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GOP dominance grew in northern Michigan in 2018

Dan Wanschura

Republicans fared well across northern Michigan yesterday, while Democratic efforts to mobilize voters mainly paid off in Traverse City.

The GOP tightened its grip on two seats that have been the most likely to be competitive in recent elections.

In the vast 1st Congressional District, incumbent Republican Jack Bergman won with a slightly larger percentage of the overall vote than he took in 2016.

Bergman has been in step with President Donald Trump, embracing tax reforms and tariffs and referring to himself as an outsider. Bergman's challenger, Democrat Matt Morgan, is an Iraq war veteran who campaigned on issues like universal health care. 

The difference between the two was more than 41,000 votes. In 2012, the gap between the major party candidates in the 1st Congressional was less than 2,000 votes. Republicans may have been helped this year by the absence of a Libertarian candidate.

The story looked similar in the 101st State House District.

Republican Jack O’Malley won with almost 58 percent of the vote this year, beating out Democrat Kathy Wiejaczka. The 101st district stretches from Ludington to Northport and has been a competitive bellwether in recent elections. It turned blue for one term when Democrat Dan Scripps won in 2008 only to lose in the Tea Party wave of 2010. In 2014, less than one percent of the vote seperated the major party candidates. 

A bright spot for northern Michigan Democrats this year was in Grand Traverse County. Voters in and around Traverse City sent two Democrats to the county commission, Betsy Coffia and Bryce Hundley, something unknown in recent memory. Five other Democrats losttheir bids for the county commission.

Democratic challenger Dan O’Neil came within a few hundred votes of Republican incumbent Larry Inman in the 104th State House race. While not enough, O’Neil’s showing is the closest Grand Traverse County has come to sending a Democrat to Lansing in recent memory.

Leelanau County was the only county in northern lower Michigan to show up blue on political maps this week. Leelanau voters were in step with the majority of Michigan voters preferring Democrats for state office like Governor-elect Gretchen Whitmer and U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow.

Peter Payette is the Executive Director of Interlochen Public Radio.