Many Ingham County Democrats lukewarm on Biden

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Pedestrians walk along a street in downtown East Lansing. The area boasts many restaurants and is intersected by bus lines serving Michigan State University and Lansing’s capital area.

Donte Smith

Pedestrians walk along a street in downtown East Lansing. The area boasts many restaurants and is intersected by bus lines serving Michigan State University and Lansing’s capital area.

Editor’s note: This is the 2nd in a series of election year county profiles in collaboration with the MSU Journalism School, American Communities Project, Detroit Free Press and Capital News Service.


Capital News Service

LANSING — “I am on the fence, honestly,” Danelle Admire, the manager of Sir Pizza in Old Town Lansing, said when asked who she’ll vote for this year.

Ingham County leans heavily Democratic and supported President Joe Biden over then-President Donald Trump 65% to 33% in 2020.

But it’s also a mix of rural, urban and college communities, cutting through a unique cross-section of voters in a state expected to play a pivotal role in this year’s elections.

Residents will vote not only for president but also choose a representative for the competitive 7th Congressional District and help elect a U.S. senator. Amid all that, the county’s generally Democratic-leaning residents have concerns about how things are going under the Biden administration. 

Admire said Ingham residents are motivated to vote for a presidential candidate who understands the specific issues facing their community. Admire voted for Biden in 2020 and has been a Democrat for a long time.

But, Admire said, “Inflation is with everything,” making it difficult for her and her team to make ends meet. Food, gas, oil, tires; and daily essentials have all seen significant price increases. Prices of land, rent, property and taxes also have risen, impacting different groups in diverse ways.

The economy is a big concern for residents as inflation hits the area in ways they’re not accustomed to. Admire said people around her have the same concern about the economy and come to her restaurant complaining about it every day.

Ismael Jaber, an Okemos resident and Michigan State University student, said inflation is a significant issue. As a Lebanese American, Jaber said he leans toward the Democratic side because he agrees with the party’s policies. However, he doesn’t yet know who he’ll vote for.

“Whoever we vote for, we’ve got to put a voice out there to see a change,” Jaber said.

Candace Metzger, an MSU student, said housing is an important issue. She also wants to see more accessibility in transportation and a transparent parking policy. Metzger also says she worries about recent developments in the Middle East, where the U.S. is actively involved.

Rep. Emily Dievendorf, D-Lansing, said people usually see the elections in the county lean towards the Democratic Party.

Dievendorf called Ingham County a fascinating case study in electoral politics, given its diverse mix of urban, rural and industrial settings, each with distinct political leanings.

“So while we have a lot in common across the whole county, we also have a number of different communities that have very different experiences as well,” she said. 

Dievendorf said communities near colleges and universities tend to lean Democratic. While young voters haven’t always turned out in big numbers for elections, there are signs that’s changing. 

In the 2022 midterm election, young people in Michigan demonstrated the most significant increase in voter turnout, according to a Free Press review of election data. 

Also, constituencies near large urban cores or large cities tend to lean Democratic, in part because there is more of an emphasis on struggling to meet basic needs, Dievendorf said.

Former state Sen. Rick Jones, a Republican, said the situation this year is different from 2020 when Biden won. 

Back then, everything was going well with the economy and people were looking for a change, he said.

Jones said this cycle, he’s heard many people express their distress about inflation, along with issues like border security. Also, some auto workers have expressed anxiety about the push toward electric vehicles, citing concerns about job security due to lower sales compared to traditional gasoline-fueled cars.

While Ingham County leans Democratic, Jones observes a shift in sentiment, with voters potentially re-evaluating their support for the current president.

“Ingham has voted very Democrat, and I think it will be less this time,” he said. 

County Clerk Barb Byrum said Ingham is more progressive than most other counties.

She said after the passage of Proposal 2 in 2022, people can be added to the permanent absentee ballot list by their local clerk. So, they will get a ballot mailed to them if they request it, and “I think that’s going to drive up participation in the state,” Byrum, a Democrat, said. 

Jeremy Whiting of Lansing, the general manager of Impact 89FM at MSU, said the university hosting students from across the nation and internationally has helped make the county a melting pot.

Whiting said he tends to think the county this year will vote Democratic because of historical patterns. However, several things may make the situation unclear, he said, such as the candidates’ age, social justice issues and third-party candidate possibilities. 

Dievendorf said Michigan is still considered somewhat of a purple state, although Democrats control state government. 

She said people always have the right to change their minds because it’s about democracy. 

“If you are a Democrat, it’s now much more important to make sure that you get out and vote because we can take nothing for granted. Anything is possible,” she said.

Former Sen. Rick Jones talks about the upcoming election and issues he sees as important to Ingham County voters.

Donte Smith

Former Sen. Rick Jones talks about the upcoming election and issues he sees as important to Ingham County voters.

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