Some Michigan counties see dramatic political shift after voting red for decades

Posted at 8:03 PM, Nov 09, 2022
and last updated 2022-11-10 08:52:54-05

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WXYZ) — As results have come in, some traditionally Republican counties that were key to a Tudor Dixon victory, like Oakland and Kent, remained blue.

For the last two decades, Kent County, home of Grand Rapids, had always voted for the Republican gubernatorial candidate. That is until Gov. Gretchen Whitmer turned it blue in 2018 and again in 2022.

The question now is whether this dramatic shift is a permanent one.

Dixon’s held her watch party in downtown Grand Rapids Tuesday, but that doesn’t mean voters in the city sided with her campaign.

Lissa Engleman of Grand Rapids is one of 162,000 people in Kent County who cast their ballot for Whitmer. She says the results gave her relief.

As a nearly lifelong Kent County resident, she feels political colors are shifting in the county.

“It's going to be slow. It’s certainly not a huge flip to the other side, but slowly, it’s moving in that direction,” Engleman said.

A county that once always backed the Republican candidate and voted for President Donald Trump in 2016 has sided with the Democrat ever since. Political science experts are taking note.

“It's kind of a shift in the center of political gravity in Michigan,” said Jonathan Hanson with the University of Michigan Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy.

Hanson says both Kent and Oakland counties have seen dramatic shifts, helping to elect Democrats to major offices.

“These larger counties that are now starting to produce some pretty significant vote margins for Democratic candidates,” Hanson said.

However, voters on the street, even those who supported Whitmer, are hesitant to say this change is permanent.

“Kent County is not going to be blue; it’s going to be the candidates. People are getting out and voting for the candidates and the issues,” Grand Rapids voter Joe Dubay said.