By Paul Rozycki
After the most contentious and energized election in many decades, voters went to the polls in record numbers, and produced results that were both expected and surprising. By most estimates, the turnout nationwide and in Michigan was expected to break decades old records for a mid-term election. In Genesee County over 50 percent of voters turned out.
Of the many issues at stake in this year’s election the most significant was whether Democrats would gain the needed 23 seats to win control of the U.S. House and they did, though a number of races are still to be finalized.
When all the votes are counted, Democrats are expected to gain at least 27 seats and perhaps as many as 36, in the House. The implications for President Trump are significant, and will set the tone for his next two years in office.
The election also saw a record number of women winning seats in Congress and governorships. More than 90 women won seats for the U.S. House. In Michigan women won races for the governorship, the U.S. Senate, the secretary of state, the attorney general, as well as congressional seats.
If the election was a test of President Trump’s first two years in office, voters gave a divided verdict. Though many of the candidates he supported did win, particularly in rural areas, the Republicans lost among independents, suburban voters and women. While Democrats gained the majority in the U.S. House, Republicans increased their strength in the Senate, where they could add as many as four seats to their majority.
In Michigan and in Flint a number of contests were decided.
The Governor’s race
In the race to replace term limited Republican Rick Snyder Democrat Gretchen Whitmer earned a solid win over Republican Attorney General Bill Schuette. Early in the year there were doubts about Whitmer’s strength as a candidate, but she pulled ahead in the fall campaign winning a solid victory over Schuette, with 55 percent of the vote. In her victory speech, Whitmer spoke of the bipartisan efforts needed to build the Mackinac Bridge many years ago, and said that she would work with others, and “choose bridges over walls”.
Unlike the race for governor the conventional wisdom early in the year was that Democrat Debbie Stabenow would coast to an easy victory over any Republican nominee for the U.S. Senate. As a first time candidate, John James proved to be a formidable opponent and gave Stabenow a serious challenge for much of the night, as she earned her fourth term in the Senate, with a margin closer than many expected. In the end she won 53 percent to James’ 47 percent of the vote.
The race for Michigan’s attorney general had Republican Tom Leonard facing Democrat Dana Nessel. Nessel earned the Democratic nomination with an upset victory over Patrick Miles at the Democratic endorsement convention earlier in the year. In a hard-fought and often negative campaign, Nessel won a narrow 51 to 49 percent victory.
Secretary of State
Democrat Jocelyn Benson earned a victory over Republican Mary Treder Lang with a substantial victory margin, winning with 54 percent of the vote.
State Supreme Court
For the State Supreme Court Meghan Cavanaugh and incumbent Elizabeth Clement had the edge to fill the two slots in the Michigan Supreme Court. Cavanaugh was endorsed by the Democratic Party and Clement was endorsed by the Republicans.
In the 5th District, Democrat Dan Kildee easily won a victory of Republican challenger Travis Wines, with a 60 to 36 percent victory. This is Kildee’s fourth term in the Congress after succeeding his uncle Dale Kildee in 2012.
State Senators are elected to a four-year term and are limited to two four-year terms in the 38 member body. Genesee County included parts of three Senate districts.
The 27th District covers much of Genesee County including the city of Flint, incumbent Democrat Jim Ananich defeated Republican Donna Kekisis.
The 32nd District covers a slice of western Genesee County and most of Saginaw County. Republican incumbent Ken Horn defeated Democrat Phil Phelps, who is term-limited as a state House member.
The 14th district includes the southern parts of Genesee County and the northwest parts of Oakland County. Republican term-limited Secretary of State Ruth Johnson, defeated Democrat Renee Watson.
The State House of Representatives is a 110 member body and members are elected to two-year terms and may serve no more than three terms.
In the Genesee County area there are five state House members elected.
In the 34th District, (northern Flint) incumbent Democrat Sheldon Neeley defeated Republican Henry Swift.
In the 48th District (northern Genesee County) Democrat Sheryl Kennedy defeated Republican Al Hardwick to replace term-limited Democrat Pam Faris.
In the 49th District (western Genesee County and southwest Flint) Democrat John Cherry defeated Republican Patrick Duvendeck.
In the Burton area, the 50th District is represented by incumbent Democrat Tim Sneller who defeated Republican Trace Fisher.
In southern Genesee County Republican Mike Mueller defeated Democrat David Lossing to replace term-limited Republican Joe Graves.
The County Board of Commissioners
Of the nine members of the Genesee County Board of Commissioners, four are chosen within the city of Flint.
In the 1st District, in the northern part of the city, Democrat Bryant Nolden was unopposed.
In the 2nd District, in central and north Flint, Democrat Brenda Clack defeated Green Party candidate Gina Luster.
In the 3rd District, in eastern Flint and Burton, Democrat incumbent Ellen Ellenburg defeated Republican Gerald Cross.
In the 4th District, in western parts of Flint city and Flint Township, Democrat Kim Courts was unopposed.
In Genesee County, four candidates were running to replace retiring Circuit Court Judges Judith Fullerton and Geoffrey Neithercut. Elizabeth Kelly and Brian Pickell came out ahead of Chris Christensen and Richard McNally.
In Genesee County’s other contested judicial race, incumbent Judge Celeste Bell defeated challenger Tabitha Marsh.
The Statewide Proposals
There were three major proposals on the statewide ballot. All three of them were passed by the voters by substantial margins.
Proposal 1 will legalize recreational marijuana use in the state. It will allow those over 21 to use and grow limited quantities of marijuana for their own use. It will also create a state licensing system for the marijuana business and will allow up to a 10 percent tax on sales of marijuana, which will be dedicated to various activities in the communities where the businesses are located. The proposal to legalize marijuana won with a 56 to 44 percent margin.
Proposal 2 will create a non-partisan board to draw new legislative districts at the beginning of each decade. The proposal will create a 13 member non-partisan board to drew election district lines, require public disclosure of the process and prevent office holders and those involved in politics from playing a role in the process. The Michigan proposal is modeled after a similar one in California. The proposal the end gerrymandering won with a 61 to 39 percent margin.
Proposal 3 is designed to open up the voting process and encourage more people to become involved in voting. It will return the straight party voting option, automatically register citizens at the secretary of state’s office when applying for a license, unless the citizen declines, provide any registered voter to right to use an absentee ballot for any reason, provide for Election Day registration, and provide for an auditing process for election results. Proposal three won by the largest margin of the three, with a 67 to 33 percent margin.
Local proposals: Genesee Health Plan levy renewed
Genesee County voters renewed a .99 mill tax levy for the next seven years to provide health care for uninsured residents. The funds will fund the Genesee County Health Plan, which provides health care services, through the Genesee County Health Department, for low income uninsured Genesee County Residents. The proposal won with a 65 percent majority.
In Flint, Vera Perry was relected to the Flint School Board.
Mott Community College Board
For the Mott Community College Board incumbents Michael Freeman, Matthew Norwood won, and challenger Andy Everman edged out incumbent Rafael Turner.
University Boards and State Board of Education
The Democrats swept all the contests to the governing boards of the state’s major universities, election two members to each board.
As a result, the Democrats now have a 6-2 majority on the Michigan State University Board of Trustees. They also have a 7-1 majority on the University of Michigan Board of Regents, and a 7-1 majority on the Wayne State Board of Governors.
For the State Board of Education, Democrats elected two new members giving them a 6-2 majority.
EVM political writer Paul Rozycki can be reached at email@example.com.