Detroit Regional Chamber > Advocacy in Action > Oct. 21, 2022 | This Week in Government: GOP, Dems Both Still Claiming Advantage in Race for Senate

Oct. 21, 2022 | This Week in Government: GOP, Dems Both Still Claiming Advantage in Race for Senate

October 21, 2022
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GOP, Dems Both Still Claiming Advantage in Race for Senate

The Senate appears still very much in play as election season reaches its final weeks, with both Republicans and Democrats maintaining confidence in their chances of controlling the chamber in the upcoming term.

Republicans, who have held the Senate since 1984, remain confident in their chances in nearly all 10 of the most competitive seats as drawn through the redistricting process.

The Republicans feel the wind is again in their sails, saying Democrats peaked in late August and voters, particularly independents, are coming home to the GOP. Republicans say people are ready to vote for the party based on its messaging on the economy and education.

GOP sources pointed to what they said is recent national polling showing a shift in their direction. There has been a clear trend in the generic ballot for the U.S. House in the Republicans’ favor of late, suggesting perhaps the traditional midterm dynamic where the party not in control of the White House – the Republicans – has the edge might be asserting itself.

Democrats disagree, saying they have not seen a cooling down on the ground of their earlier momentum fueled by the Dobbs abortion ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court earlier this year that put the issue to the states to decide.

Democrats said the more than 700,000 people who signed petitions to get Proposal 22-3 on the ballot to enshrine abortion rights into the state Constitution will not suddenly sit the election out.

They also expressed confidence in their chances in most of the 10 most competitive seats, saying they chose experienced candidates, many of who have won tough races and have local experience. Multiple candidates also have experience on local economic issues, which they say can blunt attacks by the GOP on the economy.

There has been some movement in the Gongwer News Service ratings between the 10 districts, with four being rated toss-ups, two being tilt Republican, two being tilt Democratic, and two being likely Democratic since the last assessment (See Gongwer Michigan Report, Sept. 9, 2022).

1. 11TH SENATE DISTRICT (UNCHANGED): Big money is flowing into this race Gongwer rates it as a toss-up where Sen. Michael MacDonald (R-Macomb Township) faces Democratic Macomb County Commissioner Veronica Klinefelt of Eastpointe.

In this district, Republicans see MacDonald as a good fit for it despite it being a lot of new territory compared to what he currently represents. He was referred to as being a workhorse in knocking on doors for several hours per day.

While Democrats are spending huge in this district, Republicans say MacDonald has strong positives, calling Klinefelt too left-leaning for the district.

Democrats, for their part, are excited about Klinefelt, saying she is more known within the district compared to MacDonald, pointing to the almost entirely new district in which he is seeking reelection. She is disciplined, Democrats said, and is one of the hardest-working campaigners of their legislative slate.

From a base-numbers standpoint, this should be a Democratic win. Macomb can be fickle, however. And even if Democrats are heavily outspending Republicans in this race, it’s the reverse in the U.S. House race up the ticket, Republican John James vs. Democrat Carl Marlinga, so there’s no shortage of Republican money in this area. A Democratic win here puts them at 18 seats and one seat away from Senate control if Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer wins and brings along Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist II to break the 19-19 tie.

2. 35TH SENATE DISTRICT (UP FROM 4): This district Gongwer rates as a toss-up combining the Tri-Cities of Bay City, Midland, and Saginaw is one of, if not the most important, seat in play for control of the chamber. Republicans are bullish on Rep. Annette Glenn of Midland being able to once again deflect Democratic efforts to oust her, this time with Bay City Commissioner Kristen McDonald Rivet being her opponent.

Republicans continue to state that despite the push by Democrats here, Glenn has been able to overcome past attempts to defeat her. The GOP believes there will be a continued shift in Bay County toward Republicans, while in Saginaw County, they believe Democrats will continue to see a decline in turnout. They expect the same results as in past attempts against Glenn in November, pointing to her campaigning skills.

“I’ll take three or four of her,” one GOP source said in terms of her work ethic and campaigning skills.

Democrats are expressing confidence in McDonald Rivet’s chances, pointing to her strong fundraising and visibility in Bay County. Democrats believe she has more positives on her side than her opponent. On the economy, McDonald Rivet has a positive record that offsets any attacks, they say. They said that having a strong turnout in each of the tri-cities will be big in getting her across the finish line.

A recent candidate forum at Saginaw Valley State University showed both candidates handling themselves well and trading a few shots.

