Detroit Regional Chamber > Advocacy in Action > Aug. 5, 2022 | This Week in Government: GOP Slate Comes Together to Promote Unity; 100,000 Accepted in Michigan Reconnect Program, Gov. Whitmer Says

Aug. 5, 2022 | This Week in Government: GOP Slate Comes Together to Promote Unity; 100,000 Accepted in Michigan Reconnect Program, Gov. Whitmer Says

August 5, 2022

Each week, the Detroit Regional Chamber’s Government Relations team, in partnership with Gongwer, provides members with a collection of timely updates from both local and state governments. Stay in the know on the latest legislation, policy priorities, and more.

GOP Slate Comes Together to Promote Unity as One Candidate Cries Foul

Republicans of all stripes on Wednesday called for a unified front heading into November to beat incumbent Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and other top Michigan Democrats, with the nominees for governor, attorney general, and secretary of state coming together as a unified front for the first time following the primary win of Tudor Dixon.

Dixon won handily on Tuesday evening, garnering about 40 percent of the vote and beating out four challengers. She also became the first woman nominated to seek the executive office by the Michigan Republican Party. Her colleagues at the top of the ticket, attorney general candidate Matt DePerno and secretary of state candidate Kristina Karamo, were endorsed by party delegates and are in line to secure the party’s full nomination at the MIGOP nominating convention this month.

After questions about who the party would be choosing to go up against Whitmer in November, the party rallied around the three candidates at a luncheon to promote party unity at a brewery in Lansing.

Also, there were other notable Republicans, like party Co-Chair Meshawn Maddock, her husband, Rep. Matt Maddock of Milford, Rep. Matt Hall of Comstock Township and Sen. Aric Nesbit of Porter Township, Supreme Court Justice Brian Zahra, and former candidates Kevin Rinke, Ralph Rebandt, Michael Brown and Michael Markey. Garrett Soldano did not attend but sent his regards and support for the ticket.

One candidate who was a glaring no-show was Ryan Kelley, who did not initially concede defeat and later, on Wednesday morning, posted to his Facebook page that he believed the race was rigged and the results were illegitimate – a theory he cobbled together citing pre-election tabulator test results that were not real but published by two TV stations, causing further discontent among the crowd who have cried election fraud over the past two years.

But his presence was not necessarily missed, either, as party leaders moved to look toward 2022 and beyond and not backward to 2020.

Opening remarks were given by Maddock, who said she would be working harder than anyone to get Dixon and the others across the finish line to hold control of the top three spots in state government.

She also referred to Dixon as a “younger, smarter and hotter version of Gretchen Whitmer,” a comment that Michigan Democrats jumped on, calling the remark sexist and “gross.” Whitmer’s camp is also sure to jump on the comment and others made by the GOP on Wednesday in the days ahead.

“Last night was an incredible night and some of the numbers that turned out in some of these races were extraordinary. And we had a lot of great people that fought hard and when I look around this room … I see a force to be reckoned with,” Maddock said. “These are all the people on the frontlines that are fighting. I’ve been working with all these candidates for over a year, and when I met Tudor Dixon, the last words I said to her when she walked off the very first time is that she was a much younger, smarter and hotter Gretchen Whitmer. We are going to win everything. We have an incredible ticket. I told Tudor last night that no woman in this whole state is going to work as hard to get her over the finish line than me.”

Dixon took on a similarly unifying tone, adding that everyone in the party is now ready to move forward.

“I’ve said for a while now that this is the year of the woman,” Dixon said. “And we made history in the state last night. I’m not sure everyone’s fully realized what we did, but we nominated the first female GOP candidate for governor. And the funny thing is, we know what a woman is.”

Dixon went on to say that the slate now features “two women and one fantastic guy,” referencing Karamo and DePerno, to run the state (should they win) and to “make sure we get these three women out of office together.”

“With all the excitement and fanfare that I can hear in every room I’ve walk into in this state, where people are just so jazzed to get our kids back in school and back on track,” she said. “People are so jazzed to have a state government that says, ‘we want the best businesses here and we will do whatever it takes to make sure we get them.’ And we also want to have the safest cities for our kids. And what does that mean? It means we will remember what happened when our schools were shut down and our pleas as parents fell on deaf ears. We will remember when the biggest industries in this state and the smallest said, ‘we have a state government that’s working against us instead of with us.’”

Engler introduced Dixon, noting that, like his own election to the governorship in the 1990s, the party faces a well-funded and seasoned campaign-trail-ready incumbent, but that doesn’t mean she’s unbeatable in November, and working together was their only path forward.

