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Lansing — Michigan Democratic Party Chairman Brandon Dillon will not seek re-election, he confirmed Wednesday morning, opening up the post to candidates ahead of a February convention vote. 

Dillon took over the state party in 2015, leading it through a tumultuous 2016 cycle and a resurgence in 2018. Both elections were marked by shifting voter attitudes toward President Donald Trump, who two years ago became the first Republican to win Michigan since 1988.

Democrats swept top statewide races in last month's midterm, and by the time Dillon leaves office early next year, party nominees will hold all three offices of governor, attorney general and secretary of state for the first time in 24 years. 

"It's been an honor to lead a storied Democratic Party that fights relentlessly for Michigan's workers and their families," Dillon said in a statement that highlighted his three-year partnership with chief operating officer Lavora Barnes, a likely candidate to replace him for the 2020 cycle.

"I'm extremely proud of the winning operation we built and the historic gains Michigan Democrats made at the ballot box. When I took on this challenge, one of my top goals was to help elect a Democratic governor — and we accomplished that with Gov.-elect Gretchen Whitmer's decisive victory."

Dillon, 46, is a former state lawmaker from Grand Rapids who served in the Michigan House from 2011 through August 2015, when he stepped down to lead the state Democratic party in a power-sharing agreement with Barnes, who is expected to announce her campaign for chair as soon as Thursday.

Term-limited state Rep. Adam Zemke of Ann Arbor is also considering a run to replace Dillon, according to two sources familiar with his plans. Lisa Dirado, president of the Northville Democratic Club, has already announced her campaign. Abdul El-Sayed, a favorite of the progressive left who finished second in the August gubernatorial primary, said he does not plan to run for the post.

Democrats are poised to elect their next party leader in a Feb. 2 convention at Cobo Center in Detroit. 

In announcing his decision not to run again, Dillon touted other election wins last month, including the re-election of incumbent U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow and pick-ups in the 8th and 11th congressional districts. Democrats also picked up state House and Senate seats, but the GOP will return majorities next year. 

"The Michigan Democratic Party is in its strongest position in decades," Dillon said, "and now it's time for another leader to take these successes, and our party, to the next level."

The Michigan Republican Party also is expected to elect a new leader at its own February convention in Lansing. State Rep. Laura Cox of Livonia has emerged as the early favorite to replace its chairman, Ron Weiser, who is not seeking re-election. Activist Gina Barr also is competing for the post. 

Former Michigan GOP Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel has led the Republican National Committee since January 2017. She is expected to continue in that post after Trump last month announced she is his choice for another term.

joosting@detroitnews.com
 

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