Oakland 'trending blue' as Dems win most countywide offices

Mike Martindale
The Detroit News

Pontiac — It’s understandable if some county Republicans refer to Oakland County Sheriff Michael Bouchard as the "Lone Ranger" these days after Tuesday’s election in which he was the only GOP candidate to be elected to a countywide office.

Bouchard won his sixth term as sheriff Tuesday, garnering 54.3% of the vote and defeating former state lawmaker and Wayne County sheriff’s deputy Vincent Gregory. A record 75.53% of the county’s registered voters turned out for the election, according to county Clerk Lisa Brown, who is among the Democrats who won.

Oakland County Executive David Coulter delivers his first "State of the County" address at Flagstar Strand Theatre in Pontiac, Michigan on February 12, 2020. Coulter was appointed executive in 2019 following the death of longtime Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson.

“I guess I am the last Republican holding countywide office in Oakland,” Bouchard said. “It’s gratifying to get support from voters — both Republicans and Democrats.

“I have always tried to treat everyone the same regardless of their political preference and plan to do that going forward. Public safety is nonpartisan.”

Officials in both parties agree this week's results are another sign that Oakland County — a traditional GOP bastion led for years by the late county executive L. Brooks Patterson — is gradually moving toward the Democratic Party. In addition to winning all but the sheriff's office in countywide races, the Democrats gained an additional seat on the county Board of Commissioners, increasing their majority.

The county's increasing Democratic tilt was reflected in the presidential race, where Joe Biden carried the county by nearly 110,000 votes over President Donald Trump. Four years ago, Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton's margin over Trump in Oakland County was a little over 53,000 votes.

“It’s not a blue tide but we are definitely trending blue in Oakland County,” said Robert Hoffman, R- Highland Township, who won his sixth term on the county Board of Commissioners. “I get along fine with (County Executive) Dave Coulter but I hope my fellow commissioners will work hard to be bipartisan for the good of the entire county.”

Coulter, a Democrat and former Ferndale mayor, was appointed county executive in August 2019 after Patterson died. In his first campaign as executive, Coulter bested Republican challenger Mike Kowall, a former state representative from White Lake Township, 55.7% to 44.3%.

“We do have a trend towards Democrats in this office but while some think it came over night, its actually been going on for about a decade,” said Coulter. “Brooks (Patterson) was the face of the Republican party for years here.

"I was on the Board of Commissioners in 2003 when there were 19 Republicans and only six Democrats and I was unable to accomplish several things I had hoped to do," said Coulter. "Regardless, I look forward to working with the Board of Commissioners on both sides of the aisle.”

Oakland County Clerk Lisa Brown

Brown, a fellow Democrat who turned the clerk’s office blue in 2012 after years of GOP predecessors, won 55.9% to 44.1% over Tina Barton, a former Rochester Hills city clerk.

“I think Oakland County voters are educated and take the time to find out who is doing a good job and who deserves their vote,” said Brown.

“If it was a simple matter of just turning blue, Sheriff Bouchard wouldn’t have won re-election,” she said.

Former Oakland Circuit Court Judge Karen McDonald, another Democrat, easily won election to the county prosecutor’s job over Republican Liz Goetz, 57% to 43%. She will replace fellow Democrat Jessica Cooper after defeating her in the August primary.

Democrats also won the county treasurer's race, with Robert Wittenberg topping Republican Joe Kent, 53.8% to 46.2%. Wittenberg will replace Andy Meisner, a prominent Democrat who ran for county executive instead, losing to Coulter in the primary.

Karen McDonald

Jim Nash, county water resource commissioner, held off Republican challenger Jim Stevens, to win another four-year term and keep that office in Democratic hands.

The Democrats didn’t stop there. Newcomer Melanie Hartman edged GOP Commissioner Adam Kochenderfer, 50.1% to 49.9% for the board seat representing Rochester Hills.

As a result, Democrats will now enjoy a 12-9 majority on the panel that decides the particulars of the county's $700 million annual budget, among other matters.

“We’re excited that we will have the votes to support a more Democratic agenda,” said board Chairman David Woodward, D-Royal Oak.

mmartindale@detroitnews.com

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