Shifting regional political power
At one time Detroit was the fourth largest city in the country, boasting a population of 1.8 million people in 1950, and home to nearly 30 percent of all of Michigan's residents. Home to The Big Three automotive companies and the state's economic engine, metropolitan Detroit residents and lawmakers of days past had much of the control over political policy in Lansing. Now, as the state's largest city finds itself in the midst of bankruptcy recovery and many of its former residents scattered across southeast Michigan, the tri-county's influence in the legislature has greatly shifted to the western part of the state, where vast amounts of special interest money are helping to give rise to a new power structure that appears to favor anti-establishment legislators and far right Republicans. Former Michigan Republican Party Chairman Saul Anuzis said the population shift away from Detroit, coupled with increases on the west side of the state and pockets in mid-Michigan, is one factor that has changed the state's political landscape. "Geographically, the population has shifted. Today, there is less than 700,000 people (living in Detroit), according to the last census," he said. "You have had a huge population shift into Livingston and Macomb counties. West Michigan has grown in significance in Grand Rapids and other pockets in the state, like Holland and Battle Creek. That shift in population is also reflected in the shift in political power." Despite talk of an urban revival in Detroit, the city continues to lose population, down from about 713,000 in 2010 to about 672,000 today. In southeast Michigan, population over the past several decades has shifted progressively from the central city to the surrounding suburbs, and from the larger metropolitan area to the outer-ring suburbs and rural townships. From 1990 to 2000, Oakland County saw the largest increase in population, with 110,564 new residents, followed by Kent County, home of Grand Rapids (73,704); Macomb County (70,749); Ottawa County; where Holland is (50,564); Livingston County (41,306); and Washtenaw County (39,958). The same six counties from 2000 to 2010 also saw the biggest increases in population, this time with Macomb County receiving 42,860; followed by Kent County (36,644); Livingston County (25,295); Washtenaw County (25,179); Ottawa County (23,417); and Oakland County (12,763). Population data released by the U.S. Census Bureau show the trend has continued from 2010 to 2015, as Kent and Ottawa counties, including Grand Rapids and Holland, as well as in and around Kalamazoo, gain population, along with the Lansing area; Grand Traverse County; and townships outside Detroit. As the population shifted further away from Detroit and across the state, state politics has also undergone shifts in ideology that mirror national trends. "Rather than being a moderate state and country, I do believe we have become more polarized and both parties have moved to their side of the aisle," Anuzis said. "The 1980s brought in the Reagan Democrats, and I think that has kind of spread. Now, if you look at where Trump did well, he did well in western Wayne County, west Michigan and the UP. Michigan has moved to a more cultural conservative mindset that isn't necessarily partisan." The shift means that lawmakers viewed as moderates in the past may be considered liberal by those in today's right wing, while the old conservatives may be viewed as moderates, even if political ideologies haven't changed. Meanwhile, extremists and fringe groups disconnected from the mainstream establishment have become increasingly empowered. "If you look back at the early 1980s, (Oakland County Executive) Brooks Patterson was considered a right winger. Today, they would say he's a moderate," Anuzis said. "That's not so much philosophical as it is stylistic. There are conservatives who would rather fight for the sake of fighting rather than finding common ground. That's a stylistic change." As a former Republican National Committee member, Anuzis was defeated in 2012 by Dave Agema, a tea party Republican from west Michigan who previously served in the state legislature. Agema was subsequently censured in 2015 by RNC and asked to resign his position by former RNC Chair Reince Priebus for homophobic and Islamaphobic posts he shared on Facebook. "We have moved into this distrust of government in general. People lost faith in both political parties, and I think that's why we had the rise of someone like Donald Trump," Anuzis said. "I think we moved from a more traditional conservative party to a more independent tea party. "There's a lot of new blood in the Republican party, and many are from the tea party, and some are those with establishment backgrounds and then those without any background, so there are more checks and balances in the party. Some people call it divisions, but it's sort of citizen activists getting engaged and saying the status quo isn't enough. They are trying to get rid of the professional political class, so to speak." In state politics, power could be viewed, in part, by which party holds the majority of the seats in the state legislature and the office of governor. However, such a simplistic view doesn't take into account competing interests within the majority party based on individual district needs and ideological differences. Historically, both