Update: Gretchen Witmer won the Democratic nod for governor, beating out Abdul El-Sayed 51.6 percent to 31 percent. She will go up against GOP primary winner Bill Schuette in the general election.
DETROIT (CN) – Voters in Michigan’s primary election Tuesday will decide which candidates will face each other in November to become the state’s new governor, in addition to races for congressional seats.
The race to replace outgoing Governor Rick Snyder, who is term-limited, offers a diverse choice for voters.
Democrat Gretchen Whitmer has emerged as an establishment favorite. A former Michigan Senate minority leader, the 46-year old Whitmer also has experience as a state representative and was an interim Ingham County prosecutor when victims of Michigan State University’s notorious gymnastics doctor Larry Nasser came forward with their stories of sexual abuse.
Abdul El-Sayed , the 33-year-old former director of the Detroit Heath Department, launched his spirited Democratic campaign with numerous positive TV ads.
El-Sayed says he was approached by former President Bill Clinton following a speech at the University of Michigan in 2007. Clinton told him to pursue politics instead of medicine. El-Sayed didn’t take that idea seriously until former President Barack Obama arrived on the scene.
“The first time I thought remotely that there was a possibility was watching Barack Obama run,” El-Sayed told The Detroit News. “And even then, the biggest hit on him was that he could potentially be a Muslim, right?”
Candidate Shri Thanedar, a former engineer who spent millions of his own fortune for TV ads casting himself as “the most progressive Democrat running for governor,” has received uneven press coverage.
Thanedar started a small chemical testing company that flourished into the late 1990s after he immigrated to the United States. However, after the company was beset with financial trouble, hundreds of animals used for lab testing were reportedly abandoned in the facility. Former workers broke into the building to care for the animals, according to a USA Today report.
On the Republican ticket, Bill Schuette is the state’s current attorney general and hasn’t looked to downplay his vast experience in government. The 64-year old has served in Congress, the Michigan Senate and as an appellate judge.
“I think my experience is an asset for us to win again,” Schuette told The Detroit News, referring to a possible third consecutive gubernatorial term by a Republican. “You better have the strongest, toughest, most experienced hand to be the next governor.”
Another Republican candidate, Brian Calley, is currently Snyder’s lieutenant governor. Calley was elected to the position in 2010 after a stint as a state representative and won re-election in 2014.
Calley was the public face of the Snyder administration in Flint after the city’s water crisis became national news, and attempted to quell suspicion from local government officials and residents about.
Patrick Colbeck is widely considered the most conservative candidate. Colbeck won a seat in the Michigan Senate in 2010 on a wave of Tea Party enthusiasm.
His support from the Michigan GOP was revoked when he claimed that Democratic candidate El-Sayed had ties to the Muslim Brotherhood.
“Dr. Abdul El-Sayed, whose parents apparently have ties to the Muslim Brotherhood back in Egypt…This is scary stuff” Colbeck said in one clip.
Jim Hines has an uphill battle with name recognition in the state. The 62-year old Republican doctor has driven a 32-foot RV through the roads of Michigan the last several months in an effort to introduce himself and his message of “people over politics.”
Michigan will also have two Libertarian candidates on the gubernatorial ballot for the first time ever – when presidential candidate Gary Johnson received 3.6 percent of the Michigan vote in the 2016 election, he secured a spot for his party on the primary ballot.
Libertarian candidate John Tatar, a veteran of the Army Reserve, believes that “smart” electric meters installed on residential houses are a threat to society and need attention.
Bill Gelineau has chaired the Libertarian Party of Michigan twice. He pushes a platform of lower property taxes, according to his website.
Candidate Jennifer Kurland will represent the Green Party. She was passionate about the Flint water crisis on her radio show, and according to her website she provided research and information about it to 110 state representatives and 38 state senators in February 2017 and requested a meeting with each.
Michigan voters will also select candidates for two seats in the U.S. House of Representatives on Tuesday.
When Mike Trott of Michigan’s 11th Congressional District announced he would not seek re-election, several candidates emerged to fill and possibly swing the seat that includes affluent suburbs northwest of Detroit.
Among the Republican candidates are Kerry Bentivolio, a veteran who previously served one term in the district from 2013 to 2015. Bentivolio gained notoriety for his willingness to hold a hearing to appease chemtrail conspiracy theorists.
Kristine Bonds is the daughter of legendary Detroit newscaster Bill Bonds. She is running for the seat on a platform of combating the opioid crisis that took the life of her stepson.
Lena Epstein, who co-chaired President Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign in Michigan, dropped a bid for a U.S. Senate seat to focus on this election.
Former State Representative Andrew “Rocky” Raczkowski is also on the ballot. Raczkowski, a veteran of the U.S. Army Reserves, served in Legislature from 1997 to 2003.
Klint Kesto, the first Chaldean-American elected to the Michigan House of Representatives, currently serves in District 39 in Oakland County. He is a former prosecutor.
Rounding out the Republican candidates, Mike Kowall is a member of the Michigan Senate and served in the Michigan House of Representatives in the late 90s.
On the Democrat side of the 11th Congressional District race, State Representative Tim Greimel was voted into office in 2012 after a special election and served as minority leader from 2013 to 2017.
Suneel Gupta, brother of CNN personality Sanjay Gupta, is an entrepreneur from Novi, Michigan, and a political newcomer.
Fayrouz Saad is another first-timer and wants to make history as the first-ever female Muslim candidate to win a congressional seat. She worked in the Obama administration at the Department of Homeland Security.
Another Democratic candidate, Nancy Skinner, ran for the 11th Congressional District seat in 2014 but lost in the primary to Bobbie McKenzie.
Haley Stevens, meanwhile, was involved in a crucial part of Detroit history when she became chief of staff for then-President Obama’s auto task force in 2009 as General Motors and Chrysler flirted with financial collapse.
Voters in Tuesday’s primary will also decide a special election in Michigan’s 13th Congressional District to fill the seat left by John Conyers Jr. Conyers, the longest serving African-American congressman in U.S. history, resigned when allegations of sexual harassment surfaced.
The district, which includes parts of Detroit and its suburbs, is so thoroughly Democrat that no Republican candidates are running, meaning the winner of Tuesday’s primary will get the seat.
The name Conyers will still appear on the ballot. Ian Conyers, in his first term, represents the 4th District of the Michigan Senate and is the grand-nephew of John Conyers Jr.
Candidate Brenda Jones is framing herself as the choice for Detroit citizens on the ballot. The Detroit City Council president has the endorsement of Mayor Mike Duggan.
Rashida Tlaib served in the Michigan House of Representatives from 2009 to 2015. Like Fayrouz Saad in the 11th Congressional District race, Tlaib could also become the first female Muslim candidate to win a congressional seat if she prevails in the election.
Bill Wild, mayor of Westland since 2007, is the only white candidate in the race. His lack of Detroit roots is countered with potential popularity in the district’s suburban communities. Westland is the second largest city in the 13th District.