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Redistricting's effect on Black Representation in Michigan

Michigan had a historic midterm election following its first redistricting process under the Independent Redistricting Commission. The Commission set out to create districts with a reasonable threshold for the Black communities preferred candidates to win, even as these districts had a lower makeup of people of color. However, the new districts resulted in many court challenges as well as criticism that the number of districts in which people of color would win could be reduced.


Following the 2022 election, there are 14 Black state representatives in the Michigan House and three Black State Senators. Redistricting contributed to lower Black representation in the State Senate, while Black representation in the State House and the US Congressional delegation remained consistent. However, the City of Detroit lost black congressional representation for the first time since 1955.


Prior to the redistricting process, Michigan had ten majority-minority districts in the Michigan House and five in the Michigan Senate. Post-redistricting, there are five majority-minority districts, all of which are in the Michigan House.


For our analysis of the primary elections, we looked at districts with Black candidates running, as well as districts with a plurality of Black voters. For these candidates, we looked at their incumbency status, governmental tenure, social capital within their communities, campaign fundraising, local news coverage, and the endorsements they received from local and state organizations, including unions, community leaders, and other elected officials.


Few State Senate races had Black candidates running. However, there were notable wins for three Black women, Sylvia Santana (District 2), Sarah Anthony (District 21), and Ericka Geiss (District 1). All three women previously served in the Michigan State House of Representatives.


Sylvia Santana, formerly of Senate District 3, ran for re-election in Senate District 3 and won the general election against Republican challenger Harry Sawicki, garnering 68% of the vote. She had significant campaign contributions (250k compared to Sawicki's 3k) and benefited from her tenure in the 9th House District between 2017-2019. Additionally, Santana had endorsements from the AFL-CIO, Emily's List, and AMPAC (American Arab & Muslim Political Action Committee). She currently serves as the Michigan State Director of Women in Government, which contributed to her social capital.


Sarah Anthony won the Democratic primary in the Senate race for the newly redrawn District 21 and won the general election against Republican challenger Nkenge Robertson, garnering 60% of the vote. This was the sole State Senate election where both candidates were Black. Anthony benefitted from being the only candidate in the Democratic primary. In the general election, Anthony benefitted from her tenure in the legislature as the current representative for District 68 in the MI House of Representatives, as well as highly formidable campaign funds ($333,988).


Erika Geiss won the Democratic primary in the Senate race for District 6 by a margin of 32.3% against five challengers. Geiss benefitted from tenure in the legislature, which she has held since 2015, representing District 12 and then District 1 in the MI House of Representatives. Additionally, Geiss benefited from significant campaign funds and social capital as a former Union member, which garnered teacher union endorsements for her campaign. Geiss also is an active board member on the Wayne County Council for the Arts, History and Humanities, Taylor Substance Abuse Prevention Task Force, the Beaumont Teen Health Center — Taylor Advisory Board, and the Taylor Career Technical Education Center Advisory Board.


State Senate District 4 saw a loss of Black representation when Senator Marshall Bullock lost in the Democratic primary by a margin of 31.5% against Senator Mallory McMorrow. In a highly publicized race following McMorrow's rise to national attention following her impassioned speech on the Senate floor in April, McMorrow acquired a formidable campaign war chest. Despite Bullock's tenure in the legislature as the incumbent in Senate District 4, he was significantly outspent in the campaign by a margin of nearly $450,000. McMorrow also benefited from a plethora of endorsements from organizations, including labor unions, local officials, and advocacy groups, including Clean Water Action, Michigan Planned Parenthood, and Moms Demand Action.


A common factor amongst candidates that won their primaries was that they had sizable campaign funding, existing social capital, and name recognition in the communities they were running in. Many incumbents won their races, even in newly drawn districts, such as Tyrone Carter (formerly of House District 6, now the House representative-elect of District 1) and Helena Scott of House District 7.


Despite these trends, there were several surprise winners. Kimberly Edwards won the Democratic primary in the 12th House District with a margin of victory of about 287 votes. Edwards garnered 52% of the vote against incumbent Richard Steenland, who garnered 48%. Steenland had incumbency, tenure, significant campaign funds (50k), and endorsements. Despite having few endorsements and funds, she reportedly spent less than $1000 on her campaign. Edwards prevailed due to an expensive community-centered grassroots campaign and her local social capital established through her position as a social worker.


