Roseville MP upset in Democratic primary by little-known opponent
A 44-year-old social worker and mother of four, incumbent state Rep. Richard Steenland in a Democratic primary on Tuesday in the House’s 12th District by less than 300 votes.
Steenland’s four-point loss to Kimberly Edwards made him one of six incumbent Michigan Legislators to lose his seat in Tuesday’s primaries.
Born and raised in the western part of Detroit, Edwards said she moved to Eastpointe about a decade ago and saw the need for improved social work services in the district that straddles Northeast east of Detroit, Eastpointe and Roseville.
“I’ve always been a social worker, I’ve always been able to connect with the community and identify what their needs are and not just identify what their needs are, but provide a solution,” said Edwards told the Detroit News.
Edwards’ campaign was small, consisting of her husband, children ages 12 to 21, and a few friends who knocked on doors with her and contacted residents of Macomb and Wayne counties by phone. She has less than $1,000 on her campaign.
“I was hoping that this community believed in me and would support me,” Edwards said. “I can’t say that I was 100% sure this will be the result. I appreciate the result. I’m very touched by this result. And I’m totally ready to do the job.”
Steenland, a former clerk and city councilor for Roseville, was elected to the House in 2020. He did not return a message seeking comment.
Six incumbent members of the Legislative Assembly lost their primaries on Tuesday.
Apart from the two incumbents who lost when dragged into fellow constituencies, four incumbent lawmakers – including Steenland – lost their seats to the main challengers.
State Rep. Terence Mekoski, R-Shelby Township, lost his seat to State Senator Doug Wozniak, R-Shelby Township, in a three-way primary, with Mekoski winning 34% of the vote and Wozniak winning 52 % of votes cast .
Mekoski was elected to the State House in May, when he ran to fill the seat vacated by Wozniak when he was elected to the Senate in November to fill Senator Pete Lucido’s vacancy. Lucido had left the seat when he was elected Macomb County District Attorney in November 2020.
State Sen. Kim LaSata, R-Niles, lost her seat to Trump-endorsed challenger Jonathan Lindsey of Bronson by 22 percentage points.
LaSata became the first incumbent Republican senator since 1986 to be ousted from office in a primary and the first since Michigan voters imposed term limits on lawmakers in 1992.
State Rep. Rodney Wakeman, R-Frankenmuth, lost his seat in a blistering 29 percentage point loss to Vassar’s Matthew Bierlein.
Two other incumbent lawmakers — Rep. Gary Eisen, R-St. Clair Township and State Sen. Marshall Bullock, D-Detroit – lost their seats in primary runoffs that occurred after being dragged into fellow districts.
Eisen was down 41 percentage points to State Rep. Andrew Beeler, R-Port Huron and Bullock was down 37 percentage points to State Sen. Mallory McMorrow, D-Royal Oak.
An incumbent defeat is still surprising, but a bit less so after a redistricting cycle as lawmakers are dragged into unfamiliar districts, said Bill Ballenger, a political commentator and former Michigan state senator.
“Generally, the best time to eliminate an incumbent is every ten years after a census and a reassignment,” Ballenger said. “There will be a slightly better chance of beating a starter during that time.”
One of the best examples of such upheaval occurred in 1992, when longtime Congressman Guy Vander Jagt was dragged into a new district and a young Pete Hoekstra took the opportunity to challenge him by cycling through the district of West Michigan to meet constituents.
Hoekstra won the race, ending Vander Jagt’s 25+ years in Congress.
“He pulled off this huge upset,” Ballenger said of Hoekstra. “But the bottom line is that he had just had a lot of new territory that he hadn’t represented.”
Hoekstra went on to serve nine terms in Congress before making a failed bid for the Republican gubernatorial nomination in 2010.