Macomb commissioner wins Democratic primary for 11th District state Senate seat

Maureen Feighan
The Detroit News

Longtime Macomb County Commissioner Veronica Klinefelt defeated Monique Owens, Eastpointe's first Black mayor, in Tuesday's Democratic primary for a newly redrawn Michigan Senate seat that could play a role in what party controls the state Legislature.

Klinefelt will face Republican Sen. Mike MacDonald, R-Macomb Township, after winning the 11th Senate District primary 62.5% to 37.5% over Owens, according to unofficial results. The 11th District stretches from Seven Mile in Detroit all the way north to 23 Mile in northern Macomb County. 

Democrats are targeting the seat in a bid to regain the majority in the Senate for the first time in four decades. Republicans hold a 22-16 majority.

MacDonald ran unopposed in Tuesday's Republican primary.

For Al and Mary Mac of Clinton Township, who are both in their 40s, Tuesday's election was the first time the lifelong Macomb County residents had ever voted in a primary. They said they were spurred to go to the polls to help put more Democrats such as Klinefelt in office.

Eastpointe Mayor Monique Owens, left, is running against Macomb County Commissioner Veronica Klinefelt in the Democratic primary for the state Senate's 11th District.

It's time "to turn the tide," said Mary Mac.

Both said they voted for Klinefelt because of her previous experience as a school board member in East Detroit Public Schools and her commitment to unions.

"I feel like she's committed to the public schools," said Mary Mac, who also works in public education.

Christopher Jean, a 26-year-old artist from Eastpointe, meanwhile, voted for Owens.

"I felt Monique was the strongest candidate," he said.

Redistricting has reshaped state House and Senate districts across Macomb County as it has counties statewide.

Klinefelt, 58, who has four adult children and one grandchild, has been a Macomb County commissioner for 10 years. She said she would've been content finishing her career as a county commissioner but was spurred to run for the Senate earlier this spring when it seemed likely that Roe v. Wade would be overturned. She worried about what other rights may come under attack, such as access to birth control.

"I just decided if I'm going to make a difference, a real difference, now's the time to do it," she said.

Owens, a former police officer who originally filed to run as a Republican in Tuesday's primary, said she decided to run for the state Senate even though she hasn't finished her first term as mayor yet, because she believes she can do more at the state level. She made history when she was elected Eastpointe's first Black mayor in 2018.

"As a mayor, you do a lot for your community and I've learned so much as far as legislation, getting out to help other people have a better quality of life," said Owens. "But it limits me to only the city of Eastpointe. I want to do it on a bigger scale to make sure people have a better quality of life throughout the state of Michigan."

Election results were slow to trickle after the polls closed at 8 p.m. Tuesday. Based on new state protocols, local clerks had to submit their results differently to county election officials, which delayed when they were posted.