Allegan County: We like the way things are around here. Let’s keep it that way. Vote Republican.” — A winning political strategy for more than a century
Composer Gustav Mahler wrote what I believe to be the longest piece of instrumental music ever, Symphony No. 3, “What the Universe Tells Me.” This inspired me to write a column, “What the Midterm Election Tells Me.”
There is a variety of takeaways from what happened Tuesday:
The bluest election in Michigan in 40 years
Despite the tradition of the party of the president getting a “shellacking” two years afterward, vote tallies in Michigan went in the opposite direction. To be sure, Allegan, Ottawa and other rural West Michigan counties continued to show GOP dominance.
But not so in the rest of the state.
Kent County helped elect only the second Democrat in Congress for the Third District, a seat held in bygone days by Gerald Ford, Paul Henry, Vern Ehlers and most recently Peter Meijer. The GOP primary backing right-winger John Gibbs handed Hillary Scholten the prize, a feat not equaled since 1974.
Retired Kalamazoo reporter Julie Mack posted on Facebook the fact that “token” Democratic candidate Joseph Alfonso, who didn’t have one ad on TV, nailed 54% of the vote in that city against Bill Huizenga, who won district-wide by a landslide.
Though former President Donald Trump-backed candidates such as Rachelle Smit and Angela Rigas won big in these parts, the former president’s endorsements did not fare as well elsewhere in this state. He, gubernatorial candidate Tudor Dixon and the House of DeVos were blamed by the Michigan Republican Party for the disappointing results from Tuesday.
For the first time since 1984, the Michigan House, Senate and Governor’s office all show a majority of Democrats. Grand Rapids’ Winnie Brinks is Senate Majority Leader and a black man is Speaker of the House.
Michigan, long regarded as a purple state, now is a blue state. I blame the voter-approved independent redistricting commission that took that power away from self-serving lawmakers, and the continuing rise of women in politics. Say what you will, but more than 60% of the state-wide electorate in 2018 got that ballot initiative passed.
But ladies, the pressure is on. You must prove you can get done what the GOP has refused to get done. It was just six years ago that the Senate was made up of 26 Republicans and 12 Democrats. My, how times have changed.
Newcomer’s performance was astonishing
Perhaps the biggest surprise in the election was the high number of votes cast for political novice Grace Sefranik for Wayland City Council. She didn’t crack the top three to get elected to a seat, but her fourth-place finish was very strong, coming close (just 39 votes) to incumbent Abe Garcia.
She did this without a whole lot of name recognition, without many lawn signs and virtually no public politicking except attending the meetings. So did she do well because of the old-fashioned process of knocking on doors?
In the category of “This doesn’t happen very often,” former Wayland Schools Supt. Norman Taylor pulled off two electoral victories in one day, winning a seat on the Board of Education and on the City Council. He probably won because of name recognition and because he is regarded by many as “a nice man.”
Allegan County continues to be blood red
Statistics from the Allegan County Clerk’s office showed a significant number of voters voted straight Republican, far more than those who vote straight Democratic.
Not even Gov. Gretchen Whitmer could claim victory in the county, though she did win certain precincts in the more urban areas such as Douglas, Saugatuck, Fennville, Plainwell, Allegan, Holland and Wayland. So there it is again — the big electoral divide is between urban and rural with suburban being the battleground.
‘Torches and Pitchforks’ prevail for school boards
The “Torches and Pitchforks” crowd swept open seats on the Martin Board of Education after a very public campaign to elect “conservatives.”
All five of those elected to four-year seats and the two-year winner were on board with the recent parents’ rights movement to rid schools of teaching Critical Race Theory, though it’s not taught in the schools here, gender differences and LGBTQ considerations, and being mandated to wear masks when Covid or other health risks rear their ugly heads again.
Wayland escaped a complete takeover, but only because incumbent Pete Zondervan squeaked past right-wing warrior Michael B. Warren. Janel Hott’s decision over Cinnamon Mellema for the two-year seat sent an ominous message to the board that “we don’t want any pointy-headed intellectuals telling us how to educate our kids.”
So look for more culture wars on school boards, except Hopkins, where the two incumbents won.
“Fasten your seat belts, we’re in for a bumpy ride” — Bette Davis