In addressing party brass, Karamo said that this ticket was one that had “solutions to kitchen table issues that Michiganders care about.”

“People are suffering. They’re struggling to put food on their table. They’re struggling because of government services that our Secretary of State’s office is not running efficiently. They’re struggling because they can’t afford gas in their vehicles,” Karamo said. “These are the issues that Michiganders care about. These are the problems that we’re going to solve, and I cannot wait. We have a great ticket Matt DePerno and Tudor and every candidate who won last night. We are super excited and poised to take back this state for the people of Michigan.”

DePerno also congratulated the candidates that won on Tuesday. He echoed Karamo in stating that Michiganders care more about meat and potato issues than ideological ones and that he would be an attorney general who “enforces the law, who tries to get rid of an attorney general drunk on power” – an already frequent slogan for DePerno attacking Attorney General Dana Nessel’s public intoxication incident at a University of Michigan football game.

Following the address, DePerno was asked about Kelley, who has said that the TV gaffe of publishing unofficial pre-election test results was evidence, in his mind, that the outcome was predetermined by party brass and, in essence, had his election stolen from him – much like the musings of former President Donald Trump during the 2020 cycle.

DePerno was asked by multiple news outlets if he had spoken with him, if he expects him to end his campaign and if he expects the candidate to get in line with the ticket (and with him his mass of grassroots supporters).

“I think primaries are tough, and sometimes it takes more than 12 hours (for the full results to show how the vote panned out), but I fully expect Ryan Kelley and all of his supporters will come out and support Tudor,” he said. “I don’t see any evidence (that the TV gaffe) shows the outcome was predetermined. I think it’s problematic, it may have also violated at least one statute. I can’t speak to anyone’s motives or if he’s assigned motives to anyone.”

When asked what statute he believed could have been violated, DePerno did not cite a specific act but said it could have been something that was published in order to influence the electorate.

When asked if Kelley’s base was essential to getting the GOP into office statewide, he said he has been adamant that it will take everyone’s collective efforts to make that happen – the voters, the candidates themselves, and the party operatives working behind the scenes to shore them up.

DePerno also said he fully expects the grassroots – and Kelley’s voters – to show out en masse to vote out Whitmer, Nessel, and incumbent Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson.

As far as the ticket’s potential to boost the efforts of legislative Republicans seeking election or reelection, Hall said he found Dixon to be a collaborative figure who has already worked with legislators on potential bills that could be signed under her administration, as well as spending time with legislators in their districts to meet with their constituents. That shows him, Hall added, that the party was in potentially good hands with Dixon at the helm.

“She’s asking questions, she’s learning a lot from us, and she’s building those relationships now. So, I think once she wins, it’ll be a very collaborative relationship,” he said. “I think having a good mother, a woman running, somebody who has kids, who has seen the effects of learning loss, who can speak from a position, of life experience and all these issues that are in the forefront right now, I think will give us our best chance. You look at how passionate she is about reforming our education system, and we need that in order to have the jobs of the future. I’ve been so committed to continuing to grow our economy but really, it comes down to talent.”

As to whether she was indeed the antidote to Whitmer and the attacks she’s already shown will become hallmarks of her reelection campaign, Hall said he believes Dixon was the right candidate for the job.

“I think that’s why you saw the Democrats trying to meddle in this race to stop to her because they see that, too,” he said. “Governor Whitmer’s strategy seem to be to play the gender card. She can’t do that with Tudor and I think you saw today, Tudor’s ready to take her on those issues. We’re going to have a great race this fall, and I think it’s going to really benefit our legislative candidates.”

100,000 Accepted in Michigan Reconnect Program, Gov. Whitmer Says

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer announced Wednesday that over 100,000 had utilized the Michigan Reconnect program to start the process of receiving a discounted or tuition-free degree or skills certificate.

In a statement, Whitmer said that this is a step in the right direction to her Sixty by 30 goal, which aims to have 60 percent of adults receive a postsecondary degree or credential by 2030. Since the announcement of the program, this percentage has increased from 45 to 49 percent, she said.

“This bipartisan program is a game-changer not only for the people enrolled in the program, but also for their families, small businesses, and the state of Michigan. I am so proud of all 100,000 and counting Reconnect applicants,” Whitmer said in a statement.

“They have taken an important step to chase their dreams, learn new skills, and land a good-paying job to support themselves and their families. Because of their grit and determination, we can keep growing Michigan’s economy, supporting and attracting hardworking people, and powering small businesses in every region of our great state,” she said.

