Six Michigan legislative incumbents voted out so far — and it’s not even November
- Six incumbents in Michigan lost their reelection campaigns
- That’s the most in at least a dozen years.
- Nationwide, 4.7 percent of state legislative incumbents have lost reelection bids
Kimberly Edwards went into the Democratic primary for the 12th state House district without much money and no major endorsements to challenge incumbent Rep. Richard Steenland, a former Roseville city clerk.
She won anyway on Tuesday.
Edwards, an Eastpointe social worker, credits her win to door knocking and listening to voters in a Democratic-leaning district radically reshaped by the redistricting process. The new 12th covers parts Macomb and Wayne counties, crossing Eight Mile and extending south into Detroit.
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“I decided to run for this seat because I heard the community's needs,” Edwards told Bridge Michigan. “I’m really grateful that the community spoke and made their voices heard.”
Incumbency was no guarantee for victory in Michigan’s 2022 primary elections. Six sitting lawmakers were knocked out of contention during Tuesday’s primaries, out of the 44 Republicans and 43 Democrats running for re-election.
Four of those six were defeated by candidates not currently serving in the Legislature.
And more incumbents could lose in November’s general elections.
An analysis by the political newsletter MIRS found that, prior to the 2022 election cycle, only four incumbent Michigan lawmakers have lost in primary races to non-incumbent challengers since 2010.
Part of the upheaval is due to new political maps put together by the Michigan Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission last year. They were constitutionally obligated to disregard political boundaries and ignore incumbencies.
Several incumbents affected by the new lines sought to avoid conflicts by moving into new districts. Even if incumbent lawmakers’ homes weren’t drawn into the same district as another lawmaker, however, many were faced with the prospect of running in territory significantly different from the previous populations that elected them.
In addition to Steenland, Sens. Marshall Bullock, D-Detroit and Kim LaSata, R-Niles, and Reps. Terence Mekoski, R-Shelby Township, Gary Eisen, R-St. Clair Township, and Rodney Wakeman, R-Saginaw Township, lost their primaries on Tuesday.
Bullock was drawn into the same district as fellow state Sen. Mallory McMorrow, who won the race by double digits. Eisen faced a similar situation, losing to fellow Rep. Andrew Beeler, R-Port Huron.
Mekoski was elected earlier this year to a partial term, but lost his primary race to serve a full term next year to Sen. Doug Wozniak, who previously served as a representative.
Nationwide, 4.7 percent of state legislative incumbents who have filed to run for reelection have lost so far this year — a higher rate than the last four election cycles, according to a Ballotpedia analysis of the 33 states that have held primary elections so far.
That’s expected in a redistricting year, but especially in Michigan following a new process in which a citizens panel — not legislative lawmakers — drew the districts after the 2020 Census.
“We saw a couple of successful incumbent challenges. But we also saw some incumbents that were able to hang on,” said Matt Grossmann, director of the Institute for Public Policy and Social Research at Michigan State University. “There are more changed districts, more voters that haven’t seen the candidates, so you expect there to be more incumbent or favored losses.”
At the congressional level, Michigan will be losing at least four incumbents — two of whom were running for reelection and lost in the primary and two, Reps. Brenda Lawrence of Southfield and Fred Upton of St. Joseph, who opted to retire at the end of their current terms.
U.S. Rep. Haley Stevens, D-Waterford, defeated fellow incumbent Rep. Andy Levin, D-Bloomfield Township. And in west Michigan, Rep. Peter Meijer, R-Grand Rapids, lost his bid for reelection to Trump-backed challenger John Gibbs.
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