By: Tarek M. Baydoun, (FMW)B / Fox 2 News Pollster and Political Analyst
Despite widespread agreement among Democrats on the principle of maintaining congressional representation from the City of Detroit and Minority communities, our latest (FMW)B / Fox 2 News poll found mixed results for Detroit's Democratic candidates in Michigan's new 13th and 14th Congressional Districts. It had been widely speculated that both incumbent Detroit congressmen, veteran John Conyers Jr. and rising star Hansen Clarke were in danger of losing their seats, leaving Detroit without a congressman for the first time since 1841; four years after Michigan became a state and Michigan without an African American Congressman for the first time in decades.
Our polling data revealed surprising results in both the 13th and 14th Congressional Districts. The data strongly supports Conyers' incumbency with strong majorities in key Democratic demographics; and revealed Clarke's unsettling struggles against Democratic incumbent Congressman Gary Peters. As with every great, epic battle, the real story is in the details:
Despite the scandals of wife Monica Conyers, the general unresponsiveness and chaotic state of his congressional district operation, and his almost non-existent campaign strategy, the 23-term, 83 year old Conyers garnered a solid 48% of respondents in the poll, leading his most competitive challenger, State Senator Glenn Anderson by 27 points. Anderson's campaign was apparently banking on the fact that there were two other "prominent" African American Detroit candidates in the race, State Senator Bert Johnson and State Representative Shanelle Jackson, both of whom currently represent substantial portions of the new 13th district.
This much anticipated "split" of the Detroit vote has yet to materialize with the two Detroit state legislators garnering less than 7% of the vote combined. To add salt to the proverbial wound, Anderson's own campaign has been an utter failure within the City of Detroit, which constitutes a projected 50% of the electorate in this race. With a voter base that is over 20% non-African American, Conyers has captured an indispensable part of any roadmap to victory in the new 13th district; yet Glenn Anderson, the only challenger with a shot at victory, is supported by less than 2% of the city's voters.
Surprisingly, Conyers is dominating the race among all age demographics but especially younger voters (ages 18-30), where he is supported by over 70% of those respondents. It appears that in the absence of a challenger that can resonate on the issue of day- jobs and delivering viable solutions for the district, younger voters and all age groups are committing their vote to the principle that they believe Detroit and minority communities should be represented in Congress.
The 14th district, reflects a very different story than the 13th. Incumbent Congressman Gary Peters, whose campaign and short tenure in congress has been marked by a media campaign based on his efforts to help save the U.S. auto industry and bring jobs to his current Oakland County district was forced to pivot into a heated battle with Congressman Hansen Clarke, who was elected in the 2010 Democratic primary in which he ousted embattled Congresswoman Carolyn Cheeks Kilpatrick. Hansen Clarke is known for his energy and fiery rhetoric and has garnered an intense base of support in Detroit in his former races.
With over 76% of respondents in the new 14th stating that Detroit and minority representation was important; the expectation was Clarke would benefit from this sentiment in a fashion similar to Conyers. However, the data revealed the contrary. Peters campaign has devised and implemented an effective campaign strategy to overcome this sentiment and attract voters to Peters' side. Peters has successfully penetrated all voter demographics with his messaging focused on creating jobs and delivering viable solutions for his district. His image is one of confidence and optimism and it seems to be resonating with voters, who prefer Peters over Clarke by 18 points (45% -27%). This race is not over yet, but the demographic crosstabs show a solid path to victory for Peters, who even leads Clarke amongst African American voters.
The lessons- pocketbook issues can trump ideology. With the right messaging, both Detroit incumbents were and are beatable. Democratic primary voters are searching for competence and results; a message Gary Peters is selling well, and Glenn Anderson is failing to effectively communicate. It appears that the results will be a minor shakeup with the possibility of Detroit losing one congressman, but by no means losing its influence in these two new congressional seats.
The results of this poll and other (FMW)B / Fox 2 exclusive polls as well as election analysis and coverage can be found at http://www.myfoxdetroit.com/category/237819/politics