It’s difficult to pick out whether this district or the next two ranks as the Democrats’ best shot for the 19th seat, but the 35th by far has the strongest Democratic base number and was carried by President Joe Biden, U.S. Sen. Gary PetersGov. Gretchen Whitmer and Attorney General Dana Nessel in the 2020 and 2018 cycles. That’s not the case in the next two districts.

But it probably does come down to Saginaw and Buena Vista Township. If these heavily Democratic areas do not sufficiently turn out, Glenn likely wins.

3. 30TH SENATE DISTRICT (UP FROM 5): A big question in this competitive seat that takes part of heavily Democratic Grand Rapids, some competitive suburbs in outlying Kent County, and part of deeply Republican northeast Ottawa County will be who can benefit from turnout in this changing region. Sen. Mark Huizenga (R-Walker) has a far more competitive district than he won in a 2021 special election, and Rep. David LaGrand (D-Grand Rapids) has a large chunk of his House seat within this Senate district. Gongwer rates this seat as a toss-up.

Huizenga is described by Republicans as being a hard worker and fits the district well, being a business owner and pragmatic conservative. Republicans said despite the big money being spent by Democrats, the needle has not moved, and the push in this district is due to a shrinking map for them with few options to pursue.

Republicans said LaGrand is not aligned with this district, where they say the focus is on the economy and gas prices. While the race is expected to be close, the GOP is confident their candidate prevails by 3-6 percentage points.

On paper, Democrats admit that this seat coming in looked challenging. However, Democrats said the old numbers may need to be tossed out the window with the continued shift toward their party in Grand Rapids and several suburbs. They even said Kent County might eventually have to be considered like Oakland County in being a former GOP stronghold that has gone Democratic.

Democrats believe LaGrand will still need to push hard to the end in what is expected to be a close race. Democrats said if they perform well in the 3rd U.S. House District race here, LaGrand would also be in a good spot in November. Of some concern there for Democrats and benefit for Republicans is the Republican-backed Congressional Leadership Fund has been spending big in that U.S. House race. Democrats had hoped Republican funders would abandon it and allow the Democratic nominee, Hillary Scholten, to roll.

A recent Democratic ad featuring LaGrand directly criticizing Huizenga is an interesting gamble. Typically, it’s not the candidate leveling the attack. Biden won this district (which is why this seat comes ahead of the next one) but so did James in his 2020 U.S. Senate bid. And the 2018 Republican attorney general nominee, Tom Leonard, also carried this seat. The big question will be how much the suburbs in this district have changed, or was it just a case of “West Michigan Nice” Republicans who disdained former President Donald Trump and came home to vote Republican the rest of the way who will vote Republican in 2022.

LaGrand must do well in Grand Rapids and Cascade townships, as well as Walker, to win this seat.

4. 12TH SENATE DISTRICT (DOWN FROM #3): On paper, this district has a Republican edge, but with tons of money flowing into this seat and a surprising Democratic turnout advantage in the primary, Gongwer rates this as a toss-up.

Both parties are bullish on their respective candidates and the work they are putting in: Rep. Pamela Hornberger (R-Chesterfield) and Rep. Kevin Hertel (D-St. Clair Shores).

The district, Republicans, say is strong GOP turf, and they are confident in winning by a strong margin. It was pointed out that former President Donald Trump won this district twice, and Hornberger won comfortably in the parts of her House district included in this district in 2020. It’s also a seat won by James in 2020 and Leonard in 2018.

Despite the huge monies being dumped in by Democrats, the GOP says this is in their column.

Democrats see Hertel as a great choice for the district, saying many people in the district have a positive view of his family name and know him. Having raised big money and run a strong campaign, they believe they can pull this out with continued hard work from their candidate despite its GOP demographics.

If a traditional midterm dynamic is, in fact, taking hold, with Republicans closing well, that would seem to bode well for Hornberger, even as a good chunk of the Republican establishment has either abandoned her for Hertel or stayed out of the race. Hertel will need to run up a big margin of his hometown in St. Clair Shores, a swingy area trending Republican, to pull off the win.

5. 4TH DISTRICT (UP FROM #8): Rep. Darrin Camilleri (D-Brownstown Township) has dominated the fundraising side and airwaves against Houston James of Flat Rock in this blue-collar district in southern Wayne County, but both sides claim to see things trending their way. Gongwer rates this seat as tilted Democratic.

One Republican source described this race as: “The surprise of the night.”

Republicans said for all the money Camilleri and Democrats have poured in here, their candidate is too left-wing for this district, and they could be in for a big surprise on election night.

The counter to that is Camilleri had the same views and record in 2016, 2018, and 2020 when he won his House seat, which is far more Republican than this Senate seat that was carried by Biden, Peters, and Nessel by comfortable margins.

