Voters Across Michigan Sing Different Tune Against Controversial Republican Candidates

By Isaac Constans

May 4, 2022

Carol Glanville, a Democrat, won a staunchly red district against a candidate with a history of sharing offensive comments and disinformation. 

Need to Know

  • Carol Glanville soundly defeated Robert “RJ” Regan in a major upset in Kent County, scoring a major win for Democrats.
  • The Michigan State House now has a 57-53 split in favor of Republicans before a volatile November election season.
  • Throughout the state, voters volleyed issues of school millages and local importance.

KENT COUNTY, Mich.—As rain pummeled the pavement outside, voters in Michigan went to the polls Tuesday to vote on a variety of millages and four special elections for half-year appointments to the state House. Whether it was the weather, the voting blip in an election off-season, or local issues considered by some to be less flashy, voter turnout was low—but a seemingly motivated Kent County electorate told a different story.

In the special general election in Michigan’s 74th House district (Kent County), voters from a solidly Republican district elected Democrat Carol Glanville, a commissioner for Walker City, over Robert “RJ” Regan, a “serial entrepreneur” who went into the election towing a litany of controversial comments.

A coalition of women, a motivated Democratic base, and Republicans and Independents ready to draw the line in the 74th seem to have coalesced to defeat Regan in a district that is reliably red. Glanville, who ran a campaign focused on issues, promised professionalism, ethics, and close-to-home policies for the small towns and rural districts right outside of Grand Rapids.

“My opponent’s extreme, violent, and antisemitic views have no place in state government, and tonight the people of the 74th District made clear that they won’t stand for extremism,” Glanville said in a statement.

Regan caught flack after saying on a March broadcast: “I tell my daughters, ‘Well, if rape is inevitable, you should just lie back and enjoy it.” His comments were made in reference to disputing the results of the 2020 election, which, after hundreds of audits and investigations, was proved to be fair. In 2020, Republican Mark Huizenga, who is now in the state Senate, won the same district in the House by 26% over his opponent.

Saying his words “aren’t as smooth and polished as politicians,” Regan has also espoused anti-Semitic conspiracy theories about the September 11 attacks, vilified Black women, defended Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, attended the January 6 insurrection, and spread QAnon conspiracy theories about the COVID-19 vaccine.

Those comments and actions apparently irritated some Republicans, including Mike Milanowski, who said “neither candidate represents the values of the district” while announcing his run as a write-in candidate.” More than 1,000 voters wrote in a candidate besides Glanville and Regan, a significant figure that would have almost—though not quite—bridged the gap between the Democratic and Republican candidates.

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But Democrats believe that Glanville’s appeal wasn’t just in contrast to Regan. Glanville ran a campaign focused on jobs, the environment, and education.

“I don’t want to bash anyone, because I don’t believe that that’s useful, but I really believe in the things that Carol Glanville believes in,” Katie Baker, a Rockford mom, said.

As of Wednesday morning’s unofficial results, Glanville trounced Regan by a 1,600 vote margin. Elsewhere in northern Michigan, voters elected a majority Democrat Leelanau County Commission for the first time in history.

Meagan Hintz, who ran for the 74th House seat as a Democrat in 2018 and 2020, said Glanville is well qualified and somebody the district can be proud of.

Even if Glanville had lost, Hintz said prior to the election, it would be good for her to have more name recognition.

In 2018 and 2020, Mark Huizenga won with 60% and 63% of the vote, respectively. Grandville, which went for Trump at almost twice the rate that it did for Biden, elected Glanville in the special election.

“This special election is particularly important just because of who’s on the ballot,” Hintz said.

Glanville’s term will expire on Dec. 31, along with the district, when new district maps go into effect. She and Regan are expected to compete for the redrawn district in the November elections. But the Trump-supporting Republican businessman will have to go through primaries first, and his loss in a district that was previously flush red could be the death knell for his political aspirations.

“I have a little girl, and I have some issues with some of what the candidates have come out and said,” Baker said. “I have a little boy, and I want him to have somebody who’s a role model for growing up in Michigan.”

On Tuesday, three other special elections filled vacant seats in the House for the remainder of the year: Democrat Jeffrey Pepper easily won in Dearborn, Republican Terence Mekoski led in Macomb County, and Republican Mike Harris won the 43rd House district. Even the Republicans who won, however, ran just at or behind the pace.

The big races weren’t just statewide elections. Sixty-four of Michigan’s 83 counties held votes of some sort, many on millages impacting local schools and others on local boards. 

Parents hailed these votes as paramount for the future of public education in the state.

“The health of your local schools is an indicator for the health of your community,” said Peri Stone-Palmquist, executive director of the Student Advocacy Center and a mother of two.

Come August, voters will make the trek to their polling stations all over again for primaries in newly drawn districts. With a slimmer margin behind Republicans in the state House, Democrats hope to flip the legislative branch, which has been controlled by Republicans since 2010.

The new breakdown is 57 Republicans to 53 Democrats, where it had been 58 to 52 just one year earlier. 

“There’s just so much going on and there are so many things going around that it’s hard to keep track,” said Nancy Wang, executive director for Voters Not Politicians. “The thing about local races and down-ballot stuff is those are the things that affect our everyday lives.”


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