Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Michigan Campaign: Big Stakes, Little Heat Congress Redistricting Sparks Little Interest Series: Campaign '90. Part 53 of a Series. Second of Three Articles Appearing Today

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Michigan Campaign: Big Stakes, Little Heat Congress Redistricting Sparks Little Interest Series: Campaign '90. Part 53 of a Series. Second of Three Articles Appearing Today

Article excerpt

THIS is the year of redistricting - when the political spotlight shifts from big-time election contests to the normally obscure contests for state Senate and House. It is a high-stakes election year because many states will have to adjust next year to the 1990 census figures. States that have made big population gains, such as Florida and California, will get more seats in the US Congress. States that have lost population or hardly grown at all, such as Michigan, will lose seats.

The political party that controls the state legislature, or at least one chamber and the governorship, usually determines the makeup of a state's congressional districts. This normally is big news in state political circles, but so far the message doesn't seem to have gotten through to Michigan voters although the state could lose two, perhaps even three, of its 18 US House seats.

"Nine out of 10 people don't know about" the redistricting, says state Sen. Jerome Hart, who is seeking to keep his seat here in Saginaw County, Mich. "I don't sense much heightened activity," adds Gerald A. Faverman, board chairman of Public Sector Consultants, a public-policy think tank in Lansing, Mich.

While the Democrats probably will hold onto the governor's post and have a comfortable majority in the Michigan House of Representatives, the state Senate - in which Republicans hold a bare 20 to 18 majority - is up for grabs.

"There are heightened stakes this time around," says Rusty Hills, press secretary for the Michigan Republican Party. "It's critical for us to maintain a Republican majority in the Senate."

The race in Saginaw County is one of six closely watched Senate contests that could tip the balance. But although party insiders are paying special attention this year, the higher-than-usual intensity has not rubbed off on voters.

Last Sunday, just nine days before election day, neither candidate campaigned heavily. Senator Hart appeared with US Sen. …

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