Still, this is an area trending Republican.

Democrats are not buying that argument, pointing out Camilleri has won three tight races in the Republican-leaning area and consistently outperforms his party. He is believed to be doing all the right things and raising solid money to get his message out to voters.

Camilleri’s the clear favorite. A Republican win here would likely mean the party returns its current 22-16 majority.

6. 9TH SENATE DISTRICT (DOWN FROM #2): This looked like it would be a close race in this mostly Oakland County district, featuring former Republican Rep. Michael Webber of Rochester Hills and Rep. Padma Kuppa (D-Troy).

However, Democrats have opted not to provide Kuppa with an infusion of cash for advertising, giving the GOP a potential upper hand here. This seat Gongwer now rates as tilt Republican.

Democrats have been bearish about this district for a long time, and it’s shown up as they have not spent much of anything in this race, unlikely the millions they have poured into other seats.

Republicans called Kuppa far too left-wing for the district, saying Webber is a strong Oakland County-style moderate GOP candidate. They like his chances, saying state Democrats’ not putting money into this is telling.

Democrats say this could be tougher to win, but Kuppa had run in tough races before and raised big money to be competitive and be visible on the airwaves herself. They say if Gov. Gretchen Whitmer wins and Proposal 3 passes, Kuppa is in a great position to pull off the win.

7. 14TH SENATE DISTRICT (UNCHANGED): Democratic Washtenaw County Commission Chair Sue Shink of Northfield Township appears to have a clear edge here against Republican Grass Lake Township Trustee Tim Golding, but both sides say they have their reasons for believing they can pull out a win in this seat containing parts of Washtenaw and Jackson counties. Gongwer rates this seat as tilted Democratic.

On paper, this should be a relatively easy Democratic win. Biden, Peters, and Nessel all carried the seat easily.

Republicans see Golding as one of the most organized and skilled campaigners they have seen in some time and believe he would make a great addition to the caucus. They can see the race being close, and if the statewide ticket, such as the gubernatorial race, is close or a GOP win, they can see this seat going in their column.

Democrats said Shink has broad appeal across the district, with a strong Washtenaw County base and with her farm background can also be appealing to rural voters in outlying areas. They said she is working hard, and they have not seen much evidence of the GOP’s campaign there.

8. 32ND SENATE DISTRICT (DOWN FROM #6): Stop us if you’ve heard this one before: The Senate district with Muskegon County may look competitive on paper, but in practice, it’s been a stronger performer for Republicans

Republicans have the upper hand here in this district containing all or parts of Benzie, Manistee, Mason, Muskegon, and Oceana counties, where Sen. Jon Bumstead (R-North Muskegon) faces Rep. Terry Sabo (D-Muskegon). Sabo has a cash advantage, but Bumstead appears to benefit from the district demographics. Democrats did invest some money here early but pulled out of the race once its Republican tendencies took hold. Gongwer rates as tilt Republican.

The Republicans see this district as all but locked up, stating the Democrats have pulled out in recent weeks, leaving Sabo to use his remaining campaign funds. As of the last campaign finance reporting period, Sabo had more than $276,000 in the bank.

Democrats admit this seat is an uphill battle and that Sabo will need to continue working hard, using his solid fundraising to good effect to have a chance. It was stated that Whitmer did win here in 2018, so there is a chance the governor’s performance here could buoy Sabo. Except this district also went comfortably for Trump and James in 2020 and Leonard in 2018. If the Republicans have momentum nationally, it’s hard to see how Sabo has a chance.

9. 28TH SENATE DISTRICT (UP FROM #10): Democrats are confident that former Rep. Sam Singh of East Lansing can take this Lansing-area seat.

That said, Democratic Party mail continues to pour into mailboxes slamming the Republican candidate for his opposition to abortion.

Republicans see their young up-and-coming candidate, Daylen Howard of Owosso, as a potential underdog winner in the making if the GOP has a big night in November. Gongwer rates this seat likely Democratic.

The Republicans said it is telling that Democrats have had to spend roughly $500,000 here. The GOP said Howard surprised people by defeating a well-known primary opponent who had more money. This is a race where if Tudor Dixon in the gubernatorial race were to keep it close or win, the GOP says it would be one to watch for a potential upset.

Democrats called Singh a “political masterclass” who knows exactly what he needs to do to succeed in a race such as this. They say he needs to continue doing what he is doing and work to make inroads outside his East Lansing and Lansing-area suburban base, and he will put this seat in their column.

This district went heavily for Biden, Peters, and Nessel. If this seat goes south for the Democrats, Republicans are having a monster night and looking at 24 seats. Singh losing would be a major shocker.

