Last month’s midterm election drew the highest turnout in Michigan in nearly 60 years, and MEA members helped bring change across the state—volunteering for local and state candidates, making phone calls, writing postcards, knocking doors and donating to MEA-PAC, MEA President Paula Herbart said.
“From volunteering to voting, everyone made a difference for our students and our profession, and we should be proud of what we accomplished together,” she said.
Wins for a slew of MEA-recommended candidates, highlighted by Gretchen Whitmer’s victory as governor, represent a “course correction” for Michigan and public education, Herbart said.
Now the real work begins, according to the governor-elect. “Voters rejected agendas that don’t put our kids’ education first,” Whitmer said at a post-election news conference. “I’m determined to work with everyone who wants to make sure that is the future of our state.”
Five MEA members won election to state-level office on the heels of the nationwide #RedForEd movement, including two in northwestern Wayne County who flipped seats from red to blue in tightly contested races: New Haven teacher Dayna Polehanki won Senate District 7, and Airport teacher Matt Koleszar will represent House District 20.
Polehanki said her win was a victory for anyone tired of the status quo. “This election was about bringing a new approach to Lansing—an approach that puts people over special interests to deliver clean water, better schools, and safe roads for every Michigan family.”
Koleszar noted he will be working in a chamber now more evenly divided between Republicans and Democrats. “With our governor being a Democrat and with the party divide being smaller in the House, this is an opportunity for bipartisan cooperation so we can get things done.”
Voters narrowed the Republican majority to six in both the state House (58-52) and Senate (22-16); chose all eight MEA-recommended candidates for statewide education boards; and for the first time picked women for all three of the state’s top elected posts.
In addition to Whitmer, Jocelyn Benson won secretary of state and Dana Nessel was elected attorney general. All three women were recommended by the MEA Statewide Screening & Recommendations Committee. U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow won re-election with a continuing recommendation from MEA.
MEA member Nate Shannon, a L’Anse Creuse economics and history teacher, won a 54-46 victory in a swing district. With his message of fixing the broken school funding system, Shannon found bipartisan support that was key to his victory.
Lori Stone, a fourth-grade teacher in Warren’s Fitzgerald Public Schools, had a decisive win in the general election in her second bid for House District 28. She knocked off an incumbent Democrat in the August primary.
“I’m excited about what I’m going to do next,” Stone said. “I’m looking forward to working in the Legislature to help improve educational policy.”
MEA-Retired member Sheryl Kennedy, a principal in Walled Lake, won her House District 48 seat by 10 points after vanquishing two opponents in the primary with 73 percent of the vote.
The governor-elect has a track record of working across the partisan aisle, and that gives Kennedy hope that problems can get solved. “I have nothing but confidence in Gretchen Whitmer as our leader,” she said.
All of MEA’s recommended candidates won races for governing boards at University of Michigan, Michigan State University, and Wayne State University. Wins for MEA-recommended candidates for the state Board of Education changed the party split from 4-4 to 6-2.