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Republican Ron Weiser may not be the odd man out on the University of Michigan Board of Regents anymore.
Democrat Mark Bernstein will hold onto his seat on the board while Republican challenger Sarah Hubbard may oust incumbent Shauna Ryder-Diggs (D) by a small margin, according to unofficial results released Thursday morning by the Michigan Secretary of State.
If Hubbard maintains her lead, she would become the second Republican on the board. Republican Carl Meyers also made a bid for the board.
The election comes on the heels of a 2018 race in which two Democratic challengers, now-Regents Jordan Acker and Paul Brown, unseated Republican incumbents Andrea Fischer Newman and Andrew Richner.
Two regents are up for reelection every eight years. Bernstein and Hubbard will serve on the Board until at least 2028. Both are graduates of the University — Bernstein from LSA and the Law School and Hubbard from LSA and Ross.
Ryder Diggs is an alum of LSA and the Medical School. She was down by 7,462 votes with 82 out of 83 counties reporting unofficial tallies as of 8:30 a.m. Thursday morning. Antrim, the only county that had yet to report results, went for Trump by a nearly 2:1 margin in 2016 and is home to just over 23,000 residents.
Michigan State University may also have two new trustees next term as Republican Pat O’Keefe is poised to narrowly defeat Democratic incumbent Brian Mosallam, while Democrat Rema Ella Vassar won the seat of another Democrat who opted to retire, Joel Ferguson.
Hubbard said she has a lot offer and is looking forward to serving the board, as well as providing partisan “balance.”
“Joining Ron Weiser as being the second Republican there is going to strengthen that perspective, but almost everything the board deals with is not partisan in any way anyway, and I look forward to working with both Republicans and Democrats on making sure we move the University through at this really critical time,” Hubbard said.
Bernstein did not respond immediately to requests for comment.
In a previous interview with The Daily on Tuesday, Hubbard said she was glad she ran for the position, regardless of the final result.
“I’m really excited that I was on the ballot,” Hubbard said. “Win or lose, it’s been a great experience and I look forward to continuing to support the University in the future, no matter what happens.”
Hubbard also talked about the effects of straight-ticket voting and predicted that campaigning will be the final straw.
“If Biden wins Michigan, it’s likely that Bernstein and Diggs will be re-elected to the board,” Hubbard said. “If Trump wins Michigan, it’s likely that Hubbard and Meyers have a pretty good chance of being elected to the board. But if it’s really really close in that 50/50 range, then the campaigning is going to make a difference.”
While the Associated Press called the race for Joe Biden in Michigan on Wednesday and elected officials like Gov. Gretchen Whitmer have congratulated the former vice president on winning the state, his success may not translate to all down-ballot races if Hubbard’s current lead holds.
Hubbard’s campaign website lists her pro-life and second amendment beliefs as two of her main priorities.
“I’m conservative, pro-life, pro-Second Amendment — that’s something that just as a regent I think is important and a matter of representing the Republican Party,” Hubbard said in an August interview with The Daily. “But as far as issues before the Board of Regents, I haven’t really had a chance to look at those and how it applies at this point.”
Bernstein ran on accomplishments from his time on the Board including lowering net tuition for low-income students, creating the Go Blue Guarantee and improving economic diversity, according to his campaign website.
Eight years ago, his campaign promised to “keep college affordable.”
“I’ve had some success in that direction, and I’ve kept that promise, but there’s still a lot more to be done,” Bernstein said in an October interview with The Daily.
In his next term, Bernstein said his priorities include diversity, equity and inclusion; addressing sexual misconduct; and climate change.
In June, Bernstein voted for a controversial 1.9% tuition increase for the 2020-2021 academic year, saying the University’s sticker price is misleading, as most students do not pay the full price. He said one in four in-state undergraduates — over 4,100 students — pay no tuition, and 100% of students with demonstrated financial need will not see their tuition and fees increased.
“Fundamentally, I believe that lower-income students who struggle to pay tuition can depend upon those who can to reduce the cost of their college education,” Bernstein said.
Ryder Diggs voted against the tuition increase, telling The Daily in October that the University could have absorbed the cost.
“I feel that this global pandemic has created such economic uncertainty that it was just completely unwise to raise tuition at this time,” Ryder Diggs said. “I think that when there’s this level of uncertainty that we should not be increasing the financial burden on families.”
Hubbard, an Okemos-based political consultant, also advocated for lowering the cost of tuition when speaking to The Daily this fall.
Her main focus is balancing out the partisan split on the Board and making sure all opinions are welcomed on campus, regardless of ideological affiliation.
“I think my experience is the kind of thing that the board needs right now,” Hubbard said. “You have a real imbalance on that board from a Dem-Republican perspective. And I think that I could help bring balance back to that board and those discussions.”
With one Republican in the top two in the race for the board, Hubbard might achieve her goal.
According to campaign finance documents filed before the general election, Bernstein’s campaign has raised a total of $25,964.25 in contributions and other receipts. Of that, Bernstein gave his campaign a $20,000 loan on Aug. 3.
Hubbard’s campaign received a total of $18,335 in contributions and other receipts, including $7,150 on Oct. 13 from Weiser, the chair of the Board of Regents, who is currently the lone Republican on the body.
Ryder Diggs saw $20,474.65 in contributions and other receipts.
If unofficial results hold, Bernstein and Hubbard will begin their terms at the Regents meeting on Feb. 18, 2021. The Board’s next meeting is Dec. 3.
Daily Staff Reporters Dominic Coletti and Jasmin Lee contributed to reporting.
Daily News Editor Emma Stein and Daily Staff Reporter Calder Lewis can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com.
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