Nov. 11, 2022 | This Week in Government: Whitmer Wins Reelection; Dixon ConcedesNovember 11, 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.
Post-Election Message from the Detroit Regional Chamber
The Chamber celebrates that in the 2022 midterm election in Michigan, civility and order returned. In reviewing election results, the Chamber Political Action Committee achieved a 90% success rate in the election of candidates it endorsed for the general election. Now, with the election behind us, there’s much to consider – especially in terms of how it will affect the economy and statewide business community. To that end, the Chamber compiled key takeaways for the business community, which you can read more about here.
Whitmer Celebrates Win; Dixon Concedes
DETROIT – Democratic incumbent Gov. Gretchen Whitmer was reelected to another four years Tuesday night, with unofficial results with all counties reporting she beat her Republican gubernatorial candidate Tudor Dixon by 10.51 percentage points.
Speaking briefly with the press early Wednesday morning, Whitmer delivered her victory remarks, saying this win reminds “us all that our governor’s office does not belong to any person or political party, it belongs to all of us, the people in Michigan.”
“Together we got through all the challenges that were thrown our way and we made historic progress to build a stronger future for everyone across our state,” Whitmer said. “I’ve met Michiganders who are chasing their dreams because of a tuition free opportunity, starting a business with a critical grant, going back to work thanks to quality affordable child care.”
Republican gubernatorial candidate Tudor Dixon officially conceded the race Wednesday morning.
“Michigan’s future success rests not in elected officials or government, but all of us. It is incumbent upon all of us to help our children read, support law enforcement, and grow our economy,” Dixon said in a statement. “Thank you to our volunteers and supporters for working so hard to forge a better Michigan. We came up short, but we will never stop fighting for our families.”
The governor added that the state had made huge strides under Democrats, such as the passage of Proposal 22-3 that enshrined abortion access in the state constitution, but “progress is not inevitable.”
“We know that every generation faces setbacks on the road of progress,” she said. “But we also know that each generation is defined by its response to those challenges. … Over the next four years, let’s build a Michigan where every person is treated with dignity and enjoy their personal freedoms and chart their own path toward personal prosperity.”
Whitmer said she would work hard over the next four years to make sure the state was a place where anyone, no matter who they are, can thrive.
“Michigan’s future is bright and we’re about to step on the accelerator,” Whitmer concluded.
Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist II spoke quickly before Whitmer took the stage, encouraging viewers to “think about the lives that we have and will impact.”
“The working people who will be able to go back to college, to dust off their dreams of walking across the aisle becoming graduates and supporting their families with better paying jobs and stronger careers,” Mr. Gilchrist said. “Their families who no longer have to worry about finding affordable, accessible, reliable child care or whether the water that comes out of their sink is safe to drink. That children who can dream their biggest, tallest dreams and know that here in Michigan, we are working with them every day to be successful.”
Whitmer won 18 counties, up from 17 in 2018.
The governor again won Wayne, Washtenaw, Kalamazoo, Macomb, Oakland, Ingham, Eaton, Muskegon, Kent, Clinton, Genesee, Saginaw, Isabella, Bay, Leelanau, and Marquette counties.
But she added Benzie and Grand Traverse to her haul.
Dixon was able to peel away just one county from Whitmer’s 2018 win – Gogebic in the western Upper Peninsula, which shifted from a 50.9% to 46.2% for Whitmer to a 52.8% to 45.5% win for Dixon.
Whitmer boosted her victory margins seemingly everywhere. Kent County stood out. In 2018, she won the county by a 50.5% to 46.4% tally. On Tuesday, that stretched to better than 10 percentage points, 54.4% to 44%. Oakland County also saw a big boost, going from a 57.3% to 40.4% win in 2018 to 60.9% to 37.8%. In both cases, the abortion issue appeared to play heavily to Whitmer’s advantage.
Particularly sweet for Whitmer had to be boosting her win in Macomb, which former President Donald Trump easily carried twice. Whitmer went from a 3.5 percentage point win in 2018 to 5.2% this time.
Dixon, Top MIGOP Staffer Trade Shots Over Election Losses
Republican Tudor Dixon criticized leaders of the Michigan Republican Party after a memo surfaced Thursday criticizing her campaign tactics and outlining challenges the party faced with former Pres. Donald Trump-endorsed candidates at the top of the ticket.
The memo from Paul Cordes, Michigan Republican Party chief of staff, said Dixon put out red meat issues for the GOP base, with which middle-of-the-road voters simply did not agree, and that the traditional donor class did not want to give to Trump’s hand-picked candidates at the top of the ticket. He also criticized those donors for compromising the entire ticket by staying on the sidelines.
Dixon, posting a copy of the memo on Twitter, called it the perfect example of what is wrong with the MIGOP. The existence of the memo was first reported by the Detroit Free Press.
