Macomb, Kent county state Senate seats to remain vacant through November

Mark Hicks
The Detroit News

For nearly 10 months, two of Michigan’s largest counties will go unrepresented in the state Senate.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer announced Friday that voters in Macomb and Kent counties won’t be able to select their representative in the 8th and 28th districts until a general election on Nov. 2. Two special primaries are scheduled for Aug. 3.

Former Sen. Pete Lucido

The seats were left vacant after the incumbents in the fall were elected to other offices.

Former Sen. Pete Lucido, R-Shelby Township, who represented the 8th District, won the Macomb County prosecutor's race.

The 28th District’s senator, Peter MacGregor, R-Rockford, was elected Kent County treasurer.

Candidates seeking to join primary race and have their names on the ballot must file by April 20.

"While we wish the seat could be filled sooner, Republicans in West Michigan are excited about the race to fill the 28th State Senate seat,” Rob VerHeulen, the Kent County Republican Committee Chairman, said in a statement.

“We expect a strong field of candidates to campaign this year and look forward to sending another Kent County Republican to Lansing in November.”

Former Sen. Peter MacGregor

In an emailed response about why Whitmer’s office pushed the special election into the fall, spokeswoman Tiffany Brown told The Detroit News: “This special election is fully consistent with law and well within the range of what previous administrations have done.”

Macomb County Executive Mark Hackel said Saturday that "It's going to be interesting to see what happens" throughout 2021.

Hackel said there's a lot of elbowing within the parties on which candidate they should select.

 "Anyone that wants to run, needs to not worry about party interest and them being the party's candidate," Hackel said. "The chosen candidate for the party isn’t always the one that makes it through and we need more of that."

After U.S. Rep. John Conyers Jr., a Detroit Democrat, resigned in December 2017, Republican Gov. Rick Snyder opted to schedule a special election the next November to replace him.

The move prompted a lawsuit that argued the 11-month delay in a district that is predominantly African American violated the 14th Amendment’s due process and equal protection clauses, as well as relevant provisions of the state constitution.

The plaintiffs also compared it with the four-month delay before a special election in 2012, when Republican U.S. Rep. Thad McCotter of Livonia resigned his seat in the 11th District, which is mostly white.

A federal judge rejected the challenge, ruling the law “accords considerable deference” to a governor in setting the election date to fill vacancies in Congress. 

Detroit City Council President Brenda Jones narrowly won the special election to finish out Conyers' term and spent about five weeks in Congress

She lost her campaign for the two-year term to another Democrat, Rashida Tlaib, who became one of the first two Muslim women elected to Congress in 2018. Tlaib won her bid last year to continue representing the 13th District, which includes portions of Detroit and Wayne County suburbs including Highland Park, Inkster, River Rouge, Ecorse, Westland and part of Romulus.

Other vacancies are common. 

In late March, State Rep. Isaac Robinson, who represented the 4th District, died at age 44. Days later, Whitmer announced a special primary election would be held Aug. 4 to fill the Detroit Democrat’s seat.

Abraham Aiyash, a Democrat from Hamtramck, was elected to fill Robinson’s partial and full terms. His district includes parts of Detroit.

Staff Writer Sarah Rahal contributed.