Photo by Franz Wright.
Photo by Franz Wright.

From major showdowns to preparing to hold a massive, absentee-focused election, Michigan already is already looking ahead to November’s election.

LANSING, MI — With the primary complete, Michigan candidates on Wednesday quickly turned their focus to November — when voters in the presidential battleground will also decide a competitive U.S. Senate race, several House contests and which party controls a legislative chamber.

Tuesday’s election, held during the coronavirus pandemic, was marked by a record number of absentee ballots that is only expected to grow in three months.

What to look for this fall:

Senate Showdown

Both first-term Democratic Sen. Gary Peters and Republican challenger John James were unopposed in the primary. Peters, who has led in polling, is one of two Democratic incumbents running in a state President Donald Trump carried in 2016.

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He is emphasizing his bipartisan work and push for federal funding amid the health and economic consequences of the coronavirus pandemic. His campaign has questioned James’ past unequivocal support for Trump, his opposition to the health care law and has said voters cannot trust him.

James, a Black veteran who runs a family automotive logistics company, is criticizing Peters as a career politician who has failed to attend congressional meetings and receives health coverage from a legislative retirement system instead of an “Obamacare” exchange.

Amash Retirement

Fifth-term Rep. Justin Amash’s decision to not seek reelection in western Michigan’s 3rd District has sparked a competitive race. Amash, who supported Trump’s impeachment, left the GOP last year.

Iraq War veteran Peter Meijer, whose grandfather helped build the Meijer chain of stores, handily won the five-way GOP primary and will face Democrat Hillary Scholten, a lawyer who ran unopposed and worked for the Justice Department during Barack Obama’s presidency.

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Democrats will try to flip the district along with 17-term moderate Republican Rep. Fred Upton’s adjacent 6th District in southwestern Michigan, where liberal state Rep. Jon Hoadley advanced.

Mitchell’s Departure

In the Thumb-area 10th District being vacated by retiring second-term Republican Rep. Paul Mitchell, business executive Lisa McClain won the GOP primary and is well positioned to win in November.

McClain spent more than $1.4 million of her own money — more than $900,000 above the amounts raised by state Rep. Shane Hernandez and retired Brig. Gen. Doug Slocum, who led the Selfridge Air National Guard Base.

8th and 11th Districts

In 2018, Democrats Elissa Slotkin and Haley Stevens flipped GOP-held seats and may be positioned to hold them amid Republicans’ candidate recruiting difficulties and Trump’s struggles in the suburbs around Detroit.

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In Slotkin’s 8th District, which stretches from Lansing to northern Oakland County, newcomer Paul Junge won a four-candidate contest. He was an immigration official in the Trump administration.

The 11th District in parts of Oakland and Wayne counties had a five-way GOP primary to see who goes against Stevens. Eric Esshaki, a business attorney and former nurse, was leading.


Democrats are looking to take control of the Michigan House for the first time in a decade. Republicans have a 58-51 edge and a big financial advantage.

Absentee Ballots

Absentee voting surged during the virus outbreak. About 1.6 million absentee ballots were cast — breaking the record of nearly 1.3 million set in the November 2016 presidential election and also surpassing the nearly 900,000 cast in the March presidential primary. The absentee ballots accounted for three-quarters of all votes.

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Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson called the election a “success,” with no reports of anyone waiting in lines when polls closed.

“We are ready for November,” said Benson, who again urged the Legislature to allow clerks to start processing absentee ballots before Election Day. She said the number of absentee ballots could double in the fall