“It’s an issue of leadership – Ron Weiser, Meshawn Maddock and Paul Cordes all refuse to take ownership for their own failures,” she wrote. “It’s easy to come out and point fingers now, but the truth is they fought against me every step of the way and put the entire ticket at risk. We need fresh leadership at the MIGOP or Republicans will never have a voice in Michigan again.”
Dixon did not get into greater detail, but it was well known that during the primary phase, Weiser helped recruit former Detroit Police Chief James Craig into the race. Maddock had several ties to Perry Johnson’s campaign. Neither made the ballot for lack of valid petition signatures.
The state party also was not much of a presence on the airwaves or in mailboxes, unlike prior years for any of its candidates.
The specter of the race to succeed Weiser as party chair is looming. He said long ago he would not run for another term. Speculation has arisen on possible candidates, such as Maddock, defeated attorney general candidate Matt DePerno, Dixon and others.
Dixon also said the party failed on Let MI Kids Learn and Secure MI Vote, “and because of that we now have Prop 2.” Proposal 22-2 expands voting rights and passed Tuesday. While Republican groups failed to turn in signatures for Let Mi Kids Learn and Secure MI Vote by the deadline for the 2022 ballot, they never planned to go to voters anyway.
Proposal 2 was already collecting signatures and would have been on the ballot even if the Republican Legislature had passed citizen-led initiatives on scholarships and voter ID.
The memo from Cordes came after Dixon lost to Gov. Gretchen Whitmer by 10.5 points on Tuesday. Republican Matt DePerno lost to Attorney General Dana Nessel by 9 points, and Kristina Karamo lost to Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson by 14 points, unofficial results that could change show.
Asked about Dixon’s response to his memo, Cordes said in an email: “We did nothing but stand with her and our team put their everything into helping her get elected. We turned out more Republicans than in previous midterm elections, that’s a fact. The memo and data speaks for itself.”
Abortion was a key issue, Cordes wrote in the memo, saying the ability of Democrats and allied groups to define the issue and Dixon “all but determined” the fate of Dixon and the anti-Proposal 22-3 campaign.
First, he said, Democrats were able to dictate the terms in which abortion would be talked about, as Dixon’s position of no exceptions, including in instances of rape or incest. He also said they aggressively targeted women and young voters.
“The opposition effort to Proposal 3 was extraordinary. Between the churches and paid voter contact of the ‘No on 3’ effort, there was a mass of pro-life voters who turned out to the polls,” Cordes wrote. “But the millions of dollars in unanswered advertisements using Dixon’s own words doomed not just her and the top of the ticket, but Proposal 3 as well.”
Traditional donors also stayed out for the most part as well, deciding not to support DePerno and Karamo. While some did engage in October, most of the investments paled in comparison to Whitmer’s campaign and allies.
Money in October also doesn’t go as far, Cordes said.
Additionally, Dixon focused on red meat issues in hopes of inspiring a 2020-like showing.
“There were more ads on transgender sports than inflation, gas prices and bread and butter issues that could have swayed independent voters,” he wrote. “We did not have a turn out problem – middle of the road voters simply didn’t like what Tudor was saying.”
Cordes said Dixon received 161,000 fewer votes than House Republican candidates and 150,000 fewer votes than Senate Republican candidates. Looking at education board seats, Dixon did nearly 8 points worse than the base Republican vote. In 2018, Bill Schuette did 3.9% worse.
“Tudor’s performance cost us around the edges in the close House and Senate races, and we’re out of a majority because of it,” he said.
Dems Plan to Deliver, Tackle a Decades-Long Policy Wish List
As the dust settled on a historic election night for Democrats in which they scored full control of state government since the 1982 elections, the big question to wade through among legislative caucus members was a big one.
Rolling back right-to-work in Michigan and restoring the prevailing wage. Additional spending on education, infrastructure, health care, and environmental protections. Expanding protections under the Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act to include protections based on sexual orientation and gender identity. Gun regulations and changes to state tax policy.
These items are just a few from a nearly 40-year wish list for Democrats that has grown but largely has collected dust under Republican control of the state with little or no consideration. Now, all of these and more are all potentially on the table.
And as lawmakers reconvene for what could be a very quiet lame-duck session, Democrats have about two months to do some heavy lifting in preparing to tackle an ambitious agenda in the upcoming 2023-24 session.
House Minority Leader Donna Lasinski (D-Scio Township) spoke with media after Gov. Gretchen Whitmer‘s remarks at MotorCity Casino on Wednesday, saying that redistricting provided Democrats with a level playing field to get things done.
“We knew … with a level playing field, competing on our values and policy idea, the state would elect Democrats, and that’s exactly what we’ve seen,” Lasinski said.
