Democrat Glanville scores upset for Michigan GOP House seat; Harris, Mekoski, Pepper win

James David Dickson
The Detroit News

Democrat Carol Glanville scored an upset victory Tuesday night over Republican Robert Regan in a west Michigan state House race that narrowed the GOP's edge in the House.

In state House District 74, Democratic Walker city commissioner Glanville won 52%-40% over Regan with an unusually large 8% going to write-in votes for the seat that was left vacant when former Rep. Mark Huizenga, R-Walker, was elected to the state Senate.

Republicans ended up prevailing in two of the four state House races at stake instead of the three seats they were favored to win. Republicans Mike Harris of Clarkston and Terence Mekoski of Shelby Township won their respective District 43 and District 36 contests, while Democrat Jeffrey Pepper sailed to victory in Wayne County's District 15.

House Republicans now hold a 57-53 majority, down from the 58-52 control they held after the November 2020 election. Democrats claimed a big triumph with Glanville's victory, while Republicans insisted winning the two seats showed they are poised for a red wave of victory in the fall.

“I am so grateful to the voters in the 74th district who showed up tonight to stand up to hate and keep it out of the State House,” Glanville said in a statement. 

“My opponent’s extreme, violent, and antisemitic views have no place in state government, and tonight the people of the 74th District made clear that they won’t stand for extremism."

Regan created the political opportunity for Democrats after being rebuked by party officials, including Michigan Republican Party Chairman Ron Weiser, for comments that touched on rape and the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Regan, a Grand Rapids entrepreneur, made a comparison two months ago during a livestream between rape and the abandonment of efforts to decertify the 2020 election.

Carol Glanville is a Democrat from Walker, Michigan

"Having three daughters, I tell my daughters, well, 'If rape is inevitable, you should just lie back and enjoy it.'" Regan said. "That's not how we roll. That's not how I won this election. We go right at it."

Regan would not say after his primary victory whether he would join a state House resolution condemning the Russian invasion of Ukraine, likening opposition to the issue to some sort of conspiracy theory. 

A political action committee connected to the conservative Michigan Freedom Fund reported a $3,500 expenditure in late April to support write-in candidate Mike Milanowski. Of the 13 donations Milanowski reported on his pre-general election campaign finance report, covering the period from March 18 to April 17, eight were made by members of the conservative Republican DeVos family. They amounted to $1,000 each.

"Candidates matter. Voters decide. The GOP won this seat 63%-37% in 2020. We couldn’t support Regan & it’s clear voters couldn’t either," Michigan Freedom Fund Executive Director Tori Sachs said Tuesday night on Twitter. "The GOP can & will pick this seat back up in November if a credible candidate is nominated in August."  

Glanville's competitiveness Tuesday night was reflected in campaign fundraising.

The Walker Democrat raised $54,424, including $18,554 over the last fundraising period of the campaign. The Michigan Education Association's political action committee gave $2,500 to boost her campaign.

By contrast, Regan’s campaign has reported raising $12,943 with the majority coming from Regan himself. From March 22 through April 17, the final fundraising period before the special election, Regan disclosed raising just $20. 

After the special primary election, Regan stood by his comparison of rape to the 2020 election while blasting GOP leaders on the "Your Defending Fathers" show, suggesting his opponents want to teach kids how to use condoms and joking about Stevie Wonder's vision.

"Let's be honest," Regan said at one point. "This is a distraction. It's a bunch of BS. And the voters deserve better than what our media and the Republican establishment has been giving us."

Regan also has posted anti-Semitic messages to social media, including a May 2021 post which said: "Feminism is only applied against white men, because it has absolutely nothing to do with protecting women as a sex or defending the feelings of individual women. It is a Jewish program to degrade and subjugate white men."

Glanville emphasized her union roots — indicating she is a daughter of union workers — and said she would stand up for educators and working families. She also took direct aim at Regan's controversial comments.

Robert Regan was a Republican candidate for state House District 74 in Kent County.

Michigan Democratic Party Chair Lavora Barnes welcomed Glanville's victory.

"It is heartening to see common sense and decency win over conspiracy theories, hate, and fear," Barnes said in a statement. "Backed up with hard work and smart strategy, this is a solid start to the 2022 election season, and we are already doing this work in every corner of Michigan."

In Metro Detroit, Harris defeated Democrat Kent Douglas of Waterford in the state House District 43 special general election in Oakland County. 

Harris won 56%-44%, according to unofficial election results. Harris will finish out the last seven months of the term of Rep. Andrea Schroeder, R-Independence Township, who died in October of cancer.

Harris retired from the Waterford Police Department last year after a 25-year career with the agency and now works for a private investigation firm. He said he wants to find ways to improve the local economy and protect constitutional freedoms from threats such as the COVID-19 pandemic mandates and infringements on Second Amendment rights. He said he’s also concerned about curriculum transparency and parental involvement in schools.

