Polls close in Michigan as election goes down to wire

Tom Greenwood and Louis Aguilar
The Detroit News

Detroit — Almost all polls have closed in Tuesday's midterm elections in Michigan, ending a long and costly campaign for governor and other offices.

Republican Gov. Rick Snyder and Democratic challenger Mark Schauer expressed optimism earlier in the day. Clerks throughout Michigan anticipated heavy turnout for the packed ballot, as voters were also electing a new junior senator, members of Congress and deciding whether to return the incumbent attorney general and secretary of state.

(FULL ELECTION RESULTS HERE)

Polls closed at 8 p.m., although there are three counties in the western Upper Peninsula where voting continues until 9 p.m. EST because they're in the central time zone.

Snyder was awaiting results at the Renaissance Center, while Schauer and Democrats gathered at the MGM Grand Casino. Late polls had the race a dead heat.

Snyder told reporters he feels "good about how the vote's going and how it's looking."

"We had to reinvent Michigan, we made a lot of tough calls. But look at how good Michigan is today compared to four years ago," he said Tuesday morning. He spoke outside his voting station. "I'm proud of our record."

While Schauer slated 20 public appearances today across the state, Snyder had only two near his Ann Arbor home. He opted to spend time with his family before heading to Detroit.

"I want it badder," Schauer said after greeting voters at mid-afternoon stop in Warren.

Schauer, a former state legislator and one-term congressman from Battle Creek, is a veteran campaigner.

"This is the way I've always won in tough districts," Schauer told The Detroit News. "You never know what vote may be the one that decides the election."

Schauer planned to end his campaign bus tour just before 8 p.m. when voting ends at a polling precinct in Detroit.

"We're going to keep working until the polls close and there's nothing more that I can do," Schauer said.

Schauer spent election morning telling volunteers his momentum is building, his message is getting through to voters and he intends to become Michigan's next governor.

"As the challenger against an incumbent everybody knows, and a whole lot of people don't like, this is ours for the taking," he said to election workers at an office just east of the Michigan State University campus. "We have been articulating our collective vision for the state for the last year-and-a-half and it is now ours for the taking."

Voting was brisk at polls throughout Michigan. Early Tuesday, the parking lot outside the Pleasant Ridge Community center was crowded with residents including Tom Branigan.

"I think Gov. Snyder has done a good job and I'm very surprised that the race is as close as it is," he said. "Hopefully he'll pull it out. I always vote when I'm in town, otherwise I vote with an absentee ballot."

Matt Larson, 31, of Ferndale said he was undecided entering the voting booth but went with Schauer. He said it was a vote against Snyder, primarily because of his record on education.

"I feel like it was the lesser of two evils," said Larson, who describes himself as an independent.

Royal Oak resident Jonette Smith cast her vote in the city's cavernous Farmers Market bright and early Tuesday morning. To her, voting was an important duty, not an obligation.

"I always vote because each of us is affected, especially now with the condition the economy is in, both nationally and within the state."

Smith said she wasn't surprised at the closeness of the race for governor.

"Not really; many people operate with emotion and feeling of the past," Smith said. "While others read and learn what's really going on. Voting is the only way to really affect change."

The only ballot initiative that caught Berkley resident Roger Dutcher by surprise was the one asking whether local police agencies should give a low priority designation to marijuana possession.

"I was startled to see that one on the ballot," said Dutcher, who makes a point to vote in every election.

"I had a hard time with the wolves ballot. I've been tossing and turning about it, but finally voted no because it doesn't seem necessary to hunt wolves. Overall, this is an important election, especially for mid-term."

Michigan also is electing a new junior senator because longtime U.S. Sen. Carl Levin, D-Detroit, is retiring at the end of his term. Former Secretary of State Terri Lynn Land is trying to secure one of the two Michigan Senate seats for Republicans. Land faces Gary Peters, a Democratic congressman.

Voters also are electing Supreme Court justices and deciding a pair of ballot measures on whether to allow wolf hunting.

Gary Heinlein and Chad Livengood contributed