3 Michigan House special primaries set Tuesday in Metro Detroit

James David Dickson
The Detroit News

Voters are scheduled to go to the polls Tuesday in select Metro Detroit communities where there are three special election primaries for seats in the Michigan House, one each in Macomb, Oakland and Wayne counties.

The winners of the contested primaries in House districts 15 (Dearborn), 36 (Shelby Township area) and 43 (Waterford-Independence townships) are expected to win in the May 3 special general election. House District 15 is a Democratic stronghold, while Districts 36 and 43 are Republican territory. 

There is also a special election primary in west Michigan to fill the GOP-leaning seat left vacant in state House District 74 by former Rep. Mark Huizenga, R-Walker, who was elected to fill an empty state Senate seat. 

The eventual four House seat winners aren't expected to change the composition of the state House, where Republicans control the chamber and are anticipated to hold on to three of the four seats.

But the GOP contests are expected to test the strength of the Donald Trump and establishment wings of the Michigan Republican Party, where the former president's emphasis on the November 2020 election results has been pitted against the establishment's focus on current issues and picking up or defending legislative seats in the November election. 

The eventual state House special election winners will serve terms of a little more than six months that run through the end of the year. The seats will be up for grabs again under the state's newly redistricted maps in November, but the special election victors will gain the benefits of a short-term incumbency that will provide higher name recognition going into the fall elections if they choose to run again.

There will be three special primary elections in Metro Detroit on Tuesday, March 1, 2022 for state House District 15 (Dearborn area), District 36 (Shelby Township area) and District 43 (Waterford-Independence townships area).

More:Michigan redistricting panel wraps adoption of state House, Senate, congressional maps

In Wayne County, two Democrats are battling for the District 15 seat, covering most of Dearborn and a small part of Detroit. County government relations employee Alabas Farhat, 22, faces family law mediator Jeffrey Pepper, 69.

While Farhat boasts several big-name endorsements, including that of his boss, Wayne County Executive Warren Evans, and Wayne County Sheriff Raphael Washington, Pepper argues his experience and lifelong roots in west Dearborn will prevail.

Farhat took a leave from an appointed post under Evans to run. Pepper had to balance the primary campaign with a family law practice where he typically handles two mediations per day.

Dearborn City Clerk George Darany said 15% to 20% of the city's 72,000 registered voters are expected to vote in the special election. The Democratic primary winner will face Republican Ginger Shearer on May 3.

The District 15 seat was vacated when then-State Rep. Abdullah Hammoud, D-Dearborn, was elected mayor of Dearborn. 

More:Dearborn House Democratic primary pits experience against endorsements

In Macomb County, four Republicans will battle in a primary for the District 36 seat, covering Bruce Township, Shelby Township and part of Washington Township.

The District 36 vacancy was created when then-State Rep. Doug Wozniak won a 2021 special election for a state Senate seat. Pete Lucido vacated that seat after being elected Macomb County prosecutor in November 2020. 

The seat leans heavily Republican. The Republican primary candidates are Terence Mekoski, 57, from Shelby Township; William Thompson, 34, of Bruce Township; Sylvia Grot, 50, of Shelby Township and Grant Golasa, 29, of Shelby Township.

Mekoski, who lost the 2020 Macomb County sheriff's race to incumbent Anthony Wickersham, told The Detroit News he's running on election fairness. 

Thompson, who ran unsuccessfully for trustee in Bruce Township in 2020, said he feels like "the Republicans of the past have continually sold us out and when these people get to Lansing you don't hear from them again."

Grot is a stay-at-home mother whose husband is Shelby Township Clerk Stan Grot, who filed in late December for the state House seat and then withdrew after the filing deadline. That allowed Sylvia to run for the seat. She has been endorsed by Wozniak, former holder of the seat, and the Michigan Chamber of Commerce. 

The winner of the Republican primary will face Democrat Jim Diez, 56, of Shelby Township.

The Macomb results are expected to post later than usual because local clerks are physically delivering vote totals to the county clerk's office instead of modeming them in, according to the Macomb County Clerk's office. The Kent County Clerk's office is also going to receive the physical deliveries of vote totals from local clerks on Tuesday.

Both Macomb and Kent county elections are run by Republican clerks whose party has focused on election integrity in the wake of the November 2020 election, when Democrat Joe Biden defeated Trump 51%-48% or more than 154,000 votes.  

More:Four GOP hopefuls battle to fill Macomb County state House seat

In Oakland County, four Republicans are vying to fill the District 43 seat vacated last year when State Rep. Andrea Schroeder, R-Clarkston, died of cancer. 

The 43rd House District includes Lake Angelus, Independence Township, Clarkston and part of Waterford Township.

Officially, there are four candidates: Anthony Bartolotta, 68, of Waterford Township; Linda Ybarra Bozonne, 59, of Clarkston; Mike Harris, 48, of Clarkston; and Heidi Warrington, 40, of Independent Township. But Bartolotta said that while he remains on the ballot, he has endorsed Warrington. 

Warrington is chief nursing officer at a non-profit behavioral health facility in Oakland County called Common Ground. In recent years, Warrington has taken on different Republican leadership roles and became a volunteer district representative for Schroeder when she became ill.

On her Facebook page, Bozzone said she's worked in the health care industry for 40 years and has "seen first hand how government mandates have negatively affected seniors and low income families." Bozzone said she also supports a freeze on new state hires and parents rights in education.

On his website, Harris spoke out against big government, the treatment of small businesses during the pandemic and the "watering down" of voter ID requirements.

“I will be a voice to return to sanity and common sense, and return government to its legitimate purposes," Harris said in his campaign announcement. 

The winner will face Democrat Kent Douglas, of Waterford, a 40-year-old information technology analyst who chairs Michigan's 11th Congressional District Democratic Party.

jdickson@detroitnews.com

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