By Tim Kiska

Just signed by Governor Rick Snyder: a bill that reduces the number of Oakland County commissioners, and change the way commission districts are redrawn, giving Republicans an edge they previously didn’t have.

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The back story: After a Democratic-dominated panel drew up county commission lines and successfully defended the map in court, a Republican-dominated state legislature went out of its way to change the rules. The number of commissioners would drop from 25 to 21. The new lines would be drawn by the current county commission, which has a Republican majority.

A look at voting statistics indicates why Republicans are so eager to deal with this matter.

The county, once an unassailable Republican beachhead, has been going Democratic for some time.

With the exception of the crash-and-burn gubernatorial candidacies of Geoffrey Fieger and Virg Bernero, Oakland County has voted Democratic in every gubernatorial and presidential election since 1998.

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(See chart –
click to view)

It’s true that L. Brooks Patterson is County Executive for life, and Sheriff Mike Bouchard has the safest seat in town. But there’s a Democratic treasurer and prosecutor (Andy Meisner and Jessica Cooper). And Gary Peters, the congressman who represents a large section of the county, is also a Democrat.

The numbers show a tiny Democratic advantage dating back to 2000. But there are a couple of reasons why the Dems are likely to enjoy continued success here: the outmigration of Detroit voters to the southern ring of Oakland County suburbs; and upper middle-class Oakland County women—some of whom are turned off by the Republican position on abortion—are turning their backs on the party.

The Detroit Free Press called on Snyder to veto the bill. Obviously, that didn’t work.

A reasonable person would wonder if Lansing has better things to deal with than jump into a county commission battle.

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The answer: the Republicans need this place.