Government works best when there is a push-pull between two parties. Neither Republicans nor Democrats should be allowed to run roughshod over their political opponents, and when our purple state is functioning properly, neither party's priorities are ignored.
But the last decade in Michigan has been all push.
That's how long Republicans have held a majority in both chambers of the state Legislature, an advantage secured when the party commandeered the redistricting process after the 2010 election and adopted a gerrymandered political map that allowed it to maintain legislative control even when Democrats won a majority of Michigan's statewide vote.
Now a new set of legislative and congressional districts established by the first-ever Citizens Independent Redistricting Commission has set the stage for the most competitive legislative elections in more than a decade -- and given Michigan voters a chance to disrupt the obstructionist monopoly that has thwarted governors in both parties.
It is time for a change. It’s time to flip the Legislature.
In the normal way of things, our endorsement process is bipartisan: Our editorial board weighs the merits of each candidate and considers the political complexion of each district. We evaluate not just the candidates' individual qualifications and policy views, but also how their priorities align with those of their constituents.
But this year we are convinced that the objective of changing the Legislature's leadership, and compelling a stagnant Republican Party to retool itself as something more vital than the sycophantic cult it has become, is paramount. So we have focused our attention on identifying meritorious candidates whose success in key state House and Senate districts will help the Democrats secure a legislative majority.
A diverse cast of Republican lawmakers elected over the last decade have proved that they do not deserve the control they’ve sought to maintain. We reach that conclusion not simply because GOP legislators have stood in the way initiatives we regard as worthwhile, but because they have as failed to articulate any agenda beyond obstruction.
Despite the accumulation of evidence that Michigan schools are losing ground, Republicans have again and again failed to adequately fund Michigan schools, blaming teachers for deficits lawmakers have abetted. This year's long overdue investments in school spending were made possible only when a Democratic president and authorized Democratic Congress allocated federal funding for that purpose.
Ignoring appeals from both Gov. Whitmer and her Republican predecessor, Rick Snyder, GOP lawmakers repeatedly declined to allocate the funds needed to repair and upgrade Michigan's roads, bridges and water infrastructure.
While railing about the insecurity of Michigan elections, Republican legislators have refused to allocate the money or approve the reforms election clerks in both parties say are necessary to shore up Michigan's electoral infrastructure. Too many continue to traffic in long-debunked allegations that Michigan's last election was tainted by fraud.
Even as cuts to municipal revenue sharing forced cities and counties to curtail basic services, Republican legislators continued to balance the budget on the backs of Michigan's municipalities.
Bipartisan no-fault auto insurance reform has had devastating consequences for victims of catastrophic auto accidents, but GOP lawmakers have stone-walled efforts to repair its deficits.
The danger of continued GOP leadership is compounded this year by the number of Republican legislative candidates echoing Donald Trump's false stolen election claims. If these election deniers win control of one or both houses, they would be in a position to thwart the orderly certification of Michigan's presidential vote in 2024.
The GOP-led Legislature does not represent the best interests of Michigan. It does not even represent Michigan, where voters are split about evenly between self-identified Democrats and Republicans.
In 2018, Michiganders voted to change the way legislative districts are drawn here, authorizing a citizen-led, bipartisan redistricting committee to do the work. This year, Michiganders have the opportunity to elect a Legislature that actually represents our state. Because politics tend to align with geography, with Democrats concentrated in populous cities and suburbs and Republicans dominating large rural swaths of the state, most Michigan districts still lean strongly toward one party. But competitive races in key districts ― especially in suburban districts surrounding Detroit and Grand Rapids ― will determine which party controls the Legislature.
Here are our picks in the districts crucial for Democratic control of the state Legislature:
9th District, parts of Oakland and Macomb countiesOur pick for the 9th District seat is Democrat PADMA KUPPA. Kuppa currently represents Troy in the state House. A mechanical engineer by training, Kuppa is the first Indian immigrant to serve in the Legislature, where she has spent her two House terms lobbying for overdue attention to Michigan's infrastructure deficits. Kuppa's opponent is Republican Michael Webber, a former House member who supports the criminalization of nearly all abortions.
