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Democratic majority of Michigan House may depend on two mayoral races Tuesday

State Reps. Kevin Coleman and Lori Stone headshots
State Reps. Kevin Coleman and Lori Stone are running for mayor of their hometowns — Westland and Warren — and if they win, the Democrats may temporarily lose their majority of the state House. (Courtesy photos)
  • Local primary elections in Michigan take place Tuesday
  • Two Democratic state representatives, Kevin Coleman and Lori Stone, are running for local office
  • If both advance and win in November, it would mark the first tie in the House in decades

Local elections in 49 Michigan counties are set for Tuesday — and two primary races could determine whether Democrats keep their iron grip on power in the Legislature.

Democrats control not only the governor’s office, but also the House and Senate for the first time in more than 40 years. That could be at least temporarily in jeopardy, though, since 

Reps. Kevin Coleman of Westland and Lori Stone of Warren, both Democrats, are both running for mayor in their southeast Michigan cities.


If they survive and win in the November general election, the House would be deadlocked at 54-54, marking the first time Michigan has split the House since 1994.  If either loses, House Democrats can keep the majority. 

Legislative Democrats haven’t lost much sleep over the prospect, as both seats trend Democratic. House rules also stipulate that Speaker Joe Tate, D-Detroit, would retain control of the agenda in the event of such a tie between any vacancies and the subsequent special election, which would be called by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer. 

But it would mark a “temporary pause” on Michigan Democrats’ outright majority and dominance in Lansing, said Democratic strategist Adrian Hemond of Grassroots Midwest.

“They wouldn't actually have the majority of the members elected and serving that the Constitution spells out, which means that to pass anything, to rename a highway, they’d have to get at least one Republican to vote for it,” Hemond said. 

Republicans have been loath to support much Democratic legislation — and those who did have been targets of recall efforts by GOP activists

Westland mayor up for grabs 

Coleman announced his intentions to run for the top executive slot in Westland shortly after Bill Wild, Westland’s long-serving incumbent mayor, resigned in January to take a job in the private sector. 

Coleman, a third-term Democrat who previously served on the Westland City Council, said he’s loved serving in the Legislature, but feels he could make more of an impact as mayor. 

“People know that I'm somebody who solves problems and finds solutions…I’m going to work really hard for them,” he said.

He said he’s confident that if he wins and steps down to become mayor, the person who ultimately steps up to fill his seat will be a Democrat who can work well with the caucus.

Other candidates in the race include Ali Awadi, Jim Godbout, Anthony Jones, Michael Londeau and Ronald Sassak. 

The top vote-getters will advance to the November general election.

Dramatic race for Warren mayor

In Michigan’s third-largest city, the mayoral contest is shaping up to be a showdown as several candidates vie for the role and the sitting mayor continues to seek ballot access. 

Current Warren Mayor Jim Fouts sought but was eventually denied ballot access for the primary due to city term limits. On the ticket to succeed him next year are Stone, George Dimas, Patrick Green, Alfonso King, Michelle Nard and Scott Cameron Stevens.

Fouts hasn’t stopped trying, however: This week, he filed a federal lawsuit seeking to decertify Tuesday’s results and secure a new special election with his name on the ballot.

Dimas, a former Warren City Council member who has served in several city government roles, has benefited from the support of many past Fouts allies, said Ed Sarpolus, a longtime pollster and political strategist. 

The latest Fouts lawsuit so close to the election could potentially sway voters, too, Sarpolus said.

The race is “still up in the air, because it's going to come down to money and the machine,” he said.

The race is nonpartisan and the two vote-getters on Tuesday advance to the general election. 

Stone, a former teacher and third-term representative, told the Detroit Free Press that it was a tough decision to enter the mayoral race now that legislative Democrats are “in the majority which I’ve worked so hard for.” 

"I definitely believe that regardless of how my race ends, it doesn't change the dynamics in Lansing," she told the Free Press.

What a tie would mean

One option for Democrats in the event of a tie: Adjourn the legislative session earlier than usual this year, said Ed Sarpolus, a longtime pollster and political strategist. 

Doing so would allow several bills denied immediate effect by Senate Republicans — including legislation to move Michigan’s presidential primary to February — to take effect sooner. The Legislature typically wraps up for the year in late December, but would need to adjourn in November in order for that law to take effect in time. 

If the February primary took place, it would offer an option for a speedy special election in the affected districts, as a scheduled election would already be taking place, he continued.

Hemond said if the House is deadlocked, Democrats could try to tackle smaller issues likely to get some Republican support. They could take votes on so-called wedge issues — on divisive issues such as abortion rights or gun reform — that wouldn’t pass in a tied Legislature, but make for uncomfortable votes for lawmakers trying to win re-election in politically competitive districts next fall. 

“It really depends on what approach they take in terms of what they're trying to pass, what they're putting on the board and how successful they are with it,” Hemond said. 

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