The ballot for voters in Michigan's 101st house district will look familiar next month. Incumbent Dan Scripps, a Democrat from Leland, is being challenged by Onekama Republican Ray Franz.
The two squared-off two years ago for the same seat. Scripps won handily. But Franz thinks this year's outcome will be different. He claims the Democrat's victory two years ago was thanks to some serious coat-tails: those of Barak Obama.
"Mr. Scripps won the last election by about the margin that President Obama did in this district," he says. "The dynamics of the election are different. There is no President Obama running, and there is a Mr. Snyder running, which is in my favor."
Scripps sees it a little differently. He says his record over the last two years in Lansing will help protect him from what may predict will be a tough year for democrats.
Plus, if Franz is hoping for coat-tails of his own to ride next month, Scripps isn't so sure. He says there are some real differences between Ray Franz and the G.O.P. candidate for Governor, Rick Snyder.
"When you look at Rick Snyder and Ray Franz, those are two very different types of Republicans," Scripps says. "So the idea that you can expect coat-tails in reverse for somebody who's, I think, a relative moderate at the top of the ticket and one who's significantly less moderate at the state house level, I don't know if that's a realistic expectation."
Ted Schendel thinks it's not only realistic, but likely. Schendel ran this year as a Tea Party Republican for the 2nd Congressional District. He didn't make it past the primary, but continues to campaign on behalf of other republicans. He says he's noticing a change in voters' attitudes going into next month's election.
"We're seeing that as we're knocking door to door," Schendel says. "In fact we were at one door with Ray, where it was a democrat, and they had voted for his opponent, Dan Scripps the last time. But this time around, he's talked to a lot of his friends that are farmers and they're all concerned about this water bill. So he says, 'You know what? This time I'm not voting for Dan, I'm voting for you, Ray.'"
The water bill in question has become the biggest topic in this year's race. The bill was introduced by Scripps late last year.
House Bill 5319 is short, just three paragraphs. It's an amendment to a law passed in 1994, the Natural Resources and Environment Protection Act.
In the bill, Scripps says his goal was to make sure groundwater protected the same as surface water when it comes to large scale withdrawals.
In a series of mailings, the Republican Party says the bill will allow the government to take control of private property rights. That view is shared by Russ Harding, director of the Property Rights Network at the Mackinac Center for Public Policy.
Scripps says wait a minute. In a statement released last week, Scripps calls on Franz to end what he calls a, "campaign of deception." And he says a number of experts have weighed-in on his proposed legislation on his side; among them, former Republican Governor William Milliken, who calls the claims in the G.O.P. mailers "False."
Scripps has also sent out mailing of his own saying his bill will only strengthen the rights of property owners with the benefit of greater protection for Michigan's water.
The environment continues to be at the top of the Scripps agenda. Scripps is an environmental attorney, who also sees jobs and education as his top three priorities in Lansing. And he'll continue his monthly coffee-shop meeting around the district.
"I think that I've worked hard for the people of the 101st district for the last two years," he says. "I've made myself available. I've been responsive. I haven't missed a vote down in Lansing.
"I've represented them on a number of issues, from school equity, to trying to create jobs up here, to protecting our natural resources. And I think that record will essentially give me some protection from national trends."
As a small business owner, Franz says if the state becomes more business-friendly, the rest of the pieces will fall into place.
"When we are prosperous, we are more environmental," Franz says. "So I think we must contain the spending in Lansing. We must provide the regulatory environment that is going to be pro-business and I think the growth in business will bring back that prosperity."
Prosperity for the state of Michigan is something both candidates say is their ultimate goal.