March 13 2013 12:00 AM

Surprises, upsets and history at the polls

Wednesday, Nov. 7 — Democrats won some surprising and historic victories in Lansing and Ingham County on Tuesday.

In Delhi Township a divisive election season ended with Democrats almost sweeping the GOP of out of office – many of them considered tea partiers . In the supervisor race, Democrat C.J. Davis beat his Republican challenger, Jeff Hall, by more than 500 votes. Hall was riding a wave of success since he organized against — and helped defeat — a proposed sludge dryer and trounced Stuart Goodrich, the former Republican supervisor, in the primary.

Many Republicans crossed party lines to support Davis.

“I wasn’t the only Republican to cross the street in that election,” Lansing radio host Tim Barron said today. “There was some pretty nasty stuff floated by some of the candidates, especially toward Stuart Goodrich. I think that left a bad taste in the mouths of decent people.”

Along with Hall, Republicans Steve Dougan (who was running for treasurer), Derek Bajema (an incumbent trustee) and clerk candidate Denise Dragonetti all lost to Democrats. John Hayhoe, a Republican incumbent trustee, was the only GOP member to win a seat on the board. Jon Harmon, Megan Ketchum and DiAnne Warfield, all Dems, won the other three trustee spots.

Davis said he was “stunned” by his margin of victory. He said it was the shots coming from the Republican trenches that ticked off voters the most, which ultimately gave him the election.

“I think overall people thought there was too much fighting and too much aggression,” he said. “I think people saw me an outside influence and I know people were voting for me just so they were voting against (Hall). Delhi is not in horrible straits, we don’t have massive deficits, we’ve been smart and now we just need to continue on that path.”

Voters in Meridian Township made history this election by selecting an entirely Democratic township board. Elizabeth LeGoff won the supervisor seat by a few percentage points, Brett Dreyfus beat his opponent for the clerk’s spot by 14 percent and Julie Brixie swamped her opponent by gaining over 60 percent of the vote for the treasurer position. Voters elected Democrats, Milton Scales, incumbent John Veenstra, Angela Wilson and Don Styka to the four trustee positions.

Dreyfus is the first Democrat to take the township clerk position in 40 years, he said.

“I was up till about 5 a.m., and I woke up and was like, ‘Wow, is this real?’” Dreyfus said. “My election was one of the biggest party switches in township history. I’m very proud to represent that transition.”

The results in Meridian and Delhi represent a shifting of the political demographics in the region, said Joe DiSano, a Democratic consultant with Main Street Strategies in Lansing.

“Clearly you’ve got a changing demographic here in Ingham County where you’ve got a Democratic core that is not just Lansing and East Lansing anymore,” he said. “The Democratic base is deepening and widening across the county.”

Even out in Eaton County the Republicans are losing ground. For the 71st state House race, Democrat Theresa Abed defeated one-term GOP incumbent Deb Shaughnessy. Couple that victory for Democrats with the ousting of Mike Raines, the Republican sheriff who was defeated by Democrat Tom Reich, and you’ve got an Eaton County that may be falling to the blue side of the political spectrum.

The defeat of Raines was because of his “rather extreme Tea Party views,” in DiSano’s opinion.

“It was extreme crazy talk. I’m sure that lost him some votes,” he said. “This is a changing area and Republicans need to recognize that and if they don’t adapt and they sit on their haunches and think it’s still a Republican county — they’ll continue to lose.”

Over in East Lansing, the nonpartisan 54B District Court judge race was a historical decision with the election of Andrea Larkin to the bench. She’s the first woman to ever hold the seat. The new page in the history books is not a big deal to Larkin.

“For me, that’s a mixed bag,” she said. “As a woman and as a lawyer, I never wanted to be judged by my gender or discriminated against. I’m reluctant to have that be a defining characteristic of this election. But I think it adds a different perspective.”

However, Larkin was both “shocked” and “surprised” that she won. Her opponent, term-limited state Rep. Mark Meadows, is essentially a household name in East Lansing. Larkin said when she heard that Meadows had won eight East Lansing elections in his political career, she began to doubt herself.

“I have had many moments over the past couple weeks that I was pretty sure that I wasn’t going to pull this off,” she said. She kept thinking to herself, “If I do this, this has got to be one of the biggest upsets in East Lansing political history.”