Democrats and Republicans in state and local politics have had differences between moderate members of their party and those on the far left or right. Former President Jimmy Carter, who was viewed as a moderate Washington Democratic outsider when first elected to the White House, was challenged by liberals in his own party in the 1980 Democratic presidential primary. Today, the GOP's establishment is undergoing change as the tea party and others with libertarian and anti-establishment views identify as Republicans. Among the anti-establishment is west Michigan native and current U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, who along with family members have contributed hundreds of millions of dollars to special interest campaigns in Michigan and across the nation. Earlier this year, DeVos encouraged conservatives at a conference in Gaylord to fight the education establishment. In 1997, after funding a failed attempt to expand school vouchers across the state, DeVos, openly stated that the family funds do come with strings attached and that "we do expect something in return" for the contributions. "The DeVos family, in particular, have became more prominent as fundraisers. They weren't factors in the ‘60s and ‘70s as much as they became later," said Michigan political analyst Bill Ballenger. In 2006, Richard "Dick" DeVos Jr. poured about $35 million of family money into his failed gubernatorial campaign. The next year, he joined with Ann Arbor Republican Ron Weiser – who serves as current head of the Michigan Republican Party and is another major fundraiser for the state's GOP – to work on laying the groundwork for Michigan's Right to Work law, which was passed in 2012. In the 2014-2015 political cycle, the DeVos family contributed about $3.4 million to political committees in the state, followed by Weiser, who contributed more than $800,000. The flow of money into Michigan politics, therefore, adds yet another definition to political influence in the legislature. Yet, another take on political power can be viewed from a geographical standpoint. "When I first entered the legislature in 1979, there was much more influence held by the city of Detroit and the inner ring suburbs around Detroit, and that related to the population base," said former Republican House Speaker Paul Hillegonds, who represented the Holland area in west Michigan until 1996. "Since then, the population has continued to move out, and the out-state areas have gained population. But I think the main change has been the shift from the urban area and inner-ring suburbs to the out-ring suburbs. That has benefitted Republicans, for sure, and has also diminished the (power of the) urban area of the state, too." The outward shift of population from the city and inner suburbs, Hillegonds said, has been accompanied by a shift from a manufacturing economy to more of a service-based economy. "With that has been much less unionization. Unions have much less influence in the political process than they once did, and that has been a factor in the growth of Republican influence," Hillegonds said. "The other thing, I think, is that the state has grown more conservative, and that's not just a partisan thing. The state has changed in what government should be, and government has been reduced." After leaving the legislature, Hillegonds moved to metro Detroit to serve as president of Detroit Renaissance, and now serves as the CEO of the Michigan Health Endowment Fund and chair of the Southeast Michigan Regional Transit Authority. "My perspective was broadened by working with Detroit Renaissance and working on some of the urban challenges, but serving from out-state, Detroit has challenges on issues in part because of the out-state view, and also because the region had issues," he said. "The regional transit issue was there even when I was in the legislature during my time in Holland, and whether SEMTA (Southeast Michigan Transportation Authority) should come together to get matching federal dollars. In the end, that didn't come together, not because of outstate opposition, but because the suburbs and the city couldn't agree. That has remained a challenge for Detroit and also for southeast Michigan. "I don't think it's just population. The divisions in southeast Michigan between the urban centers and the outer-ring suburbs have reduced the influence to west Michigan, which has tended to have more commonality of viewpoints. In west Michigan, there is more common ground, while southeast Michigan has been more divided, in terms of city and suburbs." Former Oakland County Republican legislator Richard Fessler, who represented the Union Lake area in the state House from 1975 to 1982 and in the state Senate from 1983 to 1990, said the loss of population within the city of Detroit diminished the influence of southeast Michigan in the legislature. "At one time, there was a lot of legislation that referred to cities of 'one million population' for special taxes or funding. When Detroit shrank in population, those became invalid. They lost the ability to get more of the budget pie, and they also lost power," Fessler said. "The Democratic vote was dissipated by going to more rural areas. The Democrats controlled the Senate for 40 years, and the lower House for a couple of decades. When the Republicans took control of the Senate, which they have maintained since that time, that