Michigan Republicans keep control of state House, Senate

Jonathan Oosting
The Detroit News
The Michigan Capitol building.

Detroit — Michigan Republicans will retain majorities in the Michigan House and Senate despite losing seats in Tuesday's election, preventing a major blue wave and setting the stage for a divided government that will test Democratic Gov.-elect Gretchen Whitmer. 

The GOP had a 22-16 edge in the Senate and a 58-52 advantage in the House, according to unofficial results. Democrats ended up adding five seats in the Senate — their biggest pickup since 1974 — and gaining five seats in the House.

Democrats fell short of the nine seats needed to flip the state House. Republicans lost six of their own seats but unexpectedly flipped a Democratic seat in the Upper Peninsula.

Democrats also came up short of the nine seats needed to overcome the current GOP Senate majority.

Complete Election Results: Michigan House | Michigan Senate

House Republicans early Wednesday morning touted their fundraising performance, strong candidates and campaign operations as reasons for the wins throughout the state.

“Republican candidates had real plans that addressed the biggest challenges faced by local families,” said outgoing House Speaker Tom Leonard of DeWitt. “We had the candidates who were willing to lead, and this is the caucus that earned the trust of Michigan residents all across the state.”

House Minority Leader Sam Singh of East Lansing said Democrats still managed to exceed expectations. 

"No matter the ultimate outcome, Michiganders have made it clear that they are ready for change at the state house and House Democrats are ready to get the job done alongside our next governor, Gretchen Whitmer," he said.

Republicans have controlled the Senate since 1984, but a mass exodus caused by term limits and evolving dynamics in Oakland County fueled Democratic hopes of picking up the nine seats needed to win a majority. 

Senate pickups included the 7th District, where Democrat Dayna Polehanki of Livonia defeated Republican state Rep. Laura Cox, R-Livonia, and the 20th Senate District where former Rep. Sean McCann of Kalamazoo unseated incumbent Sen. Margaret O'Brien, R-Portage. 

Democrats also gained Senate seats in Oakland County's 13th District, where challenger Mallory McMorrow of Royal Oak defeated incumbent Sen. Marty Knollenberg of Troy, the 12th District where Rosemary Bayer of Beverly Hills beat GOP Rep. Mike McCready of Bloomfield Township and the 29th District, where Rep. Winnie Brinks of Grand Rapids thwarted Rep. Chris Afendoulis of Grand Rapids Township, 

Sen. Curtis Hertel Jr. of East Lansing, who led the Democratic campaign efforts, said a five-seat pickup would be the largest gain for the caucus since 1974. 

"Historically speaking, it would be hard to call this a loss," Hertel said. "This is historic movement in the chamber."

In the House, the Democrats picked up several seats in Metro Detroit.

In Wayne County, Democratic challenger Matt Koleszar of Plymouth Township unseated Rep. Jeff Noble, R-Northville in the 20th District, while Democrat Laurie Pohustky of Livonia won in the 19th District.

In Oakland County, Democrats who won seats held by term-limited Republicans included Mari Manoogian of Birmingham in the 40th District and Padma Kuppa of Troy in the 41st District.

Republicans flipped an open seat in the 110th District, where Gregory Markkanen of Hancock upset Democrat Ken Summers of Baraga.

The GOP has had full control of state government since the 2010 mid-term, when Republican Gov. Rick Snyder carried the top of the ticket by more than 18 percentage points and helped the GOP pick up 21 seats to flip the House. The majority controlled the redistricting process in 2011 and drew the current political boundaries.

With 99 percent of precincts reporting, Whitmer was leading Republican Bill Schuette by nine points in the governor's race. The margin was significant but did not represent the type of wave that has traditionally translated to major wins far down the ticket. 

Democrats last flipped the Michigan House in 2006, picking up eight seats when Democratic then-Gov. Jennifer Granholm won re-election over GOP businessman Dick DeVos by 14 points. Democrats won another nine seats in the 2008, when President Barack Obama won the state by 16 points before his party suffered big losses the next mid-term.

With Republicans holding both chambers, state Sen. Mike Shirkey of Clarklake is expected to become the next Senate majority leader and state Rep. Lee Chatfield of Levering is expected to become the next House speaker.

For Democrats, Senate Minority Leader Jim Ananich of Flint is expected to win re-election and retain his post State Reps. Christine Greig of Farmington Hills and Brian Elder of Bay City are competing to be the next Democratic House leader.


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Twitter: @jonathanoosting