10. 13TH SENATE DISTRICT (DOWN FROM #9): Democrats believe this seat should be a reliable hold for Sen. Rosemary Bayer of Keego Harbor over Republican candidate and Northville Township Treasurer Jason Rhines. The demographics in this district which Gongwer rates as likely Democratic, make this a heavy lift for the GOP to overcome.

This is a district where Republicans concede the demographics make it a bit tougher to overcome, given the more college-educated, upper-middle class pockets within its borders. It was pointed out that Democrats have to spend in this district, a sign that even here, the GOP could make it close if nothing else.

The Democrats see Bayer as a slam dunk, even scoffing a bit and referring to an alleged obsession by the GOP of her being supposedly too left-wing for the district.

“West Bloomfield and Novi women are not going to (sit) this one out,” one Democrat said, a reference to Proposal 3 being on the ballot.

There’s just not much Republican turf in this seat other than a small part of Commerce Township.

Candidates Strive for Balance in Oakland County House Districts

In Oakland County’s purple 54th, 55th, and 56th House Districts, conversations about abortion, the economy, and education are dominating during the lead-up to the election.

These districts vary in levels of competitiveness, in part, due to redistricting but also due to the shifting political opinions of voters in suburban areas and Oakland County specifically.

As they campaign, candidates are working hard to present themselves as reasonable people willing to work with anyone toward nuanced solutions for big problems. But some have found that seeking to stake out the middle ground can still alienate them from people in their own party.

“I’ve had to campaign hard against that, people in my own party, who don’t support the best candidate, but support who they think is more conservative,” said Donni Steele of Orion Township, a Republican running to represent the 54th House District. “Then, I have to campaign against the Democrats or even the swing voters that hate Donald Trump, and they say that I’m a crazy, rightwing Trump supporter. I’m neither.”

She’s embraced being in the middle because that’s where she said the government can “actually get stuff done.”

“We don’t need extreme measures,” Steele said. “We need people sitting at the table and representing the constituents, sitting in the middle and talking about how you feel and how I feel and coming up with policies that reflect how the 10 million people of Michigan feel.”

Steele is running against Shadia Martini of Bloomfield Hills for the House seat that represents Orion Township, Bloomfield Hills, Bloomfield Township, and portions of Oakland Township and Auburn Hills.

Republicans feel Steele is a strong candidate for the district and could have an advantage due to her name recognition and the strongholds of solidly Republican-leaning Orion Township and Oakland Township. She is running as a traditional Republican and isn’t weighed down by the more extreme wing of the party. Democrats, on the other hand, feel that Martini is an equally strong candidate for the district, which has large pockets of highly educated suburban women who have been trending toward the Democratic party.

The other potentially competitive Oakland County races include the race in the 55th District between incumbent Rep. Mark Tisdel (R-Rochester Hills) and Democratic hopeful Patricia Bernard, also of Rochester Hills. The district includes Rochester Hills and portions of Oakland Township.

The GOP is confident that Tisdel has this race in the bag based on the strength of his record as an incumbent and the fact that he is still a good fit for the district. Democrats feel that Bernard is in the race and is a strong fit for the district because she understands the values of the area well.

The 56th District, which centers around Troy, appears the least competitive of the bunch. There, political newcomers and Troy residents Sharon MacDonell and Mark Gunn are facing off for the seat. MacDonell is the Democratic candidate, and Gunn is the Republican candidate.

Republicans are less confident about Gunn’s chances, now seeing his victory as more of a longshot. If the district had more solidly Republican-leaning areas or Roe v. Wade hadn’t been overturned, Republicans feel Gunn might have had a better shot. Democrats aren’t spending much money in this district, but they feel confident that MacDonell is a strong candidate who will come out on top based on her fundraising and the district’s fundamentals, which have been trending left.

In each of these districts, candidates are toeing the line hoping to strike the right balance to win swing voters and moderates. And the successful candidates may play a part in determining which party takes control of the House next year.

FIGHTING FOR GOOD GOVERNMENT IN THE 54th: Both Steele and Martini said they believe wholeheartedly in the ability of the government to help people.

Steele, of Orion Township, is running as the Republican candidate. Previously, she served as a trustee on the Orion Township Board and is currently the township treasurer.

“Government should be bland and boring to get things done effectively,” she said. “Writing good policy for posterity.”

Steele said that as a state representative, she’d focus on improving academic results in schools.

“I have eight school districts and they’re not all equal, and why is that?” she said. “Why can’t we have an equal playing field? The money’s there, but why are the results for those eight school districts not equal?”