The program launched in February 2021 allows adults over 25 without a college degree to pursue an associate degree or certificate for a discounted or alleviated tuition. Applicants also must have a high school diploma or equivalent and have lived in Michigan for at least a year. About 18,000 have returned to school since the program’s launch, and over 500 have already graduated, the statement said.

Department of Labor and Economic Opportunity Director Susan Corbin said the program means more residents are of a degree or certificate.

“We are creating new opportunities for our workers to land high-paying jobs in fulfilling careers and for our Michigan businesses to fill critical talent needs so they can continue to compete, grow and innovate,” she said.

Senate Caucuses Gearing Up for General Election Push

Republican and Democratic leaders in the Senate are both expressing confidence in their chances for general election success following Tuesday’s primary contest, each seeking to cast the environment as being favorable for their legislative gains.

All but two incumbent senators on the ballot advanced to the general election, while several other races saw current or former House members moving on to the November contest.

Republicans hold a 22-16 majority in the chamber and have held the Senate since 1984.

Democrats gained five seats in the 2018 election cycle under maps drawn by the Republicans. That year, voters approved a ballot measure creating the Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission, which Democrats believe puts the Senate within striking distance for the first time in decades.

But Republicans feel the wind is at their backs, with voters upset over coronavirus pandemic policies pushed by Democratic Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s administration and pocketbook issues, including inflation and high gas prices. They see a ripe opportunity to hold their majority and possibly expand it during what could be a good GOP year nationally.

Due to the new legislative maps, the Senate may well be in play. An early map analysis by Gongwer News Services showed 14 likely or safe Republican seats and 13 likely or safe Democratic seats.

From there, three seats appear to be potential tossups on paper (the 9th, 11th, and 35th districts), with three tilt Republican seats (the 12th, 30th, and 32nd districts) and another four tilt Democratic seats (the 4th, 13th, 14th, and 28th districts).

“I think we start at 21 (seats) and build from there,” said Sen. Aric Nesbitt (R-Porter Township), who is helping lead the Senate Republican Campaign Committee’s 2022 election efforts. “I’m confident we’ll return a majority. … Twenty-one, and possibly build up to 24.”

Sen. Jeremy Moss (D-Southfield), who is co-chairing the Senate Democratic Caucus’ campaign work for the 2022 cycle, said their efforts since redistricting have been fruitful. He said the new lines are fairer under the independent commission, adding that from there, strong candidate recruitment, fundraising, and an aggressive ground game have put the caucus in a strong position.

“Michigan is going to be a really bright spot for Democrats across the country,” Moss said. “We have the stronger set of candidates.”

An initial look at the vote totals for Republicans and Democrats in each of the 38 districts following Tuesday’s primary showed a 19-19 split in terms of which party had the most votes cast for the candidate or candidates that were running.

Of the seats rated as tilt Republican, tilt Democratic, or tossup Democrats took the most votes in the 4th, 9th, 11th, 13th, 14th, and 28th districts. Republicans took the most votes Tuesday in the 12th, 30th, 32nd, and 35th districts.

There is no guarantee that Tuesday’s results will translate to November.

Candidates running unopposed in districts and competitive primaries may have been factors in the vote totals for one party or the other in any of the competitive districts.

Vote totals down the ticket could have been affected by Republicans being the only party with a competitive gubernatorial primary. The same could be possible for congressional races that overlap various legislative districts, or local millages, or ballot proposals.

In the case of a tie vote in the Senate, the lieutenant governor casts a vote to break the tie. That could make the governor’s race important for Senate decisions.

The Michigan Senate last had a 19-19 split from 1971-74, during the administration of former Governor William Milliken, a Republican. This gave control of the Senate to the GOP at that time.

Nesbitt was confident that the Republicans can compete and win many of the races that are competitive on paper in the current political climate, including some races that lean Democratic.

He referred to Sen. Rosemary Bayer (D-Keego Harbor), in the tile Democratic 13th Senate District as “a one-term wonder,” who he classified as being in line with “the most far-left members of the Democrat Party.” Nesbitt touted her Republican challenger Jason Rhines of Northville Township as a hard worker and a better fit for the district.

Nesbitt made a similar attack on 14th Senate District Democratic primary winner, Washtenaw County Commission Chair Sue Shink, saying Grass Lake Township Trustee Tim Golding also has been running a strong campaign and would be a better fit for the district.

