Political party

Local political party leaders react to 2022 midterm election results

When Jennifer Austin, chairwoman of the Midland Democratic Party, woke up on Wednesday, she felt elated.

At 47, she couldn’t remember a time when the town of Midland was represented by a Democrat in Lansing.

The 2022 midterms changed that.

“We were beside ourselves,” Austin said. “We are very happy.”

For the first time in at least decades, with the help of redistricting, Midland will be represented by Democrats Kristen McDonald Rivet in the state Senate, US Representative Dan Kildee in Congress and Democrat Alaynah Smith on the Board of Commissioners. of Midland County. Democrats will run all of Lansing’s major offices — from the governor’s office to the State House and the state Senate — for the first time in 40 years.

McDonald Rivet defeated State Representative Annette Glenn with 53.4% ​​of the vote. Kildee beat Paul Junge with 53.1% of the vote.

Austin said the redistricting allowed Democrats in that region to meaningfully compete for those races.

“(This election) is a demonstration of what can happen when fair redistricting is brought to communities,” “We’re very excited,” Austin said. “Communities are held together and districts are created where both sides have equal opportunity to work for Success.”

Four Democratic candidates ran for county seats, with Smith winning by 281 votes. Candidate Alison Wilcox lost by less than 200 votes. Sarah Schulz lost her race by five votes, but is considering asking for a recount.

Schulz has been “heavily” involved in Midland County politics since the 2016 presidential election. A former candidate for State House District 98 in 2018, also won the city of Midland despite a loss at large. The city of Midland chose President Joe Biden in the 2020 presidential election.

“We were excited to see what happened with this recent election,” Schulz said of the Democratic wins. “We are getting closer to representation.

For the Midland County Commission, there are currently seven sitting Republican commissioners. Midland County on Tuesday elected its first Democrat to the Commission in about 10 years. Democrats nearly won two Commission seats, successfully in District 7 and with District 6 contesting Schulz.

Democrat Rose Marie McQuaid of District 7 successfully ran in 2010. She did not run in 2012. A Republican was elected to her seat for the 2013–14 term.

The success of the Midland Democrats this year contrasts sharply with the state of the party 10 years ago. Austin said the former party chair took the role around 2010 because no one else wanted the job – the party was about to shut down.

Since then, Democrats have become more organized, brought more progressive ideals to Midland through groups like the Women of Michigan Action Network, and run more competitive campaigns.

“There were so many people who brought the politics of this community into a different light,” Austin said. “I’ve known so many people who are like, ‘There are no Democrats in Midland,’ and I show them the numbers and they’re like, ‘No, are you kidding me?

“There are so many Democrats in Midland – that’s what happens when we believe in ourselves.”

The election was not bad for the Midland GOP. Their candidate for state representative, Bill G. Schuette, won his riding hands down with 60.6% of the vote. Republicans retained the majority of their contested county commissioners. The rest of Midland County outside the districts of Rivet and Kildee will be represented by Republicans Roger Hauck and John Moolenaar in the state Senate and US House, respectively.

However, this victory belies the party’s historical hold on politics in the Midland region.

“Amazingly, Michigan and the country didn’t see a red wave that I think candidates on both sides of the aisle anticipated,” said Midland County GOP Chair Cathy Leikhim. “The overthrow of the State House and the State Senate is certainly big news.”

Michigan-based political pundit Bill Ballenger said Rivet’s win was a bit of a surprise – he expected Glenn to win the Senate seat. He added that he did not recall the city of Midland being represented in the state Senate by a Democrat, which shows how redistricting can influence an area’s politics.

MIRS (Michigan Information Resource Service) editor Kyle Melinn said he expected Glenn to win by a narrow margin and was impressed with Rivet’s campaign and his ability to pitch in. against an aggressive activist like Glenn.

However, Melinn was not so surprised by the Democrats’ takeover of the state legislature.

MIRS predicted that the State House and Senate would either be split evenly or result in narrow victories for the Democrats. He said that was due to enthusiasm coming more from Democratic voters over issues such as abortion.

“What you have to look for in these elections is where the enthusiasm is,” Melinn said. “Where is the new enthusiasm? We have seen the new enthusiasm among young women who have never used to vote before.

Austin said passing Propositions 2 and 3 will make Michigan a champion of voting and reproductive rights in the nation.

“(Abortion rights) influenced the number of people who decided, ‘I can’t vote for a politician who supports reducing my ability to make choices about my own body,'” Austin said.

Ballenger said he was mildly surprised with the results, expecting Republicans to hold the House. He said he always thought Democrats had a chance to overthrow the legislature.

As for what can be expected from a Democrat-controlled legislature, Melinn said he plans a repeal of the 2012 “right to work” law, prevailing wages and an expansion of the law. on civil rights Elliott Larsen to include the LGBTQ+ community in the first half of next year. It also provides for some form of gun control legislation in the next legislative cycle.

Democrats have small majorities in the House and Senate — one or two absences by Democratic lawmakers could cause votes on legislation to fail.

Ballenger also predicts a repeal of the ‘right to work’, but warns that when Democrats last won a majority in 1983, they faced a snap election after Democratic Gov. James Blanchard and his legislature pushed a state income tax hike without Republican involvement.

Austin said Rivet will need to be more of a centrist Democrat so as not to alienate voters in her district, as well as other Democrats in other swing districts.

As for the future of Midland’s GOP, Leikhim said the party will have to analyze how best to move forward.

“I say reconstruction starts now for 2024,” Leikhim said. “It starts with our (local party leadership) elections. This is the first step. We will look at what happened in the last elections and come up with a plan to move forward and identify people to run for various positions.

In his analysis, Schulz finds hope for the future of the Democratic Party in this historically Republican region.

“There’s no question that the city and county of Midland leans more toward Democrats than Republicans,” Schulz said.

“Midland has historically been known as a conservative town and I think that has already changed,” Schulz continued. “It’s time for the reputation to change with her.”