11th District, parts of Wayne and Macomb countiesDemocrat VERONICA KLINEFELT is one of the best-prepared candidates for office we've encountered in recent election cycles. A 10-year veteran of the Macomb County Commission, she has also served on the Eastpointe City Council and the East Detroit. Her knowledge of the needs of counties, cities and school districts will make her a powerful advocate in Lansing.
12th District, parts of Wayne, Macomb and St. Clair counties Voters should choose Democrat KEVIN HERTEL for the 12th District seat. Hertel is a state representative who has served his district well, and who is a strong advocate for good government. His opponent, term-limited state Rep. Pamela Hornberger, has been among the most conservative members of a GOP House caucus that leans hard to the right.
13th District, parts of Oakland and Wayne counties Voters in the 13th should re-elect state Sen. ROSEMARY K. BAYER. Bayer. Currently the ranking Democratic member of the K-12 Appropriations subcommittee, Bayer is holds degrees in business administration and computer science, is the ranking Democrat on the Senate's powerful subcommittee on K-12 appropriations, where she has been a champion of STEM education for girls and women. Her opponent is Republican Jason Rhines, a hauling business operator and abortion opponent whose only previous political experience is serving as the Northville Township treasurer.
14th District, parts of Jackson and Washtenaw counties Voters should elect Washtenaw County Commission Chair SUE SHINK. Shink, an attorney who is also a farmer and small business owner, is a pragmatic environmentalist who serves on the Huon River Watershed Council. Her opponent, Tim Golding says he's focused on infrastructure, but he wants to cut taxes and is endorsed by Michigan Right to Life, which advocates the criminalization of all abortions except those that threaten a pregnant woman's life.
28th District, parts of Clinton, Ingham and Shiawassee countiesFormer state Rep. SAM SINGH is the best choice for this district. During his tenure in the state Legislature, Singh's leadership and commitment to Michiganders stood out. He'll bring the same qualities to the Senate. His opponent, whose modest working record includes a stint as an assistant jewelry store manager, demonstrates no discernable qualifications for state office.
30th District, parts of Kent and Ottawa countiesVoters in the 30th District should elect Democrat DAVID LaGRAND. LaGrand, now serving as a state representative, has been a vocal advocate for criminal justice reform, proposing common-sense measures that a majority of Michiganders support.
32nd District, Montcalm and Newaygo counties, and parts of Ionia, Kent, Lake, Muskegon and Ottawa countiesDemocrat TERRY J. SABO is voters' best choice. Elected to the state House three times, Sabo is a veteran of the U.S. Air Force, a former police and firefighter, and former Muskegon County Commissioner. His opponent is Republican state Sen. Jon C. Bumstead, is a long-time member of the Legislature's anti-abortion caucus.
35th District, parts of Bay, Midland and Saginaw counties Voters in the 35th District should choose Democrat KRISTEN McDONALD RIVET. Rivet serves on the Bay County Commission, and has previously served as the CEO of community advocacy organization Greater Midland Inc. She currently serves as vice president of Michigan Future, a think tank promoting sound policy with a focus on education. . Her opponent, two-term Rep. Annette Glenn, is a long-time Republican activist whose politics no longer reflect the diversity of this reconfigured district.
27th District, Gibraltar, Grosse Ile, Riverview, Trenton, southern Southgate and Wyandotte Voters should elect Democrat JAIME CHURCHES to the 27th District seat. A Grosse Ile teacher, Churches is connected to communities across the district, and her experience in the classroom will be valuable in the Legislature. Her opponent, Bob Howey, has municipal political experience, but there's no reason to believe he'll bring a new perspective to the GOP's obstructionist House caucus.
28th District, Brownstown Twp., Woodhaven, Flat Rock, Rockwood, southern Taylor and northeastern Monroe CountyVoters should choose ROB KULL for the 28th District seat. A veteran of the U.S. Navy, Kull is now Veterans Service Officer for Monroe County. His opponent, nurse Jamie Thompson, opposed Gov. Gretchen Whitmer's pandemic health directives, and she has championed Michiganders who resisted the COVID-19 vaccine.
