In review: Gretchen Whitmer and Bill Schuette win gubernatorial primaries

Wednesday, September 5, 2018 - 5:36pm

Gretchen Whitmer speaks during the Women's Convention at Cobo Center in Detroit in October, 2017, just months before being elected as the Democratic candidate for the 2018 gubernatorial race.

Gretchen Whitmer speaks during the Women's Convention at Cobo Center in Detroit in October, 2017, just months before being elected as the Democratic candidate for the 2018 gubernatorial race. Buy this photo
Alexis Rankin/Daily

While you were away this summer, you may have missed some big stories from Ann Arbor. The Daily will be publishing recaps of the summer’s breaking news.

On Tuesday, Aug. 7, Michigan voters from the Democratic and Republican parties nominated their respective party candidates  during the 2018 gubernatorial primaries. Gretchen Whitmer, former state Senate Democratic leader, and Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette emerged victorious and will face off on Nov. 6 for the governor’s seat.

Whitmer and Schuette will compete in November, running highly contrasting campaigns in hopes of following Snyder, who is leaving the seat with low approval ratings following the Flint water crisis, as Michigan governor. 

Now, with nine weeks left until the general election, Whitmer is polling 9 points ahead of Schuette, according to RealClearPolitics.

The Libertarian Party, qualifying as a major party in Michigan, also held its first primary in the state Aug. 7. Insurance title examiner Bill Gelineau and former Livonia teacher John Tatar faced off, with Gelineau winning 58 percent of the vote.

The election results diverged from student polling conducted by The Daily — last fall, University of Michigan alum Abdul El-Sayed, the former Detroit Health Department Director, received the highest share of potential student voters. 32 percent of students indicated they planned to vote for El-Sayed in the primaries.

The Michigan primary election featured voter turnout that broke records going as far back as 1978. Nearly 29 percent of registered voters casted ballots, amounting in about 2.5 million votes total. Washtenaw County experienced the largest surge in voter turnout in the state, increasing from 21.6 percent in 2010 to 34.4 percent. 

Vote Breakdown

Republican candidates on the ballot included Schuette, Lieutenant Gov. Brian Calley, state Sen. Patrick Colbeck and Dr. Jim Hines. Schuette won 50 percent of vote, and Calley was the runner up at 25.2 percent. Colbeck followed at 13.1 percent and Hines at 11 percent.

Schuette led in the primary polls and was expected to win the nomination. An endorsement from President Donald Trump played a significant role in his campaign. In June, Vice President Mike Pence visited Michigan to campaign on Schuette’s behalf.

“President Trump has endorsed my candidacy for governor because he knows I’ll cut taxes in Michigan like he’s cut taxes in America,” Schuette said in the final GOP debate in July. “It’s time that Michigan wins again."

Schuette also received endorsements from several U.S. Republican representatives and the Michigan Chamber of Commerce. Meanwhile, Calley was endorsed by Gov. Rick Snyder and Colbeck by Texas Sen. Ted Cruz. 

Democratic candidates on the ballot included Whitmer, El-Sayed and businessman Shri Thanedar. Whitmer won with 52 percent of the vote, followed by El-Sayed with 30.2 percent and Thanedar with 17.7 percent.

El-Sayed received endorsements from several progressives during his campaign, including Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders as well as activist Shaun King and new Democrat upstart Alexandria Ocascio-Cortez. El-Sayed campaigned heavily at the University, holding rallies on campus and speaking at the Ford School of Public Policy

Thanedar funded much of his campaign with his own money and polled strongly before the election with Black voters in Detroit due to key endorsements form local radio personalities and pastors.  

Whitmer also led in the primary polls and was the expected winner, receiving endorsements from Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan, former Gov. Jim Blanchard, the Michigan Education Association and the United Auto Workers.  

“Detroit needs a partner in the governor's office who knows how to get things done right now, and without a doubt, that person is Gretchen Whitmer,” Duggan said at the opening of Whitmer’s new Detroit campaign headquarters.

Whitmer has emphasized her substantial experience in the government and has said she will be the governor to “get things done” in Lansing.

“I am the one person who has experience in state government and we’re hiring someone to run our state, to oversee our schools and our higher education institutions as well as our criminal justice system, the cleanliness of our water, the health care of our citizenry, and I think that we need someone who knows what they’re doing,” Whitmer said in an interview with The Daily in July.

Schuette is focusing his campaign on jobs, tax cuts and giving families a pay raise.

“I want each and every citizen to cop a new attitude, a new attitude about our future. Michigan must be about big hopes, bold dreams and boundless aspirations,” Schuette’s website reads. “We must have the attitude that there is nothing we cannot achieve.”