By Lisa Stapel
Local candidates and their supporters gathered across Grand Rapids Tuesday to watch the midterm elections unfold live on major news networks.
The Kent County GOP and their supporters met at Brann’s Steakhouse Tuesday night to follow the election results and cheer on their candidates.
Several members of the Kent County Gerald R. Ford Republican Women’s Club were in attendance. Jeanine Herlacher, who served as president in 2009-2010, stressed the importance and value of her gender within the Republican Party.
“A lot of people want to peg Republicans as a male-dominated group, and it’s not,” Herlacher said. “I think a lot of us are frustrated that there’s… media saying that we are irrelevant because we are Republicans and we’re women, however we are the ones who put (Trump) there.”
John Burri, 67, arrived at the GOP gathering wearing multiple t-shirts, each layer representing a candidate he supported: Tommy Brann, John James and Bill Schuette. Burri was disappointed when election officials declared Democratic candidate Gretchen Whitmer the winner of the governor’s race and offered his opinion on Schuette’s efforts.
“I thought Schuette ….was a little lacking on getting his name out there,” Burri said. “I think he should have been pushing harder for the campaign than what he did.”
Burri was also disappointed that Republican United States Senate candidate John James lost to incumbent Democrat Debbie Stabenow.
“He gave it a good fight,” said Burri. “I think he’d make a good run for governor, eventually. He’s military.”
Kent County GOP Chair Donijo De Jonge reflected on the overall impact of Michigan’s midterm elections.
“Keeping majorities in the state house and state senate and our County Commission in Kent County are successes,” De Jonge stated in an email to The Collegiate. “Unfortunately, those margins narrowed.”
Across town at City Built Brewing, State Representative Candidate Rachel Hood hosted her own viewing party for her supporters. As the polls closed, officials called the race and announced Hood the winner of Kent County’s 76th District state House race, defeating Republican challenger Amanda Brand.
“It’s always surreal, you do all of these small steps to get to the goal and you know they add up,” Hood said. “But when you see it all accumulated… its rewarding, just really a surreal moment.”
Hood said she felt Grand Rapids voters had been underrepresented in recent years, which led to increased enthusiasm for this year’s race.
“I think there is some extra oomph behind the democratic party’s passion for keeping this seat,” Hood said.
Campaign Manager Devin Rittenhouse felt the energy was contagious across the party, and applauded Winnie Brinks, who later in the evening claimed the open 29th District Senate seat.
“We’re not only excited for us, but Winnie and the others especially,” Rittenhouse said.
Brinks previously held the seat captured by Hood in Tuesday’s election, but was unable to run for the same seat again due to term restrictions.
At Grand Rapids Community College, Kathy Crosby and Sheryl Siegel received the most votes and were elected to GRCC’s Board of Trustees, defeating candidates Carlos Sanchez and Troy Williams.
Nationally, the Democratic Party secured the minimum 218 seats necessary to regain control of the House of Representatives, while Republicans held onto and even expanded their majority in the Senate.