The Gongwer Blog

by Elena Durnbaugh, Staff Writer

Bezotte, Morse Won't Run For Reelection In '24

Posted: January 29, 2024 10:05 AM

Two more House members have announced they aren't seeking reelection in 2024.

Rep. Bob Bezotte (R-Howell), 73, won't run again for his seat representing the 50th House District in rural Livingston County, and Rep. Christine Morse (D-Texas Township) won't seek a third term in the 40th District in the western Kalamazoo suburbs.

Instead, Bezotte has endorsed Jason Woolford, who announced his campaign for the seat on Tuesday. Woolford ran for the 48th District in 2022 but lost to Rep. Jennifer Conlin (D-Ann Arbor). The 48th District is a highly competitive district. The 50th District is solidly Republican.

"As a United States Marine Veteran, businessman, minister and president of a non-profit organization, I believe we need to re-employ and re-engage the fundamentals that made this country great into Michigan," Woolford said in a statement. "I am a versatile candidate with a background in many areas that face the good people of the 50th District and I plan to use my experience to better our community."

Bezotte was elected to the House in 2020 and won a second term in 2022. His office did not return a request for comment prior to publication. He was the longtime Livingston County sheriff prior to serving in the House.

Earlier this month, Morse, 50, announced that she would not run in a letter sent to her supporters.

"After much deliberation, I have decided to return to the practice of law at the end of my term. I will have additional news on next steps soon, but for now please know that this was by no means an easy decision," Morse said in the letter. "It is the right one for me both personally and professionally."

Morse currently chairs the House Health and Humans Services Appropriations Subcommittee. She was first elected to the House in 2020 and flipped the seat from Republican to Democratic hands. Morse won a landslide reelection in 2022 with 58 percent of the vote as the Kalamazoo suburbs continue to shift Democratic.

Morse was the best recruit Democrats had ever fielded for the seat, having just won a seat on the Kalamazoo County Board of Commissioners. Although the seat is likely a tough pickup for Republicans, it's not impossible, particularly if Democrats struggle to find someone as strong as Morse to run.

Morse didn't return a request for comment prior to publication.

There are now at least four open seats in the House. Rep. Andrew Fink (R-Hillsdale) previously announced he was forgoing reelection to run for the Supreme Court. And Rep. Dale Zorn (R-Onsted) cannot seek reelection because of term limits.

Tate: Redistricting Process Could Have Been Better

Posted: January 16, 2024 9:08 PM

The legislative redistricting process wasn't perfect, House Speaker Joe Tate (D-Detroit) said.

"With the Independent Redistricting Commission, it was the first time that they went through it. It wasn't a perfect process," Tate said on the "MichMash" podcast, a collaboration between Gongwer News Service and WDET Detroit Public Radio. He was asked whether he agreed that the districts as drawn disenfranchised Detroiters.

Last month, a panel of federal judges ordered the commission to redraw 13 House and Senate districts because race was used as a predominant factor in drawing them, which violated the Equal Protection rights of Detroit voters. The lawsuit was brought forward by Detroit residents who argued the districts, as drawn, disenfranchised them.

The House has elections this year, and its seven districts must be redrawn before February 2.

The districts, as drawn by the commission, changed the landscape of Michigan politics, and that shouldn't be overlooked, Tate said.

"Looking at the landscape of the outcomes that came out of it, I think that's something that we should also be looking at," he said. "I'm the first Black speaker in Michigan's history, and part of that, you can argue, was because the lines were drawn by an independent redistricting commission versus a partisan legislature."

The Senate also got its first female Senate majority leaders in the state's history, Tate noted. The Democratic caucus became more diverse through the 2022 elections, Tate said, and that's because the maps were fairer.

"Through that, I think you've seen policies that will have a significant impact on diverse communities across the state, including Detroit," he said.

Tate said he didn't expect that the court-ordered redrawing would hurt the Democratic majority, nor did he see a serious problem with looping together pieces of Detroit with suburbs in Oakland and Macomb Counties.

The commission has taken criticism for districts that drew together places like Birmingham with Detroit that don't appear to match the idea of a community of interest.

Tate pointed to places like Oak Park and Southfield, which have large Black populations, as suburbs north of 8 Mile Road where it could make sense to connect to Detroit in a district.

"I don't think it's out of the realm of possibility," he said. "Prior to representing House District 10, it was House District 2 … I had the lower east side of Detroit, so the majority of the African American working-class families, and then Grosse Pointe, and that was in some ways opposite, but in some ways, there are a lot of commonalities. But if you look at the different parts of Metro Detroit, I don't think it's out of the question when you look at the historical trends and the movement of population."

Tate also discussed his hopes for the 2024 session, saying he was hopeful that there would be opportunities for bipartisan cooperation while the House is split 54-54, but that Democratic leadership hadn't gotten any indication from Republican leadership about what policy issues their caucus would be willing to tackle.

For their part, Democrats are having conversations around paid family leave, expanding access to child care and changes to the no-fault auto insurance laws, Tate said. Economic development will also be important.

"Economic development is going to play a big role," he said. "Going back to some of the work that we have done in the House last year, around the R&D tax credit and some other items that we had, including the budget."

Looking ahead to this year's elections, Tate said that the Democratic Party wasn't focused on the chaos within the MIGOP.

"For my colleagues, my caucus colleagues, I think us being able to tell our story in terms of what we've done this past year for Michigan residents and families is something that we want to continue to communicate," he said. "Our focus is going to be how are we going to continue to govern, at the end of the day."

Polls commissioned of Michigan voters by The Detroit News and the Detroit Free Press in recent weeks have shown President Joe Biden trailing former President Donald Trump. Tate said he fully supported President Joe Biden when asked his confidence about Biden heading the Democratic ticket in 2024.

"In terms of what he's been able to do for this country, and the way he's shown leadership, has certainly (been) a positive," Tate said. "For our country and Michigan in particular, just in terms of the work that he's been able to do."

At the state level, Tate said people have every reason to trust that the Democratic Party is working for them.

"What we've been able to do as a House Democratic caucus and the legislation that we've been able to pass – I mean, significant pieces of legislation, whether it's around putting more money in people's pockets or gun violence reduction, something that we haven't been able to do in over a decade – really resonates with people," Tate said. "Michigan residents trust Democrats, and I think that is something that we'll see as we get closer to November."

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