By JOEY CAPPELLETTI, Associated Press
LANSING, Mich. (AP) — Michigan’s Democrat attorney general and secretary of state have won reelection, fending off challenges from Republicans who gained prominence in the state party through loyalty to former President Donald Trump and pushing his false claims of a stolen election in 2020.
Attorney General Dana Nessel won reelection in Tuesday’s race against GOP candidate Matthew DePerno, who is under criminal investigation for allegedly tampering with election machines. Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson defeated Republican nominee Kristina Karamo, who is a former community college instructor.
Nessel, a former prosecutor-turned-civil rights lawyer, was best known for her successful fight to overturn Michigan’s ban on gay marriage when she first ran in 2018. She became the first Democrat to hold the office since 2002.
She had campaigned, like other Democrats in the state, on her opposition to Michigan’s 1931 abortion ban that was triggered when the US Supreme Court overturned Roe vs. Wade earlier this year.
“Ultimately, Michigan values propelled us to victory,” Nessel tweeted on Wednesday. “Love over Hate. Hope over Fear. Unity over Division. Equality over Bigotry. Science over Ignorance. Facts over Lies. Democracy over Fascism. Equal protection under the law, for each and every Michigander.”
DePerno rose to prominence in the party by echoing false claims of a stolen election in the state and leading an unsuccessful lawsuit pushing for a forensic audit of the 2020 election in northern Michigan. He is under investigation for allegedly seizing and tampering with voting machines by a special prosecutor, who said Friday that no decision would be made before Election Day. Nessel’s office has called DePerno one of the “prime instigators of the conspiracy.”
DePerno has slammed the probe, calling it “political prosecution” and saying that anything he did was lawful. He issued a statement Wednesday, considering the race.
“Although we didn’t emerge victorious tonight, I believe we sent a strong message to Lansing,” DePerno said. “The people of Michigan are tired of the rising crime, threats to parental rights and an ongoing lack of trust in government.”
Benson was challenged by Karamo, who also received an early endorsement from Trump after claiming she witnessed election fraud in 2020 as a poll challenger in Detroit.
Addressing a crowd of supporters in Detroit after declaring victory, Benson said she was honored to be reelected for another four years.
“Tonight, democracy won here in Michigan because of all of you. You all showed the world that Michigan voters will vote for truth over lies,” Benson said.
It had been 24 years since a Democrat was Michigan’s secretary of state when Benson won in 2018. She has since tried to expand voting rights in the state, including a push to boost absentee voting in fall 2020 voting amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Her campaign this year has said she will continue to push for expanded voter rights after she oversaw “the safest, most secure” election in Michigan history.
After several Republican county and state officials refused to certify the 2020 presidential election in Michigan, the state Senate Republicans opened an investigation that concluded there was no widespread or systemic fraud and that the election’s outcome represented the “true results.”
Following the 2020 presidential election, Karamo began appearing on conservative talk shows saying that as a poll challenger in Detroit she saw “ballots being dropped off in the middle of the night, thousands of them.” Benson has repeatedly refuted claims of fraud at Detroit’s election center in 2020.
Karamo had not conceded as of late Wednesday morning.
The outcome of the secretary of state race will impact how the 2024 presidential election is handled in the battleground state as the two candidates had opposing views on policies such as early and absentee voting and voter identification laws.
Joey Cappelletti is a corps member for The Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues.
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