UPDATED: Driskell nabs 52nd District seat in Michigan House from Ouimet with 52.9% of the vote
Courtney Sacco I AnnArbor.com
Democratic candidate Gretchen Driskell has defeated incumbent and Republican Mark Ouimet for the 52nd District seat in the Michigan House of Representatives in a close race where both parties paid top dollar in the fight to gain partisan control.
With 52.86 percent of the vote, current Saline Mayor Driskell becomes one of Washtenaw County's newest state representatives -- the other being Democrat Adam Zemke, who won his race for the 55th District seat in the House.
Driskell's win also means Washtenaw County will be represented by all Democrats in the Michigan House.
The Washtenaw County Democratic Party had declared Driskell the victor when about 68 percent of the precincts in the district had been reported just after midnight.
The divide between the two candidates has been extremely narrow as results were tabulated Tuesday night. Voter turnout in the 52nd District was about 75 percent.
At the time the Democratic camp named Driskell the winner, 32 of 47 precincts had reported results that had Driskell with 16,286 votes and Ouimet with 16,043 votes.
Driskell said she was confident in the decision to call the race in her favor.
However, when Scio Township results were tabulated at about 2 a.m., Driskell gained a 3,000-vote margin over Ouimet.
In the city of Saline where Driskell has been the mayor for more than a decade, Driskell had a strong lead in the precincts. In the city of Chelsea, Driskell won all of the precincts.
In some precincts in Salem, Sharon and Dexter townships, Ouimet has a lead over Driskell.
Speaking Tuesday night in front of a crowd of excited supporters at the local Democratic party contingent gathering at Weber's Restaurant and Hotel in Ann Arbor, Driskell announced her victory shortly after it was announced that President Barack Obama had won Ohio in the presidential election.
"I've represented people for a long time locally, and I'm looking forward to doing it at the state level," Driskell said in an interview with AnnArbor.com, explaining she was still in shock with how well the campaign went.
Early on in her campaign, Driskell turned the focus of her campaign to education funding -- a strategy Driskell said Tuesday was a good idea and one that paid off.
Ouimet reportedly spent election night at the Ann Arbor Country Club with the local Republican contingent. However, he declined interviews and spent most of the evening in a private room.
The tone at the country club was decidedly quieter and more subdued than the upbeat cheers that routinely brought the house down at Weber's.
John Taylor, Washtenaw County GOP chairman, said at midnight Tuesday that he was "cautiously optimistic" that Ouimet would win.
"Ouimet has a very good ground game," Taylor said.
Should Ouimet lose the 52nd District race, Washtenaw County would have no Republican representation in the Michigan House.
Taylor said having a Republican voice in the House was important.
"The people need a choice," Taylor said. "We certainly wouldn't want to retain a one-party role."
However, Taylor said that Ouimet lost voters in his district when it came to his position on education.In precinct 3 in Dexter Township, Ouimet and Driskell each gained 283 votes.
The race for the 52nd District seat got a lot of attention from both Republican and Democratic parties at the state level as the Republicans fought to keep their majority in the Michigan House.
Driskell and Ouimet each poured thousands of dollars into campaign advertising and events, and attack ads quickly surfaced across multiple mediums against each candidate.
Ouimet served on the Washtenaw County Board of Commissioners before making his run for the State House. He was elected to his first term in the House in 2010 against Democrat Christine Green with 51.7 percent of the vote.
The 52nd District has since been redistricted, and now no longer includes a small portion of Ann Arbor.
Update as of 8:00 a.m. Wednesday:
In the 53rd District, incumbent Jeff Irwin has 80.48 percent of the vote with 49 out of 50 precincts reporting. Irwin's Republican challenger John Spisak has 18.95 percent of the vote.
In the 54th District, incumbent David Rutledge has 76.77 percent of the vote with 38 out of 38 precincts reporting over Republican challenger Bill Emmerich.
In the 55th District with 38 out of 39 precincts reporting, Democratic candidate Adam Zemke won the race with 64.33 percent of the vote over Republican candidate and former Milan Mayor Owen Diaz. Green Party candidate David McMahon has 3.48 percent of the vote.