Michigan Supreme Court race taking shape with two potential GOP candidates

Craig Mauger
The Detroit News

Lansing — The November race for control of Michigan's high court has now drawn two potential Republican nominees — a state Court of Appeals judge and a longtime St. Clair County lawyer.

Two of the seven seats on the Michigan Supreme Court are up for election. Republican-nominated justices hold four of the seven seats, a majority that could be in jeopardy this fall after Democratic nominee Megan Cavanagh flipped a GOP-held seat in 2018.

Democratic-nominated justices last held a majority briefly in 2010.

Michigan Supreme Court Justice Bridget Mary McCormack

One of the seats up for election this year is held by Chief Justice Bridget Mary McCormack, a Democratic nominee who is seeking re-election and will run with an incumbency designation on the ballot. The designation identifies a candidate as a "justice of Supreme Court."

Justice Stephen Markman, a GOP nominee, holds the other seat, but he can't run again because the Michigan Constitution bars judges 70 or older from being elected or appointed.

Voters elected both McCormack and Markman to full eight-year terms on the court in 2012.

In December, Grand Rapids area attorney Elizabeth Welch launched her campaign with the intention of running with McCormack as the Democratic nominees. Welch and McCormack received the endorsement of the Michigan Democratic Party in May.

“Chief Justice Bridget Mary McCormack and Elizabeth Welch bring the experience, the passion and the constitutional knowledge that is so needed," party Chairwoman Lavora Barnes, said in a statement.

Elizabeth Welch, a Grand Rapids area attorney, recently launched a campaign for the Michigan Supreme Court.

On May 28, Brock Swartzle, who was appointed to the Court of Appeals by Republican then-Gov. Rick Snyder in 2017, announced he would seek a GOP nomination for the Supreme Court.

Swartzle previously served as chief of staff for former Michigan House Speaker Kevin Cotter, R-Mount Pleasant, and as general counsel for the Michigan House Republicans.

Brock Swartzle

This week, Mary Kelly of Fort Gratiot who served 30 years in the St. Clair County Prosecutor's Office, announced she would also seek a GOP nomination.

"Being a justice on the Michigan Supreme Court is a role which demands focus, responsibility, civility and respect. It would be a privilege to succeed Justice Markman on the Michigan Supreme Court," Mary Kelly said in a press release.

Mary Kelly

She happens to have a similar name to former Supreme Court Justice Mary Beth Kelly, a Republican-nominated justice who resigned in August 2015 to return to private practice. 

The Michigan Republican Party is scheduled to officially select its two Michigan Supreme Court nominees during a state convention on Aug. 29. Other candidates for the GOP nominations could still emerge.