Oakland Republicans urged to reach out to widen base

Mike Martindale
The Detroit News

Bloomfield Township — Oakland County Republicans were reminded Wednesday “the world is changing” and the party needs to recruit voters to remain successful.

If county Republicans want to continue to have an impact on local and national offices, they need to focus on the 200,000 more county voters estimated to be headed to the polls in 2016; any “moderate” or “independent” voters; key cities where the party is losing ground, and emerging ethnic voter groups — specifically Asian-American voters.

That was the advice of Chris Ward, a senior analyst for Oakland County, based on his review of decades of election results and county demographics. Ward presented his findings — a “recipe to win Oakland County” — during a breakfast meeting of the Republican Party held in the Bloomfield Township Senior Center.

“The (Republican) Party has been very successful overall in Michigan, including in the 2014 election,” Ward said. “But if it wishes to remain successful, it needs to be responsive to new voters and include them.”

County GOP chairwoman Theresa Mugioli encouraged several dozen attendees to begin work on Ward’s suggestions immediately and “not wait until 2016” or to recruit voters “by phone bank.”

The last time county voters supported a Republican for president was 1992 and no Republican has won statewide office in the past 25 years without carrying Oakland County, Ward said.

Ward noted that in the 2014 election, all 14 GOP county commission seats were retained with the lowest candidate receiving 57 percent of the vote. Gov. Rick Snyder had a sizable margin with 55.4 percent of votes cast in the county. And county Republicans retained all GOP-held Senate and House seats “despite very aggressive Democratic campaigns.”

But results also indicated an independent electorate, he said. Snyder and newly elected U.S. Sen. Gary Peters, D-Bloomfield Township, who won retiring Democratic Sen. Carl Levin’s seat, both received about 247,000 votes. Straight ticket votes went 49.8 percent Democratic and 49.1 percent Republican.

Using graphs, pie charts and maps, Ward presented trends in elections, locally and beyond. He said comparison of vote totals in 2004 and 2012 elections in several communities reflect “big shifts in Republican majority totals.”

While communities such as Novi, Troy, Rochester Hills and Farmington Hills still report Republican vote majorities, the respective margins the party enjoys over Democrats voters have dropped considerably since 2004: from 4,000 to 600 in Novi; from 6,000 to 2,400 in Troy, and from 7,000 to 3,900 in Rochester Hills.

“They show Republicans are losing ground in areas,” said Ward, who foresees such cities as local “battlegrounds” for votes. “We have a different America now.”