mr. McBroom said.

"We have a great track record of representing the cares, concerns and needs of the Upper Peninsula," Mr. McBroom said. "I hope that people see that and would like to see that leadership continue."

Ms. Wikstrom worked her way up to being vice president of the Marquette County Republican Women's Club, becoming involved after the 2020 election.

She responded to an initial message for an interview for this story stating she would be open to speaking about her campaign but did not respond to subsequent messages left for comment.

While she, like some conservatives, has concerns over election integrity and the November 2020 elections, she has previously said her concerns run deeper. She has listed the issues of drug addiction and poverty as examples of areas where she would like to work to make a difference.

Priorities she lists on her campaign website include elections, support for the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling overturning Roe v. Wade, and support for "constitutional carry," or not requiring a permit or training for carrying a concealed firearm.

"I feel … called to step out," Ms. Wikstrom said in an interview after filing to run for the seat. "You just have to get over the fear and jump in. I'm done waiting. I feel like it's time for the people to stand up."

She told Gongwer News Service this spring she has followed politics for the last several years, but frustration with what she called the way things are going compelled her to get involved in the process.

Mr. Furyk, who works as a network engineer, did not respond to messages left for comment for this story.

On his campaign website he touts himself as being an "U.P. First, Industrious Michigan Republican. Election Integrity Based."

He states on a campaign blog on his website that he was drawn to running for the seat following the 2020 presidential election, stating that he believes major changes in Lansing leadership were needed to improve the state's trajectory.

Mr. Furyk lists gas prices, inflation, mask mandates for school children and accusations of critical race theory and Marxism being taught in public schools were among examples of weak Lansing leadership.

"Yoopers won't let election fraud be swept under the rug," Mr. Furyk wrote. "We won't let leaders that lie to us bury their heads in the sand as they sell out our rights and our future."

JCAR Kicks Elections Rules Back To SOS Over Dem Objections

Posted: February 25, 2022 4:07 PM

Republicans requested changes Wednesday to proposed elections process administrative rules sought by the Department of State that the Joint Committee on Administrative Rules adopted and returned to the department for consideration along party lines.

The trio of rules promulgated by the department focuses on signature matching verification and candidate filings. The requested changes by Republicans would amend or strip away provisions in the proposed rules they said conflict with existing election law, also keying in on concerns they have expressed over creating a presumption that a voter's signature is genuine when reviewing an absentee ballot.

Democrats on JCAR objected to the requested changes put forth by the majority party prior to voting on them, alleging the changes would make signature verification more difficult and could prevent some individuals from voting.

The three rules – MOAHR 2021-060, MOAHR 2021-061 and MOAHR 2021-62 – were submitted to JCAR last December.

In the rules, as placed before the committee, a process would be created for determining whether signatures on absent voter ballot applications or ballot return envelopes agree sufficiently with a signature on file. Overall, the three rules are an attempt to establish uniform standards in areas including online absentee voter ballot applications and signature matching.

The rules would require clerks to presume a voter's signature is genuine when reviewing an absentee ballot. Republicans have opposed this provision, saying it contradicts existing state law.

The department can now either accept the proposed changes or it can reject and resubmit a proposed version of the rules to JCAR. The department has 30 days to decide which route it takes on the matter.

"We will have 30 days to review and respond. As we just received these proposed changes this morning, we will be reviewing now," Department of State spokesperson Tracy Wimmer said in a statement following the hearing.

Committee members requested several changes to MOAHR 2021-061, most notably a request to strike the presumption that a signature is valid, stating there is no presumption found in existing statute.

"The rule should not put a thumb of the scale but should mirror the statute and allow a clerk and board of election inspectors to weigh each signature on its own merits," documents explaining the proposed changes stated.

Another proposed change was regarding the department's proposal to expand the definition of "signature-on-file" to include the absentee voter application signature that agrees sufficiently with the Qualified Voter File or the mastercard.

Under statute, a board of election inspectors is required to search the QVF for a digital signature and the mastercard can be used only if there is no QVF digital signature. The proposed changes would require this part of statute to remain intact, stating that the department rule changes treat the QVF and mastercard as interchangeable.

The proposed changes also requested the department amend a provision creating a list of "redeeming qualities" election officials must use to determine a signature's validity. It was explained in the proposed changes that the list is overly broad as well as some items being vague and confusing.

Similarly, the proposed changes call for amending rules requiring election officials offer five possibilities as explanations of signature differences. The explanation given in documents outlining the proposed changes the committee adopted Wednesday said this could create opportunities for widespread abuse.

The changes sent back to the department for MOAHR 2021-062 were also significant.

