Updated: Benson, Nessel defeat GOP challengers, Dems keep all top statewide posts

By: - November 9, 2022 9:54 am

Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson and Attorney General Dana Nessel dance in East Lansing during the final rally of Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s re-election campaign on Nov. 7, 2022. (Andrew Roth/Michigan Advance)

Published at 12:40 a.m., 11/9/22, updated at 9:54 a.m.

A day of higher-than-expected voter turnout led to a win for both Democratic Secretary of State Jocelyn in her race against Republican challenger Kristina Karamo, andDemocratic Attorney General Dana Nessel over GOP challenger Matthew DePerno.

The turnout was record-level overall for a midterm election, according to Benson. More than 15,000 citizens participated in same-day registration and 2 million Michiganders voted absentee.

With just over 86% of the unofficial returns in, Benson is leading Karamo 55.1% to 42.7%, while Nessel leads DePerno 52.4% to 45.3% with around 86% of the vote in.

Both DePerno and Karamo have waged conspiracy-laden campaigns against the incumbent Democrats, which have primarily centered around the false claim that Democrats “stole” the 2020 election from former President Donald Trump. They have used that idea as a basis for predicting, without evidence, that widespread voter fraud could impact Tuesday’s vote.

Nessel and Benson, on the other hand, have long asserted that Michigan’s elections are safe and secure. There is no evidence to prove claims to the contrary.

Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson speaks at the Michigan Democratic Party’s Election Day watch party in Detroit on Nov. 8, 2022. (Andrew Roth/Michigan Advance)

At 11:20 p.m., Benson declared victory over Karamo. The Republican has not yet conceded to Benson or made any other statements Wednesday morning.

“In this election, democracy was on the ballot. Our right to vote was on the ballot. And tonight, democracy won here in Michigan,” Benson said in a statement.

“Michiganders showed the world that Michigan voters will vote for truth over lies. They will vote for facts over conspiracy theories. And they know the value of real results over empty promises.”

Benson’s statement also called out “conspiracy theorists and election deniers,” warning that they are not going away but she “will not back down.”

Meanwhile, Karamo has repeatedly tweeted baseless accusations that Detroit, Ann Arbor, Redford and some Oakland County cities like Novi are not complying with Michigan Election Law.

Just after 11 p.m., Karamo baselessly accused an “Ann Arbor clerk,” presumably city clerk Jacqueline Beaudry, of “engaging in mass election crimes” for allowing same-day registration and voting after 8 p.m.

Legally, anyone in line by 8 p.m. is entitled to vote as long as they stay in line. This rule also applies to those who are participating in same-day registration, which was approved by voters under a constitutional amendment in 2018.

Republican nominee for Michigan secretary of state Kristina Karamo campaigns in Lansing on Aug. 27, 2022. (Andrew Roth | Michigan Advance)

“Illegally registering people after 8pm. Registering non-Michigan citizens to vote,” Karamo tweeted, without evidence. “They are arrogantly breaking the law. Because we have a lawless Secretary of State, and a corrupt media defending her crimes.”

Karamo also called a situation in Detroit precincts earlier on Tuesday a “crime,” when the issue was in reality an error that was quickly righted by election workers.

In the race for attorney general, Nessel has outperformed expectations in a race many expected to be tight. She has not yet declared victory, but DePerno conceded to the Democrat Wednesday morning.

At 9:06 a.m., DePerno conceded in a Twitter statement.

“Although I may be conceding to Dana Nessel today, I refuse to concede that Michigan is a blue state. I will continue to fight like hell to restore Michigan to all it can be,” he tweeted.

End Citizens United/Let America Vote President Tiffany Muller congratulated Nessel on Wednesday.

Attorney General Dana Nessel speaks at the Michigan Democratic Party’s Election Day watch party in Detroit on Nov. 8, 2022. (Andrew Roth/Michigan Advance)

“Congratulations to Attorney General Dana Nessel on winning her re-election in Michigan. AG Nessel has always prioritized working Michigan families and making sure their voices are heard. We look forward to her continued leadership and advocacy for Michigan families,” Muller said.

Around midnight, Nessel said at the Michigan Democrats’ watch party in Detroit, “Things are looking pretty good right now.” 

“And not to be too optimistic, but I really look forward to serving the people of this great state for another four years.” she added.

In a tweet Wednesday morning, Nessel — who is the state’s first openly gay top statewide elected official — referenced the anti-LGBTQ+ campaign Republicans ran this year.

“For all the LGBTQ kids out there who were demonized and whose lives were weaponized by sad and broken adults during this election cycle: You are good enough. Your lives and stories matter. God loves you just as you are. Don’t let anyone ever tell you otherwise,” she wrote on Twitter.

Republican nominee for Michigan attorney general Matthew DePerno campaigns in Lansing on Aug. 27, 2022. (Andrew Roth | Michigan Advance)

DePerno — who, during the August primary, had called for counties to stop counting votes if they weren’t tallied by midnight — changed course Tuesday evening and called for every ballot to be counted.

“I know we’re all eagerly waiting to know who will be Michigan’s next attorney general. We must respect the election process and ensure that every *legal* ballot is counted. I ask that my supporters remain patient as hardworking election workers complete the count,” DePerno tweeted at 9:45 p.m.

At a watch party with the Michigan GOP, DePerno gave a short statement to the crowd around 11:45 p.m.

“We are within 2 points, Dana Nessel is below 50%. There’s only one-third of the vote counted. We are still in this race,” DePerno said.

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Laina G. Stebbins
Laina G. Stebbins

Laina G. Stebbins is a former Michigan Advance reporter. A lifelong Michigander, she is a graduate of Michigan State University’s School of Journalism, where she served as Founding Editor of The Tab Michigan State and as a reporter for the Capital News Service.