Republicans’ eight-year run of complete control over state government has come to an end. By 10 p.m. on Election Night, the writing was on the wall – Republicans would not hold the governor’s office.
Democratic former Senate Minority Leader, Gretchen Whitmer, beat Republican rival Attorney General Bill Schuette.
“I guess we’re gonna have to fix the damn roads now, right?” Whitmer exclaimed during her victory speech.
Schuette and Whitmer waged a contentious battle. Taking shots at each other in political ads and during debates. But in the end, Whitmer’s focus on fixing the state’s roads and infrastructure beat out Schuette’s “Paycheck Agenda” that was focused on lowering taxes and smaller government.
Democrats haven’t held the governor’s office for eight years. They still have a ways to go to get control over the other branches of state government – although gains were made on Election Night.
Adrian Hemond is with Grassroots Midwest, a political consulting firm. He says taking the governor’s office will help Democrats in Michigan grow stronger.
“That’s where you start building your political muscle for the coming decade is in that administration,” he says.” That’s a big deal.”
Republicans had multiple losses during the midterm election – for state and federal seats. They lost the U-S House and Michigan contributed to that loss. In particular, longtime Republican Congressman Mike Bishop conceded to newcomer Democrat Elissa Slotkin in what remains a tight race for the 8th District.
Schuette said the current political climate played a role in his and other party losses.
“It was a tough year,” says Schuette. “Tough political environment, look across the country … there are a lot of bumps out there.”
While Republicans didn’t fare well at the top of the ticket, they were able maintain control of the state House and Senate.
“They retain the ability to punch back, if you will,” says Republican strategist Dennis Darnoi. “And that’s not a bad thing.”
Darnoi is concerned about how the state will function with a GOP controlled legislature and a Democratic controlled governor’s office. He says from budgets to social legislation, there will likely be political games until the next election.
“We’ve seen that script before and it’s not necessarily going to produce great public policy,” he explains.
But in her acceptance speech, Whitmer said her mission is to unify state government.
“At a time where we see too many people who want to divide us through building walls, I think we in Michigan need to get back to building bridges,” she says.
Whitmer’s inauguration is scheduled for New Year’s day.