This is the first in a series about some of the heavily-contested state House seats.
MARQUETTE — If the Democrats hope to get control of the state House, the 110th district is one they’ve got to win. The district covers seven counties in the western Upper Peninsula—so far west that some of the district runs on Central Standard Time. Culturally, it’s its own place—and seems more like neighboring Wisconsin than Michigan. (You’ll find plenty of Green Bay Packers jerseys here, but only an occasional Detroit Lions jacket.)
The contest a rematch of the state rep race from two years ago, when Republican Matt Huuki beat Democrat Scott Dianda by a 56 percent-44 percent margin. Huuki got there as part of the Tea Party 2010 push, which also sent Republican Dan Benishek to Congress.
The 110th is not natural GOP terrain. Democrats controlled the seat for years, often rolling up 30 or 40-point margins on Election Day. But that was before the Tea Party and the GOP tidal wave of two years ago. Huuki’s 2010 victory seems all the more astonishing when looking at the district’s history. (Some of the numbers don’t add up to 100% because of rounding.)
Here’s what the numbers have looked like:
YEAR 2002 2004 2006 2008 2010
DEMS 70% 68% 63% 70% 44%
REPUBLICANS 30% 25% 34% 30% 56%
ADVANTAGE D+41% D+43% D+29% D+41% R+11%
Incumbent Huuki owns a glass repair and body shop in Atlantic Mine, which is about a 10-minute drive from Houghton. Dianda started out as the owner of a party store (which once belonged to his grandfather) in Calumet, served on that village’s council, and is active with the Michigan State Employees Association.