Lasinski listed several priorities she hopes to see accomplished under Democratic leadership, including getting the 1931 state abortion ban “off the books,” ensuring federal dollars and one-time grants are directed to areas that have been promised infrastructure, and building a strong public education system.
“We’ve seen extremism, we’ve seen corruption scandals now that have carried from session to session, we have seen a criminal enterprise run out of the Republican side of the aisle,” Lasinski said. “Michiganders were fed up; they were ready for new leadership.”
Lasinski previously has advocated for an investigation into former House Speaker Lee Chatfield’s misuse of state resources, sparked by the ongoing Department of State Police and Lansing Police Department’s investigation into allegations of Chatfield’s sexually assaulting his sister-in-law starting when she was 15 or 16 years old.
Democrats have been pushing for investigations into Chatfield’s possible financial improprieties, but Republicans said that the investigation should be left to law enforcement.
Lasinski said that she and Rep. Joe Tate (D-Detroit) have called for audits, bipartisan committees, and an ethics commission for years.
“I believe that the House will take those values into the next session,” she said. “We cannot let stand the sweeping under the rug … this is an issue that we have been very clear where we stood for the last two years, and I don’t see that changing in the future.”
Sen. Jeremy Moss (D-Southfield), co-chair of the Senate Democrats’ campaign, said the party will pursue and roll out an agenda “that puts Michigan families first.”
Priorities, he said, will include workers, reducing burdens on residents, including the pension tax, and making all people in the state feel welcome and equal regardless of their gender, race, or orientation.
Moss said with Whitmer’s administration and the new legislative majorities at the table. Their agenda will roll out in a competent fashion and be subject to inclusive feedback during the legislative process.
Six Democrats who will serve in the new Senate majority had not yet been born when the Democrats last held the Senate: Moss; Sen. Mallory McMorrow of Royal Oak; senator-elect Darrin Camilleri of Brownstown Township; senator-elect Mary Cavanagh of Redford Township; senator-elect John Cherry of Flint, and senator-elect Kevin Hertel of St. Clair Shores.
Moss said he many and other Democrats have long served in the minority and have taken mental notes on what does not work in Lansing. He said Democrats will have a lot of ideas on moving the state forward and having a Legislature that operates smoothly.
He also took a moment to acknowledge his hope that the GOP will take a long look at itself in the light of its losses in the last three election cycles in which voters have rejected the politics of former President Donald Trump.
“I’m rooting for a functional Republican Party,” Moss said.
Term-limited Sen. Curtis Hertel Jr. (D-East Lansing), who worked towards getting the Democrats to the majority during his tenure in the chamber, said top priorities would likely include eliminating that state’s right-to-work law, restoring the prevailing wage, and expanding protections under the Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act.
With the change in leadership, he said his hope is that people on both sides of the aisle will be able to work together, adding some of his best friends in the Legislature are across the aisle because of their ability to talk and work on solutions to problems. He said he would like to see the Legislature be more functional moving forward and not be a state-level mirror of the dysfunction the public sees when they look the Congress.
“There will be a learning curve. … It’ll have to be an adjustment,” Hertel said of lawmakers and Lansing insiders on adjusting to the new reality in the Capitol.
Tate said that Democratic priorities would be consistent with what candidates told voters during their campaigns.
“We will focus on the basics and how we are improving the quality of life for Michigan residents,” Tate said.
Issues, including sustainable funding for education and infrastructure, were at the top of Tate’s list, along with providing economic relief for residents and creating job opportunities.
“We’ll see how that’s going to look next legislative session, but it’s certainly not going to be any surprise because that’s what we’ve been talking about on the campaign trail,” he said.
Rep. Kelly Breen (D-Novi) agreed, saying that she was excited to get to work on issues like education and finding ways to ease the economic burden for residents, such as legislation that would repeal the retirement tax.
What the party plans to tackle will be determined by leadership, Breen said stressed, but she said she saw a lot of possibility with the sweep of the legislative chambers and executive branch.
Sen. Stephanie Chang (D-Detroit), along with Sen. Winnie Brinks of Grand Rapids, is vying for the Senate majority leader position, said Wednesday there will be an enormous amount of work to be done prior to taking control on January 2023.
Chang listed strengthening workers’ rights and environmental protections for air and water, along with prioritizing public education funding and securing reproductive rights.
“My hope is that with Democrats holding the majority that we will be focused on getting things done … that the public wants to see action on,” Chang said. “Now that we have secured the majority, we are very eager to deliver.”
McMorrow said top priorities would be to accomplish things voters elected Democrats to do, including addressing the key provisions of Proposal 2 and Proposal 3 in statute. This would include repealing the 1931 abortion ban law from the books and ensuring expanded and ironclad voting rights. Expanding the Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act to include all people regardless of their sexual orientation and gender identity would also be key.