Tyrone Carter, the House Representative-elect from District 1, won the Democratic primary nomination, garnering 78% of the vote. Carter benefited from formidable campaign funding, incumbency, and the disqualification of Rep. Cynthia Johnson of District 5 from the race. The newly drawn district placed Carter and Johnson in the same district, where the share of white and black voters shrank, and the share of Hispanic voters was concentrated. Johnson would have likely split the vote.


Helena Scott, the House Representative-elect from District 7, which has a 46% Black voting age population, won her Democratic primary nomination with 53% of the vote. She ran unchallenged in the general election. Scott benefited from her tenure in the legislature as the current House Rep for District 7, her experience organizing for Southeast Michigan Jobs with Justice, and as a training coordinator for the League of Women Voters of Detroit. She additionally raised over 100k in campaign funds.


There were few races in the House of Representatives with multiple Black candidates running. One was in House District 82, with Kristian Grant narrowly winning the Democratic nomination by a margin of only 77 votes (43.07%) over challenger Robert Womack (42.50%). Grant benefited from more formidable campaign funds ($22k compared with Womack's $6k) in addition to critical endorsements from current representatives, the Grand Rapids mayor, Grand Rapids City Commissioners, the Grand Rapids Public Schools Trustees, and the Grand Rapids Chamber of Commerce.


Another win in a race with multiple Black candidates was in House District 18. Jason Hoskins narrowly won the Democratic primary nomination against Caprice Jackson with 55% of the vote. The newly created district consolidated much of Southfield and Farmington Hills. Hoskins benefited from a significant advantage in campaign funding, a high level of social capital from his position as a Southfield City Councilman, and notable endorsements from state legislators and local elected officials. Hoskins also won the general election against Black Republican challenger Wendy Webster Jackson, receiving 79% of the vote.


In House District 4, Karen Whitsett won the Democratic primary nomination against two challengers, including another black candidate, Lori Turner. Whitsett significantly outspent other candidates in campaign funds (nearly double that of other challengers), benefitted from incumbency as the current House Representative for District 9, tenure in the legislature, and social capital within the community. She earned endorsements from the Michigan Manufacturing Association, Michigan State Medical Society, and Michigan Farm Bureau of Companies.


Cynthia Neeley won the majority-minority House District 70 Democratic primary with 67% of the vote. Neely ran against two Black candidates, DeWaun Robinson and Rich Jones. Neeley benefited from her experience in the legislature as the current House Representative for District 34. Neely outspent her three challengers in campaign funds, raising 44,000. She may have also benefited from her social capital in the district, as her spouse is the mayor. Redistricting also played a factor, with all of Flint being consolidated into a single District.


In majority-minority House District 16, Stephanie Young won the Democratic primary nomination with 88% of the vote against Ishmail Terry. Carter benefited from formidable campaign funds, raising nearly 70k. Additionally, Young benefitted from her legislative tenure as the current House Representative for District 8.


Several State House of Representatives primary races were won by unchallenged Black Democratic nominees Maurice Imhoff (District 46), Larry Jackson (District 86), and Kimberly Kennedy-Barrington (District 79). Still, they lost in their general elections against their Republican challengers. Maurice Imhoff unofficially withdrew from the race following allegations of past threats to schools and an alleged assault of a police officer but still appeared on the ballot for the general election. Larry Jackson was outspent by Republican challenger Nancy De Boer $118,000 to $51,000 in the Republican-leaning district. Kimberly Kennedy-Barrington was also outspent by her Republican challenger Angela Rigas $80,000 to $3,000 in a Republican-leaning district.


Cheri Hardmon of District 68 won her Democratic primary in the Republican-leaning district but lost in the general election, garnering 45% of the vote. The Republican challenger, David Martin, benefitted from his tenure in the legislature as the current Rep for District 48 and outspending Hardmon by over 100k in campaign funds. Hardmon, Jackson, and Kennedy-Barrington are the three Black candidates that won their Democratic primaries in Republican-leaning, predominately white districts.


Three State House of Representatives primary races, Brenda Carter of State House District 53, Amos O'Neal of State House District 94, Felicia Brabec of State House District 33, ran unchallenged in their Democratic primaries and won in their general elections. All three currently serve in the House of Representatives in District 29, District 95, and District 55, respectively. Brenda Carter raised 52k in campaign contributions, Amos O'Neal raised 59k, and Felicia Brabec raised 76k.


