Red wave? No, a historic blue earthquake: The Week in Michigan Politics

👋 Happy post-election Sunday! 😌 Hope your sleep schedule has recovered.

Trivia question: What will Michigan soon have in common with California, New York and Illinois?

A Democratic trifecta: Control of the governor’s office and both legislative chambers. Let’s recap a Capitol-shaking midterm election that brings tectonic power shifts to Lansing.

The same: Michigan’s top Democrats earned another four years after mostly cruising past Republicans.

  • Gov. Gretchen Whitmer beat former conservative TV host Tudor Dixon by 11 percentage points.
  • Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson won by 14 points over 2020 election denier Kristina Karamo, who has yet to concede.
  • Attorney General Dana Nessel won by 9 points. She beat Matthew DePerno, who remains under investigation for alleged voting machine crimes last year.

🗣️ “(W)e know that this is a moment where people have reaffirmed that focusing on the fundamentals, building a Michigan where every person can get ahead is what really matters right now more than ever,” Whitmer said.

The different: Democrats flipped both the Michigan House and Senate, giving them full Capitol control for the first time since the early 1980s.

  • This is a huge deal. Dems will control the legislative agenda come January and have an obvious ally in Whitmer.
  • State Sen. Winnie Brinks (D-Grand Rapids) will be the first female Senate Majority Leader.
  • State Rep. Joe Tate (D-Detroit) will be the first Black Speaker of the House.

How did they do it? Proposal 3. The constitutional right to abortion defined the governor’s race, pollster Richard Czuba told MLive’s Simon Schuster, as motivated voters went for it and Whitmer.

  • 28% of Michiganders said inflation was their top issue overall, pollster Bernie Porn told Simon, but 43% said abortion was their top issue in the election.
  • Massive college student turnout also helped.

🗣️ “It’s kind of a once in a generation phenomenon when you have a midterm where it’s not just ‘throw out the party in power,’” Czuba said.

🏙️ Local view: Major and mid-sized cities and counties got bluer, powering Whitmer’s victory and helping congressional candidates.

  • Grand Rapids’ U.S. House district elected Hillary Scholten, its first Democrat since 1974, as Kent County trends leftward.
  • Kalamazoo County also shook swing status, voting 62% for Whitmer.
  • U.S. Reps. Elissa Slotkin (Lansing area) and Dan Kildee (Flint area) held onto tight districts.

🐘 But Republicans saw some positives:

  • Six of 11 school board candidates endorsed by ultra-conservative PAC Ottawa Impact won.
  • John James, after two failed U.S. Senate bids, won suburban Detroit’s 10th Congressional District by 1,600 votes.
  • Michigan Supreme Court Justice Brian Zahra won reelection. But so did the Democratic incumbent running.

📅 Up next in the election process:

  • Nov. 22: The deadline for county canvasser boards (two Democrats and two Republicans) to approve results.
  • Nov. 28: The state canvassing board votes to certify those county results.
  • Jan. 1: Whitmer is inaugurated at the state Capitol.

2. Proposal sweep: Abortion, voting access, term limits

Michigan Proposal 3 watch party

Supporters react as preliminary results come in for Michigan Proposal 3 at the David Whitney Building on Election Day, Tuesday, Nov. 8, 2022.Ryan Sun |

Michigan will have a constitutional right to abortion after nearly 57% of voters adopted Prop 3, which broke state ballot item records for signatures submitted and money raised.

👩‍⚕️ A return to Roe: Taking effect Dec. 23, Prop 3 guarantees a “fundamental right to reproductive freedom.” That includes abortion, contraception, sterilization and more.

  • The measure will strike down Michigan’s 1931 abortion ban, but the fate of some related laws is still unknown.
  • Prop 3 outperformed Whitmer in 82 counties, MLive’s Taylor DesOrmeau found.

🗣️ “Our fear quickly turned to outrage,” Oakland County Prosecutor Karen McDonald said on election night, recalling the U.S. Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade this summer. “And we turned that outrage into action because we’d had enough.”

But wait, there’s more: Proposals 1 and 2 also passed mightily, winning by 33 and 20 points, respectively. Republicans fought the latter hard, but the former – a constitutional change like the other props – was often overshadowed.

🗳️ Prop 2 does nine main things. Among them:

  • Nine days of early, in-person voting.
  • More absentee ballot drop boxes, plus one application to vote absentee in all future elections.
  • The fundamental right to vote goes into the constitution, as well as Michigan’s current voter ID law.
  • Six extra days for military members to return their ballots.