29th District, parts of Taylor and Romulus, portions of Carleton and Frenchtown, and Ash and Huron Twps.Incumbent state Rep. ALEX GARZA is the best choice for this district. Before his election to the state Legislature, Garza served as Chairman of the Taylor City Council, winning the support to advance to a House seat. His opponent, Republican Jim DeSana, is a sheep farmer who boasts opposition to "Democrats who want to take away our guns" as a principal campaign theme.
31st District, northwest Monroe County, northeast Lenawee County, southeast Washtenaw County and southwest Wayne CountyDemocrat REGGIE MILLER is voters best choice in this race. Miller has served as a Van Buren Twp. trustee since 2012 and in many other civic capacities. She vows to use her government and life experiences to serve residents of her district. Republican Dale Biniecki is a retired truck driver who favors criminalizing nearly all abortions.
38th District, parts of Allegan, Berrien and Van Buren counties Voters should elect Democrat JOEY ANDREWS. Andrews, an attorney, owns a solar energy firm, and is a policy analyst for the Michigan AFL-CIO. His opponent, Kevin Whiteford, is the husband of term-limited Republican Rep. Mary Whiteford, who is ineligible to seek re-election.
44th District, Battle CreekBattle Creek voters should return Democrat JIM HAADSMA to the state Legislature. Haadsma, a labor attorney, incumbent, flipped this seat in 2020. His opponent, Republican Dave Morgan, is making his third run after losing in each of the last two election cycles..
48th District, northern Ann Arbor and northern Washtenaw CountyVoters in Washtenaw County should elect JENNIFER CONLIN, a former journalist and magazine editor, who pledges to focus her attention on infrastructure and public education. Her opponent, Republican Jason Woolford, is an abortion opponent who emphasizes his Christian values and attributes his son's recovery from cancer to a divine miracle.
54th District, Orion Twp and Bloomfield TwpThe best candidate in the dramatically reconfigured 54th District is SHADIA MARTINI, a real estate agent and small business owner. Her opponent, Donni Steele, has de-emphasized her opposition to abortion in favor of promoting parents' rights, but she is endorsed by Right to Life of Michigan, which says candidates it endorses have pledged to oppose abortions except to save a pregnant woman's life.
58th District, Sterling HeightsVoters in the 58th District should re-elect incumbent state Rep. NATE SHANNON, a former high school teacher and former member of the Sterling Heights City Council. Shannon's district was split during redistricting. His opponent, real estate appraiser Michelle Smith, is a Republican activist making her first bid for public office.
62nd District, eastern Macomb CountyMICHAEL BROOKS is the best choice for the 62nd District. Brooks is an optician and former Civil Air Patrol volunteer. His opponent, Republican Alicia St. Germaine, became an activist for lifting COVID-19 restrictions on youth sports and was a member of Michigan for Vaccine Choice.
76th District, Delta TwpVoters in the 76th District should re-elect incumbent Rep. ANGELA WITWER. Witwer has served capably in the state Legislature, and deserves a third term. Her opponent is Republican Jeremy Whittum.
80th District, Kentwood, Grand Rapids, Cascade TwpVoters should choose PHIL SKAGGS in this competitive race. Skaggs is a college professor who has served on the East Grand Rapids City Commission and on the Kent County Commission. His opponent, anti-abortion lawyer Jeff Johnson, is making his second bid for legislative office after losing the GOP primary in 2016.
81st District, Grand RapidsIncumbent state Rep. RACHEL HOOD is the best choice for the 81st District. Hood, a longtime community advocate who has worked on water infrastructure and clean energy, has served capably for two terms in the House. Her opponent is Republican Lynn Afendoulis, a former Trump skeptic who embraced Trump in an unsuccessful 2020 congressional campaign.
83rd District, Kent CountyVoters in Kent County should elect Wyoming City Council member JOHN FITZGERALD to the 83rd District seat. His opponent, Republican Lisa DeKryger, is a school voucher champion who favors the criminalization of most abortions.
This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: Detroit Free Press endorsements for Michigan House and Senate