By: - November 5, 2020 8:44 am

Sen. Gary Peters at the Flint drive-in rally for Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden with former President Barack Obama, Oct. 31, 2020 | Andrew Roth

Following a roller coaster of a day in which the political fates of several Democrats and Republicans running in Michigan shifted frequently, U.S. Sen. Gary Peters (D-Bloomfield Twp.) and U.S. Rep. Elissa Slotkin (D-Holly) have won reelection.

There were several competitive congressional races in Michigan, and the delegation looks like it will end up with a 7-7 split between Democrats and Republicans, as it was after the 2018 election. 

Republican Peter Meijer, meanwhile, won in the 3rd Congressional District against Democrat Hillary Scholten. As the Advance previously reported, U.S. Rep. Fred Upton (R-St. Joseph) staved off a challenge in the 6th District from state Rep. Jon Hoadley (D-Kalamazoo).

And although the Associated Press has not yet called the 11th District election, U.S. Rep. Haley Stevens (D-Rochester Hills) is leading her Republican opponent, Eric Esshaki, and is expected to hold the seat.

More than 5 million Michiganders cast their ballots for the Nov. 3 national election, in which Democratic nominee Joe Biden won Michigan and is inching towards the 270 electoral votes needed to claim victory in an election shadowed by a global pandemic and a deeply divided country. Access to affordable health care, as well as concerns surrounding President Donald Trump’s divisive presidency, seemed to buoy Democrats like Peters and Slotkin to victory.

Peters, a freshman senator, defeated GOP businessman John James in a squeaker, earning 49.6% of the vote. Peters will serve in a Senate that Democrats have hoped to flip but now stands as having a 48-47 Republican majority, with five Senate seats left to be decided. James received 48.5% of the vote, according to unofficial results from AP.

“I am sincerely honored that the voters of Michigan have once again put their trust and confidence in me to represent them in the United States Senate,” Peters said in a statement. “As we look ahead, I am energized to keep working to move our state forward and continue putting Michigan first. Most of all, I want to extend my gratitude for all of our hardworking election officials and every single person who believed in me, who believed in our mission and volunteered their time and efforts into fighting for a better future.” 

In a campaign that became the most expensive race in state history and the fifth-most expensive Senate race in the country this year, Peters and James clashed on issues of health care, racial justice and COVID-19. Peters voted for the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and continues to back the law, while also supporting dealing with issues like medical costs; James, who did not respond to requests for comment for this article, favors repealing the ACA.

8th Congressional District

Slotkin, who’s in her first term representing the 8th Congressional District, posted a more comfortable 4-point margin against Republican Paul Junge.

Slotkin, a former CIA analyst and high-ranking Defense Department official under President Barack Obama, defeated her Republican challenger, Junge, of Brighton, in her bid to represent the 8th Congressional District for a second term, the AP announced Wednesday.

Slotkin received 51.1% of the vote, while Junge landed 47.1% and Libertarian Joe Hartman received 1.84%, according to unofficial results from the AP.

For Slotkin, whose 2018 victory helped Democrats retake control of the U.S. House of Representatives, the victory is representative of a campaign in which she connected with voters on both sides of the aisle in a historically redder district that covers a portion of northern Oakland County, as well as Livingston and Ingham counties.

“Our campaign is made up of people who put partisanship aside to support a Democrat,” Slotkin told supporters on Wednesday. “It’s a campaign built on bipartisan accomplishments. And we have worked every day to show the same civility, decency and respect that you practice in your own life.”

Slotkin cautioned supporters on Wednesday that the coming days would likely be rocky ones in the country.

“This will be a tumultuous time, and I urge everyone to keep their seatbelts on,” Slotkin said. “These 78 days may bring a real test for the people who have for too long ignored or downplayed anti-democratic words and deeds. Leaders who have for four years refused to lead, who have surfed the waves of anger and bitterness or kept their heads down in order to keep their own jobs, will no longer be able to avoid their responsibilities to our democracy. And these responsibilities are bigger than any one man or any one party.”

