GOP locks up Oakland Co.’s 39th District

Jim Lynch
The Detroit News

Michigan’s 39th House District seat — considered a key race in the battle for control of the legislative body — will remain in the hands of Republicans.

The three-way contest for the district went to incumbent Rep. Klint Kesto, R-Commerce Township, who had been in the driver’s seat all evening as results trickled in.

Kesto sought a final term in the House against Democrat Michael Stack of Commerce Township and Libertarian Beth McGrath of Commerce Township. Republicans had targeted the race as a necessary win in order to maintain their majority.

Just before 1 a.m. Wednesday, Oakland County released the final results from the race, showing Kesto with more than 50 percent of the vote, Stack with 42 percent and McGrath with 7 percent.

After the final results were posted, Kesto could not be reached for comment.

State Rep. Klint Kesto, R-Commerce Township

Just before midnight, Stack released a statement conceding the race.

“I am disappointed the people of Oakland County did not choose me to represent them in Lansing,” Stack wrote in an email statement. “However, I am very grateful to my campaign staff and volunteers for all of their hard work over the past few months.

“Although I will not be the state representative, I will continue to fight locally for more good-paying jobs, for high quality public education and for our government to be transparent and accountable to us, the people it is meant to serve.”

Earlier in the evening Tuesday, Kesto expressed guarded optimism for a win.

“I feel comfortable based on the history of the remaining unreported precincts and where we’re at right now,” he said. “But I’m a guy who does not like to do anything until the fat lady sings. So until (more results come in), I’m on pins and needles.”

Kesto, a former Wayne County prosecutor, is the first Chaldean-American to hold a seat in the the legislative body. His campaign focused on issues of juvenile justice reform. He is calling for increased support for job skills training for inmates as well as a certificate of employability program.

“We’ve done a lot of punitive stuff, but what about the rehabilitation part?” he asked in an interview with The Detroit News during the campaign. “Our low-level offenders come out of jail and can’t work because they don’t have the necessary skill sets.”

Commerce Township’s McGrath has no prior political experience and works as a specialty health representative.

The House’s 41st District race is another that drew attention ahead of Tuesday’s election. It featured incumbent Rep. Martin Howrylak, R-Troy, and retired teacher and Democrat Cynthia Peltonen of Clawson.

With all precincts reporting, Howrylak retained her seat with over 56 percent of votes cast, to Peltonen’s with just over 43 percent.

jlynch@detroitnews.com