Home News Michigan Democrats Reclaim Full Control of Statehouse With Special Election Wins

Michigan Democrats Reclaim Full Control of Statehouse With Special Election Wins

Michigan Democrats Reclaim Full Control of Statehouse With Special Election Wins


Michigan Democrats started 2023 with full control of state government for the first time since the 1980s. They ended the year in a political bind after two House members left to become mayors of suburbs, leaving that chamber with an even partisan split and making it impossible for Democrats to pass bills without Republican support.

On Tuesday, five months after their House majority evaporated, Democrats won two special elections to reclaim those seats and full control at the Michigan Capitol. The Associated Press said the Democrats Mai Xiong, a Macomb County commissioner, and Peter Herzberg, a Westland City Council member, defeated their Republican opponents.

The results of the special elections had never been in great doubt. Both districts, situated in the Detroit area, are liberal strongholds that Democratic candidates had carried by large margins in 2022. But the details of scheduling and running special elections meant a long, slow winter for Democratic lawmakers in Lansing while the House was evenly divided between the two parties. Michigan’s governor, Gretchen Whitmer, is a Democrat, and her party has a majority in the State Senate.

Republicans hope the Democrats’ renewed House majority is short-lived. Michigan, long a swing state, is expected to be a pivotal presidential battleground again this year. President Biden is working to rebuild a coalition that helped him win the state in 2020, but early polling has been favorable to former President Donald J. Trump. Republicans see an opening to deliver Michigan for Mr. Trump in November and to win control of the Michigan House, a goal that could be helped by newly redrawn legislative maps in the Detroit area. All 110 Michigan House seats are up for election in November, including the two seats that were contested on Tuesday.

Before losing their House majority last year, Michigan Democrats raced through a list of longstanding policy goals that had been stymied during decades of divided government or Republican control of the state. In the span of several months in 2023, Ms. Whitmer and legislative Democrats enacted new gun laws, codified civil rights for L.G.B.T.Q. people, solidified abortion rights and undid Republican laws that they said weakened labor unions.

Those efforts slowed in November after one House member, Kevin Coleman, was elected mayor of Westland and another, Lori M. Stone, was elected mayor of Warren. Under Michigan law, Mr. Coleman and Ms. Stone had to resign from the Legislature when they became mayor.

Mr. Coleman said in November that some fellow Democrats, including members of Ms. Whitmer’s staff and Speaker of the House Joe Tate, expressed concerns to him about his mayoral run. But none of them, he said, did anything to undermine his campaign for mayor.

Once Ms. Xiong and Mr. Herzberg are sworn in, Democrats will have the numbers to resume their legislative push. With the general election only months away, it is uncertain how aggressively lawmakers will move.

Ms. Xiong, who was elected to the Macomb County Board of Commissioners in 2020, has worked as an interpreter. She is of Hmong descent and said on her campaign website that she immigrated to the United States as a child after being born in a refugee camp in Thailand. Mr. Herzberg, who has a finance background, has been a member of the City Council in Westland, his hometown, since 2016.


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