Douglas, an information technology analyst, campaigned on increasing school funding in a bid to retain teachers, creating more grants to benefit small businesses and improving community and school mental health programs. 

Shelby Township resident Anthony Lopetrone, right, casts his ballot as his wife, Nancy Broadbridge, heads to the voting booth on Tuesday, May 3, 2022. Voters there are electing a new state House representative for District 36. "We always vote," Lopetrone and Broadbridge said.

In Macomb County's Republican stronghold of the 36th District, which encompasses Bruce, Shelby and Washington townships, Mekoski won, 60% to 40%, over Democrat James Diez, a retired supply chain executive from Shelby Township.

Mekoski, 57, a senior financial investigator, said his priorities are protecting the Constitution and "being the voice of the people and bring that back to our government." He will serve out the final seven months of the term of former Rep. Doug Wozniak, who was elected to the state Senate.

“Tonight’s results show just how ready Michigan is for a wave of new Republican leaders this fall,” House Republican Campaign Committee Co-Chair Sarah Lightner said in a statement. “These are two seats the Democrats fought hard for, but the voters gave Republicans clear victories in both. The 43rd District especially is one seat Democrats talk about winning every year as critical to their plans to try and flip the House. Mike Harris just put that talk on ice." 

Tuesday's special election in District 15, covering most of Dearborn, Pepper won 73%-27% over Republican Ginger Shearer, who was formerly known as Virginia Polk. 

Pepper called the race "Dearborn's last stand," as it is the last time District 15, or any district, will cover so much of the city. In the newly redistricted maps, which take effect ahead of the November election, three separate seats cover portions of the western Wayne County suburb. Pepper will fill the remaining seven months of the term of Democratic former state Rep. Abdullah Hammoud, who was elected mayor of Dearborn.

Pepper's priorities include getting Dearborn's priorities reflected in the state budget and amending Michigan's gun laws because the current statute allows open carry to an extent that he said is uncomfortable and unsafe.

Ballot issues

In Macomb County, voters in Warren Consolidated Schools, a district of 13,000 students, approved a $150 million school bond to improve learning environments, replace outdated infrastructure, improve athletic facilities and upgrade technology for students and staff.

The request is for 4.78 mills for 20 years passed in the Oakland County portion of the district, 70%-30%. In the Macomb County part of the district, yes votes prevailed 63%-37%.

The proposal wouldn't result in a tax increase because the millage would replace the  district's current debt millage of 4.78 mills that expires this year. If approved, the proposal would cost the owner of a home with a taxable value of $100,000 about $478 a year.

Voters in Lake Shore Public Schools approved a $66.76 million bond proposal to remodel and equip school buildings; make additions to buildings; buy and install technology; and improve outdoor learning spaces, parking and driveways and athletic fields.

The request is for 0.4 mills over 28 years passed 62%-38%.

Over in Oakland County, a $97 million bond for Holly Area Schools, a district of 3,100 students, was approved 55%-45%.

The district was asking for the bond to finance the building of a new middle school, a new construction trades building and a new athletic concessions/storage building. The request is for 3.27 mills for 30 years and would not raise taxes.

Voters approved a non-homestead millage renewal for 19.49 mills over 10 years  in Oakland County's Berkley School District. The yes vote won 86%-14%.

The tax would be levied on business property as well as non-primary residences such as rentals or vacation homes. Without a renewal of the millage, school officials say the district would be facing more than a $640 per pupil loss — out of the $8,700 per pupil rate in 2022.

Superintendent Scott Roper said if voters approve the proposal it would give the district of 3,100 students the opportunity to invest in new and enhanced learning environments, districtwide building and site improvements and safety upgrades. 

In Clawson, voters approved a 3.7-mill increase in property taxes for the city’s operating services in a 55%-45% vote. The tax increase was bill as a way to restore taxes reduced under the Headlee Amendment.

In Pontiac, voters elected residents Norbert Burrows, Bryan E. Killian, Tameka Ramsey, Scott Stewart, Kermit Williams and Jose Ybarra III to serve on its charter commission. The remaining slots on the commission, which may write a proposal to amend the city's charter, will be filled by write-in candidates whose tallies must be finalized. 

In Wayne County, voters approved by 66%-34% a $29.95 million bond in the Flat Rock school district in early returns.

The bond will finance the building of additions to Bobcean Elementary School and Flat Rock Community High School as well as remodel other school buildings, buy and install technology, improve and equip outside learning space at the high school and improve and equip playgrounds, athletic fields and parking areas. The request was for 2.94 mills over 30 years.

Voters in the South Redford School District approved the renewal of 1.97-mill sinking fund over 10 years in a 65.5%-34.5% vote. The millage will finance the construction and repair of school buildings and improve and development of school sites. 

Staff Writer Craig Mauger contributed.