TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. (AP) — Hillary Scholten will become the first Democrat since the mid-1970s to represent Michigan's second-largest city of Grand Rapids in the U.S. House after winning a seat vacated by a Republican who voted to impeach former President Donald Trump.
Scholten defeated GOP nominee John Gibbs in Tuesday's election. Gibbs had ousted first-term Rep. Peter Meijer in the August GOP primary, criticizing the incumbent for being one of 10 House Republicans supporting Trump's ouster after the 2021 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol.
An independent commission reconfigured Michigan's congressional district map following the 2020 census, producing a number of competitive races.
Democratic Reps. Elissa Slotkin and Dan Kildee fended off Republican challenges, while Republican John James narrowly prevailed in Michigan’s newly crafted 10th District, which includes portions of Detroit metro counties Macomb and Oakland.
James, a businessman and previous Senate nominee, led Democrat Carl Marlinga by about 1,600 votes with 99% counted. Marlinga, a former prosecutor and retired judge, told The Associated Press on Wednesday that he had conceded and would not seek a recount.
Other Michigan incumbents won reelection, including Republican Reps. Jack Bergman, Tim Walberg, John Moolenaar, Bill Huizenga, Jack Bergman and Lisa McClain; and Democrats Debbie Dingell, Haley Stevens and Rashida Tlaib. State Rep. Shri Thanedar, a Democrat, was elected to an open seat representing part of Detroit.
Scholten is an immigration attorney whose district is anchored by Grand Rapids, long a GOP stronghold once represented by former President Gerald Ford. The addition of Democratic-leaning Muskegon to the modified district boosted Scholten's prospects.
Gibbs, who held several positions in the Department of Housing and Urban Development under Trump and won his endorsement, described himself as staunchly conservative, opposing abortion rights and favoring a border wall.
He questioned the legitimacy of President Joe Biden’s 2020 victory, posted conspiracy theories on social media and drew criticism for hosting a website as a college student that contended women shouldn’t vote or work outside the home. He recently described the site as an “over-the-top” effort to provoke liberals.
Scholten, who worked in the Department of Justice during the Obama administration and for the Michigan Immigrant Rights Center, emphasized preserving abortion rights and reducing health care costs.
Slotkin narrowly won a third term in the 7th District, which includes Lansing, the state capital. She defeated Republican Tom Barrett, a state senator and Army veteran.
Their race was among the most expensive House contests nationwide, with more than $27 million in spending by the campaigns and outside groups.
Slotkin, a former CIA Middle East analyst, ran on a record that included support for her party’s flagship legislation aimed at reducing carbon emissions, slashing drug costs and taxing large companies.
Barrett said during a debate that he would have opposed the bill as too expensive and inflationary.
Slotkin, an abortion rights supporter, described Barrett as rigidly opposed, with no exceptions for rape victims. Barrett said he was “pro-life” but that the issue was for states, not the federal government, to decide.
Slotkin drew a high-profile endorsement from U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney, a conservative Republican who lost her own reelection bid in Wyoming’s GOP primary after breaking with Trump over the Capitol attack.
Kildee, the House Democrats' chief deputy whip, fended off a challenge from Republican Paul Junge to win a sixth term.
Kildee was first elected in 2012 to a House seat occupied for 36 years by his uncle, former Rep. Dale Kildee. His redesigned 8th District added GOP-leaning territory including the city of Midland to reliably Democratic Flint and Saginaw.
Junge is a former prosecutor, news anchor and Trump administration official in the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.
The economy was the top issue on the minds of Michigan voters, with about half saying it was the most pressing matter facing the nation, according to AP VoteCast, an expansive survey of more than 3,200 of the state’s voters.
Roughly a third of Michiganders said their families were falling behind financially. Nearly 6 in 10 said they were holding steady.
Nearly all of the state’s voters said rising prices for gas, groceries and other goods were a factor in how they voted, with half naming it as the single most important factor. And among the voters who said inflation was an issue in how they cast ballots, roughly half named rising food and grocery prices as the most important factor.
Asked about Congress, about 7 in 10 voters said they disapproved of the way Congress is handling its job. Those voters were far more likely to vote Republican, with roughly two-thirds casting ballots for the state’s GOP U.S. House candidates.
Only about 1 in 4 voters said they approved of Congress’ performance.
AP reporter Amanda Seitz in Washington, D.C., contributed to this story.
Follow AP’s coverage of the elections at: https://apnews.com/hub/2022-midterm-elections. Check out https://apnews.com/hub/explaining-the-elections to learn more about the issues and factors at play in the 2022 midterm elections