Happy (early) Holidays MLive readers!
The political team here at MLive is still trying to wrap our heads around the midterm elections from last week and have been working hard to give you the news about what the results mean.
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer was, once again, in the national spotlight this week. Not only for her feat as the first Democrat governor in Michigan to lead a fully Democratic controlled state government for the first time since the early 1980s, but based on speculation that she could be on the short list for a presidential run.
My colleague in the legislature, Jordyn Hermani, first reported earlier in the week what outlets like the Washington Post and the New York Times were saying about Whitmer, with one article from Esquire saying that Whitmer’s victory cemented her place on the national playing field as a serious Democratic contender should she pursue higher-than-state-level office.
Originally, Whitmer dismissed conversation surrounding a potential presidential bid.
Related: Whitmer is on the short list of 2024 presidential contenders. She says she’s not interested.
That is, until MLive’s Simon Schuster– who has spent months following the governor on the campaign trail this election cycle– had a sit-down interview with her Thursday. Whitmer told Simon she has no aspirations to seek the presidency while serving as Michigan’s governor, but she’s “not going to forecast” what may happen afterward.
Related: Whitmer leaves door open to a presidential run — but not while governor
“When I left the legislature, I thought my days in public service were behind me,” she said. “I didn’t know that I was going to ultimately run for this office.”
Had she been asked about running for governor again, “I’d have said, ‘I’ll never run for anything again,’ and I would have been wrong,” Whitmer said. “So I’m not going to forecast.”
If she were to choose to run for president in 2024, she would have been facing a familiar contender. Former President Donald Trump announced his third bid for the White House Tuesday, much to the dismay of Michigan’s Senate GOP leader.
Democrats big midterm win overshadows loss of Black voices
Women, LGBTQ lawmakers to have larger representation in Michigan’s upcoming legislature
In other news out of the Capitol, Jordyn and I dug into the makeup of the upcoming 102nd Legislature.
Beginning in January, women and members of the LGBTQ community will represent an even greater number of seats than the year prior.
The LGBTQ cohort will increase from three to seven, all members of the Michigan Democratic Party.
For the 2023-24 term, 45 women will be seated in Michigan’s House of Representatives while 15 women will be seated in the Senate; it’s a three candidate increase in the lower chamber from the current year and a four candidate increase in the upper.
Rep. Laurie Pohutsky, D-Livonia, current chair of the Michigan Progressive Women’s Caucus, said the increase of women in the legislature was heartening to see especially considering she felt that women, as candidates, “usually have a harder time proving themselves.”
While those demographics will see an increase in the legislature in the upcoming term, Black representation will decrease.
Democrats will have less Black lawmakers than currently serving, with the Senate dropping from five to three Black senators and 15 Black representatives now standing at 13.
This also marks the first time in recent years there will be no Black men serving in the Michigan Senate.
Keith Williams, chair of the Michigan Democratic Party’s Black caucus, said he’s left with questions for the incoming class of lawmakers on how they’ll make up for the loss of Black voices. He also said the Black caucus is prepared to work with white legislators representing majority minority districts, like Detroit, to promote policies that benefit their constituents.
“I think something could have been done,” Williams said. “There was not a concerted effort to me to protect Black interest.”
Election deniers fail in battleground states, but ‘Act III’ awaits in 2024
In an election that Democrats and experts on democracy framed as a fulcrum for future fair elections, MLive reporter Ben Orner found that voters in key states rejected many candidates who pushed false claims about the 2020 election.
In battleground states, which MLive defined as the six where Joe Biden’s 2020 victory was less than 3 percentage points, no election denier won (or is currently leading as final votes are counted) a race for governor, attorney general or secretary of state.
In Michigan, all three top-of-ticket Republicans – endorsed by former President Donald Trump and who subscribed to his stolen election lie – lost by at least nine points.
Governor nominee Tudor Dixon accepted her loss and conceded, as did AG nominee Matthew DePerno, who challenged legitimate election results in Antrim County two years ago.
“What we saw in Michigan as well, was that election denialism is a losing strategy,” said Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson, a Democrat.
House GOP tried to initiate third-party investigation into Lee Chatfield. The AG told them to stand down.
Lastly (and one of the few non-election related stories from this week), we have an update on an ongoing investigation out of the state House.
Speaker Jason Wentworth said House Republicans “did go down the path of hiring a third-party” to investigate allegations against his predecessor, Lee Chatfield, but was dissuaded by the Department of Attorney General from doing such.
Wentworth, R-Farwell, spoke at length with reporters (including Jordyn, who may I say was on a roll with some solid reporting this week) Thursday, Nov. 17, at his office in Lansing.
The outgoing House speaker said Republicans have continued to cooperate fully with law enforcement and offered employee interviews and financial documents to be reviewed as needed.
In a nutshell, Chatfield is accused of being engaged in a “criminal enterprise” as part of court documents mistakenly made public in October. That filing also alleges that the ex-lawmaker could have also participated in embezzlement, bribery, use of controlled substances and campaign finance violations while in office.
His conduct is currently being investigated by the Department of Attorney General in conjunction with the Michigan State Police. That probe began in February 2022 when his sister-in-law Rebekah Chatfield, accused the ex-lawmaker of sexually abusing her since she was a minor.
Read more from MLive:
Michigan House speaker: GOP candidate campaigns, not Trump, to blame for poor midterm showing
How did new redistricting laws affect Michigan’s midterm election?
Name the turkey Michigan Gov. Whitmer will spare this Thanksgiving
Michigan borrowers roll ‘with the punches’ hoping for student debt relief
78% of Michigan counties at low COVID level, 1 remains at high risk level