The 78 days to which Slotkin is referring is the time between the election and the presidential inauguration on Jan. 20. As Biden edged out Trump in Michigan and Wisconsin, key swing states, and inched closer to the 270 electoral votes needed to win the White House, Trump has characteristically lashed out, launching unfounded attacks on the integrity of voting procedures throughout the country. His campaign filed a lawsuit Wednesday in Michigan to stop ballots from being counted.

While these coming days could be difficult ones, Slotkin said she is looking forward to her work following Jan. 20 — a time, she said, that needs to focus on “the healing of our country.”

“We must figure out how we come back together as a nation,” Slotkin said. “I refuse to believe that our politics will simply be this toxic from here on out.”

“We all will have to do something very hard, which is keep the door open for one another and find love in our hearts for our fellow man,” she continued. “That does not mean we should ignore or remain silent in the face of the troubling, extremist and even violent currents that have emerged in the last few months. We cannot and will not accept attempts to undermine democracy using violence and intimidation.”

As she often repeated throughout her campaign, Slotkin said she also plans to focus on expanding access to affordable health care. 

3rd District

Health care dominated much of the debate in the race for the open 3rd Congressional District, where, according to unofficial results from the AP, Meijer defeated Scholten 53% to 47%. 

U.S. Rep. Justin Amash (L-Cascade Twp.) is retiring after leaving the GOP over his criticism of Trump. Meijer’s victory means that the seat will once again be in Republican hands in 2021.

Peter Meijer in Grand Rapids | Nick Manes

The 3rd Congressional District covers a large portion of Kent County, including the city of Grand Rapids, part of Montcalm County, and Ionia, Barry and Calhoun counties. 

Meijer, a U.S. Army veteran who served in Iraq and whose family started the Meijer grocery store chain, said in a previous interview with the Advance that he’s “not satisfied with the Affordable Care Act,” but he noted that he does not support a repeal of the ACA unless there is a “workable replacement that will protect pre-existing conditions.” Scholten, an attorney who worked at the U.S. Department of Justice under Obama and the Michigan Immigrant Rights Center, supports the ACA.

Meijer said in a statement issued Wednesday evening that “there are pressing problems that the next Congress must address in a robust way.”

“I look forward to working to establish a safe and strong COVID recovery, to implementing free market reforms to our healthcare system, and to address the climate crisis and protect our cherished Great Lakes,” Meijer said. “I will also work to end our endless wars and ensure that this republic lives up to the promise of our founders. I am deeply honored at the opportunity to serve this nation once again.”

While Scholten lost, she said in a statement that “the energy behind this campaign points to one thing: the tides are changing in West Michigan.”

“We may not have won tonight, but this isn’t the end of our fight for a better and bright West Michigan for all — including low cost, accessible health care, clean water, and an economy that works for everyone,” Scholten said.

11th District

The AP has not yet called the 11th Congressional District, which spans Oakland and Wayne counties. Stevens, a freshman Democrat, is leading her Republican opponent, Esshaki. With 96% of the precincts reporting, Stevens has 50% of the vote and Esshaki has 48%, according to unofficial results from the AP. 

Stevens, who worked as the chief of staff for the Obama administration team that engineered an auto industry rescue package, has spent much of her work in Congress on manufacturing issues.

“Congresswoman Stevens hears directly from her constituents about the issues affecting working families in Michigan’s 11th congressional district,” Blake McCarren, spokesperson for the Stevens campaign, told the Advance in a previous interview.

“That’s why she’s laser-focused on working toward pragmatic, common sense solutions to rebuild the economy, lower the cost of prescription drugs, protect the U.S. Postal Service and provide a safe and high-quality public education for Michigan students,” he said.

The Stevens campaign has not yet made a statement regarding the results, and Esshaki did not return requests for comment.

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Anna Gustafson
Anna Gustafson

Anna Gustafson is a former assistant editor at Michigan Advance, where her beats included economic justice, health care and immigration. Previously the founder of the Muskegon Times and the editor at Rapid Growth Media in Grand Rapids, Anna has worked as an editor and reporter for news outlets across the country.