Tudor Dixon speaks to supporters in Grand Rapids on Tuesday after easily winning the Republican gubernatorial primary over four other candidates. (Bridge photo by Daytona Niles)

LANSING —  Michigan’s primary election proved to be a rough night for some political incumbents but was good to Tudor Dixon, who prevailed in the state’s closely watched Republican gubernatorial primary.

This story also appeared in Bridge Michigan

U.S. Rep. Peter Meijer and state Sen. Kim LaSata of Niles each lost Republican primaries to challengers backed by former President Donald Trump, who also backed Dixon but still had some notable misses in Michigan.

Democratic U.S. Rep. Andy Levin lost his job too after squaring off with fellow incumbent U.S. Rep. Haley Stevens in a newly redrawn district. 

Results were still trickling in Wednesday morning, but here are some of the main Election takeaways based on what we know so far:

‘Battle lines’ drawn in governor race

Dixon notched a convincing victory to become the Michigan Republican Party’s first-ever female gubernatorial nominee and will now square off against Whitmer in the state’s first all-woman general election. 

She was boosted by a late endorsement from Trump and overcame an onslaught of attacks from GOP rivals, who bashed her over “establishment” support from the powerful DeVos family.

With an estimated 84 percent of ballots counted by Wednesday morning, Dixon had captured nearly 41 percent of the vote and led her nearest challenger by more than 18 percentage points. 

She was followed by Bloomfield Township businessman Kevin Rinke (22 percent), Mattawan chiropractor Garrett Soldano (18 percent), Allendale Township real estate broker Ryan Kelley (15 percent) and Farmington Hills retired pastor Ralph Rebandt (4 percent).

“The battle lines in this race couldn’t be any clearer,” Dixon said in a victory speech late Tuesday. “This is going to be an epic battle between a conservative businesswoman and mother, and a far-left birthing parent and career politician.”

Those comments were intended to mock Democrats who use inclusive and politically correct language derided by conservatives. Whitmer scoffed at similar characterizations earlier Tuesday and lumped Dixon in with other GOP hopefuls she argued were “radicalized” by Trump. 

“I see all that standard junk that happens in these culture-war conversations,” Whitmer said. “I’m a proud mom, a proud woman from Michigan — that woman from Michigan, whatever you want to call me — but what I’m most proud of is I can work with anybody to solve real problems that people are confronting.”  

Trump gets revenge on Meijer

U.S. Rep. Peter Meijer began his congressional career by surviving Capitol riots that prompted him to vote to impeach Trump. It appears that vote was the beginning of the end for the Grand Rapids Republican. 

John Gibbs, a Trump-endorsed challenger, narrowly defeated Meijer in a competitive primary. With an estimated 81 percent of the vote counted in 3rd Congressional District, Gibbs was leading 52 percent to 48 percent, a 3,854-vote margin.

“I’m proud to have remained true to my principles, even when doing so came at a significant political cost,” Meijer said in a statement after conceding defeat. 

Gibbs, who said he received a congratulatory call from Trump and thanked the former president for his support, now moves on to the general election. 

He’ll face second-time candidate Hillary Scholten in an increasingly competitive district, as redrawn by the state’s new independent commission.

Redistricting hurts Black Democrats

It was a good night for Black Republicans, with Gibbs and John James of Farmington Hills each winning congressional primaries. 

But fears among Black Democrats that new legislative districts could reduce the number of African American legislators in Lansing appeared to be warranted. 

Many of the legislative districts, parts of maps drawn by an independent citizens’ commission that are considered more favorable to Democrats overall, divided Detroit by stretching boundaries into Oakland and Macomb Counties. 

Democratic state Sen. Mallory McMorrow of Royal Oak, who gained a national following after a viral floor speech in April, easily defeated fellow state Sen. Marshall Bullock of Detroit, who was drawn into the same district as her and currently chairs the Michigan Legislative Black Caucus.

While vote totals from Wayne and Macomb counties were still trickling in Wednesday morning, suburban candidates appeared to be doing fairly well in several districts that included slices of Detroit. 

Natalie Price of Berkley (House District 5), Melanie Macey of Royal Oak (House District 7) and Mike McFall of Hazel Park (House District 8) were leading their respective races despite trailing Black candidates in Detroit precincts. 

