2018-11-08 / Front Page

Mixed results show a split county

Very high voter turnout
by Eric Carlson
of the Enterprise

MICHELLE CROCKER, Leelanau County Clerk, takes a phone report on vote totals from one of the county’s 11 township clerks Tuesday night. MICHELLE CROCKER, Leelanau County Clerk, takes a phone report on vote totals from one of the county’s 11 township clerks Tuesday night. Although a “blue wave” may have crashed ashore in parts of Michigan and the U.S in this week’s general election, there was only a stir in Leelanau County.

What might be called a “blue ripple” was evident in Leelanau County mainly because voter turnout, at 71-percent, was the highest in anyone’s memory. It’s clear that a lot of Democrats, or at least supporters of Democratic candidates, showed up at the polls — as did Republicans, who soundly backed Republicans for the state Legislature.

Perhaps the biggest effect locally was that the seven-member Leelanau County Board of Commissioners re-gained a third Democrat. Carolyn “Peachy” Rentenbach, won back her old seat as the District No. 6 Commissioner from first-term Republican Casey Noonan.

“I don’t recall having higher voter turnout even in a presidential election year,” said County Clerk Michelle Crocker, who has been the county’s top election official since 1996. “I remember some years when turnout was around 60-percent -- but this election was huge.”

Voter turnout elsewhere in Michigan and U.S. was closer to 50 percent, which was still record-setting in many areas, especially for a mid-term election.

Although Democrats picked up enough seats in the U.S. House of Representatives to take control of that body, they didn’t gain the seat from Michigan’s 1st U.S. Congressional District.

Republican Jack Bergman was re-elected to represent the Upper Peninsula and the northern portion of the lower peninsula including Leelanau County despite losing to Democratic challenger Matt Morgan 6,806 to 7,295 here in Leelanau County. Bergman was re-elected with more than 56 percent of the vote throughout the district, however.

Still, Morgan’s strong showing in Leelanau County indicates a strong turnout of Democratic voters locally in this week’s election that was felt in other statewide races.

Leelanau County voters helped propel Democratic Sen. Debbie Stabenow to reelection, but by fewer than two percentage points. Republican challenger John James earned 6,655 votes to Stabenow’s 7,089 in Leelanau County.

Leelanau County voters also helped Gretchen Whitmer win the gubernatorial race against Republican Bill Schuette by around the same margin. Whitmer won 6,704 Leelanau votes to Schuette’s 6,506.

Similarly, the Democratic candidate for Michigan Secretary of State, Jocelyn Benson, won by a narrow margin in Leelanau County, garnering 6,781 votes compared to Republican Mary Lang’s 6,679 votes.

In the state Attorney General race, the Leelanau County vote also reflected sentiments seen in the rest of the state in favor of Republican Tom Leonard. Democrat Dana Nessel garnered just 6,424 votes to Leonard’s 6,780 in the county.

Strong support for Democrats at the top of the ballot in Leelanau County was not evident in state elections down the ballot, however. Republican Curt Vanderwall handily won the race for the 35th District State Senate seat against Democrat Mike Taillard.

In the race for the 101st District State House seat, Leelanau County resident Kathy Wiejaczka, the Democrat, won only 6,800 votes in the county compared to Benzie County resident Jack O’Malley, the Republican, who was supported by 7,248 Leelanau voters.

A few hardware and software glitches in a few voting precincts made for a late night for some election workers. County clerk Michelle Crocker said she didn’t get home until 3:15 a.m. Wednesday morning.

But she was up just a few hours later, getting ready for a meeting of the Leelanau County Board of Canvassers at 1 p.m. yesterday, Wednesday.

Results of this week’s election in Leelanau County won’t be official until after the Board of Canvassers takes a closer look at all the data that came in from each of the voting precincts.

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You have an error in the paragraph on Dana Nessel vs Tom Leonard. The text implies “the rest of the state” went for Leonard. Contrarily Nessel was elected.