Democrats regain control of Michigan state House after winning two special elections

Democrats won a pair of special state House elections in Michigan on Tuesday, regaining their majority in the chamber — and their trifecta across state government in the crucial battleground state.

The Associated Press projected that the Democratic candidates won their races for the open seats in the 13th and 25th state House districts.

In the 13th 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, defeated Republican Ronald Singer. The seat became vacant when the incumbent Democrat, Lori Stone, resigned after she won an election last fall to be the mayor of Warren.

In the 25th District — which includes, within Wayne County, some of the western suburbs of Detroit — Democrat Peter Herzberg, a Westland City Council member, defeated Republican Josh Powell, an Army veteran. The seat became vacant when the incumbent Democrat, Kevin Coleman, resigned after he won an election last fall to be the mayor of Westland.

Their wins give Democrats a 56-54 advantage in the state House, restoring their majority. The party also holds the governorship and the Senate in Michigan.

Xiong and Herzberg will serve the rest of their predecessors’ two-year terms, and they are both expected to run again for the seats in November, when all 110 seats in the chamber go up for election. 

Xiong and Herzberg were both expected to win because both seats heavily lean Democratic. In 2022, Stone won with 67% support, while Coleman received 63%.

Democrats in Michigan had largely made the pair of races about abortion, casting the party’s continued control in the Legislature as a way to continue protecting access to the procedure. 

Xiong and Herzberg both emphasized their support for reproductive rights during their campaigns. Democrats frequently attacked Powell for having said he opposes all abortion care “without exception” and for having suggested he’d try to repeal the state’s abortion protections. Singer focused his campaign on economic issues. 

Democrats’ victories in Michigan further cement the strength the abortion issue has provided the party up and down the ballot in elections since Roe v. Wade fell in 2022. including in special legislative elections in recent months.

For example, in February, Democrats won a state House special election in Pennsylvania, preserving the party’s narrow majority in the 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.

Democrats had also cast the races as a referendum on the trifecta the party had enjoyed until recently — and on the long list of policy moves they made with it.

Led by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, Michigan Democrats have enacted laws over the past two years protecting abortion rights, boosting unions, combating gun violence and expanding LGBTQ protections. 

“Tonight’s elections were a referendum on the mission of Michigan’s Democratic trifecta, and voters declared they want Democrats to keep advancing the state forward,” Heather Williams, the president of the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee — the national Democratic Party arm in charge of funding candidates for state legislative races — said in a statement.

“Voters want their fundamental freedoms protected, and tonight’s elections delivered a clear rebuke of GOP extremism and attacks on reproductive care,” added Williams, whose DLCC invested about $48,000 in the pair of races.

The 25th District is in solidly blue Wayne County, which includes Detroit. The 13th District includes large chunks of Macomb County, a key swing county in presidential races.

Donald Trump won Macomb County in the 2020 presidential race by 8.1 percentage points and by 12 percentage points in 2016. But President Barack Obama won it in 2012 by 4 percentage points and in 2008 by 8 percentage points. Joe Biden and Hillary Clinton won both state House districts that were up for grabs Tuesday by overwhelming margins in 2020 and 2016.

National Democrats hailed Tuesday’s victories as positive news heading into the 2024 presidential election.

“These victories in the critical battleground of Michigan are only the latest proofpoint of Democrats’ continued momentum,” Democratic National Committee Chairman Jaime Harrison said in a statement. “In special election after special election, voters are turning out to reject Donald Trump and his MAGA Republicans’ plans.”

But many Michigan Democrats urged caution in connecting Tuesday’s results to the 2024 presidential race in the state.

“Michigan is a purple state. We certainly shouldn’t let our foot off the gas here,” Democratic House Speaker Joe Tate said. “We still have a lot of work that we need to do, in particular, in getting out our message and working with the Biden campaign.”