Election roundup: Whitmer, Benson, Nessel, Kildee, Neeley win; State Legislature goes Democratic; All three proposals approved

By Paul Rozycki

Mid-term elections are typically bad news for the party in the White House. Yet, while some final votes are still being counted, the results of Tuesday’s mid-term election were better than expected for most Democrats. 

In Michigan, Democratic Governor Gretchen Whitmer, Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson, and Attorney General Dana Nessel all were reelected after facing challenges from Trump-backed election denying candidates.  For the first time in decades both the state House and the state Senate will have Democratic majorities in Lansing. All three of the state-wide ballot proposals won with comfortable majorities.

Genesee County overall  had a 49% voter turnout, just a point below the 50%  2018 midterm turnout.    In Flint, the mayoral contest won by incumbent Sheldon Neeley drew a 30 percent turnout. 

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Neeley defeated a strong challenge from former Mayor Karen Weaver and was re-elected. 

In Washington, the Republicans are likely to have a narrow majority in the U.S. House and both parties may have to wait until a run-off in Georgia next month to determine who will control the U.S. Senate. Many expected a ‘red wave’ of Republican Trump-backed victories that didn’t quite happen. Over the last several decades the party in power has lost about 35 U.S. House seats in the first mid-term election. 

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The Flint mayoral race

In Flint the rematch between incumbent Mayor Sheldon Neeley and former Mayor Karen Weaver, Neeley came out on top with 1281 more votes, a 53 to 47% margin. Three years ago Neeley won with only a 205 vote margin. This is the first full mayoral term under the new city charter. 

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Governor: Gretchen Whitmer (D) v. Tudor Dixon (R) 

Michigan has not failed to give a governor a second term for more than sixty years, and that trend continued as Incumbent Governor Gretchen Whitmer beat Republican Tudor Dixon by a 54 to 44% margin. Whitmer was ahead in most polls during the election period, though some showed the race growing tighter after the candidates’ debates. 

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer speaking at campaign rally in Flint two-weeks before the Nov. 8 election. (Photo by Tom Travis)

The minor party candidates; Libertarian Party, Mary Buzuma; U.S. Taxpayers Party, Donna Brandenburg; Green Party, Grant Hogan; and Natural Law Party, Daryl Simpson each earned less than 1% of the vote. 

Secretary of State: Jocelyn Benson (D) v. Kristina Karamo (R) 

Incumbent Democrat Jocelyn Benson beat Republican Kristina Karamo, by a 55 to 42% margin. Karamo was an election denier who said that the 2020 election was invalid and fraudulent. Also running are minor party candidates, Libertarian Gregory Stempfle; U.S. Taxpayers Party, Christine Schwartz; Green Party, Larry Hutchinson Jr., each of whom earned 1% of the vote. 

Attorney General: Dana Nessel (D) v. Matthew DePerno (R) 

Incumbent Democrat Dana Nessel was challenged by Republican Matthew DePerno in the race for attorney general and Nessel won with a 53 to 45% margin. DePerno claimed that the 2020 election was fraudulent and he faces potential criminal charges over his actions following the election. The minor party candidates running for the attorney general position were Libertarian Party, Joseph McHugh Jr., with 2% of the vote and U.S. Taxpayers Party, Gerald Van Sickle with 1%.

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U.S. Representative in Congress: Dan Kildee (D) v. Paul Junge (R) 

In the 8th Congressional District Democratic incumbent Dan Kildee was elected to his sixth term after facing a significant challenge from Republican Paul Junge. Kildee won handily with a 53% to 43% margin. The newly created 8th Congressional District runs from Genesee County up to Bay County and includes parts of Midland County.

U.S. Representative Dan Kildee speaking at a campaign rally one week before the Nov. 8 election at Flint’s Farmers’ Market. (Photo by Tom Travis)

The newly created district leaned more Republican than Kildee’s previous 5th District and both candidates invested heavily in media campaigns. The minor party candidates running in the 8th District were, Libertarian Party, David Canny with 1% and Working Class Party, Kathy Goodwin with 3% of the vote. 

Michigan ballot proposals

Michigan voter approved three major proposals in Tuesday election. 

Proposal 1

Proposal 1 passed with a 66% yes vote. 

Proposal 1 combines two distinct issues, term limits, and financial disclosure. The first part of the proposal changes the current term limits and allows state lawmakers to serve a total of 12 years either in the House or the Senate. Previously lawmakers were limited to three two-year terms in the House and two four-year terms in the Senate. 

A second part of Proposal 1 requires the governor, lieutenant governor, secretary of state, attorney general, and all state House members and Senators to file annual reports disclosing their income, assets, liabilities, and positions held outside of government. Michigan is one of only a few states lacking significant financial disclosure laws. 

Proposal 2

Proposal 2 received a 59% yes vote in Tuesday’s election.

Proposal 2, called Promote the Vote, requires a number of actions making it easier to vote. It requires nine days of early in-person voting, provides state-funded absentee drop boxes throughout the state, (one for every 15,000 voters), provides postage for absentee ballots and applications and allows military and overseas ballots to be counted if they were postmarked by Election Day. It also bars harassment at the polls, allows private donations to fund election operations, as long as they are disclosed and it requires that post-election audits be conducted only by election officials. 

Proposal 3

Proposal 3 was supported with a 56% yes vote. 