Another priority for Steele is public safety.

“I believe in taking care of the police because they take care of us,” she said. “I read that the crime rates are going up in the state of Michigan, and why is that?”

Steele also said she’d like to work to make the state more business-friendly by reducing income tax and business tax.

“Let’s make our state an inviting, business, oriented state. Lower energy rates, lower income tax,” she said. “What’s our vision of trying to attract and retain talents and businesses other than handouts?”

Although policy is important to Steele, she said that social issues still have a lot of weight for voters.

“People that are leaning more towards the Democrats talk about the social issues, and the people that are saying, ‘I’m voting Republican because of the gas prices and the food prices and because the federal government is crazy,” she said.

She feels she’s the best candidate for the job because she already has some political experience under her belt.

“There’s so much that goes on in Lansing and you have to get up to speed,” she said. “I believe that my nine years in the township and running for the last year has gotten me up to speed to where I can be an effective legislator.”

Although Steele has served as an elected official, Martini, who owns her own construction company, is new to running a political campaign.

“I’m not a career politician,” she said. “Each one of us brings certain strengths and weaknesses to the table.”

But just because Martini is new to being a candidate, that doesn’t mean she’s new to politics.

Martini immigrated from Syria nearly 30 years ago. She was born and raised in Aleppo under a dictatorship, and the government she experienced there shaped her perspective on what it means to live in a place where people can disagree peacefully.

“When you grow up under a dictatorship or under authoritarian rule, you leave the country, but the fear never leaves,” she said. “You come here, and it’s like, ‘I don’t want to be involved in politics.’ You’re scared. They put the fear in your head, and they take away your voice completely.”

In 2011, Martini said she watched Syrians begin to call for freedom during the Arab Spring, which inspired her to become more politically active. She began organizing with other Syrian Americans to advocate for human rights.

“I found my voice,” she said. “I decided it’s time for me to step up and work for my community. This is the community that welcomed me with open arms almost 30 years ago.”

Education is the most important issue for Martini.

“This is our future,” she said. “To keep our kids here and to attract more people into our state. We keep losing people …and our voices keep getting lower and less heard.”

Martini said that she gets worried when she hears about book bans in schools because she’s seen that in the extreme.

“I was 13 years old, sleeping in my bed, when I woke up to a man standing by my bed with a Kalashnikov on his side, sifting through my books,” she said. “Where do I start? I have stories upon stories.”

The environment and renewable energy are also important issues for Martini. She said she’d like to see more attention on renewable energy in construction.

“We’re already doing this with cars, if we can also push construction, then we can accomplish a lot in terms of saving our environment,” she said.

Martini also said protecting reproductive rights was important to her.

“I can’t believe that we are going to live in a country that has no abortion,” she said. “The reality is abortion is going to happen, and it’s going to happen unsafely, and the worst part is that this is going to affect the poor more than anybody else.”

As someone pro-business and pro-economy, Martini says she wants to find ways to support small businesses at the state level.

Martini said she values nuanced discussions and wants to work with people to develop solutions.

“There’s a lot of room for improvement always, and the nice thing about this country is that we’re always debating…but when the debate becomes a non-starter because we’re wearing our blinders, and we’re not going to see somebody else’s point of view.” she said. “What’s happening today with the ideological divide between Republicans and Democrats and with the very far right and the very far left being so loud, it’s ruining the basis of our democracy which is free thought and free debate and coming up with the best possible solution for a problem.”

POLITICAL NEWCOMER TAKES ON INCUMBENT IN THE 55th: Tisdel is running for his second term in House against political newcomer Bernard.

Running for public office wasn’t something that Bernard ever thought she’d be doing, but after much consideration and some persuasion from her son, she decided to make a run for it.

The army veteran and small business owner said that although she may be the underdog, she believes she has what it takes to be successful.

“The politics I’m still learning,” she said. “But I know how to be a leader.”

Bernard said that her 30 years of army experience and her research on leadership to earn her doctorate make her a strong candidate to represent the 55th District.

“It’s about transformational leadership,” she said. “Seeing something or someone and molding them into something better.”

She’s been operating on a tight budget since her primary but is still doing what she can with mailers and knocking on doors.

“I didn’t have a shoestring budget, I had a spiderweb budget,” she said.

Bernard said that education, reproductive rights, and voting rights are her top three priorities.

“I believe in education,” she said. “It’s all about education…We need to educate, motivate and elevate communities.”

Bernard said that public schools brought her into Rochester Hills more than two decades ago, so it’s critical to continue to fund them.

“I moved to this area because of the schools…That’s what brings people in,” she said. “Public dollars should not be going to support private schools.”

