Democrat Gretchen Whitmer was declared the winner in Michigan’s gubernatorial election Tuesday even before half the votes were counted.
With fewer than 50 percent of the votes counted, Whitmer had a 10 percentage point lead over Republican candidate Bill Schuette, the state’s attorney general. The Associated Press and other news media declared the race for Whitmer and her running mate, Garlin Gilchrist.
In a victory speech about 11 p.m., Whitmer said, “No matter the challenge, I want everyone to know I will be a governor who works for everyone in this state.”
In the weeks leading up to Election Day, polls showed the race tightening with Schuette gaining on Whitmer. Last week, the Detroit Free Press reported that a new poll showed Whitmer’s lead had shrunk to 5 percentage points. That was attributed to rising approval of Republican President Donald Trump and higher enthusiasm among his supporters.
Whitmer, a state representative from 2001 to 2006 and a state senator from 2006 to 2015, spent the last days before the election on a 70-stop “Fix the damn roads” bus tour. She told WEYI-TV: “You know we need a governor who can build bridges and solve problems. This continuous divisive language that we see in politics everywhere doesn’t solve problems and that’s what I’m focused on.”
Schuette, who has been the state’s attorney general since 2011 and has served in the state House, state Senate and as a judge on the Michigan Court of Appeals, tweeted, “We will cut taxes, regulations and wasteful spending to strengthen our economy and create better paying jobs because Michigan families deserve a pay raise.”
Schuette canceled the last week of television advertising in Grand Rapids, Flint, Lansing, Traverse City and Marquette, saving $445,000. He maintained $441,000 of advertising in the Detroit market. Some Republicans said it was a sign of strength outside of Detroit; Democrats portrayed it as a concession.
Whitmer’s election puts a Democrat back into the governor’s office for the first time since 2011, when Republican Rick Snyder took the reins from Democratic Gov. Jennifer Granholm, the first women to be elected to Michigan’s highest state office.
Going into Nov. 6, six states had women governors; 22 states had never had one.