GOP holds run-off vote, Dems boot incumbent WSU board member at nominating conventions

Beth LeBlanc
The Detroit News

Michigan's Republican and Democratic parties have chosen their nominees for the Michigan Supreme Court, Wayne State Board of Governors and University of Michigan Board of Regents, cementing the nominees to appear on November ballots.

The Republican Party decided Sunday afternoon on their nominations for State Board of Education and Michigan State University Board of Trustees after split votes in those races prompted a secondary run-off vote.

Democrats, in finalizing their nominees, kicked one incumbent Wayne State University Board of Governors candidate off November's ballot. 

The nominations were made at the end of what were largely virtual conventions over the weekend, according to results reported by both parties.

Michigan Democratic Party chairwoman Lavora Barnes praised the selections for the Democratic ticket, arguing that "they represent the best of Michigan."

"They are dedicated public servants that are committed to ensuring that our courts are fair and just, that our K-12 education system is serving all children in Michigan, and that our higher education institutions are meeting the needs of college students,” Barnes said in a statement Sunday.

Michigan Republican Party chairwoman Laura Cox, in her prepared remarks Saturday, touted the party's candidates and urged Republicans to actively promote President Donald Trump amid high Democratic motivation to take Michigan in November for former vice president Joe Biden, following Trump's roughly 10,000-vote victory in the state in 2016. 

"In 2020, all eyes will be on Michigan Republicans to deliver for President Trump, John James, and Republicans up and down the ballot," Cox said. 

Michigan Republicans nominated former state Sen. Tonya Schuitmaker Saturday for the MSU Board of Trustees and, after Sunday's run-off vote, financial advisor Pat O'Keefe. Schuitmaker and O'Keefe will run against Democratic incumbent Brian Mosallam and former teacher Dr. Rema Vassar, who were nominated by their party Saturday.

Tonya Schuitmaker
MSU Trustee Brian Mosallam

The run-off vote Sunday occurred after O'Keefe, fellow MSU board candidate Rick Wendorf and four Republican board of education candidates failed to secure 40% of the vote, as required by Michigan Republican Party in the first round of voting Saturday, said Tony Zammit, a spokesman for the Michigan Republican Party. 

In the runoff election Sunday, which is ongoing, O'Keefe secured more votes than Wendorf and State Board of Education candidates Tami Carlone and Michelle Frederick secured the most votes of the four candidates for state board. 

Carlone and Frederick will compete for two open state board seats in November against Democratic State Board of Education nominees, former state Rep. Ellen Cogen Lipton and real estate agent Jason Strayhorn.

Ellen Cogen Lipton

Former Fort Gratiot prosecutor Mary Kelly and Court of Appeals Judge Brock Swartzle will appear on the Republican ticket for two openings on the Michigan Supreme Court, vying for two open seats against the Democratic nominees: incumbent Chief Justice Bridget Mary McCormack and Grand Rapids attorney Elizabeth Welch. 

Bridget Mary McCormack

Republican-nominated justices hold four of the seven seats on the state Supreme Court currently, a majority that could be in for an upset in November after Democratic nominee Justice Megan Cavanagh flipped a GOP-held seat in 2018.

Democratic incumbent UM Board of Regents Mark Bernstein

Democratic incumbent UM Board of Regents nominees, attorney Mark Bernstein and Dr. Shauna Ryder Diggs, will defend their seats against Republican nominees former legislative staffer and campaign manager Sarah Hubbard and former Michigan Republican Party treasurer Carl Meyer.

Republican Wayne State Board of Governors nominees include former board of governors member Diane Dunaskiss and retired U.S. Army colonel Don Gates. Dunaskiss and Gates will challenge for two open seats the Democratic nominees: Metro Detroit workforce development CEO Eva Garza Dewaelsche and incumbent board member Shirley Stancato. 

Shirley Stancato

Democrats booted incumbent Wayne State Board of Governors member Sandra Hughes O'Brien by giving the nomination to Garza Dewaelsche and Stancato.

O'Brien was implicated in an internal investigation report last year that found a board member intervened in the university's daily operations behind the back of Wayne State President M. Roy Wilson. O'Brien wasn't named in the report and denied overstepping her authority, but she had been named in a February complaint as part of a faction that did not support Wilson.