Michigan House special elections: Democrats could regain majority 'trifecta'

Two chandeliers hang in the House of Representatives Chamber at the Michigan State Capitol during a school tour in Lansing on Wednesday, Dec. 13, 2023.
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The balance of power in the evenly split Michigan House of Representatives will be decided Tuesday, as voters in two metro Detroit House districts vote in special elections to fill a pair of vacant House seats.

Special elections are being held to fill open seats in the state House's 13th and 25th districts. The seats were both previously held by Democrats, but former Reps. Lori Stone, D-Warren, and Kevin Coleman, D-Westland, vacated their House seats after winning mayoral races in their respective cities last fall.

The 13th House District, which covers parts of Detroit and Warren, will be contested between Democrat Mai Xiong and Republican Ronald Singer. In the 25th House District, voters will decide between Democrat Peter Herzberg and Republican Josh Powell. The district includes parts of Canton, Dearborn Heights and Westland, along with all of Wayne.

The winner in each district will serve partial terms running through the end of the year, as the seats will again be up for grabs in the November election this year.

Both seats are considered Democratic-leaning — in 2022, both Stone and Coleman won their respective seats by margins greater than 20 percentage points.

Last year, Democrats enjoyed majorities in both the Michigan House and Senate. The majorities allowed Democratic lawmakers to blitz through a series of policy goals — Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed bills establishing new gun safety laws, widening Michigan's civil rights act, repealing certain abortion restrictions, establishing new clean energy goals and more under a "trifecta" of Democratic control. It was the first time in decades that Democrats held both legislative chambers and the governor's office in Michigan.

But after Stone and Coleman vacated their seats, votes on big-ticket items slowed in the House. Democrats still control the chamber and get to decide what is voted on, but since there is an even 54-54 split, Democratic lawmakers need at least one Republican vote to pass anything in the chamber.

That's why some Democrats are keenly paying attention to Tuesday's special elections — while both seats are considered likely Democratic seats, the turnout for special elections is expected to be lower than a normally scheduled election. Democratic lawmakers say they've been campaigning for their party's candidates in both districts ahead of Tuesday's vote.

"In an instance like this where there is so much on the line, we're not taking anything for granted," state Rep. Laurie Pohutsky, D-Livonia said on a press call Monday. "Absolutely, historically, the seats have been pretty solidly Democratic. And I don't think that this will be any different but ... turnout is always a little unpredictable, especially elections. Because we are looking at the possibility of our work thus far being undone, we're not leaving anything to chance."

Xiong is a Macomb County Commissioner and was first elected to that role in 2020. She won the Democratic primary for the 13th House District in January, receiving nearly 79% of the vote. Singer, a mechanical engineer according to his campaign website, won around 64% of the Republican primary. He previously ran against Stone in 2022, receiving about 33% of the vote.

Herzberg is a member of Westland's city council, and is the council's longest-serving member, according to his campaign website. He won almost 36% of the vote in the special Democratic primary for the 25th District, more than four other candidates in the race, including Whitmer-endorsed Andrea Rutkowski. Powell works in information technology, per his campaign website, and was the only Republican to file for the seat.

How to vote in Tuesday's special elections

Polls open at 7 a.m. Tuesday and remain open until 8 p.m. Any voter registered in either the 13th or 25th House Districts can vote in their respective special election Tuesday.

In Michigan, you can register to vote at your local clerk's office up until polls close on Election Day. If you're unsure if you're already registered to vote, you can check your registration status by visiting the Michigan Voter Information Center at michigan.gov/vote. The Michigan Voter Information Center also contains information on finding your local clerk's office, your polling location and more.

Looking for more on Michigan’s elections this year? Check out our voter guide, subscribe to our elections newsletter and always feel free to share your thoughts in a letter to the editor.

Contact Arpan Lobo: alobo@freepress.com. Follow him on X (Twitter) @arpanlobo.

This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: Michigan House special elections: Democrats could regain majority