Michigan voters elect all 110 members of the state House of Representatives every two years. Of these 110 members, 45 represent districts within the geographic boundaries of Macomb, Oakland, and Wayne counties. One way to consider these legislators is to look at several key characteristics that reflect their demographics, political inclinations, and seniority. This post examines five characteristics in particular: political party, gender, membership in the legislature’s Black Caucus, length of service, and committee leadership.
The chart above reveals that, of the 45 representatives from the region, 30 (two thirds) are Democrats and 14 (31.1%) are women. Twelve representatives (26.7%) from the tri-county area are members of the legislative Black Caucus (which is not synonymous with racial identification, but rather certain ideological principles.), and 22 (48.9%) serve in a committee leadership position. A legislator is considered a committee leader if s/he is a chairperson, vice chairperson, or minority ranking member of a committee. This definition allows members of the minority party to be considered despite their inability to serve as committee chairs.
The chart above shows the length of service breakdown for the 45 tri-county representatives. The great majority (88.8%) of them are serving their first or second term(s), and are thus eligible to seek re-election in 2012 (The Michigan Constitution limits each member of the State House to three terms).
Another way to examine the characteristics of state representatives is to distinguish between those representing Detroit’s districts and those representing the other State House districts in the tri-county area. The charts below consider this relationship. (Note: a district is considered to be a “Detroit” district if the majority of the district is geographically within the boundaries of the city; the same reasoning is used for tri-county districts.)
All of Detroit’s 11 state representatives are members of the Democratic Party and the legislative Black Caucus. In the other tri-county districts, Democrats outnumber Republicans as well (55.9% to 44.1%),but only one representative is a member of the legislative Black Caucus. A greater percentage of Detroit’s state representatives are women (44.5%,) compared to the outlying tri-county districts (26.5%,) and only two of Detroit’s state representatives (18.2%) serve as committee leaders, as opposed to 20 (58.8%) of their counterparts from the rest of the tri-county area.
The two charts above show that 54.5% of Detroit’s state representatives are serving their first term; that is, they were first elected in 2010. A smaller percentage of representatives of other tri-county districts are “first-termers.” In addition, only one Detroit state representative is serving a third term. This represents 9.1% of the Detroit delegation, compared to the 11.8% of other tri-county state representatives who are serving their third term.
A third way to examine this data is to compare Detroit’s state representatives to those of Macomb, Oakland, and ‘outer’ Wayne counties individually, as seen below.
Democrats constitute a majority of state representatives in Detroit and outer Wayne County, but this is not so in Macomb and Oakland counties. Women do not represent a majority of state representatives in any of these four geographical areas, although women constitute nearly half (45.5%) of state representatives in Detroit. All of Detroit’s state representatives are members of the legislative Black Caucus, but only one Oakland County representative and no Macomb and outer Wayne county representatives are members of the caucus. Of the four areas, outer Wayne County and Oakland County currently have the greatest number and percentage of committee leaders in the State House (66.7% and 61.5%, respectively), whereas only two committee leaders (18.2%) represent Detroit.
The above charts show the percentage of representatives from each of the four areas by their number of terms in the State House. More than half of Detroit and Macomb County’s representatives are serving their first term, meaning they were first elected in 2010. An earlier chart showed third term representatives are relatively rare in the tri-county area for the 2011-13 term. The above charts reveal most of these third term representatives represent Oakland and outer Wayne Counties, although the absolute number (two representatives each) is small for both.