Despite former House Minority Leader Sam Singh of East Lansing being the Democratic candidate in the 28th Senate District, the more competitive of two Lansing-area districts, Nesbitt was bullish on Daylen Howard, a former store manager at a small business.

In the 35th Senate District, a district bringing Bay City, Midland, and Saginaw into one district, Nesbitt said Republicans see Rep. Annette Glenn of Midland as a seasoned campaigner ready to hold the area for the GOP. He said Bay County has gone from being an area of “Reagan Democrats to Trump Republicans,” and the GOP can hold the seat despite Democrats’ belief it is within reach. Glenn faces Kristen McDonald Rivet of Bay City in November.

Moss disagreed with the narrative that Republicans are set to make significant gains in the state and nationally, saying with the fall of Roe v. Wade, there is a counter-narrative that is giving Democrats a burst of energy. He pointed to the rejection of a ballot measure in staunchly conservative Kansas that would have opened the door to the GOP Legislature to restrict or eliminate abortion access.

He said Republicans have been extreme in their views, and when it comes to issues such as abortion, Democrats will win. He questioned whether all Republicans would come out in November, pointing to the portion of their base that has questioned election results and the dynamic of conservative candidates such as Ryan Kelley refusing to concede in the GOP gubernatorial race.

“The Republican Party is a mess,” Moss said.

He added that if Gov. Gretchen Whitmer had the Senate district lines in 2018 that she will have in 2022, Whitmer would take the majority of the vote in 23 of them.

Moss said between that for Whitmer and an increased enthusiasm among Democrats and even independents looking at the abortion issue, there is a strong environment for the party.

“We’re fully prepared to do so with financial prowess, good candidates and an aggressive ground game,” Moss said of turning out voters in the general election.

Democratic candidates in many of the most competitive Senate districts raised more money than their Republican opponents in their pre-primary campaign finance reports. In the most recent fundraising quarter, Senate Democrats’ caucus also outraised the Senate GOP caucus.

However, Republicans have traditionally held a significant fundraising advantage. Despite the Democrats’ recent fundraising success, the Senate Republican caucus had $6.72 million cash on hand through the end of the most recent fundraising quarter to the Democrats’ $2.95 million.

Size of Black Caucus Poised to Dip Slightly; Steenland Loses

While some key races remain unresolved, it appears likely that the size of the Legislative Black Caucus, particularly its Senate membership, will be smaller in 2023.

Racial representation was under close watch following the new maps drawn by the Michigan Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission.

While Wayne County and Detroit had not fully reported results as of publishing Tuesday, Sen. Mallory McMorrow (D-Royal Oak) was up by more than 20,000 votes in Oakland County over Sen. Marshall Bullock. Bullock was up by 5,000 votes in Detroit. It is difficult to imagine Bullock could possibly reverse that margin.

Democratic activist Emily Dievendorf is poised to represent the Lansing-area 77th House District come 2023 after upsetting a favored candidate in the race, while McMorrow, as expected, ran up huge margins on her colleague from Detroit.

In the 77th, Jon Horford had racked up most of the endorsements, but Dievendorf has been a long-time activist in the community and is a former legislative aide. She narrowly defeated Horford from 4,546 to 4,518, according to unofficial results.

Over in the 75th House District, Penelope Tsernoglou of East Lansing won 54 percent to 39 percent, over Emily Stivers, with 98 percent of precincts reporting.

The 82nd District in Grand Rapids was close as of publishing. Robert Womack of Grandville had 1,950 votes to Kristian Grant’s 1,923 votes, with 97 percent of precincts reporting.

In terms of the racial makeup of the Legislature, several districts were still outstanding to paint that picture fully.

However, Dievendorf beating Horford in the 77th marks one district where a white candidate beat a Black candidate expected to win. In the 47th District, Carrie Rheingans of Ann Arbor, who is white, beat James Johnson of Clarklake, a Black candidate. And while the 6th Senate District remains too close to call, Darryl Brown of Detroit, the Black candidate, was a very distant third to former Rep. Vicki Barnett and Rep. Mary Cavanagh.

In the 14th House District, Donavan McKinney of Detroit, the only Black candidate, won the nomination.

The Legislative Black Caucus currently numbers 20, five senators and 15 House members, about 13 percent overall in each chamber. That is in line with the percentage of the state’s population that is Black, 13.6 percent.

A previous Gongwer News Service analysis of primary elections across the state shows the number of Black legislators could fall as low as 13 (two in the Senate, 11 in the House) or rise as high as 26 (seven in the Senate, 19 in the House).

