Michigan Democratic trifecta at stake in upcoming special elections

Welcome to the Friday, February 9, Brew. 

By: Samuel Wonacott and Joseph Greaney

Here’s what’s in store for you as you start your day:

  1. Michigan Democratic trifecta at stake in upcoming special elections
  2. Update on this year’s ballot measure certifications
  3. #FridayTrivia: How many state supreme court seats became vacant on average from 2019 to 2023?

Michigan Democratic trifecta at stake in upcoming special elections

Throughout the year, we’ll bring you coverage of the most compelling primaries—the battleground elections we expect to have a meaningful effect on the balance of power in governments or to be particularly competitive. 

Last week, we previewed the March 5 Republican primary for U.S. Senate in Ohio. You can catch our previous coverage of other battleground races here.

Today, we’re heading to Michigan, where two state legislative special elections will determine which party holds a majority in the House—and whether the state stays a Democratic trifecta

The elections for Districts 13 and 25 will take place on April 16. The chamber is currently split 54-54 (plus the two vacancies). 

Here’s some background: 

  • In the November 2022 elections, Democrats won a 56-54 majority in the Michigan House, reclaiming control of the chamber for the first time since 2008. 
  • Michigan became a Democratic trifecta following the 2022 elections, because Democrats also won control of the state Senate. Michigan has had a Democratic governor since 2019.  
  • Control of the chamber split 54-54 when Lori M. Stone (D) and Kevin Coleman (D), both of whom won mayoral elections in 2023, resigned. 

If Democrats gain a majority or if control of the chamber remains split, Democrats will maintain their trifecta. If Republicans gain a majority, Democrats will lose their trifecta.

District 13 includes parts of Wayne County, the state’s most populous county. Detroit is the county seat. In 2018, Stone won 63% to 34.4% against her Republican opponent. She was re-elected in 2020 and 2022 with margins greater than 20%.

District 25 is entirely within Wayne County. Coleman was first elected in 2018, winning 67.2% to 32.8%. He was re-elected in 2020 and 2022 with margins greater than 25%.

In December 2023, the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Michigan found Michigan’s legislative maps to be unconstitutional and ordered the state to draw new maps before the 2024 elections. April’s special elections will be the first elections using the new maps. The newly drawn 13th district moved northwest, and the new 25th district moved southeast, while both maintained at least partial overlap with Wayne County. 

District 13

In District 13, Mai Xiong (D) and Ronald Singer (R) are running in the April 16 election. 

  • Xiong is a member of the Macomb County Board of Commissioners who is running on her experience in elected office. Xiong says her focus will be on “bringing people together to get things done for working families.” 
  • Singer is an engineer who was the Republican nominee in the district in 2022. Singer says he is running because “right now it seems like we need some adult supervision in Lansing,” mentioning energy policy as an area of focus.

Xiong completed Ballotpedia’s Candidate Connection survey. Xiong said she was personally passionate about the following areas of public policy: “End retirement tax on seniors, fight for living wages, protect women’s reproductive rights, investing in our teachers and classrooms, public transportation, and clean air and water.”

District 25 

Peter Herzberg (D) and Josh Powell (R) are running in District 25. 

  • Herzberg is a member of the Westland City Council who is running on his experience in office. Herzberg says he has “spent my entire adult life focusing on public service, volunteering and helping my community.” 
  • Powell is an IT worker and an Army veteran. Powell says his “platform can be summed up in six simple words. Less Government; Less Regulation; Lower Taxes.”

Powell completed Ballotpedia’s Candidate Connection survey. Powell said, “If elected, I would tie the state legislature 55/55 and bring back balance. I could make sure that important issues are not put through without debate or discussion and especially push for full transparency. I would commit to supporting bi-partisan legislation banning Michigan elected officials from signing or enforcing NDA’s when representing their constituents. There is absolutely nothing that should be hidden from taxpayers when it’s their money being spent and their behalf we are supposed to be working for.”

The winners of the special elections will serve until Jan. 1, 2025, when the winners of the November general elections will take office. The candidates running in the special elections may also run in the general elections.

Michigan is not the only state where control of a state legislative chamber hinges on a special election this year. The Pennsylvania House of Representatives is split 101-101, and a special election is scheduled for Feb. 13. As in Michigan, the Pennsylvania special election is taking place after a Democratic legislator resigned. Unlike in Michigan, Pennsylvania Republicans control the state Senate, meaning trifecta control of the state government is not at stake.

To date, 31 state legislative special elections have been scheduled this year in 18 states, including a completed election in Florida that switched partisan control, or flipped a seat. Between 2011 and 2021, an average of 74 special elections took place each year.

Last year, 53 state legislative special elections were scheduled in 21 states, including four that flipped a seat; Democrats and Republicans each flipped two seats. 

Elsewhere last year, there were state legislative special elections in Pennsylvania that determined control of the state’s House of Representatives, while a special election in Wisconsin secured a Republican supermajority in the State Senate. 

Learn more about Michigan’s April 16 special elections at the link below.

Keep reading

Update on this year’s and next year’s ballot measure certifications 

Here’s an update on this year’s ballot measure certifications. 

So far, 57 statewide ballot measures have been certified in 25 states. That’s one less than the average—58—for this point in the election cycles from 2012 to 2022. An average of 157 statewide measures were certified in even-numbered years from 2010-2022.

Here’s the latest ballot measure activity.

In Florida, the Division of Elections certified that enough signatures were submitted for two initiatives: Amendment 3 (legalize marijuana) and Amendment 4 (provide a state constitutional right to abortion before fetal viability). The certifications mean the measures have met the signature requirements. But the Florida Supreme Court must still decide whether the initiatives meet the state’s requirements for ballot measures. Florida is the only state where the state supreme court automatically reviews ballot measures to determine whether they meet relevant requirements and may be placed on the ballot. 

Signatures have been submitted and are pending verification or another pre-certification action for four initiatives in Alaska, Maine, and Michigan:

In Massachusetts and Washington, enough signatures were verified for 12 indirect ballot initiatives to be sent to their respective state legislatures. Those include: 

In Alaska, Maine, and Michigan, initiated state statutes are indirect—meaning the legislature can pass the initiative outright—or follow a similar process. 

The next signature deadline is Feb. 9 in Wyoming, where one initiative has already qualified for the ballot and two others have been proposed. Read more about those initiatives and the ballot measure process in Wyoming here

Learn more about 2024 ballot measure certifications at the link below.

Keep reading 

#FridayTrivia: How many state supreme court seats became vacant on average from 2019 to 2023? 

In the Thursday Brew, we updated you on this year’s state supreme court vacancies. To date, there have been 10 vacancies—including announcements of upcoming vacancies—in eight of the 29 states where replacement justices are appointed instead of elected. 

The seats are—or will become—vacant because of retirements in all 10 cases. 

In 2023, 20 supreme court seats became vacant in 16 of the 29 states. That figure was 25 in 2022.

State supreme court seats can become vacant for various reasons, including death, retirement, and ascension to higher office. Thirty-one states and the District of Columbia have set mandatory retirement ages.

Ballotpedia provides coverage of all 52 courts of last resort (Oklahoma and Texas have two, one for civil cases and one for criminal proceedings). In 2020, we conducted a study identifying the partisan balance in every state supreme court. You can find that research here. We also identified which justices ruled together most often in our Determiners and Dissenters report found here.

How many state supreme court seats became vacant in states where replacement justices are appointed not elected on average from 2019 to 2023?

  1. 22
  2. 9
  3. 36
  4. 7