In a tight race, incumbent GOP Rep. Gene DeRossett led the polls over Democratic opponent Pam Byrnes last night with a 9 percent margin out of the 67 percent of precincts tallied at 2 a.m. DeRossett led with 1,393 votes or 54 percent, with Byrnes at 1,206 as of 2 a.m. Only three precincts had reported their tallies.
After learning of early wins in Lodi Township and Saline, DeRossett supporters remained optimistic throughout the evening. Despite holding the incumbent advantage, the newly redistricted lines – drawn to include a largely Democratic section of northern Ann Arbor and much of western Washtenaw Country – posed a significant challenge to DeRossett.
But DeRossett attributed his success to the strong connection he has maintained with his constituents.
“I’ve been to every community meeting I’ve been invited to. I think it’s about being active in the community. I’ve found it makes a difference,” he said.
Angela Randazzo, a staff member in Lansing, said DeRossett used a grassroots strategy to reach as many voters in the newly redrawn district as possible.
“(One tactic) he used was to go door-to-door to get to know who these people are,” Randazzo said.
Peter Wills, DeRossett’s legislative assistant, said his boss’s willingness to cross party lines helped him win over bipartisan support.
“(DeRossett) can be categorized as an independent moderate Republican who has worked both sides. The Michigan Education Association endorsed him because of his public stance against vouchers … and he fought with other Republicans against his party to make sure the waiting week for unemployment benefits did not occur,” Wills said.
Michigan State University senior Mike Comonaco, DeRossett’s campaign manager, emphasized the congressman’s dedication as the defining element of his success.
“I’ve never seen someone as unique as Gene. To him, it’s about good public policy,” Comonaco said. “He’s very constituent-oriented. It’s the little things, like (putting up) his own signs, which don’t have his office number on them, but his home number.”
Despite clear hopes of unseating the Republican incumbent, challenger Pam Byrnes of Lyndon Township fell short of a Democratic victory. Though she lends her success in Ann Arbor to bipartisan support, Byrnes expressed distaste for partisan politics.