She said that people in her district don’t like the idea of state money leaving public schools because that would hurt students and, ultimately, the community.

Gun control is something that she also cares about and something that she’s heard about from voters while campaigning, especially given the school shooting that took place in Oxford last year.

“We’ve got to do something,” she said.

Bernard has heard a lot about inflation from voters, too.

“I see it, too, at the grocery store, at the gas pump,” she said.

Abortion is something that many people care about, and Bernard said that many women, and some men, have told her they’re voting for her because they want to protect access to reproductive rights.

“It doesn’t matter what I think about abortion. It doesn’t matter what you think about abortion…it’s about having a choice,” she said. “When did what a woman does with her body become a community conversation?”

Tisdel, who has lived and worked in Rochester Hills for more than 30 years, said he wants to return to Lansing because he enjoys making a difference for his community.

“The community has been very good to us for 33 years, and this is an opportunity to give back a little bit and enjoy the hell out of it while I’m doing it,” he said.

Tisdel said his experience as a small business owner and serving in local government make him a good representative.

“A lot of what we do is driven by party leadership, but behind closed doors and in committees and those kinds of things, you have the opportunity to maybe push a policy,” he said. “I’m not Robin Hood or anything, but in the long run, I think that’s the best that you’re going to get out of anyone.”

Tisdel said he tries to fight for incremental changes. He also said that it was critical to listen to other perspectives.

“That kind of thinking has served me quite well in Lansing, and hopefully it’s served my constituents,” he said. “We’re a 50/50 district, and I think that’s what voters want to see.”

Tisdel said that one of his priorities is addressing taxes in the state with the intent of attracting more people and businesses.

“Every area has to be more competitive, so we have to look at how we reduce the tax burden, reduce regulation and still maintain our responsibility to protect the consumer, to protect patients, our students and our children,” he said.

Tisdel also said he would like the state to change its approach to public education funding by allowing public dollars to follow students to private schools.

“Most people would follow the path of least resistance. Public schools have a huge advantage,” he said. “But if you’re a public school district and you see a growing number of families driving past your product to get someone else’s product, that might tell you something.”

After the Dobbs decision, abortion has become a hot topic on the campaign trail for Tisdel.

“A lot of people are concerned about that. And I’m pro-life…but it’s a complicated issue,” he said. “There’s not a great history in the United States of prohibition working for anything. Alcohol, the war on drugs, gambling, the oldest profession. So, I don’t have a lot of faith in prohibition.”

Right to Life of Michigan has endorsed Tisdel. The group only endorses candidates who agree with their position of banning abortion except to save the life of the mother.

Tisdel said he believes the best solution is to build a legislative consensus.

“A lot of people have worked themselves into positions that maybe are on the extreme ends of either side can’t figure out how to reach a consensus and still save face,” he said. “These things are hard…because it doesn’t fit into either side’s perceived demands or desires.”

Inflation and the economy are also important, and Tisdel said it will be important to have experienced, levelheaded leaders to navigate the state through changing circumstances.

“It’s hard to change the status quo. Big change occurs in times of crisis, and you hate to have to bounce off the bottom in order to start on your way back up, but I think in many cases, there’s just no avoiding it,” he said. “There will be very real people that will endure very real injury and very real problems…so there could be some hard decisions out there in the future.”

Like many candidates, Tisdel has found that former President Donald Trump is casting a shadow over his race.

“He’s still a very polarizing individual,” he said. “I hear much more about President Trump than I hear about President Biden.”

FIRST-TIME CANDIDATES GO HEAD-TO-HEAD IN THE 56th: MacDonell of Troy has always existed on the periphery of politics.

She gained political experience as a concerned citizen, working on a public campaign to protect funding for the library and organizing to recall former Troy Mayor Janice Daniels.

“That’s how I cut my teeth,” she said. “I’ll fight like I’ve always fought in Troy to do the right thing and make a difference.”

She didn’t plan on running to represent the 56th, but she felt it was her time to step up as the Democratic candidate.

“I found that no one had filed to run in February,” she said. “I briefly thought, who would I trust to send to Lansing to take care of it? And I decided I would run.”

MacDonell recently left her job as the manager of advertising and video at Lawrence Technological University to focus on her campaign full-time. She’s not gotten any less busy and is now knocking on doors, attending community events, and making calls to potential voters.

“People are concerned about as many things as there are people,” she said. “Some of the things I hear most often are concerns about reproductive freedom, our infrastructure, gun safety –especially in our schools – and the economy.”

