Voter guide: Get to know the candidates, issues on the ballot in Michigan

People enter the voting precinct on Tuesday, August 7, 2018 outside Warren Community Center in Warren.

Michigan is one of the battleground states not only for races for Congress, but governor, the state House in Lansing and key issues from legalized marijuana to redrawing political boundaries.

Check out The Detroit News' candidate overviews and issues by following the links below.

U.S. Senate

U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Lansing, is seeking a fourth, six-year term aginst Republican challenger John James of Farmington Hills. Stabenow is seen as a reliable vote for her party in the Senate, where she voted with almost all her Democratic colleagues against Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh and Trump's tax cuts.
But she has carved out a bipartisan reputation on farm and agricultural issues.

Read more about Debbie Stabenow >>

Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., ranking member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, left, speaks during a meeting of the committee to consider a bipartisan farm bill that makes mostly modest adjustments to existing programs and, unlike the House version of the bill, doesn't pick a fight over food stamps, on Capitol Hill in Washington,  June 13, 2018. The House version of the farm bill failed on the floor when a group of conservative lawmakers blocked its passage over an unrelated immigration bill.

Republican Farmington Hills businessman John James has attacked U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow as not doing enough in the Senate. James has blamed "both parties" for problems like "failing schools" and "forgotten veterans." The 37-year-old Iraq veteran has trailed in the polls, but it hasn't stopped President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence from seeking to bolster the political novice's fortunes.

Read more about John James >>

GOP U.S. Senate candidate John James talks to his supporters.

Debate: Stabenow and James traded rhetorical blows on issues from trade, immmigration, and health care to contaminants in Michigan's drinking water.

Read more about debate >>

U.S. House

1st District: In a relatively sleepy race, two Marine veterans of different generations are vying for the U.S. House seat representing northern Michigan and the Upper Peninsula. Freshman Rep. Jack Bergman, a retired three-star general from Watersmeet, has rarely split with President Donald Trump, embracing his tariffs, border wall and the GOP tax reform bill. Democrat Matt Morgan of Traverse City, an Iraq veteran and political newcomer, has campaigned on single-payer universal health care, infrastructure upgrades and immigration reform. 

Read more about 1st Congressional District race >>

6th District: Sixteen-term U.S. Rep. Fred Upton has beaten every election opponent he's faced in his southwest Michigan district, but a liberal political newcomer is hoping to change that come November.

Read more about 6th Congressional District race >>

Matt Longjohn, left, and U.S. Rep. Fred Upton, R-St Joseph

7th District: There is change afoot in southern Michigan, where Democratic challenger Gretchen Driskell is trying to unseat Republican U.S. Rep. Tim Walberg in the GOP-leaning 7th Congressional District.

Read more about 7th Congressional District race >>

Republican Tim Walberg, left, and Democrat Gretchen Driskell are running for Michigan's 7th Congressional district.

8th District: The ad wars are firing up one of the nation’s hottest congressional races, as Republican Rep. Mike Bishop scrambles to defend his seat against his toughest opponent ever.

Read more about 8th Congressional District race >>

Elissa Slotkin and Mike Bishop

Republican U.S. Rep. Mike Bishop and Democratic challenger Elissa Slotkin squared off in their first debate, trading jabs on health care policy and the environment and responded to one another's attack ads.

Read more about first debate here >>

Republican U.S. Rep. Mike Bishop and Democratic challenger Elissa Slotkin feuded over health care, the economy and other issues in a fast-paced radio debate summed up by the moderator as a “whirlwind.”

Read more about second debate here >>

9th District: In a suburban Detroit congressional district that leans Democratic, Andy Levin is poised to replace his father in the U.S. House despite a Republican challenge.
First-time GOP candidate Candius Stearns of Sterling Heights is hoping to get support from the Macomb County portion of the 9th Congressional District, a county where President Donald Trump won big in 2016. 

Read more about 9th Congressional District race >>

11th District: A tight congressional race in Detroit's suburbs guarantees that Michigan adds another woman to its delegation next year — and its first representative of the millennial generation. Two first-time candidates, Democrat Haley Stevens, 35, and Republican Lena Epstein, 37,  are facing off in the 11th District to determine a successor for retiring U.S. Rep. Dave Trott, R-Birmingham. 

