Live Election Updates: Gretchen Whitmer wins governor's seat; AG race called for Nessel
(FOX 2) - An election night that bubbled with uncertainty as polls closed is ending on an encouraging note for Michigan Democrats as Gretchen Whitmer retained the governor's seat in a race that widened over the evening.
The Democrat incumbent was declared victor over Tudor Dixon first by FOX News and later by the Associated Press. As of 4:30 a.m., Whitmer maintained an 8-point lead when she was declared the winner.
Whitmer spoke from Detroit Wednesday morning just after 8 where she thanked her supporters, family, and all voters - regardless if they voted for her or not.
"Holding this office has been the honor of my life. I'm so grateful to have had this opportunity for the past four years," Whitmer told a celebratory crowd.
The governor won by carrying two Republican strongholds in Macomb and Kent counties.
Whitmer congratulated supporters of the three ballot initiatives, all of which passed, as well as Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson and Attorney General Dana Nessel. At the time, those races hadn't been called, though Benson and Nessel have since been announced the winners.
She wrapped her brief remarks by reminding residents about Michigan's tough spirit.
"For the next four years, I ask you to believe in Michigan. To work with us and believe in our state. If we do, I know there is nothing that we can't accomplish. We're following the footsteps of Americans who stepped up to move us forward," Whitmer said.
The governor said the state should spend the next four years committed to moving the state forward.
"Over the next four years, lets build a Michigan where every person is treated with dignity, can enjoy their personal freedoms, and chart their own path toward prosperity. I promise to be a governor for all of Michigan. I promise to work with anyone who wants to get things done and compete and win against anyone. We're going to move this state forward and I am excited about the work we will continue to do together," she said. "Michigan's future is bright and we are about to step on the accelerator.
The result is one of several positive narratives that Democrats will pull from the 2022 Midterms as its other two statewide candidates for attorney general and secretary of state held commanding leads over their respective opponents.
Crowds chanted "Big Gretch" when Whitmer arrived at the podium late Tuesday night. With evidence of her voice being lost, Whitmer thanked supporters for cheering her on at an election party.
READ MORE: How Michigan counties voted to protect abortion rights
"I am so happy to be here with you and my family and my partner in governance and all the phenomenal Michiganders who worked so hard to make sure our voices were heard, to make sure we set our state on the course that is focused on the future."
"We are thrilled by the unexpected high turnout. We are thrilled that the three ballot initiatives got passed," she said.
MORE: Check out our interactive election maps here
While the results of all three ballot proposals had not been declared by the time Whitmer gave her speech, they were heavily in front at the time. By 3:30 a.m. Wednesday, all three were projected to have been approved.
It's one of several encouraging signs for Democrats in Michigan, which appeared to also flip a seat in Congress on the west side of the state as well as potentially retake control of the state Senate - a feat that hasn't occurred in the state in 40 years.
Other Midterm election news we're watching:
- Voters enshrine abortion in major night for ballot measures
- Democrats flip west Michigan seat while Slotkin holds on in 7th
- Balance of power: Democrats show surprising strength, leaving Control of Congress unclear
Whitmer runs away in reelection fight
As of 9:30 a.m., 87% of the vote had been tallied in the governor's race. Whitmer maintained an 9 point lead over Dixon in her contest that featured an incumbent with a sizable war chest and a lot of name recognition against a poetical newcomer.
Whitmer scored big vote totals in several counties in Michigan, gaining the majority vote in nearly 20 counties including the state's most populous. While she scored big totals in Washtenaw County where Ann Arbor is located, Whitmer also won big in Oakland County, showing just how blue the previously-Republican centric district had become.
The same thing appears to be happening in Kent County, a bastion of conservative voting that flipped blue this midterm.
Dixon conceded the race Wednesday morning, saying she called Whitmer to wish her well.
RELATED: Michigan Live Election Results: Whitmer projected to defeat Dixon in governor race
"Michigan’s future success rests not in elected officials or government, but all of us. It is incumbent upon all of us to help our children read, support law enforcement, and grow our economy," she said. "Thank you to our volunteers and supporters for working so hard to forge a better Michigan. We came up short, but we will never stop fighting for our families."
Nessel, Benson leads holding in fight for AG, SOS
Two equally consequential races that may not have gotten as much air time in previous elections are the attorney general and secretary of state, which saw two Democrats attempt to defend against Republican momentum that appeared to swing ahead of the midterms.
Both Dana Nessel and Jocelyn Benson held sizable leads in their races by 9:30 a.m. Wednesday, with Nessel holding a 7 point lead over Republican Matthew DePerno and Benson with a 13 point lead over Kristina Karamo.
Neither race has been declared yet, though both Democrats did express optimism on their social feeds. DePerno said Wednesday morning he was conceding the race to Nessel.
"Thank you to all the Michiganders who showed up to voice their frustrations with our current government. Although we didn’t emerge victorious tonight, I believe we sent a strong message to Lansing." he said in a statement. "The people of Michigan are tired of the rising crime, threats to parental rights and an ongoing lack of trust in government."
Karamo has not made a statement on the secretary of state race.
Big night for ballot measures
It wasn't until early Wednesday morning when ballot proposal contests were called in Michigan, all three coming in quick succession from the Associated Press that declared Props 1, 2, and 3 all approved by voters.
Polls had shown each ballot measure with support in Michigan, but during a midterm race with a lot of uncertainty over what kind of support Democrats and Republicans had in the state it wasn't clear which might succeed.
But all three would win with resounding leads in approval votes from voters.
The most notable ballot measure, which codifies abortion as protected by the constitution, was the most competitive of the three proposals. It had an 11 point lead with more than 2.2 million votes in favor of it.
Here's a breakdown of how each ballot measure did.
Dems flip west Michigan seat
Hillary Scholten flipped Michigan's 3rd district blue and Elissa Slotkin scored a major win in a competitive race that was among the most expensive in the country in the 7th District. In the battle for Congress, both seats could serve as major variables in which party controls the U.S. House come January.
Scholten's victory in the Grand Rapids-area district may come as a surprise considering it's long been one of the most conservative-reliant seats in the state's congressional delegation, previously held by Peter Meijer.
But a combination of redistricting and an extreme Republican candidate likely benefited Scholten's run to victory.
Slotkin's victory was more in doubt during the early stages of the race after Republican Tom Barret's lead jumped out early. It wasn't until ballots from Ingham County came in from the college-heavy county that helped push her over the finish line.
Here's how Michigan's Congressional Delegation is shaping up.