Proposal 3 provides a constitutional guarantee of a women’s right to an abortion and “a fundamental right to reproductive freedom.” It repeals the 1931 law that made it a felony to provide an abortion to a woman. After the overturning of Roe v. Wade a few months ago this proposal garnered over 750,000 signatures, a record number, and it seems to have been a major factor in increasing turnout in the Michigan midterm elections.

Michigan State Senate

There are 38 members of the Michigan State Senate. They serve four-year terms and are limited to two terms.

27th State Senate District: John Cherry (D) v. Aaron Gardner (R) 

The newly drawn 27th State Senate District includes the northern two-thirds of Genesee County, including the City of Flint, Flushing, Swartz Creek, and Burton. Incumbent Democratic state Representative John Cherry won over Republican Aaron Gardner by a 64% to 36% margin. 

Michigan House of Representatives

There are 110 members of the Michigan State House. They serve two-year terms and are limited to three terms.

The 68th state House District: Cheri Hardmon (D) v. David Martin (R) 

The newly-drawn 68th state House district includes much of south-eastern Genesee County, Burton, Davison, and a part of northern Oakland County. Republican incumbent David Martin defeated Democrat Cheri Hardmon by a 54 to 46% margin.  

The 69th State House District: Jasper Ryan Martus (D) v. Jesse Couch (R) 

The newly-drawn 69th District covers much of northwest Genesee County

Democrat Jasper Martus won over Republican Jesse Couch with a 56% to 41% margin. Libertarian Adam Childress earned 2.6% of the vote.

The 70th state House District: Cynthia Neeley (D) v. Tim Butler (R) 

State House District 70 includes all of the City of Flint

In the heavily Democratic city of Flint,  incumbent Democrat Cynthia Neeley won easily with 82% of the vote over Republican Tim Butler who had 17%.

State Supreme Court

Voters elected two justices to the State Supreme Court for eight-year terms. Incumbents Richard Bernstein and Brian Zahra were reelected with 34% and 24% of the vote, after facing challenges from Kyra Bolden, Paul Hudson and Kerry Morgan.

Genesee County Commission 

There are nine members on the Genesee County Commission and they serve two-year terms. 

District 1: (north east Flint city), Incumbent Democrat Bryant Nolden won over Republican Steven Cousino with an 88% to 12% margin. 

District 2: (central and south Flint city) Democratic incumbent Charles Winfrey had 81% of the vote defeating Republican Lynette Robinson who had 19%.

District 3: (Burton, Davison Township) Democratic incumbent Ellen Ellenburg won with 51% of the vote defeating Republican Nicholas Goyette, who had 49%.

District 4: (Mundy Township, Grand Blanc Township) Democratic incumbent Domonique Clemons was reelected with 53% of the vote defeating Republican Amy Miller who had 47%.

District 5: (Grand Blanc City, Atlas Township) Incumbent Democrat James Avery won with 52% of the vote, beating Republican Teri Lynn Chambers with 48%.

District 6: (Gaines, Argentine, Fenton Townships) Incumbent Republican Shaun Shumaker won with 63% of the vote topping independent Kurt Chapelle who had 37% of the vote. There was no Democratic candidate.  

District 7: (Montrose, Vienna, Thetford, Mt. Morris Townships) Democrat Martin Cousineau won with 53% of the vote beating Republican Lynn Culver who had 47%.  

District 8: (Flushing, Clayton, parts of Flint Townships) Democrat Dale Weighill had 53% of the vote beating incumbent Meredith Davis who had 47%.

District 9: (Genesee, Forest, Richfield Townships, Davison city) In a very close race, Democrat Michelle Davis had 50.2% of the vote edging out Republican Sue Hopper by 77 votes, who had 49.8% of the vote.

Judicial elections

Voters elected a judge for the 7th Circuit Court District in a non-partisan race. Circuit Court judges serve six-year terms. Dawn Weier was the winner with 51% of the vote edging out Mary Hood with 49%. 

School Board Elections

Most area school boards elected members as well. In Flint five members were elected to the Flint Community School Board, which has faced much turmoil and conflict recently. 

In a number of the local races slates of candidates have come together with the hope of being elected as a team. Some are backed by the Democratic Party, some by the Republican Party, others simply geared towards working together. 

Flint School Board

In Flint Michael Clack, Emily Doerr, Melody Releford, Terae King Jr. and Dylan Luna ran together as a team.  The other candidates are: Linda Boose, Claudia Perkins, Lakeisha Tureaud, Carol McIntosh, Chris Del Morone, Audrey Young, Leslie Haney, Casey Calvert, Allen Gilbert and Donyele Darrough.

(Graphic source: Flint Community Schools)

Dylan Luna, Claudia Perkins and Melody Releford won six-year terms with 13% of the vote each. Terae King Jr. won a four-year term with 53% of the vote, and Michael Clack won a two-year term with 60% of the vote. 

Mott College Board

Mott Community College elected trustees. Incumbent Art Reyes and challenger Wendy Wolcott were elected. Wolcott had 33% of the vote and Reyes had 27% topping incumbent Anne Figueroa and Art Marden, for a full six-year term. Jeffrey Swanson was elected to the two-year term with 40% of the vote beating Rebecca Garske and Beth Cooper. 

Ballot proposals

In addition to the three state-wide proposals, many Genesee County governments and school districts had millages and proposals on their local ballots. In Flint, voters approved a renewal of a 2 mill police services millage with a 75% yes vote, and Genesee County voters approved a renewal of a .09 mill veteran’s service millage with a 71 % yes vote.

EVM political writer and commentator Paul Rozycki can be reached at paul.rozycki@mcc.edu.

Author: Tom Travis

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