Read more about 11th Congressional District race >>

U.S. House candidates Haley Stevens and Lena Epstein faced off on attack ads, immigration and health care in their only debate in the race for Michigan’s 11th District.

Read more about debate >>

Haley Stevens, left, and Lena Epstein

13th District: Former State Rep. Rashida Tlaib made history in the August primary as she is poised to become the first Muslim woman elected to Congress following the November election, where she does not face a Republican challenger. She won the Demcratic primary in the 13th Congressional District where resigned U.S. Rep. John Conyers Jr. had been representing a majority-black district.

Read more about Rashida Tlaib >>

Detroit City Council President Brenda Jones is pulling a last-minute, "long shot" maneuver attempting to upset former state Rep. Rashida Tlaib and win the two-year term to succeed former U.S. Rep. John Conyers Jr. as a write-in candidate.

Read more about Brenda Jones' write-in campaign >>


From the back of a hay wagon on a muggy June day, Bill Schuette gave a familiar speech to a crowd of Jackson County farmers and politicians. He’ll be the paycheck governor, Schuette said. He’ll improve reading levels. He’ll find a solution to high auto insurance rates. And he’ll repeal taxes harming Michigan families. Throw in a few mentions of President Donald Trump's endorsement, and the campaign message is practically complete. Schuette has had time to perfect the message over the past 34 years.

Read more about Bill Schuette >>

FILE - Republican gubernatorial hopeful Bill Schuette, currently the Michigan attorney general, speaks at a campaign event on the Weir farm in Southern Michigan near Hanover.

Gretchen Whitmer was a freshman in the Michigan House of Representatives when she had her first daughter. Less than three months after  becoming a mother, her own mom died of brain cancer. That pivotal first term, full of joy and heartbreak, shaped a legislative tenure marked by resistance and compromise as a perpetual member of the minority party.

Read more about Gretchen Whitmer >>

Road funding: Michigan Democratic gubernatorial candidate Gretchen Whitmer’s ability to “fix the damn roads” would depend on the Legislature’s appetite to raise taxes or voters’ willingness to let the state take on billions of dollars in debt to be repaid with interest. Republican Bill Schuette opposes her plan, arguing Whitmer is “describing the road back to the lost decade” by threatening to impose tax hikes that would slow economic growth.

Gubernatorial candidate Gretchen Whitmer addresses the crowd. 
Former U.S. Vice President Joe Biden joins candidates Elissa Slotkin, Gretchen Whitmer, Garlin Gilchrist and U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow during a Get Out the Vote rally in Lansing at the Lansing Community College’s Gannon Gym, Thursday, November 1, 2018.

Read more about road plans >>

Detroit-Windsor bridges: Leading candidates to replace term-limited Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder say they intend to continue his partnership with Canada to build a new international bridge across the Detroit River. But Republican Bill Schuette has signaled he is also open to a separate push by the Moroun family to twin the aging Ambassador Bridge that has connected Detroit to Windsor since 1929.

Read more about bridges >>

Tax and budget plans: The leading candidates to be Michigan's next governor offer starkly different views of the role of state government, with one stressing the need for funding to solve problems while the other views taxes and regulations as an impediment to growth. But both are pushing proposals that could pose challenges for keeping the state's budget balanced. 

Read more about tax and budget plans >>

Education and literacy: Republican gubernatorial candidate Bill Schuette and Democrat Gretchen Whitmer’s plans to fix the state’s struggling education system begin with efforts to reach kids when they’re young. While they agree on the need to boost troubling reading comprehension rates, their plans are less clear on funding and at odds over a new third-grade reading law that could prevent students across the state from advancing to fourth grade if they lack basic reading skills.

Read more about education, literacy plans >>

Michigan Legislative Contests

Oakland County: The county is an unlikely setting for a Democratic coup, but the onetime Republican stronghold is part of the Democrats' plans to seize the Michigan House in the Nov. 6 election. A flurry of state legislative races in Oakland are neck and neck.

Read more about Oakland County statehouse races >>

Wayne County: Suburban Wayne County is one of the legislative battlegrounds where Democrats are trying to reclaim three Michigan House seats and one Senate post currently held by Republicans.

