Though Republicans dominated most races on election night, a seat on the University’s Board of Regents was not in the cards. After a long and close race, Democrats Mike Behm and Kathy White, an incumbent, won the two contested seats on the board early Wednesday morning.
White led with 1,352,347 votes, followed by Behm, who received 1,263,196 votes. Republican candidate Ronald Weiser held 1,258,361 votes and Republican candidate Rob Steele held 1,254,325 votes.
The race changed significantly as votes were counted throughout the course of Tuesday night and early Wednesday morning. As of 2 a.m. Wednesday, Steele led with 596,732 votes, followed by Weiser with 594,196. But after the heavily Democratic Wayne County votes were counted, the results flipped entirely, putting White and Behm in the lead.
White is the current chair of the board and will be serving her third consecutive term as regent.
White balances her time between her position as regent, as a professor at Wayne State University Law School, an instructor of law at the United States Military Academy at West Point and a Lieutenant Colonel in the U.S. Army Reserve.
As she continues her time as a regent, White’s priorities lie in creating civil discourse on campus, engaging students and examining the University’s structural problems.
“Keeping the University of Michigan affordable enables students from all backgrounds, with different perspectives, to enrich the academic environment through their engagement with each other,” White wrote in an e-mail Wednesday.
White said running for office helped get her in touch with issues voters are concerned about.
“I will continue to listen and apply my experience to find solutions to our stakeholders’ concerns,” White said. “I also intend to continue to be in close communication with student leaders to make sure I have an understanding about their concerns and can address them promptly.”
Behm currently works as a litigator in Flint and is an active member of the Democratic Party. He worked as a volunteer lawyer for the Clinton campaign in 1996 and created programs to educate citizens about elections to discourage voter intimidation in 2004.
As a newly elected regent, Behm’s priorities lie in making college affordable and accessible statewide.
“I would like to see the state of Michigan reinvest in the University of Michigan and in public education,” Behm said in an interview with the Daily late last month.
This year the results of the regents do not parallel those at top of the ticket races, despite what historical patterns for state boards have predicted.
In 2012, Democrats Mark Bernstein and Shauna Ryder Diggs won the two open seats on the board and were carried to victory in part by the election of President Barack Obama at the top of the ticket. Republicans Andrea Fischer Newman and Andrew Richner won the election in 2010 on the coattails of Republican Gov. Rick Snyder’s landslide victory.
Weiser currently serves on the board of many for-profit and nonprofit organizations, including the $4.6 billion-valued real estate company he founded, McKinley Associates. He stressed his expertise in the fields of diplomacy, accounting, finance and politics throughout his campaign and was endorsed by The Detroit Free Press in October.
Though Weiser said it was unfortunate that he lost by such a small margin, he does not intend to stop working with the University in the coming years.
“It is what it is,” he said.
Steele was the second republican candidate who ran in the election. He stressed transparency in University actions during his campaign, offering open office hours for University students and faculty and posting the checkbook and budget online.
He ran for the board in 2012 as well and was unavailable Wednesday for comment.