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What’s at stake in today’s Michigan special House elections


Voters in Michigan will head to the polls Tuesday for a pair of state House special elections that will determine partisan control of the chamber.

In the race for the open seat in the 13th state House District — which encompasses a large part of the city of Warren, within purple Macomb County — Democrat Mai Xiong, a member of the Macomb County Board of Commissioners, is running against Republican Ronald Singer, who ran for the seat unsuccessfully in 2022. The seat, which leans Democratic, became vacant last fall when the incumbent Democrat, Lori Stone, resigned after she won an election to be the mayor of Warren.

In the race for the open seat in the 25th state House District — which includes, within Wayne County, some of the western suburbs of Detroit, like Westland and Sheldon — Democrat Peter Herzberg, a Westland City council member, is running against Republican Josh Powell, a U.S. Army veteran. The seat, which also leans Democratic, became vacant last fall when the incumbent Democrat, Kevin Coleman, resigned after winning an election to be the mayor of Westland.

The winner of each race will only serve the remainder of their predecessors’ two-year terms through the end of 2024.

Prior to the two lawmakers’ resignations, Democrats had held a two-seat advantage in the state House. Their departures created a 54-54 tie in the chamber. Democrats also hold the governorship and the state Senate in Michigan, meaning that a pair of victories would again provide the party with a trifecta in state government.

Both districts heavily lean Democratic: In 2022, Stone won her seat with 67% support, while Coleman received 63% of the vote. But the races could still serve as a referendum on the Democratic trifecta — and on the long list of policy moves they made with it. Led by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, over the past two years Michigan Democrats have enacted laws protecting abortion rights, boosting union rights, combatting gun violence and expanding LGBTQ protections.

Fueled by continued success across the country on the issue of abortion, Democrats in the state have largely made the races about reproductive rights.

Xiong and Herzberg have emphasized their support for reproductive rights and the litany of moves made by the Democratic Legislature protecting them. Powell has said he opposes all abortion care “without exception” and has suggested he’d try to repeal the state’s abortion protections, while Singer has focused his campaign on economic issues. 

“It’s significant,” Michigan Democratic state House Speaker Joe Tate said, referring to the role abortion rights is playing in both of the special elections. “It’s large — and for good reason.”

“It’s top of mind for voters,” he added.

The Democratic candidates have also run heavily on the accomplishments that the party achieved during its trifecta, betting that voters in these two districts within the pivotal presidential battleground will reward that list of progressive policies. 

“Michigan is a shining example of what Democrats do in leadership,” said Abhi Rahman, a spokesperson for the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee — the national Democratic Party arm in charge of funding candidates for state legislative races — which invested about $48,000 in the pair of races.

“Fundamental freedoms are at stake in Michigan,” he said. “The Democratic trifecta is at stake.”

Democrats have enjoyed a solid record in special state legislative elections in recent months.

In February, Democrats won a state House special election in Pennsylvania, preserving the party’s narrow majority in the closely watched battleground state. And last month, the Democratic candidate in a special election for a state House seat in Alabama won after she made in vitro fertilization and abortion rights central to her campaign.


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