As it stands, the Senate is poised to fall on the low end with two to three Black members depending on the outcome of the race with Sen. Erika Geiss (D-Taylor) in the 1st Senate District. Wayne County’s results were very slow. As of 4 a.m., Geiss had a slim lead, 38 percent to 34.5 percent, over former Rep. Frank Liberati, but with an unclear amount of the votes yet to be tallied.

The House was less clear. Though based on available results, at least 13 members are expected to be Black – all Democrats – next term.

Several districts in Wayne County and Detroit were too early to call. Those included the 1st and 6th Senate districts and the 5th and 11th and House districts.

Democrats also nominated candidates who are Black in three races key to House control, creating the potential to stave off some of the losses in safe seats, though the answer to that possibility will not be known until November, and in two of those, the Republicans are favored.

Other districts without much reported in the House were the 3rd, 4th, and 9th, though in none of those cases would the winner affect the size of Black representation in the House.

In other districts, Rep. Richard Steenland (D-Roseville), in a major upset, lost the nomination in the 12th House District to Kimberly Edwards, who is Black (editor’s note: this story has been corrected to change the winner to Edwards. Rep. Lori Stone (D-Warren) won in the 13th District, Rep. Regina Weiss (D-Oak Park) in the 6th District, Rep. Joe Tate (D-Detroit) in the 10th, and Rep. Helena Scott (D-Detroit) in the 7th, Rep. Lori Stone of Warren in the 13th. Steenland, Weiss, and Stone are white and will move on to likely represent districts that cover portions of Detroit. Those wins were all expected.

Dylan Weigela of Garden City, who is white, defeated Steven Chisholm of Inkster, who is Black, in the 26th District.

In the 32nd District, Jimmie Wilson defeated Rep. Ronnie Peterson’s aide Robyn McCoy. Both are Black.

In the 69th House District, Jasper Martus, a communications staffer for the House Democratic Caucus, was up by about 600 votes over Jenifer Almassy, with 77 percent of precincts reporting. Both are white. Kenyetta Dotson, who is Black, was a distant third.

Jason Hoskins, a Southfield City Council member, won the nomination in the 18th District, unofficial results showed. He will become the first Black openly LGBTQ member of the Legislature.

Will Snyder of Muskegon won the nomination, based on unofficial results, in Muskegon’s 87th House District.

Finally, Community activist Erin Byrnes of Dearborn seemed poised to take the nomination in the 15th House District.

94% of Local Tax Proposals Pass

Voters were exceptionally supportive of hundreds of millage elections across the state on Tuesday, approving 92 percent of requests for new or increased taxes and 99 percent of all requests to renew local property tax millages.

That meant a total tax approval rate of 94 percent.

Gongwer News Service subscribers can use the new Millage Monitor at the Gongwer Election page to easily review and analyze results among local proposals.

Through this new resource, unavailable anywhere else, subscribers can easily review how many of each type of proposal passed and how many failed. It can be sorted by jurisdiction, type of proposal, and county.

The only type of proposal that struggled Tuesday was school bond proposals to build or renovate school buildings, with six passing and eight failing. Usually, with each election, about 70-75 percent of school bond proposals on ballots across the state pass.

However, most of the districts seeking bond authorization and accompanying millage increases were in rural areas, which have been more likely to reject such proposals through the years. The Blissfield Community Schools, the Edwardsburg Public Schools, the Gladstone Area Schools, the Ida Public Schools, the Lapeer Community Schools, the Menominee Area Public Schools, and the Wayland Union Schools all rejected bond proposals.

Otherwise, voters enthusiastically supported other measures, particularly those for public safety, which include police, fire protection, emergency medical, jails, and 9-1-1 service. Of 120 new or increased tax proposals, 118 passed. All 165 public safety millage renewals passed.

It also was a good night for road millages, with 32 proposals to raise tax for roads passing and five failing, with one result not yet available.

New and increased senior services millages went undefeated at 20-0.

Of the three marijuana businesses proposals on ballots across the state, two passed (in Ontonagon County’s Greenland Township and Ortonville in Oakland County), and one failed (in Royal Oak Township). Voters in Meridian Township in Ingham County rejected a proposal to ban marijuana businesses, but Whitewater Township in Grand Traverse County passed a ban.

These results are archived on the Gongwer website for easy research. It’s another exclusive feature Gongwer is pleased to offer its subscribers. Subscribers who would like a demonstration of the new feature should contact Gongwer.

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