Red Ripples Absorbed as Bay County Voters Reflect Statewide Political Climate

Posted In: Politics, State, Local,   By: Jason Dean

22nd November, 2022     0

The results are in, and Bay County voters effectively sandbagged red wave predictions that were amplified by the squall of sensationalized ad campaigns that pummeled local airwaves the past couple months. Linking local candidates to national issues outside their scope of influence in the hopes of riling up fear was on full display. For the most part, the tactic missed the mark. 

Those worried about issues like personal choice, school shootings, and the environment made their voices heard loud and clear, while those more concerned with drag queens in schools and zero-tolerance stands on social issues should probably refocus their message, because a new generation of voters is recognizing its growing influence in shaping the direction of the future through the ballot box. 

Dan Kildee will return to Congress to represent Michigan’s 8th District after a convincing double-digit win over Republican challenger Paul Junge. When I attended the October 3 debate held at SVSU, with the election still more than a month away, among all the issues being discussed, it was clear that passions on both sides were being stoked most intensely by the overturning of Roe. Had the Supreme Court not acted as it had, striking down 50 years of precedent and sending states to forge their own legal paths, the blue hue of Michigan might be more purple. Suddenly, the Republican platform has to contend with degrees of belief and enforcement on an issue that was settled law for generations. 

Kristen McDonald Rivet ran a successful race to win the 35th District State Senate seat over Rep. Annette Glenn, who is currently finishing out her term in the State House of Representatives. Rivet, who will be leaving her seat on the Bay City Commission for her new role, had an uphill battle against a political veteran with name recognition, deep pockets, and an ad campaign that leaned hard into sensationalized tactics linking her opponent to national immigration policy, among other issues.

“From the very beginning, there was a lot of political hand-wringing by pundits saying this seat could not be won by a Democrat,” recalled Rivet when we spoke a few days after the election. “And we just never believed that. And at the end of the day, we had hundreds of volunteers, over 7,500 donations, raised almost $1 million, [and] knocked on 72,000 doors. It was a big coalition of people that really wanted to see this happen.”

Especially gratifying for Rivet was the fact that when the race was called around 1:30 a.m. on Election Night, her win clinched the Democratic majority of the 38-seat Michigan senate. “Representative Glenn called me to concede, she was very gracious,” says Rivet, adding that “it was well within reason to expect animosity [during the campaign], but that’s not something I’ve experienced since the end of the campaign.”

From Governor to both branches of the Legislature, to Attorney General and Secretary of State, Michigan is not only blue, but it is led by strong females, a plum distinction for the Great Lakes State.

“This is the first time there is a majority of women in the Democratic caucus,” says Rivet. “I didn’t know until I showed up the first day for [orientation]. The Governor is the one who said it out loud – the first female Senate majority leader, our caucus is majority female, the first African American Speaker of the House, there’s a lot of firsts happening in Lansing.”

While Rivet weathered “inflamed rhetoric tying me to federal issues,” she noted that in her campaign messaging, “we proposed solutions, we talked about the very real issues that our families are facing and talking about at their kitchen tables.” 

Originally from Portland, a small farming town between Lansing and Grand Rapids, Rivet recalls her introduction into political awareness and the impact that organized grassroots efforts can have.

“My parents got very involved in the recall of some school board members who were taking the school district in the wrong direction,” she says. “I can remember sitting at the table, my mom was a stay-at-home mom and my dad worked in construction. They got a group of friends, parents, together who were just really upset and went door-to-door and … ultimately passed a millage to help support the schools. I don’t think I understood that as being politically involved at the time, but it really instilled a lesson in me of the importance of neighbor-to-neighbor style of politics and using grassroots voices to get something done.” 

Elected to the City Commission in 2020, Rivet, had previously served as President of the Bay City Charter Commission, a specially elected ad hoc group that reviews and updates the City Charter every 20 years. Her newly elected position is the first partisan office she will hold.

“Last February there were three or four of us that gathered around the table trying to figure out how we were gonna get this done,” Rivet recalls of her campaign’s early days. Every day we added more people. The SVSU Young Democrats were such an incredible force on the campaign,” she adds. “They made calls, they wrote postcards, they knocked on doors, they showed up at debates, they marched in parades, and they really embraced it. There was a lot of excitement. From the very beginning the campaign was, ‘This is we, not me.’ “

Summing up the mood in Lansing as she prepares to start her term on January 1, Rivet says helping working families is a top priority across party lines. “We understand that [Democratic victories] are slim margins and, personally, I feel I have a very direct mandate from the voters in my district to work in the middle, to be bi-partisan, to come up with solutions that work for people, to not engage in political games, and that’s the same sort of thing I hear echoed with my fellow caucus members. I think that what you’ll see is an agenda that is proactive, that proposes things that Republicans can buy into, and that we really have this hunger to get something done. I’m optimistic that we’ll be able to do that.”

Concluding her post-election political message, Rivet promises: “Stay tuned, we’re gonna get something done.”



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