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Wednesday, June 1,2011

Early polls make for fun read

by Kyle Melinn

It could be ridiculously early to write about this, but if Mark Grebner is polling about it, it’s worth knowing about.


The year 2012 brings three open state
representatives races with Democrats Joan Bauer, Mark Meadows and Barb
Byrum all termed out on Dec. 31. And Grebner, the heart of Practical
Political Consulting in East Lansing, is interested in what could happen
in the Democratic Party primary in each of those seats.


The boundaries of today’s state House 67,
68 and 69 districts will change through redistricting, but it’s safe to
say that the city of Lansing will still have a state representative
seat. East Lansing and Meridian Township will probably share a second.
Rural Ingham County will have the third.


Each of these developing contests for the Democratic nominations are shaping up differently, and Grebner’s polls bear this out.


Bauer’s Lansing-based district features
two official candidates — Ingham County Commissioner Andy Schor and
retired radio talk show host Walt Sorg. Kelly Bernero, the daughter of
Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero, is testing the waters, and it’s possible
that Lansing City Councilman Derrick Quinney could run, if he can win
re-election this fall.


Grebner’s poll of 86 respondents (margin
of error 11 percent) is "quick and dirty" and shouldn’t be taken too
seriously, as he is the first to admit. 


"It’s not just that we haven’t seen any
campaigning yet, but that we don’t know who will be running or exactly
where," Grebner said. "Nobody should pay too much attention to these
results."


Yet, we do. Polling results for political
junkies is like crack to an addict. We cannot get enough of it. If we
don’t have the money to buy our own, we beg, borrow and steal to get
other’s.


Grebner did these polls to satisfy his
own curiosity after Byrum asked him to survey Ingham County voters on a
hypothetical county clerk match-up next year between her and Lansing
City Clerk Chris Swope. (She is way ahead.) That said, Grebner’s results
are always worth noting. His statistical knowledge has been sought by
The Daily Kos, among others, and while his sample sizes are small, his
ability to micro-target is known throughout the state and county.


The results in the 68th, which Bauer
represents, showed no clear front-runner. If Schor, Bernero and Quinney
all run, it could be a very competitive race. And since the 68th
District sports a 69 percent Democratic base, it’s not a stretch to say
the winner of the primary will win the whole enchilada.


Bernero led the hypothetical field with
34 percent. Quinney had 30 percent and Schor 27 percent. Sorg’s 9
percent put him last. Sorg recently announced former Attorney General
Frank Kelley is backing him, but Sorg’s background in radio is "not a
great base" in a district like Lansing, Grebner said.


Next door in the East Lansing-Meridian
Township 69th House District, which Meadows represents, former East
Lansing Mayor Sam Singh is in as of Tuesday. The Democrat announced on
Facebook that after "many months of contemplation and serious discussion
with friends and colleagues, I decided that it was time for me to
return to public life."


The only other serious Democratic name
that is circulating is that of Susan Schmidt, Meadows’ chief of staff.
Schmidt is also the former president of the East Lansing Board of
Education.


Singh had a wide lead — 84 to 16 percent —
among the 58 people asked but Grebner noted that Singh has been elected
several times and Schmidt isn’t well known by the public.


In the rural 67th District, represented
by Byrum, the candidates are still in the "talking-behind-the-scenes"
stage, and it shows. A wide field of Republicans is looking at the seat —
including several past challengers of Byrum and her mother, former Rep.
Dianne Byrum —since the GOP legislature will likely tinker with it to
make it more red in ’12.


Lansing Fire Chief Tom Cochran and Delhi
Township volunteer firefighter Matt Bennett are feeling out the race on
the "D" side, but neither has a large name ID with the people of south
Lansing, Delhi Township and rural Ingham County. The results show 80
percent didn’t know. Cochran got 13 responses and Bennett one.


"I interpret this to mean that Cochran
starts out with at least a small base, while Bennett seems to be
unknown," Grebner said. "The margin of error is so large that nobody
should pay any attention to this result."


Pay no attention to poll results? In the
political world, that’s a hard thing to ask political junkies to do,
especially with someone with Grebner’s reputation feeding the dirt.


(Kyle Melinn is the editor of the MIRS
Newsletter. His column comes out weekly. He can be reached at melinn@lansingcitypulse.com.)

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