MacDonell said one of the things she’d like to do, if elected, is repeal the pension tax. She’d also like to secure more money for local governments for infrastructure improvements.

Reproductive health also is important to her, she said.

“I would want to do anything I could to protect women’s freedom and make sure that they have all the rights that men have,” she said. “There are many bills coming forward in Lansing to regulate women and their bodies.”

MacDonell said she thought the Legislature should be having conversations about cutting the gas tax or gas tax holidays to ease the burden of inflation.

“I think nothing should be off the table, and everything should be discussed about how we can give our citizens relief,” she said. “But we don’t have a lot of control over the pressures that are making the economy so out of whack right now.”

The Legislature did pass a gas tax holiday. However, Senate Democrats did not vote to give it immediate effect, rendering it moot.

MacDonell said that her knowledge of how government works makes her the best candidate.

“Saying only cut taxes is not a nuanced approach to anything. This is not about taxes, it is about how we reallocate resources,” she said. “I care about all the groups in the city, and I care about bringing their stories to Lansing.”

Gunn, the 56th District’s Republican candidate, also is running for the seat because he didn’t see anyone else stepping up to represent the community.

“It’s an open seat and there wasn’t, in my opinion, anybody really qualified on both sides to run,” he said.

As a small business owner, Gunn said he’s been frustrated with the economy and thought he could weigh in on decisions in Lansing that would improve conditions for people across the state.

“I will even say that I would go against my own party on some decisions,” he said. “I want to be the person that goes there from this district to represent the people on the economy issue.”

Gunn also said he wanted to make it easier for people to open businesses in Michigan by lifting regulations.

“People want to open businesses, but if we don’t make it a little more streamlined for them, then they’ll go to other states.”

Gunn said he also wanted to work with federal legislators on immigration.

“I know that on the state level we can’t do much, but it seems like we could certainly be a conduit for the people in the community to explain what they’re going through,” he said. “I’ve heard it’s a disaster.”

Schools and education are also important to Gunn, and he said he’d like to find a solution to the shortage of teachers.

“A lot of teachers are leaving the industry, and I think that there is a way to allocate the money so that teachers, their start pay goes up,” he said. “Maybe that there’s bonuses that could be provided to entice them to stay or to come into the profession.”

Gunn said that the economy and schools are dominating conversations with voters, and he’s heard very little about abortion or Proposal 22-3.

“If it comes up, I’m prepared to talk about it and have a real discussion about this,” he said. “This is not just me being against abortion…these are just some extremes I just can’t get behind.”

But abortion affects a smaller percentage of people, Gunn said, so not as many voters are concerned about it.

“When we talk about the economy, it affects Indians, Blacks, whites, Hispanics, Asians, Independents, Democrats, Republicans, all of us,” he said. “We’re all sitting here looking at prices going up.”

As a representative, Gunn said he’d want to do what was right for his community.

“I live by three words, and they’re not a campaign slogan: It’s service, responsive and respect,” he said. “I’m going there to make a difference and to represent the people of the district. Not represent my party, not represent my own objectives, but to represent the people.”

State Unemployment Rate Remains Unchanged as Federal Dips

Michigan’s seasonally adjusted jobless rate remained at 4.1% during September while the federal unemployment rate fell to 3.5%, the Department of Technology, Management, and Budget said Wednesday.

Statewide employment increased by 2,000 while total unemployment remained unchanged. The September workforce was essentially unchanged for the month.

“Michigan’s September labor market continued to remain stable,” Wayne Rourke, associate director of the Bureau of Labor Market Information and Strategic Initiatives, said in a statement. “Both the statewide jobless rate and payroll jobs remained unchanged since August.”

The national unemployment rate decreased by two-tenths of a percentage point over the month to 3.5%. Michigan’s September jobless rate was 0.6 percentage points larger than the U.S. rate. The national rate declined by 1.2% during the year, while the statewide rate fell by 1.6% since September 2021.

In September, the workforce participation rate remained at 60.1% for the fourth consecutive month. The employment-population rate remained unchanged at 57.6% for the third consecutive month.

The Detroit area’s unemployment rate fell by 2.2% during the year. Employment increased by 40,000, while unemployment has fallen by 49,000 since September 2021.

Also, during September:

  • The construction sector demonstrated the largest numerical over-the-month increase in employment, with jobs advancing by 3,000 since August.
  • After two consecutive months of payroll employment increases, the state’s leisure and hospitality sector exhibited a minor reduction in jobs over the month, down 2,000.
  • Statewide nonfarm jobs were 95,000, or 2.1%, below its February 2020 pre-pandemic level.
  • Total payroll employment rose by 135,000, or 3.2%, over the year.
  • The third quarter’s average employment total was 34,000, or 0.8%, larger than the average job total during the prior quarter.

