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Huge wins for Democrats. They're poised to retake Michigan Legislature

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer addresses a crowd at MotorCity Casino in Detroit, where jubilant Democrats gathered into Wednesday morning. (Bridge photo by Valaurian Waller)
  • Whitmer, Democrats dominate Michigan elections
  • Michigan Legislature flips first time since 1984
  • Voters back abortion, voting rights proposals

Nov. 17: As Democrats take charge in Lansing, some business leaders sweat their agenda
Nov. 16: Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s to-do list: gun control, tax cuts, Right-to-Work repeal

Nov. 10: Fresh off historic wins, Michigan Democrats elect legislative leaders

LANSING – Democrats will control the governor's office and Michigan Legislature for the first time in four decades after dominating an election marked by strong turnout from abortion rights supporters. 

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer won a second term. And it appears she’ll have a friendly Legislature after Democrats claimed to win control of the Michigan House and Senate for the first time since 1984. 

Democrats flipped a congressional seat and maintained their edge on the Michigan Supreme Court. While vote counting continued Wednesday morning, 

Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson and Attorney General Dana Nessel appeared on their way to second terms as well.

Related:

Proposal 3 was one of the biggest winners in the Michigan election – not just for voters who wanted to restore a constitutional right to abortion, but also for Democratic candidates who had otherwise faced a challenging midterm environment given sky-high inflation and gas prices. 

The ballot measure was at the bottom of a lengthy ballot but was outperforming Whitmer on the top. With about 85 percent of all votes counted by Wednesday morning, 2,240,961 Michiganders had voted for Proposal 3, compared to 2,221,539 for the incumbent governor. 

That’s evidence that “there is support for at least some amount of abortion rights that extends beyond just the Democratic Party,” said Adrian Hemond, a Democratic strategist with the bipartisan Grassroots Midwest firm in Lansing.

Republicans knew abortion rights were “going to mobilize elements of the Democrats’ coalition” but had hoped evangelical and Catholic voters would neutralize the turnout effect, said GOP consultant Jamie Roe. 

“It doesn’t seem like that materialized as a lot of us hoped it would.”

Whitmer wins, Benson and Nessel up

Michigan voters picked Whitmer to lead Michigan another four years, re-electing the Democratic governor who navigated the COVID-19 pandemic and vowed to fight "like hell" for abortion rights.

The Associated Press called the race for Whitmer at 1:21 a.m. but the final margin of her win over Dixon is not yet clear as voting counting continued Wednesday morning. With an estimated 85 percent of all ballots tabulated, Whitmer led Dixon 53 percent to 45 percent, an eight point advantage.

Democratic Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson appeared to be heading toward re-election by an even more decisive margin. As of Wednesday morning, she led GOP challenger Kristina Karamo by 12 percentage points. 

Things were closer for Democratic Attorney General Dana Nessel, who was up about 6 points on Republican challenger Matthew DePerno. 

Dixon, Karamo and DePerno were each endorsed by former President Donald Trump, who rallied with them last month in Macomb County in an apparently unsuccessful bid to help them win election. 

‘Yes’ on Proposal 1, 2 and 3

Michigan voters approved all three statewide proposals on the ballot, according to projections from The Associated Press. 

As of Wednesday morning, incomplete and unofficial counts showed 66 percent of Michiganders had backed Proposal 1 to amend term limits and require financial disclosure by political candidates. 

Roughly 59 percent of voters were backing Proposal 2 to allow up to nine days of early voting and enshrine other election rules into the Michigan Constitution.

And Proposal 3, to put abortion rights into the Michigan Constitution, was leading 56 percent to 45 percent. 

Slotkin, Scholten, Kildee, James, Thanedar win

Stagnant population means Michigan will lose a seat in Congress next year, and it will likely end up costing Republicans. Incomplete results from newly drawn districts suggest Democrats are poised to break a partisan tie to gain a 7-6 advantage in the state’s congressional delegation. 

A Democrat will represent Grand Rapids in Congress for the first time in nearly 50 years after attorney Hillary Scholten flipped a GOP seat by defeating Trump-endorsed Republican John Gibbs in Michigan’s new-look 3rd District. 

Scholten will replace outgoing U.S. Rep. Peter Meijer, who lost to Gibbs in the GOP primary. Trump intervened in the race to try and punish Meijer for voting to impeach him for inciting the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection at the U.S. Capitol. 

In the new and highly competitive 7th Congressional District, Democratic U.S. Rep. Elissa Slotkin won re-election over GOP challenger Tom Barrett. 

Slotkin moved to Lansing before running in the reshaped district and faced a tough fight. The contest was the most expensive congressional race in the country as national groups battling for control of the U.S. House poured massive amounts of money into television advertising. 

Democratic U.S. Rep. Dan Kildee of Flint Township appeared likely to win re-election in the newly competitive 8th District. With an estimated 88 percent of votes counted, Kildee led Republican challenger Paul Junge 51 percent to 45 percent. 

Republican John James, meanwhile, may become Michigan’s only Black representative in Congress if he holds his lead in the 10th district when full Macomb County votes are reported. 

With an estimated 99 percent of ballots counted, James led Democrat Carl Marlinga 50 percent to 47 percent.

Democratic Rep. Brenda Lawrence, who had been the only Black member of Michigan’s congressional delegation, is retiring and did not seek re-election. 

As expected, state Rep. Shri Thanedar, D-Detroit, became Michigan’s first Indian-American member of Congress, easily prevailing in the Democratic stronghold 13th District.

Democrats flip Michigan House, Senate

Redistricting gave Democrats a legitimate shot to flip the Michigan Legislature, and they appear to have seized the opportunity for a narrow edge. 

In the state Senate, Democrats are claiming their first majority since 1984, but vote counting is still continuing in some tight races. 

The party has at least secured a 19-19 tie, according to a tally by Gongwer subscription news service. If that holds, Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist would cast tie-breaking votes. 

Democrats scored a series of upsets in state House races to win a 56-54 advantage to win their first majority in the lower chamber since 2010, according to reporting by MIRS subscription news

Key House wins included Democratic challenger Betsy Coffia over Republican incumbent Jack O’Malley in the new 103rd District, which includes Leelanau, northern Grand Traverse and northern Benzie counties. 

Critical Democratic wins in the Senate included the new 35th District, where Bay City Commissioner Kristen McDonald Rivet defeated Republican state Rep. Annette Glenn of Midland. 

Democrats keep edge on Michigan Supreme Court

Democratic nominees will retain their 4-3 advantage on the Michigan Supreme Court after incumbents Brian Zahra (R) and Richard Bernstein (D) each won re-election, according to projections by The Associated Press. 

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