Democrats wrest control of Michigan Legislature for first time in almost 40 years 

By: - November 9, 2022 12:52 pm

Michigan Capitol | Susan J. Demas

Updated, 9:31 a.m., 11/10/22 

Democrats will now have a political trifecta in Lansing after retaining the top office with Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and winning in both chambers of the Michigan Legislature on Tuesday. This is the first time Democrats will have total party control in the Michigan Legislature in roughly 40 years. 

The Democrats last were in charge of the Senate in 1984 and they last controlled the House in 2010. 

Although not all races have officially been called by the Associated Press, Democrats are projected to have a 56-54 majority in the House. There is a projected 20-18 split in favor of Democrats in the upper chamber. Early on Wednesday, it looked like there could be a 19-19 tie, with Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist as the tie-breaking vote. But Dems now look to have won an outright majority.

This sets Whitmer up for a very different second term after several high-stakes fights during the last few years over budgets, COVID-19 policies and road funding with a GOP-controlled Legislature.

The party in power in the Michigan Legislature will spearhead budget negotiations, decide which bills will go through committee hearings and what pieces of legislation will be voted on the floor. 

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist in Detroit on Nov. 9. | Ken Coleman

This election was also the first where new district lines were drawn by the Michigan Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission, which voters established in 2018. 

Senate Minority Leader Jim Ananich (D-Flint) said in a statement that voters “knew it was time for a change” from Republican leadership and credited Roe v. Wade as another reason that brought voters out to vote for Democrats. 

“We now have a new majority – a majority for the people,” Ananich said. 

State House Minority Leader Donna Lasinski (D-Scio Twp.) told the Advance that “Michigan was able to make a choice on the values and policies that they want to see moving Michigan forward.”

“I am so excited for the future of Michigan,” Lasinski said. “From the Upper Peninsula to the west side of Michigan, northern Michigan, central and southeastern Michigan, [voters] chose to move forward with the democratic policies and ideas under and in partnership with the governor.”

One change that could happen next year is an investigation into former House Speaker Lee Chatfield (R-Levering), who’s under investigation over alleged sexual assault and fundraising issues, which he denies. The GOP-led House has not launched any probes, with House Speaker Jason Wentworth (R-Farwell) saying he was waiting for law enforcement to finish investigating.

House Speaker Jason Wentworth (R-Clare) in Detroit on June 28, 2021 | Ken Coleman

Wentworth said in a statement Wednesday on election results that “this election was always going to be an uphill climb” and that “the people of Michigan have seen the success of the past twelve years, and they know our bold reforms have paved the way.”

“House Democrats ran a good race this year, but House Republicans will be back in majority in two years to continue our work,” Wentworth said. 

House Republican Campaign Committee Co-Chair Sarah Lightner also said in a statement that the members of the caucus “will do everything we can to continue making government more effective and more accountable to the people.”

Here are results from some of the most competitive Michigan House and Senate races in this year’s election cycle, some of which the Advance previously covered:

103rd House District 

In the northern part of the state, Democratic Grand Traverse County Commissioner Betsy Coffia defeated state Rep. Jack O’Malley (R-Lake Ann). Coffia won 49.8% of the vote while O’Malley won 48.5%.

This district includes Benzie, Grand Traverse and Leelanau counties. This was Coffia’s fourth time running for a House seat. 

In a statement, Coffia said she will be “committed to remaining rooted in community.”

Betsy Coffia | Courtesy photo

“I am honored that voters in the 103rd have chosen a pro-choice, pro-democracy, pro-environment candidate as their next state representative,” Coffia said. “Our campaign only became possible because of a huge community groundswell of support; so many people’s tireless work and support helped secure this win.”

In 2020, O’Malley signed onto legal efforts to stop election certification in Michigan and other states in an attempt to overturn the results of the election where Biden won.

Abortion also had a potential to sway these election results. O’Malley had an anti-abortion voting record and lost his Right to Life endorsement because he said he supported some exceptions for abortion. Coffia is a proponent of abortion rights.

27th House District 

Democrat Jaime Churches is currently beating Republican Robert Howey in this Downriver race — 50.8% to Howey’s 49.2%.

In a statement declaring victory, Churches thanked the voters for propelling her to office. 

 “I cannot begin to express my gratitude for all the people who showed up in many different ways to elevate our campaign over the past several months,” Churches said. “We’ve worked incredibly hard to build this campaign from the ground up, and I am so proud of the work we put in.”

29th House District 

Republican James DeSana defeated state Rep. Alex Garza (D-Taylor), 51.5% to 48.5%.   

Garza was the Democratic incumbent, but redistricting made the district increasingly competitive. The area was also won by former President Donald Trump in 2016 and 2020. 

31st House District 

Democratic Van Buren Township Trustee Reggie Miller defeated Republican Trucker from Monroe Dale Biniecki. Miller won 51.9% to Biniecki’s 48.1%. 

Miller said in a statement that he is “honored to have received the support of the 31st District.”

“I can’t wait to get to Lansing to continue to advocate for the communities across my district and Michigan,” Miller said. 

44th House District 

State Rep. Jim Haadsma (D-Battle Creek) has defeated Republican Dave Morgan for this competitive seat — 52.2% to Morgan’s 47.8%.

Haadsma said in a statement that he is “grateful to have another term in which to represent our district’s citizens.”

35th Senate District 

Rep. Annette Glenn speaking at a press conference | House Republicans photo

Perhaps the most significant Senate race resulted in Democratic Bay City Commissioner Kristen McDonald Rivet defeating Rep. Annette Glenn (R-Midland), 53.4% to Glenn’s 46.6%. 

This district is home to Bay County, Midland County and Saginaw County. 

11th Senate District 

In Macomb County, Democratic Macomb County Commissioner Veronica Klinefelt has beat state Sen. Michael MacDonald (R-Macomb Twp.) — 52.6% to 47.4%. 

4th Senate District 

State Rep. Darrin Camilleri (D-Brownstown Township) beat Republican Houston James in this Downriver district 55.5% to 44.5%. 


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Julia Forrest
Julia Forrest

Julia Forrest is a contributor to the Michigan Advance. She has been covering Michigan and national politics for two years at the Michigan Daily and OpenSecrets. She studies public policy at the University of Michigan.