From there, she said it would be fundamentals of good governance, including “what we’re going to do to move the state forward economically.”
McMorrow said a top focus for her is working on economic development and finding new ways to grow the economy and make the state a welcoming place for businesses.
“We’ve had 40 years of buildup to get to this point,” McMorrow said. “It’s exciting, but I feel it’s a lot of pressure to get things done.”
For Sen. Jeff Irwin (D-Ann Arbor), education, improving the state’s mental health system, environmental protection, and making changes to the state’s tax system to help the middle class will be areas where he would like to see progress.
“We just want to roll up our sleeves and do what the governor has said: to work with everyone who’s willing to be serious and work together to solve problems,” Irwin said. “We fought hard to win. Now we’ve got to work hard to serve.”
U.S. House: James Wins in 10th; Kildee in 8th
Republican John James was victorious in his bid for the 10th U.S. House District seat, while U.S. Rep. Dan Kildee won his reelection to the 8th U.S. House District as votes were still being counted into Wednesday morning.
The race for the redrawn district, and an area that had been held by Democrats, was close, with James ahead just more than 2,000 votes in the 159,923-157,602 result against Democrat Carl Marlinga.
“Throughout this race people have shared their hardships and today they have spoken. They have chosen experienced leadership. Help is on the way,” James said in a statement. “I am humbled and grateful for the support and the trust of the people of Macomb County, Rochester and Rochester Hills. We will lower prices, protect our jobs and make our communities safer. I will not let you down!”
Kildee defeated Paul Junge in the 8th District 178,277-143,815.
“Thank you to mid-Michigan voters for placing their trust in me to be their voice in Congress. I am eager to put this hard-fought campaign behind us and focus on the work ahead for Midland, Bay, Saginaw, Tuscola and Genesee counties,” Kildee said in a statement.
“As your Member of Congress, I will always try to lower the temperature in our political discourse, find common ground between parties, and just focus on delivering results for mid-Michigan,” he said. “I was born and raised in this district and will always passionately fight for our communities. But I promise to always do what’s right for mid-Michigan, even if it means taking on leaders of my own party.”
Tate Makes History as First Black Speaker Of The House
Rep. Joe Tate will make history as the first Black man to preside over the House of Representatives.
Tate was elected to lead the Democrats in the 2023-24 term because the party will be in the majority; he will be the speaker and preside over the House.
“It’s historic, and it’s a great opportunity, but also a great responsibility,” Tate said days after Democrats won 56 seats during Tuesday’s elections. “Being from Detroit, that carries its own experience, but also understanding that this house is for the entire state of Michigan.”
Rep. Abraham Aiyash (D-Hamtramck) will serve as the majority floor leader. Aiyash is the first Muslim to serve in the position.
“We are very excited to get to work for the people of Michigan. This is their chamber and it’s time it returns to doing real work for the people,” Aiyash said in a statement.
It took about three hours for Democrats to decide on leadership positions, but Tate and Aiyash said that was because they wanted to be intentional because it has been so long since their party has held the majority.
“It’s been a dozen years,” Tate said. “So, this is our first time getting together as a new group and be in the caucus room together.”
Tate, of Detroit, was first elected to the House in 2018 and will enter his third term in office next year. During his time in the House, he’s served as the Democratic vice chair of House Appropriations Committee and the Democratic campaign finance chair. Prior to his time in office, Tate worked for the Detroit Economic Growth Corporation. He also served as a Marine, deploying to Afghanistan twice, and played in the National Football League for the Jacksonville Jaguars, St. Louis Rams, and the Atlanta Falcons.
“Both are committed to putting families first and moving Michigan forward. I know they will work with colleagues on both sides of the aisle to get things done,” Whitmer said in a statement. “There is so much we can do together. Make bolder investments in families, education, and infrastructure, grow our economy by bringing home tens of thousands more manufacturing jobs, and protect women’s rights, civil rights, and worker’s rights.”
He described his leadership style as one of consensus building.
“We’re also going to make sure that we are marrying and bringing together and understanding our constituents’ values and bringing that to the table as well,” he said.
Priorities for the next legislative session will match what Democrats have been talking to voters about all throughout their campaigns, Tate said.
“We talked about education, infrastructure. We also talked about workers’ rights, reducing the cost of health care, as well, across the state. There won’t be any surprises,” he said. “We’re going to get started immediately.”
Tate said that bipartisanship would be a priority during the next term, but Democratic priorities would take precedent.
“No secrets or surprises here, in term of once we have our agenda and collective vision together, we want to do that in a bipartisan fashion,” he said. “But we’re going to have opportunities…so we will be controlling the agenda.”
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