Prop 1 changes legislator term limits to a maximum 12 years with no limit for either chamber. Lawmakers are currently capped at 14 years: Six in the House and eight in the Senate.

  • The measure also requires financial disclosures for lawmakers and top elected officials by 2024.

Go deeper: 5 long-term impacts Proposals 1, 2 could have on Michigan

3. Republicans recoil and regroup

Tudor Dixon watch party

Tudor Dixon leaves the stage after speaking at her watch party at the JW Marriott in Grand Rapids, Michigan on Tuesday, November 8, 2022.Neil Blake/

“There’s a forest of pointing fingers emerging as Republicans reckon with a total loss of power at the state level, and the party provided their own suggestions looking to the top of the ticket,” Simon writes.

What went wrong? Former MIGOP executive director Jason Roe told him a fixation with Donald Trump has made Michigan a “wasteland” for Republicans. Dixon, DePerno and Karamo were all Trump-endorsed.

  • “I think that MAGA forces within the state got their way in all the things that they fought for,” Roe said. “And not only do they have nothing to show for it, Republicans have been set back even further.”

📝 A scathing memo from MIGOP chief of state Paul Cordes blamed Dixon’s weak performance and Prop 3′s big turnout for sweeping losses.

  • Cordes lamented that the Trump factor kept longtime donors on the sidelines, leading to less funding for the party and Dixon – paling in comparison to Whitmer’s record-shattering war chest.
  • “As a party, we found ourselves consistently navigating the power struggle between Trump and anti-Trump factions of the Party, mostly within the donor class,” Cordes said.

Cordes also argued: “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 turnout problem – middle-of-the-road voters simply didn’t like what Tudor was selling.”

But Dixon shot back Thursday night, calling for “fresh leadership.”

  • Cordes and MIGOP co-chairs Ron Weiser and Meshawn Maddock “refuse to take ownership for their own failures,” Dixon 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.”

📢 Dixon announced Saturday she’s considering a run for MIGOP chair, which local delegates decide at the February 2023 convention.

  • DePerno is also not ruling out a run, campaign manager Tyson Shepard told me.
  • “Matt wants to ensure that the GOP candidates moving forward don’t have to endure the same treatment that he received,” Shepard said, referring to a lack of funding.

Read more: DePerno not ruling out run for Michigan GOP chair after AG loss

4. Back to the Capitol: What’s in store?

State Sen. Winnie Brinks

FILE: State Sen. Winnie Brinks (D-Grand Rapids) talks to colleagues in the Michigan Capitol in Lansing, Mich., in 2019. Brinks was selected Senate Majority Leader beginning January 2023.Neil Blake |

The world was different the last time Michigan Democrats had a trifecta, MLive’s pop culture fact-finder Jordyn Hermani proudly researched for the newsroom:

The catalyst: “Of the 10 races between the chambers which MLive identified as being crucial to determine which party controls the legislature, Democrats came away with seven of them,” Jordyn wrote.

🪑 Expected seat breakdown: 56-54 in the House and 20-18 in the Senate, gains of three and two seats, respectively.

How did they do it? Dems campaigned on reducing gun violence, protecting abortion rights and securing voting rights, state Sen. Jeremy Moss (D-Southfield) said in a statement.

  • Clutch wins included state Rep. Kevin Hertel in St. Clair Shores’ district, Bay City Commissioner Kristen McDonald nabbing the Bay City/Midland/Saginaw district and Veronica Klinefelt winning in Macomb County.

🏎️ With Dems in the driver’s seat, “there’s not a lot stopping them from laying the groundwork to get done what is inevitably a laundry list four decades in the making,” Jordyn writes.

  • Next House Speaker Joe Tate mentioned health care, gun safety regulations, government transparency, education and worker’s rights.

🗣️ “I think you’re going to see policy that both improves lives and is popular with people all around the state,” next Senate Majority Leader Winnie Brinks said.

But remember: Their statehouse advantage is tight.

  • Dems can afford only one defector in each chamber if they need a party-line vote on a bill.
  • The new legislature takes effect after Dec. 31… so buckle up for lame duck.

Read more from MLive:

10 ways Michigan made history on, and after, the midterms

Rep. Joe Tate makes history as first Black lawmaker to lead Michigan’s House

Brinks makes history as Michigan’s first female Senate Majority Leader, Nesbitt to lead Senate minority

Incumbent justices win reelection to Michigan Supreme Court

See who was elected to 3 Michigan university boards

What are Michigan’s election recount laws and procedures?

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