was a real shift, and also a shift in the balance of government. "You were no longer giving money away. To get money, you had to have a real good reason. The funding formulas became more equal throughout the state. Money didn't just go to Detroit, Saginaw or Bay City anymore. Detroit simply lost political power, and so did metro Detroit as part of that." Special taxing ability in Detroit, such as a special tax on utilities, were granted to the city in legislation referring to its population because laws that refer to specific cities require a two-thirds vote in the legislature. While those laws have been updated to reflect the population changes, other funding formulas, such as road funding, is based in part on population alone. Amending those funding formulas or city-specific laws is often difficult, if not impossible. Former Michigan Governor John Engler, who served from 1991 to 2003, disagrees with the notion that metro Detroit or southeast Michigan has lost its political sway in Lansing. "Detroit lost influence because of lost population and because of failed government and failed schools, and nobody wanted to live in Detroit anymore, so they moved out. But the metro region of Macomb and Oakland, and the old SEMCOG (Southeast Michigan Council of Governments) going out to Livingston County has done pretty well," Engler said. "I think what matters in the legislature is the quality of the men and women elected, and who is taking on leadership roles." Recalling past leaders in the legislature, the fact that there hasn't been a governor from the west side of the state in recent years, Engler said there isn't any evidence that the state's political power rests in any specific geographic area, despite the perception that west Michigan areas like Grand Rapids, Holland and other areas in Kent and Ottawa County are steering the state government. "Some of that perception is because west Michigan has been politically, very active," he said, referring to special interest money coming from the area. "There is a great deal of political activism in west Michigan, and sometimes people look at that and say that's where the power is shifted. That is easily remedied by the people in southeast Michigan, and I would assert that since Ron Weiser came in, there is a balance back." Weiser, an Ann Arbor native, founded McKinley Associates, a national real estate investment company and is the current chair of the Michigan Republican Party. In 2016, Weiser was elected to the University of Michigan Board of Regents after contributing more than $600,000 into his own campaign. He also contributed $250,000 to the Michigan Republican Party, making him and his family the second largest campaign donors in the state in the 2014-15 election cycle in terms of money spent on elections in the state, according to a recent report by the Michigan Campaign Finance Network. Craig Mauger, executive director of the Michigan Campaign Finance Network, said the report looked at the top 40 family donors that donated the most money to state and national campaigns in the 2014-15 cycle. In looking through the list of top state donors, Mauger said nearly every family is either from west Michigan or southeast Michigan. "We have a campaign finance system that is increasingly empowering the largest donors," Mauger said. "If you have a large group of really wealthy donors living in a certain area, it wouldn't be surprising that the area would wield more power than another part of the state, even if they have similar populations." Of the top 40 donor families, 22 gave more than $100,000 to campaign committees in Michigan. The majority of those donors are regular contributors to more than one state and/or national campaign committees, while some focused on single campaigns. For instance, Kevin McCaffery, of Ann Arbor, donated all but about $2,600 of his $650,000 in contributions to the Michigan Legalize campaign committee; Ortonville attorney Glen Lenhoff spent about $230,000 to fund an unsuccessful campaign for sheriff; and Congressman Paul Mitchell, of Dryden, gave $190,570 to the Coalition Against Higher Taxes, a state ballot committee that opposed increasing the sales tax for road improvements. Overall, top donors from west Michigan gave about $5.6 million to political campaign committees, with the DeVos family contributing $3.4 million to Michigan political campaigns during the 2014-15 cycle. DeVos donations included $1.3 million to the Michigan Republican Party and another $720,000 to the House Republican Campaign Committee. Top southeast Michigan family donors gave about $3.7 million all told. While DeVos is by far the largest contributor to political committees, there are many others. Within Mauger's review of the top donor families, the Kennedy family, owners of Autocam, in Kentwood, donated about $589,700 in the 2014-15 cycle, including $230,000 to the Michigan Republican Party; the Jandermoa family, of Grand Rapids-based Perrigo, donated $437,500 to campaign committees; the Paret family, of Hickory Corners, in Barry County, donated $302,000; J.C. Huizenga, of Grand Rapids, gave $260,000; the Van Andel family, which together with DeVos, run Amway, gave $254,000; the Haworth family, of Holland-based Haworth furniture, donated $245,000; and the Secchia family, of Grand Rapids-based Sibisco, donated $201,230. Top donors from southeast Michigan in the 2014-15 cycle, outside