Read more about Wayne County statehouse races >>

Macomb County: In Macomb County, where the campaign season reputedly doesn’t begin until someone gets punched, the most intriguing race for the state Legislature involves drunken driving and an amputated leg. The second-most intriguing campaign features unpaid liens and an attack-mode website that claims the incumbent is in favor of child labor.

Read more about Macomb County statehouse races >>

View of the West side of the Capitol from the mall in front of the Supreme Court building for stock, files, iconic, etc... use.

Attorney General

A stark divide defines the race between Michigan's two leading attorney general candidates, whether it's over the future of Enbridge's Line 5 or potential enforcement of state abortion laws. Republican House Speaker Tom Leonard promises to be a “rule of law” attorney general who will tackle mental health issues, elder abuse and government transparency complaints, while Democratic Plymouth Township lawyer Dana Nessel pledges to address water contamination issues and protect affordable health care.

Read more about Michigan attorney general's race >>

Michigan Attorney General candidates: Dana Nessel, (D), left, and Tom Leonard (R).

Secretary of State 

The Republican and Democratic candidates for secretary of state have similar goals of easing visits to state offices for driver's licenses and vehicle registrations as well as improving voting options, but strikingly different ways of achieving them. Democrat Jocelyn Benson is promising a 30-minute guarantee of service at state offices — much like Mike Duggan's 30-minute guaranteed emergency room service when he headed the Detroit Medical Center. Republican Mary Treder Lang is advocating for more online services so residents don't need to visit the office more than once every eight years.

Read more about Michigan secretary of state's race >>

Michigan Secretary of State candidates Jocelyn Benson, (D), left, and Mary Treder Lang (R).

Michigan Supreme Court

Republican-endorsed Justices Kurtis Wilder and Beth Clement face well-financed Democratic opponents in a Michigan Supreme Court race that has not generated the high-profile outside attack ads of past campaigns. 

Read more about Michigan Supreme Court race >>

Statewide education boards

The race for the Michigan State University Board of Trustees will add two new trustees to help guide the state's largest public university make critical decisions in the wake of the Larry Nassar sex abuse scandal. The leading trustee candidates all seem to agree that keeping tuition affordable, selecting the correct next president and restoring trust in MSU's leadership — after Nassar sexually assaulted women while an MSU physician — are the key issues.

Read more about MSU board race >>

Sam Bagenstos, from top-left, Megan Cavanagh, Kurtis Wilder, lower-left, and Elizabeth Clement.

Statewide Ballot Proposals

Proposal 1's financial impact: After the initial haze clears, Michigan stands to gain financially from recreational marijuana if voters choose to legalize it. And while few dispute the potential economic benefit, critics argue it comes at too high of a price.

Read more about legalized pot's financial impact >>

Proposal 1's health impact: If Michigan voters approve November's ballot initiative to legalize marijuana, little is definitively known about how it would affect the health of users in the state because cannabis research is scarce and still developing. Researchers fear that people under 25 years old who regularly ingest or smoke pot over a long time eventually could hurt their brain development, among other issues. By contrast, some scientists are excited about marijuana's potential to relieve pain, treat post-traumatic stress disorder and aid in the recovery from opioid addiction. 

Read more about legalized pot's health impact >>

Pre-rolled marijuana joints are among the products at The Reef marijuana dispensary.

Proposal 2: Of the three ballot initiatives Michigan voters will consider, perhaps none has been more hotly contested or more closely watched than Proposal 2. The proposed constitutional amendment would ax Michigan’s current redistricting process — in which the party in power redraws legislative and congressional district boundaries every 10 years — and hand that responsibility to a 13-member commission made up of four self-identified Republicans, four Democrats and five people not affiliated with any party.

Read more about Proposal 2 >>

A growing number of states are considering changing the criteria or methods used to draw congressional and state legislative districts. Pictured: North Carolina Republican state Sens. Dan Soucek, left, and Brent Jackson review historical maps during the Senate Redistricting Committee in 2016.

Proposal 3: A proposal to restore straight-party voting and expand options including same-day voter registration has sparked a fight about what practices should be enshrined in Michigan's Constitution. The "Promote the Vote" initiative would amend the state's Constitution in the name of "voting rights" to allow no-reason absentee voting by mail, reinstate straight-party voting and let residents register to vote up to and on Election Day.

Read more about Proposal 3 >>