With about half of all expected votes counted, Macey was leading incumbent state Rep. Helena Scott of Detroit 53 percent to 39 percent. 

Democrats are favored to win all of those seats in November. Detroit legislators sued the redistricting commission, arguing the maps diluted the power of Black voters, but the Michigan Supreme Court dismissed the case. 

It also appears that Black Democrats could soon be without a Michigan voice in Congress. With 31 percent of the vote counted by Wednesday morning, Shri Thanedar was leading by double digits in the Detroit-based 13th Congressional District.

Michigan Legislature not quite MAGA

Trump batted .500 in his bid to remake the Michigan Legislature as a MAGA operation. Legislative candidates he backed won five of 10 races overall, and they knocked off one of the three incumbents they challenged.

Jonathan Lindsey of Bronson defeated state Sen. Kim LaSata in the 17th District GOP primary. But state Sen. Lana Theis of Brighton coasted to victory over Trump-endorsed challenger Mike Detmer in the 22nd District, and state Rep. Greg VanWoerkom easily beat Trump-endorsed Mick Bricker in the 88th.

Elsewhere, Trump-backed state House candidates Rachelle Smit of Martin, Angela Rigas of Caledonia and Mike Hoadley of Au Gres each won open seat GOP primaries. 

Jay DeBoyer of Anchor Bay defeated Trump-backed Jacky Eubanks in the 63rd House District GOP primary. And as of Wednesday morning, Shiawassee County Sheriff Brian Begole held a significant lead over Trump-endorsed Kevin Rathbun in the 71st state House District, with most votes yet to be counted coming from Begole’s home base of Shiawassee County. 

Rep. Matt Maddock, a Milford Republican who Trump has backed to be the next House GOP leader, ran uncontested in the 51st District. Jon Rocha, who was disqualified from the ballot but continued to campaign as a write-in candidate, finished fourth to Gina Johnsen of Lake Odessa in the 78th state House primary.

Stevens crushes Levin

U.S. Rep. Haley Stevens of Waterford Township defeated U.S. Rep. Andy Levin of Bloomfield Township in one of Michigan’s most closely watched Democratic primaries. 

The usually congenial colleagues were pitted against each other after Michgian lost a congressional seat because of stagnant population and the state’s new independent redistricting commission drew political boundaries for the first time. 

With an estimated 97 percent of ballots counted by Wednesday morning, Stevens had received 60 percent of the vote in the new-look district, which stretches across much of southeastern Oakland County.

Stevens now heads to the general election in a district expected to lean Democratic. She’ll face Republican Mark Ambrose, who won the GOP primary.

Levin, set to leave Congress at the end of the year, conceded to Stevens on Tuesday night, congratulating her on a “strong campaign” and vowing to “support her and work with her to elect Democrats up and down the ballot” this fall.

Absentees up, in-person voting relatively ‘smooth’ 

Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson had vowed to crack down on any Election Day “shenanigans” in the first statewide contest since 2020, which was marred by Trump’s false claims of widespread fraud.

But the primary appeared to be relatively drama free, aside from slow results reporting in some parts of the state and a few hiccups, including stray marks on some ballots in Lapeer County that caused them to be rejected by tabulators.

“I haven’t heard anything to suggest…that there’s really any issues at all,” Secretary of State spokesperson Jake Rollow told reporters around 7 p.m. “At this point, the polling places are operating smoothly and people are getting in, voting and getting out without issue.”

Many Michiganders had voted early via absentee ballots, which take election officials longer to count but can ease polling place congestion. 

As of 6:30 p.m., 1.1 million people cast their votes using absentee ballots in Tuesday’s primary election, about 85 percent of the 1.3 million people who requested the ballots. 

And more absentee ballots – which could be returned to clerk’s offices or drop boxes until polls closed – continued to trickle in throughout the day.

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1 Comment

  1. As an independent, retired Black educator who votes by issues and not race, I welcome the continued leadership of Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib. Luckily , voters are not as ignorant and naive as we are depicted. Although many Detroiters commented on redistricting hearings, our interests were ignored obviously. Whomever represents us will be held accountable. As citizens, we demand a more just society!🌍

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