Two special election primaries first step in breaking Michigan House tie
- Special primary elections in two southeast Michigan state House districts set for Tuesday
- Six candidates apiece are vying to replace former state Reps. Lori Stone and Kevin Coleman in the 13th and 25th districts
- Winners will advance to April general election, where voters will decide the representatives who will break the House’s current 54-54 deadlock
Southeast Michigan voters on Tuesday will take the first steps toward filling two vacant state House seats that have left the Michigan Legislature stagnant since mid-November.
The 13th District, covering Warren and part of Detroit, and the 25th District, which covers the cities of Wayne and Westland, were left vacant last year after former Reps. Lori Stone and Kevin Coleman resigned to take local mayoral positions.
Their departures left the state House in a 54-54 tie and were a contributing factor in Democrats’ decision to adjourn early last year. In 2024, legislative action has ground to a halt amid disagreements between Democratic and Republican leadership.
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Primary elections to fill both vacancies will take place Jan. 30. Both seats lean heavily Democratic, meaning it’s likely that the winners of Tuesday’s Democratic primaries will go on to win the April 16 general elections.
Here’s the lay of the land in both districts, where six candidates apiece hope to be the top vote getter in their party and advance to the April general election.
Macomb County Commissioner Mai Xiong has the endorsement edge in the 13th District, racking up recommendations from Stone — now serving as Warren’s mayor — and other local elected officials, as well as a slew of advocacy groups and Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.
Xiong, who was first elected to the county commission in 2020 and unsuccessfully ran for Warren city clerk last fall, said her background as a refugee, mom and small business owner gives her unique insight into the needs of her constituents.
Former state Rep. Lamar Lemmons, a Detroit Democrat, is taking advantage of new term limits rules to seek more time in the state House and argues his experience both as a lawmaker and political adviser are what the district needs.
Lemmons is frustrated by Whitmer’s involvement in the race, and that issues important to Black voters have been “put on the back burner” despite their role in securing the Democratic majority. If elected, he hopes to force action on issues like auto insurance and criminal justice reform.
Also on primary ballots are husband-and-wife duo Rev. Curtiss Ostosh, pastor of Harvest Time Christian Fellowship in Warren, and Suzanne Ostosh, who runs the fellowship’s food pantry. They hope to bring more resources and awareness to the needs of people in Warren and Detroit. Suzanne Ostosh is running as a Democrat, while Curtiss Ostosh is running as a Republican.
“We just said, ‘Oh, it's available. One of us should do it.’ And we…said, ‘Well, we'll let the voters decide.’” Suzanne Ostosh told Bridge. “I believe we're both great candidates.”
Other Republicans in the race are Ronald Singer, who ran and lost to Stone in the 2022 cycle, and Warren resident Brandon Cumbee.
Five Democrats with a range of local government and political experience are in the running to represent the seat left vacant by Coleman, who now serves as Westland’s mayor.
The race pits Westland City Council members Andrea Rutkowski and Peter Herzberg against each other, while progressive groups have rallied around Layla Taha, a health policy analyst and program director for U.S. Rep. Rashida Tlaib.
In a statement announcing her candidacy, Rutkowski — who was recently endorsed by Whitmer — praised legislative Democrats and said she would prioritize “building on the work of the Democratic majority,” as well as public safety, infrastructure and small business growth.
Herzberg, who has Coleman’s backing, has said he would focus on environmental issues, senior services, transportation and supporting local schools if elected.
Taha’s priorities include affordable healthcare, livable wages for working families and environmental justice.
Other candidates in the running include Wayne-Westland Board of Education member Melandie Hines and Shannon Rochon, an environmental justice advocate and political operative.
Josh Powell, of Westland, is the lone Republican running for the seat and will advance to the general election.
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