of Weiser and McCaffery, included $336,559 from the Nicholson family, owner of Detroit-based PVS Chemicals; $297,050 from the Moroun family of Grosse Pointe Shores, owner of the Detroit International Bridge; $280,550 from Chuck Rizzo of Bloomfield Township, of former Sterling Heights-based Rizzo Environmental; $256,200 from the Kojaian family, of Bloomfield Hills-based Kojaian Management; $232,200 from the Karmanos family, of Orchard Lake; $209,702 from Dan's Excavating owner Chris Peyerk, of Shelby Township, which included $200,000 to Citizens for Honest Government, his self-funded independent PAC; $203,946 by the Cotton family of Grosse Pointe Park, owners of Meridian Health; $161,610 by the Schostak family of Bloomfield Hills; $126,650 from Anthony Soave, founder of Detroit-based Soave Enterprises; and $115,857 from the Bernstein family of Farmington Hills, of the Sam Bernstein Law Firm. The overwhelming majority of top donor families contributed to the Michigan Republican Party and the House Republican Campaign Committee, while several made political contributions to other committees. Mauger said about $2 million in donations was donated directly to state House candidates from those on the top 40 donor family list or their committees. Other top donor families in the state, Mauger said, donated to federal campaign committees. John Stryker, of Kalamazoo, was once a top donor in state races but poured about $5.8 million in federal campaigns, including $2 million to a pro-Hillary Clinton Super PAC. Dan and Jennifer Gilbert, who as casino owners in the state are prohibited from donating to state committees, contributed about $1.9 million to federal presidential campaigns, including $1.25 million to a committee to support Chris Christie, $350,000 to John Kasich Super PAC, and $150,000 to the Hillary Victory Fund. "The presence of money in politics is something that has really changed over the past 50 years," said Ballenger, publisher of The Ballenger Report. "There is so much more money in politics, not just in campaigning, but in lobbying. There are more lobbyists and more money that they are spending. That's probably the single biggest change. "(Hillary) Clinton became seen as a prisoner of Wall Street and insiders and the establishment. That was part of Bernie Sanders' appeal to Democrats – that he wasn't such a person. He was more of a throwback to the old days. Both parties have been infused with money, and that has effected their behavior." The presence of large donors from west Michigan has been a huge factor in recent years, causing many people to equate money with legislative policy power, former governor Engler said. However, he said imposing term limits in the legislature has had a much larger impact on behavior and actual policy in Lansing. "That has done incalculable damage – the implementation of term limits. That has more profoundly impacted the composition of the legislature than any single thing," Engler noted. In 1992, Michigan residents voted to approve amending the state's constitution to impose term limits on state politicians. In the legislature, term limits took effect in 1998 in the House and in 2002 in the Senate. Under the restrictions, House representatives may be elected to three two-year terms, while senators may serve two four-year terms. Critics of the lifetime restrictions say term limits have thrown out decades of institutional knowledge and partnerships across the state and between parties. "If you get somebody who is good in office and who can stay, they can be quite influential, but if your maximum time is six years, then nobody is very influential," Engler said. "It's brought great turbidity to the legislature because nobody is there long enough to really understand the issues. The Senate has an advantage because they have four to six years in the House to get there, but it's hard in the House because they are just arriving and being asked to deal with state Medicaid or pensions. Those are complicated issues, and you don't just walk in the door and say, 'I'm up to speed on these.' You look around, and everyone else just got there too, so that makes it hard." Engler said there was a belief when term limits went into effect that veteran legislative staffers would stay in Lansing and be retained by incoming legislators to provide institutional knowledge. However, he said that hasn't happened. Instead, legislators are increasingly relying on lobbyists to provide them with information on issues facing the state. "It just hasn't worked that way," he said. "You had people working for 20 years with the judiciary or finance committee who weren't making decisions, but if you had a question, you had a place to go for information... some of the special interest groups have been able to capitalize on that. In some cases, I don't know where they go for information." Monroe Republican and former state legislator Randy Richardville served in both chambers, including a second term in the Senate as the Majority Leader. "I ran for the state House before term limits actually kicked in, and was in the first class under the era of term limits," he said. "We would be remiss if we didn't think that had something to do with the makeup of the legislature. Today you have people that are less experienced than when I first started." Richardville said being able to rely on longtime senators who had been serving