In a few commission-redrawn districts of opportunity for Black representation, multiple Black candidates running ended up splitting the vote, which led to non-Black candidates winning the nomination. One such district was MI House District 11, with 44% of the voting-age population being Black. Veronica Paiz narrowly won the Democratic primary nomination in District 11 with 18.9% against eight other challengers, nearly losing the nomination to Ricardo White, who garnered 18.13% of the vote. Black voters were split between the candidates, likely contributing to Paiz's victory. Paiz did not outspend her challengers, but she benefited from significant endorsements from state-level organizations such as MI planned parenthood, MI Dems Progressive Caucus, MI Education Association, and Fems for Dems.


Natalie Price narrowly won the House District 5 Democratic primary nomination (garnered 38% of the vote) in District 5 against Black candidates Reggie Davis and Steele Hughes. District 5 is predominately Black, with 57% of the voting-age population being Black. Black voters were split among Prices' 4 challengers, likely leading to her win of the nomination.

Price also benefitted from more significant campaign donations (about 60k). Additionally, Price had endorsements from progressive action organizations, LGBTQ advocacy groups, mothers' educational advocacy groups, and women's reproductive groups.


Dylan Wegela narrowly won the House District 26 Democratic primary nomination (42%) against Black candidates Steven Chisholm and Allen Wilson. Black voters, who make up 38% of the voting-age population, were split between Wegela's challengers, likely contributing to his victory. Wegela also benefited from his social capital as an educator, union member, and labor organizer, garnering significant campaign funds and endorsements from key labor unions, teachers' unions, and other educational advocacy organizations.


Mike Mcfall barely won House District 8's Democratic primary nomination with 38% of the vote against Black candidates Durrel Douglas and Ernest Little. District 8 has a 46% Black voting age population, which split the vote amongst McFall's competitors. Mcfall benefited from endorsements from various groups, including progressive action organizations, LGBTQ advocacy groups, the UAW, firefighters, steelworkers, and plumbers unions.


In majority-minority House District 6, Regina Weiss won the Democratic primary with 60% of the vote. Weiss ran against Black candidates Myya Jones and Danielle Hall. Weiss is the current House Rep for District 27. Weiss benefited from formidable endorsements from labor unions, of which she is a member herself, local officials, and teachers unions, among other educational organizations (with TFA offshoot LEE producing her largest campaign donation.)


Abraham Aiyash won House District 9's Democratic primary nomination (garnering 61% of the vote). Aiyash likely benefited from formidable campaign funds, significant endorsements from Senator Sanders, and an array of other respected community officials (more Hamtramck officials than Detroit). Additionally, Aiyash is the current House Representative for District 4, contributing to his social capital within the community. Aiyash won the majority-black district (53% of the voting age population is Black) against three challengers, Abraham Shaw, Darnell Gardner, and Paul Smith, who are all black, and two of whom are long-standing residents and community members of Detroit.


There were two victories for Black candidates in their Republican State Senate primaries, but both lost to their Democratic challengers in the general election. Daylen Howard won the Republican primary in the District 28 Senate race. He won the nomination but lost in the general election to Sam Singh in the Democratic-leaning district. While Howard fundraised more than his Republican challenger in the primary by over 40k (garnering $158,021 in funds), Singh ultimately outspent Howard by a margin of nearly $500,000. Howard likely benefited from the endorsement of various state political action agencies that advocate for conservative values and critical endorsements from local and state Republican parties and committees. Tamara Mitchell won the Republican primary in District 19's Senate race as the only candidate. In the Democratic-leaning district, she lost in the general election to Sean McCann.


Although it may be too soon to deduce how Michigan's redistricting affected Black representation in the long term, what is known is that the new districts were more competitive than in previous cycles. All 16 House Districts with over 40% Black voting age population had Black candidates on the primary ballot, but four did not have a Black candidate on the general election ballot (District 5, District 6, District 8, and District 9). For the 5 Senate Districts with over 40% Black voting age population, four districts had Black candidates on the Democratic primary ballot but only 2 Black candidates on the general election ballot (District 3, District 6), both of which were running on the Working Family Party line. Of the Black candidates in the State Senate, all three won in Democratic-leaning districts (District 1, District 2, and  District 21).