State Senate incumbents triumph over challengers in redistricted Wayne County seats

Breana Noble
The Detroit News

State Sen. Erika Geiss of Taylor will face Republican Erik Soderquist of Taylor in the general election for the 1st Michigan Senate District after beating out five challengers in the Democratic primary.

With all precincts reporting Wednesday, Geiss won with 32% of the vote in the district representing Downriver communities from Taylor to Detroit. The challengers included former Rep. Frank Liberati of Allen Park with 23%. Brenda Sanders, a former judge from Detroit who was removed from the bench for mental illness, also garnered about 23%.

State Rep. Erika Geiss

They were followed by Detroit real-estate agent Shellee Brooks with 10%, Detroit Police Commissioner Ricardo Moore with 8% and railroad worker Carl Schwartz of Taylor with 4%. Soderquist was unopposed.

Geiss, 51, has served in the Legislature since 2015. The former Wayne County Community College District humanities educator highlights passing better care for incarcerated pregnant women, proposing a bill to repeal Michigan's 1931 law that could ban elective abortions and being an original member of the Gun Violence Protection Caucus.

"I’m not going to change because of who the residents are," Geiss said last month. "My core values are rooted in equity and justice. I will fight for whomever I’m serving."

Several voters said they trust Geiss' philosophy and decision-making: "I like what she stands for," said Olivia Rojas, 34, of Allen Park. "She shares the values that I find important in government, especially with everything going on right now. I feel represented."

Liberati, 58, previously served his limited two terms in the Michigan House. A father to a son with autism, he has advocated for constituents with disabilities and owns an Italian deli and bakery in Allen Park.

Results in Wayne County began to trickle in close to midnight on Tuesday. Redistricting attracted new faces to the contests, though incumbent Democrats mostly were victorious in the hope their party can maintain its seats in an effort to take over the chamber in the general election on Nov. 8 for the first time in decades. Voters on Tuesday said some of their top issues were roads, inflation and abortion access.

"I want to see a change for the better," said Ronona Thomas, 46, of Taylor, who cast her ballot in the Democratic primary. "The overturning of Roe v. Wade got me out to vote. We have to change it at a local level."

In the 2nd District stretching from Dearborn Heights to Detroit, Sen. Sylvia Santana of Detroit, a Democrat, will face Republican Harry Sawicki of Dearborn Heights, a self-employed manufacturer's representative, in November.

Santana in her primary won 81% to 19% against Detroit resident Maurice Sanders, a University of Michigan doctoral economics student. Sawicki was the only Republican to run.

Sen. Stephanie Chang cleared her way to victory for the 3rd District seat after beating out Toinu Reeves of Detroit, an economics doctoral student, in the Democratic primary as there are no Republicans running.

Chang won 83% to 17% in the only district with portions of Macomb, Oakland and Wayne counties.

Sen. Stephanie Chang seeks reelection for state Senate.

Chang, 38, is a former Detroit community organizer and the first Asian American woman elected to the Michigan Legislature in 2014. She highlighted her work in mental health advocacy, water access and police accountability.

Chang plans to run for Senate majority leader if the Democrats win control of the Senate for the first time in four decades.

Challenger Reeves, 46, expects to complete his UM doctorate in economics in the next two years. The Ivy League undergraduate's experience spans IT consultancy, teaching, automotive factory work and founding nonprofits focused on policy, teaching children tech skills through video games and tracking firearms in real-time.

"I heard him speak, and he talked about bringing the neighborhoods and races together," said Sheila Morgan, 62, of Detroit. "I think we need that."

Toinu Reeves, a doctoral candidate at the University of Michigan, is running for state Senate.

Former congressional intern Houston James of Flat Rock, a Republican, will face Rep. Darrin Camilleri of Trenton, who ran unopposed in the Democratic primary.

They are running in the 4th District, which goes from Van Buren Township to Grosse Isle. 

James in his primary won with 41% of the vote. He was followed by blue-collar workers Michael Frazier of Romulus with 23% and James Chapman of Belleville with 19%. Flat Rock resident Beth Socia received 17% of votes.

And in the 5th District covering Canton Township to Garden City, Sen. Dayna Polehanki, D-Livonia, will face GOP committeewoman Emily Bauman of Westland. Polehanki won the Democratic primary 75% to 25% against Ford Motor Co. retiree Velma Jean Overman of Inkster.

Bauman secured 42% of votes, more than the 33% achieved by truck driver Leonard Scott Jr. of Canton Township. Jody Rice-White of Livonia, an advocate against elder abuse, trailed with 25%.

Twitter: @BreanaCNoble