before term limits took effect was a tremendous help to him when he first arrived to the legislature. That mentor assistance and knowledge was key to navigating his way through Lansing, and helped him to come into leadership positions when he was elected to the Senate. Professor John Clark, chair of Western Michigan University's political science department, said term limits have contributed to growing partisanship. "What we had often times (before term limits) was a willingness of people to work across party lines because they knew each other and trusted each other," he said. "When you got rid of that, a lot of those ways of doing business went to the wayside. Some people argue that is a good thing, but I think they're wrong." Professor Marjorie Sarbaugh-Thompson, with Wayne State University's political science department, has studied and written about the impact of term limits in Michigan. However, she said the geographic shift in power has less to do with term limits than with a concerted effort by outstate legislators to gain influence. "If you understand a legislature, at best it's a team sport. At it's worst, it's gang warfare," she said "The winners run everything. They decide what bills will come to the floor. In the Michigan legislature, nothing is going to happen that the leadership doesn't want to happen – even within the majority party." Technically, any one of the 110 members of the House of Representatives or 38 state senators can introduce legislation in their respective chambers. However, which bills die in the legislative process before ever coming up for a vote is greatly determined by the Speaker of the House and the Senate's Majority Leader. It is those two leadership positions that decide to which committees a bill will be assigned, as well as the members and chairs of the committees themselves. Likewise, other leadership positions, such as floor leaders, whips and caucus chairs, oversee additional legislative responsibilities, with the greatest power given to those representing the majority party. Since Michigan's Constitution was rewritten in 1963 to modify statewide elected positions, the House of Representatives tended to have a Democratic majority early on, with Republicans holding more than half of the 110 seats only one term from 1965 to 1995. Since then, Republicans have held the House majority in 10 of the past 13 terms, including the the past four. In the Senate, Republicans gained a majority of seats in 1984, and have held it since. From a more localized perspective, power can be looked at in terms of geography when considering who holds leadership positions in the legislature and what districts those lawmakers represent on the map. Sarbaugh-Thompson said that as Republicans in the state gained more power and bi-partisan relationships began breaking down – in large part due to the imposition of those term limits – out-state Republicans from more rural areas of Michigan began pushing for more influence and power within the legislature. "There used to be a saying in Lansing in the 1990s and early 2000s: 'north of Clare, it isn't there.' So they didn't feel like they were getting enough attention, and there was a coalition in the House that decided they wanted House leadership from the northern part of the state," she said. “So, within the Republican party, there was this notion that rural voices weren't being heard, and the leadership coalition decided they would get together and get one of their own in there to control the House leadership." In 2001, former Osceola County Republican Rick Johnson was elected by his party's caucus as the 68th Speaker of the House. Located northwest of Mt. Pleasant and the city of Clare, the move was the fist time in decades that a mid-Michigan representative held the speaker position. Of the six lawmakers who held the state's Speaker of the House position from 1965 to 1992, three were from Wayne County, with one each from Genesee, Washtenaw and Saginaw counties. Of the nine speakers who followed, just three were from districts in southeast Michigan. Sarbaugh-Thompson said the shift away from southeast Michigan didn't occur as quickly in the Senate, where influential House speakers from the area ran for Senate seats due to the newly imposed term limits. Rochester Republican Mike Bishop, now a member of the U.S. Congress, served as the Senate Majority Leader from 2007 to 2010, followed by fellow Republican Randy Richardville from Monroe. Today, the Senate Majority Leader, Arlan Meekof, hails from West Olive in Ottawa County, on the west side of the state. "Now, I would say both chambers have moved from any leadership control from southeast Michigan," Sarbaugh-Thompson said. That may not be completely accurate, though. In the Senate, Ottawa County Republican Arlan Meekhof (R-West Olive) is the only west Michigan senator in a top leadership position, with the Majority floor leader position held by Sen. Mike Kowall (R-White Lake); the Majority caucus chairman position held by Sen. Dave Robertson (R-Grand Blanc); and the Majority whip position held by Sen. Jack Brandenburg (R-Harrison Township). The House is another story. Top leadership in the House is currently held by Speaker of House mid-Michigan Republican Tom Leonard (R-DeWitt Township), while East Lansing Democratic state Senator Sam Singh serves as the House Minority Leader. Northern Michigan Rep. Lee Chatfield (R-Levering) serves as Speaker pro-tempore; St. Clair County Republican Dan Lauwers (Brockway Township) holds the Majority Floor Leader position; and Kent County Majority Whip Rob VerHeulen represents leadership from west Michigan. Oakland County Democrats Christine Greig (D-Farmington) and Jeremy Moss (D-Southfield) hold the minority floor leader and minority whip positions, respectively. Those leadership positions, as well as the Senate Minority whip position held by Meridian Township Democrat Curtis Hertel Jr., and some other key committee chair seats, are particularly notable as they demonstrate a distinct shift in power to mid-Michigan lawmakers for the first time in decades. "Unless you're in the majority party, you can be largely irrelevant," Sarbaugh-Thompson pointed out. "Because Republicans have been so dominant ever since term limits took effect in the legislature, we have mostly had one-party control, with some blips of Democrats getting the House a few times. ... Within that, what tends to happen is that the party starts to fight when you have a dominant party." The decision for Republicans to split with party leadership on key issues comes with consequences. In February, Rep. Jason Sheppard (R-Temperance) of Monroe County, was one of 12 Republicans to vote against a proposed tax cut that would have reduced Michigan's income tax. Sheppard, who was chair of the House Financial Services Committee, was removed from the committee by House Speaker Tom Leonard after the bill failed. The speaker told news outlets after the vote that while other Republicans voted against the tax cut, Sheppard had told him he was going to vote in favor of the bill, but didn't. Representatives Michael McCready (R-Birmingham, Bloomfield Township, Bloomfield Hills) and Kathy Crawford (R-Novi) were two Oakland County Republicans who voted against the tax cut. The cut was also opposed by Gov. Rick Snyder. Those who voted against it had cited long-term budget implications. In April, the Michigan Conservative Coalition held a protest at the Birmingham Post Office, but only four people showed up. McCready stood by his vote, saying it would have created a $2.1 billion shortfall in the state's general fund. "The direction of the House is very conservative," McCready said. "Looking at the last two speakers (Republicans Kevin Cotter, of Mt. Pleasant and Jase Bolger, of Marshall), Bolger wasn't as conservative, but he was forced to get things done with Snyder and Richardville because the state was in such peril, financially. "He had to do some things that some conservatives wouldn't do," McCready said, referring to Grand Bargain legislation that provided the city of Detroit with more than $190 million during the bankruptcy process. In terms of leadership, McCready said he personally hasn't sought out leadership positions, but instead prefers a "kingmaker" role by offering support to make others successful. "I'd rather help someone in that position with a fair and balanced approach," he said. "I think there is an antigovernment feeling in the air that is a different group and it's sometimes harder to work with them, but you do.” Senate Majority Floor Leader Mike Kowall said there is less friction in the Senate chamber than in the House, but those power struggles aren't new. "John Engler one time put a guy's desk on the front lawn when he was (Senate) Majority Leader," he said. "We aren't having that in the Senate now. With Arlan (Meekhof), it's all about respecting one's opinion. "Some of the new members were shocked at how frank and open we are with each other. We take jabs at each other, but I haven't seen one really heated argument... I saw knockdown fights in the House, when Kwame (Kilpatrick) (D) and Rocky (Raczkowski) (R) had to pull a couple leaders off of each other." In terms of political money influencing the legislature, Kowall said much of it relates to business interests throughout the state, rather than any one geographic region. "There is money coming from all over, and there are large donors and economic engines from all over. The west side has been good to me," he said. "The Business Leaders of Michigan and that, their main issue is getting jobs back in the state... Michigan is such a big state, and we have to be careful what we do in a variety of places." Citing the potential closure of a Downriver steel plant, Kowall said the closure would lead to the loss of 37,000 other jobs not directly located at the plant. He said fellow senators take those kinds of considerations into account on economic decisions, rather than focusing only on their own districts. "The House is a different cat," he said "I think people are more protective of their districts because they are smaller." Oakland University Professor David Dulio, who chairs the university's political science department, said leaders chosen for leadership positions are done so by their caucuses for more than ideological viewpoints. "They are good at building a coalition of votes to get themselves into office. Leadership may shift based on backgrounds and experiences. Those kind of qualities are what allows them to rise to power to a large degree," he said. "In this case, the shift of Republicans to the west, we see a more conservative legislature, shown by the policy initiatives that are taken up, and frankly, what gets passed. It's a natural flow of elections and partisanship."