Committee members requested the rule be changed to allow only an online request for an absentee ballot application.

If the rule is not struck or altered, the request further stated that other changes should be made to the definition of "stored digital signature." The request was that the department change the definition to include the most recent signature on file in either the motor vehicle database or the mastercard.

Another request was to strike the rule proposal to allow individuals without a digital signature on file to request an absentee ballot by uploading a picture of a physical signature.

"There is no statutory authority for such a rule, nor is there a quality control mechanism or requirement that the uploaded picture signature be sufficiently clear," the documents outlining the proposed changes stated.

Democrats on the committee were not pleased with the proposed changes being requested by the Republican majority.

"My concern is that valid electors will turn in their absentee ballot and their ballot will be rejected and they will thereby never get a chance to cast a ballot until the subsequent election. I think that would be a bad result," Sen. Jeff Irwin (D-Ann Arbor) said.

He added that his belief was that the reason to not allow the use of the mastercard, which is more frequently updated, rather than the QVF electronic signature, would be to in effect use older signatures less likely to match.

"Therefore, more votes will be thrown out, that's what I'm reading here," Mr. Irwin said.

Rep. Julie Brixie (D-Okemos) said she did not receive the language of the proposed changes until Tuesday evening, providing insufficient time to review the proposals. She said transparency was missing from the process.

"My problem with this is that it doesn't appear to be in a collaborative spirit," Ms. Brixie said.

Rep. Matt Hall (R-Marshall) said he was supportive of the rules in the interest of election integrity.

"Watering down signature requirements … this sort of stuff causes people to lose confidence in elections, and so I'm hopeful the secretary will take our recommendations today, look through these rules and make these changes so we can strengthen people's confidence in elections," Mr. Hall said.

Mr. Hall added people need to be able to trust the signature verification process and the proposed changes would aid in that goal.

Rep. Luke Meerman (R-Coopersville) told reporters his concerns are over the department's proposed signature verification changes.

He said ultimately, he does not want to have people think that it is hard to vote.

"But I do want those that are voting to be legitimate," Mr. Meerman said. "If every signature has to be accepted at face value, I think that … takes away a lot from what the clerks have been doing."

Mr. Irwin said after the hearing he believed the proposed changes would make it harder to vote and easier to discard ballots over signature questions. He said the fight over the rules is another part of the ongoing partisan fight between both parties over election policy following the November 2020 elections.

"I'm disappointed that there are people out there who are still so committed to Donald Trump that they would make it harder for people to vote in the future because they're frustrated about that election loss," Mr. Irwin said.

Things Starting To Come Into Focus After Redistricting

Posted: January 28, 2022 3:07 PM

The 2022 election candidate picture is still not fully in focus but is clearer in the month since the Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission adopted its slate of district maps for the Legislature and U.S. House.

While the deadline for candidates to file for primary races isn't until April 19, there has been a growing wave of candidates filing for both legislative chambers and for Congress.

Candidates can of course file at any time. In most election years there may be a slow trickle of filings for months before the new election year begins. But with it being a redistricting cycle, the lion's share waited until the new district lines were official and filings really began in earnest after the beginning of the new year.

And due to the redistricting process taking until the end of December 2021, we are experiencing a more compressed period than usual.

Of course, this does not account for what could happen pending the results of any of the lawsuits filed following the adoption of the new maps. Stay tuned.

So far, there could be potentially bruising primaries for at least one party in at least five U.S. House races. There could also be primaries in at least 16 state Senate races and in at least 31 state House races, based on listings of current or likely candidates. Depending on what many incumbents do or do not do could make these numbers shift even further ahead of the filing deadline.

For this cycle with all of that in mind, the state really is in uncharted territory. There are numerous factors in play.

What if the courts order changes to one or more of the maps in any of the various lawsuits? If they do, how quickly will decisions be made and changes considered acceptable?

This could spark a flurry of amended candidate filings. What if the deadline needs to be pushed back if the process becomes a mess in the courts?

And on and on.

It is arguably a slightly more condensed period for candidates that could get worse.

One upside, however, might arguably be for the average resident that really does not tune in to election news until closer to voting day. Any delays could make the "election season," at least for primaries, shorter.

For the average resident who does not follow the process closely or care until it gets close to election time, having a potentially shorter or less chaotic election season could be good news for those individuals out there who get tired of expensive, year-round election cycles that seem to never end.

Look at the heightened partisanship of the last several election cycles. For those who do not care to be bothered with elections until later in the process, a shorter period for candidates to be out on the campaign trail in their confirmed districts due to the potential unknowns might be music to their ears.

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