With 97 percent of precincts across the state reporting, it appears Justice Stephen Markman, a conservative, and University Law Prof. Bridget Mary McCormack, a liberal, will assume seats on Michigan's Supreme Court to retain the court's 4-3 conservative majority.
Markman will keep his seat as the incumbent, and McCormack will replace retiring liberal Justice Marilyn Kelly, who was not eligible to run again due to age.
Justice Brian Zahra, a conservative whom Republican Gov. Rick Snyder appointed last year to fill a partial term, also secured his seat by beating out Sheila Johnson, the liberal challenger, by a margin of 50-41. Mindy Barry, an independent challenger, garnered the remaining 9 percent of the vote. Zahra will serve on the court until Jan. 1, 2015.
McCormack led Markman slightly in overall votes with each having about 23 percent of the popular vote. The nearest challenger, Republican-backed Colleen O'Brien, trailed Markman by more than 100,000 votes as of 6:30 p.m.
Speaking at a Democratic rally in Detroit Tuesday evening, McCormack said she was proud of the way her campaign was conducted, and she looks forward to assuming her place on the bench.
“I think we worked extremely hard and I’m happy that hard work pays off, since that’s what I teach my kids every day,” McCormack said. “I received 10 out of 10 newspaper endorsements and really worked hard to develop relationships around the state to make sure people understood that I was committed to having a court where politics didn’t play a role and everyone got a fair shake and I think my message resonated.”
McCormack’s campaign included a lengthy shout-out in a political advertisement featuring the cast of “The West Wing.” In the YouTube ad, the cast encourages Michigan voters to fill out the nonpartisan ballot, mentioning that McCormack is on the ticket. They discussed McCormack’s platform to bring integrity and fairness for ordinary people to the court.
McCormack’s sister, Mary, starred in the last three seasons of the show, and helped secure the mention. A video of the ad posted on YouTube by McCormack has received more than 1 million views. McCormack also appeared on the E! show “Chelsea Lately” in October to discuss wrongful convictions with host Chelsea Handler.
McCormack has been a law professor at the University since 1998. She serves as the associate dean for clinical affairs and founded the Michigan Innocence Clinic in 2009, a group that works in Michigan courts to exonerate wrongfully accused individuals using non-DNA evidence.
McCormack will have to resign from her work at the University when she begins her position in the Michigan Supreme Court to remain impartial.