UPDATE: Whitmer clinches second term, voters bless ballot measures


The packed Coe Township hall remained open until 8p.m. Nov. 3, 2020. If you have yet to vote, make sure you exercise your civic rights this election.

DETROIT — Governor Gretchen Whitmer and Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist II will get a second term in office. The Associated Press called the hotly contested race for the incumbents around 1:20 a.m. Wednesday -- more than five hours after polls closed. 

As of noon Wednesday, Whitmer led Republican rival Tudor Dixon 49.35% to 48.91%, according to Michigan Secretary of State records. The unofficial numbers reflected 79 of the state's 83 counties reporting. 

Dixon announced on Facebook that she contacted Whitmer's campaign and conceded the race Wednesday morning. 

"Michigan's future success rests not in elected officials or government, but all of us," Dixon said in her statement. "It is incumbent upon all of us to help our children read, support law enforcement and grow our economy." 

Whitmer told a cheering crowd early Wednesday that the state has come a long way. 

"We are thrilled at the unexpected high turn out, we are thrilled that the three ballot initiatives got passed, and I never thought I'd be so happy about Fox News, but I'm glad they called this election too," she quipped to laughter. 

"The prospect of leading this state for four more years is something we are incredibly grateful and excited about," the governor continued. "Regardless of who is in office, we will work with anyone who wants to solve a problem because there's nothing more important than the people of this state." 

Shortly after 10 a.m. Tuesday, U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow proclaimed her faith in incumbent Whitmer’s chances at a second term. 

“It’s time to celebrate!” Stabenow announced to a cheering crowd in the Sound Board Theater at the MotorCity Casino Hotel. That was where Whitmer was hosting an election watch party to wrap up her re-election campaign. 

People in support of the Michigan Democratic Party gather in the Motor City Casino Hotel for Governor Gretchen Whitmer's campaign watch party on Nov. 9 in Detroit, Mich.

As of deadline, the race was still too close to call. Preliminary numbers updated at 11:30 p.m. showed with 35% of ballots reported, Whitmer led Republican challenger Tudor Dixon, 51.5% to 46.9%. In Isabella County, Whitmer held a 52.2% to 45.2% lead as of deadline. That was with 54.3% of the county’s possible ballots counted in a back-and-forth race, according to the county clerk’s website

“I’m crossing my fingers here as the numbers come in,” Stabenow continued in Detroit. “We’ve got a lot more to find out tonight, but here’s what I know: All of you and so many other people out here have worked so very hard this year, and across the state tonight it shows. We have people in line, still, at our college campuses who want to vote, who are standing in line to vote and who will stand there in line to vote.” 

Over in Grand Rapids, at Dixon’s watch party, supporters were a bit more low-key but no less enthusiastic about their candidate. They gathered in the International Room of the JW Marriot Hotel to cheer the Republican and watch returns, cheering calls of Republicans wins across the nation. 

Attendees of the Tudor Dixon election watch party interact Tuesday, Nov. 8, In Grand Rapids, Mich.

Matthew Zhou, the student chair of the College Republicans at the University of Michigan, said he supports Dixon because the state "needs fresh leadership." He said he was concerned with Whitmer's handling of COVID-19 and shortcomings in her promises to fix roads. 

Garry Ringmalda, a supporter from Grand Rapids who helped the campaign with fundraising, said he empathizes with Dixon as a business owner, and he appreciates her education policy. 

“She understands the difficulties of running a successful business and making payroll every week,” Ringmalda said. 

A small-but-engaged group from the Honors’ Program Gender and Sexuality Alliance gathered to discuss the election prior to the polls closing. A few members said casting their first ballots was an emotional experience. 

“This was my first time voting but I did an absentee ballot so it was a lot less stressful,” Jasmaine Hughes said. “I’m feeling very unsure but hoping for the best.”

“It was really exciting voting for the first time and knowing my voice matters even if it is just a little bit,” Olivia Geisthardt said.

Those are sentiments with which Mount Pleasant-area candidates and voters could certainly sympathize. 

Mount Pleasant Public Schools Board of Education Tyler Morkin said he hopes the nation can move past hyper-partisanship and return to a place where people and politicians can agree to disagree. 

“There will always be political parties and political leanings and perspectives, and we will always disagree with people and that’s fine. … We can disagree,” Morkin said. “But, you know, some of the real nastiness … that is happening … we need to find a way to end that and really get back to a layer of civil discourse.”

In other preliminary election returns, per the Secretary of State's office: 

  • Proposition 22-1: Yes with 64.89% of votes
  • Proposition 22-2: Yes with 56.47% of votes 
  • Proposition 22-3: Yes 52.62% of votes.
  • U.S. House District 2:  Republican John Moolenar with 63.70% of the vote

The election results won’t be official until the vote is canvassed. 

Zipporah Abarca, Aurora Rae, Masha Smahliuk and Gina Hofbauer reported from Detroit; Patrick Bouman, Lauren Rice and Nate Pappas reported from Grand Rapids; Katherine Brown, Elijah Fosmore and Andrew Travis reported from Mount Pleasant.

NOTE: This story was updated at noon Wednesday to reflect unofficial results from the Associated Press and Secretary of State's office.