State Rep. Gretchen Driskell, D-Saline, outperformed incumbent US Rep. Tim Walberg, R-Tipton, in poll results released Monday.
Driskell, who surprised many when she announced her candidacy for Congress in February, edged Walberg by five points in a poll by Inside Michigan Politics, Revsix and Change Media. Driskell had 42 percent of the vote to Walberg’s 37 percent, with the other 21 percent undecided.
“The results are somewhat surprising, given the fact that Tim Walberg is a well-established, four-term incumbent, and Gretchen Driskell is unknown in big swaths of the district. But Walberg has faced tough elections before, and he’s been able to count on help from big-name groups like Club for Growth,” said Susan J. Demas, editor and publisher of Inside Michigan Politics.
The automated survey of 422 likely 2016 general election voters in the MI-7 was done on March 13 through 16 and has a margin of error of 5 percent, according to the poll’s authors.
Driskell, who was the longest-serving mayor in Saline’s history prior to unseating the heavily-favored Mark Ouimet in the 2012 State Representative election, was buoyed by the results.
"I’m talking to my neighbors from across the district every day, and this poll only confirms what I’ve been hearing from them: Michiganders in the 7th District are ready for a Representative who will work for them in Washington." Driskell said in a press release. “I’m glad to see that our campaign to represent working families and to bring Michigan values to Washington is resonating with voters across South-central Michigan and Southeast Michigan. We’ve had a strong start to this race, but we have a lot of work left to do to take our message to every voter in the district.”
The Driskell camp also pointed to poll numbers that show independents going toward Driskell, 46 percent to 27 percent.
If the Walberg camp is worried, they didn’t show it.
“Tim Walberg is focused for the next two years on advancing solutions to build a healthy economy, protect our families, and achieve bipartisan results," said Dan Kotman, spokesman for Walberg.
The Michigan 7th includes Hillsdale, Lenawee, Branch, Jackson, Eaton and Washtenaw counties.
“"In the next Congress, Tim Walberg stands to be the second most senior Republican in the Michigan delegation and its a safe bet that he will use every advantage of incumbency to get re-elected. Yet, these numbers show what astute political observers already know, namely Michigan's 7th Congressional District can be a competitive battleground. In a presidential year, and with the right candidate and the right strategy, Democrats have a real opportunity to win this seat,” said Dennis Darnoi, Director of Analytics and Research for Revsix.
Walberg was originally elected in 2006 but lost his seat to Democrat Mark Schauer in 2008. In 2010, Walberg defeated Schauer in the rubber match. Walberg then went on to trounce Pam Byrnes in 2012. The recent poll shows that, if asked to today, voters would choose Walberg over Byrnes again (43 to 38 percent).
"The 7th district has a large block of independent voters, and Driskell is in a strong position with these voters. While this may seem surprising, Driskell has an advantage because she has not had significant funds spent attacking her, and is helped by her standing as a former mayor of Saline. The odd dynamic in this district is that there is a large block of sporadic voting independents and a significant likely voting conservative base making this one of the most volatile districts in the country," said Amanda Stitt, CEO of Change Media Group.