Retailers Report Significant Sales Increase in September

Almost half of the state’s retailers reported a large jump in sales in September, the Michigan Retailers Association said Thursday.

The September Retail Index survey for the month was 61.5, an increase from August 49.3. The 100-point index is a snapshot of the overall retail industry. Values above 50 indicate positive activity.

Forty-seven % of retailers reported a sales increase compared to August. Thirty-six % reported a decrease, and 17 % said there was no change.

“This month’s Index rating is well above last month’s rate of (49.3) and September 2021’s rate of 47.6. This is the type of momentum retailers need going into the holidays, and we know some retailers have already begun holiday marketing and sales,” William Hallan, president and CEO of the Michigan Retailers Association, said in a statement. “We know there is the fear from many that they will not be able to get the gift they are seeking, so we encourage shoppers to get out early to their local retailers and Buy Nearby.”

Michigan Retailers Association conducts the seasonally adjusted performance Index in cooperation with the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago’s Detroit branch.

Even with the strong activity in September, 47% predicted sales will continue to rise through December, and 32% predicted declines.

That results in a 59.5 rating, a slight decrease over last month’s prediction rating of 63.2. Still a positive indication for high sales activity over the next three months and through the holiday season, retailers said.

Settlement to Aid 20% of False UIA Fraud Victims

The $20 million settlement between the Unemployment Insurance Agency and those the agency wrongly found to have committed fraud to obtain unemployment benefits between 2013-15 will be disbursed among about 8,000 of the approximately 40,000 people affected.

In announcing more details of the settlement Thursday, Attorney General Dana Nessel and Michael Pitt, counsel for the plaintiffs, said the Michigan Supreme Court in 2019 ruled that only those claimants from whom the UIA collected money for the first time on or after March 9, 2015, could be included in the potential class.

That left about 8,000 people eligible to participate in the settlement, said Jennifer Lord, another attorney for the plaintiffs.

At the time, when the Supreme Court ruled, more focus was paid to the fact the court said the case could proceed than its decision to limit the class based on when members had money taken. Grant Bauserman, the lead plaintiff in the Bauserman v. UIA case filed his lawsuit on Sep. 9, 2015. The Court of Claims Act requires lawsuits against the state to be filed within six months of the happening giving rise to the event.

The UIA had informed Bauserman on Dec. 3, 2014, that he owed $19,910 in overpayments, penalties, and interest and intercepted his state and federal income tax refunds on June 6, 2015. But one of the other plaintiffs in the case first saw the UIA take money from him on May 16, 2014, thus, his complaint was not timely.

In a joint statement from Nessel and Pitt said they still anticipated settlements for eligible claimants will be fair and equitable.

At one point, the specter of a nine-figure liability for the state loomed.

The parties said they would submit the settlement to the Court of Claims “in the coming months.”

In September, the Legislature passed a supplemental appropriations bill to allocate $20 million for the settlement. Whitmer signed the bill shortly thereafter. The settlement brings to a close an ordeal that began nine years ago when the UIA, during the administration of then-Governor Rick Snyder, began using a computer system known as the Michigan Data Automated System, or MIDAS, to flag potential cases of unemployment benefits fraud and then adjudicate those cases without any human involvement.

Some 40,000 were wrongly determined to have committed fraud, and in many cases, they owed tens of thousands. Some 1,100 people who were wrongly found to have committed fraud later declared bankruptcy.

When Nessel and Gov. Gretchen Whitmer took office in 2019, they continued to defend the state’s position for more than three years and two trips up and down the court system. Finally, a settlement took root when the Supreme Court ruled for a second time that the case could proceed.

“This settlement honors my commitment to ensure those falsely accused by their government receive fair compensation for their suffering,” Nessel said in a statement. “All legal issues relative to the case have been decided and it is time to put this to rest and deliver this meaningful resolution to those Michigan residents who were harmed by this error.”

In his first comments about the settlement, Pitt of the Royal Oak-based Pitt, McGehee, Palmer, Bonanni, and Rivers firm, praised the settlement.

“First, as counsel for the class action Plaintiffs, we fought hard for seven years to vindicate the plaintiffs’ civil rights. Second, the Attorney General and the State of Michigan demonstrated the will to come to the table and make this right, and by agreeing to this settlement, we believe they have done so,” Pitt said in a statement. “Because of the parties’ willingness to engage in a meaningful mediation process, we are confident that this settlement accounts for the money that members of the class lost because of the State’s use of a fraud auto-adjudication system.”

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