(This story was updated to correct a reporting error. An earlier version wrongly reported that Emily Diefendorf has multiple sclerosis. It has been updated to say she said she has seizures but not MS. The story has also been updated to say that her traumatic brain injury was related to an incident at the Capitol involving a motorcyclist. The previous version said the details of the cause of the injury could not be disclosed because of a settlement agreement. )
WEDNESDAY, Aug. 3 — Emily Dievendorf’s victory in the Democratic primary for the 77th House District surprised a lot of people.
But not her.
The political establishment was backing Jon Horford, a standout high school and college basketball player with professional credentials. He lost by 25 votes.
Dievendorf, 43, attributed her victory to having “been in the community working in collaboration with other changemakers, with my neighbors in Lansing, at the Capitol and beyond, for 25 years.” Horford, 30, who grew up in Grand Ledge, recently moved into Lansing.
Dievendorf, a former director of Equality Michigan, has been an LGBTQ leader who identifies as bisexual and nonbinary, meaning not exclusively as a man or woman. She said that if she is elected in the November general election, she believes she will be the first nonbinary member of the Legislature.
She said she also identifies as a person living with disabilities, which she said are a traumatic brain injury and seizures. The brain injury was related to an incident at the Capitol when a motorcylist swerved into the area where she and others were painting "Black Lives Matter" on the street.
“Visibility isn't all about campaign literature,” she said in an interview today. “It is about putting in the work over time, with your head down, just because it should be done. That lets people know who you are. This win is exciting, yes, but it is the extension of a movement that has been in the works and makes this win about all of us.”
On top of that, she said there is a fundamental shift happening in the electorate.
“Voters and residents of the district in general know that the systems are nearly broken,” she said. “And they are ready to fully participate in making politics function as it should. They want someone who has been in community with them, will be bold and honest, and who is going to ensure everyone's place in the House as architects of solutions to issues impacting our lives.”
Horford, who did not return calls, still has not conceded the race. With such a narrow win, it’s possible Horford could seek a recount. But it’s expensive – and he’ll have to shoulder the costs. Each precinct he seeks a recount in could cost him as much as $250, said Ingham County Clerk Barb Byrum.
Dievendorf said with the current voting technology “there’s no way he can make up those 25 votes” if there is a recount.
Dievendorf walks into the general election with $5,389.19 cash on hand, after raising $15,525. She loaned her campaign $6,200. Horford, in his pre-primary report, showed he had raised $63,489. He had $20,896.34 cash on hand. According to his pre-primary report he loaned his campaign $2,000, which is still due. The pre-primary reports were filed with the secretary of state on July 22. Horford reported one more donation after that deadline of $500.
The district Dievendorf is seeking to represent includes high population areas such as downtown Lansing, DeWitt, DeWitt Township and Grand Ledge as well as a large swath of rural western Clinton County.
“I think there is a real opportunity right now to have conversations about how agriculture is an industry that can connect us and that both rural areas and urban centers are already invested in farming,” she said. “Covid forced us to focus on the skills we could cultivate ourselves and how we could support each other. Agricultural programs that connect communities can help address pollution, environmental injustice, create business opportunities for our most marginalized communities, and ensure farmers and restaurants stay in business with farm to table programs."
In the general election to be held in November, Dievendorf will face Republican John Magoola of Lansing in a district that she said that leans 64% Democratic. He is unlikely to pose a threat to Dievendorf, given he has requested and received a campaign finance reporting waiver, according to the Michigan Secretary of State's Office. That means he cannot raise or spend more than $1,000.
With all votes counted, Dievendorf received 4,547 votes to 4,522 for Horford.
Dievendof won in Ingham County by 249 votes, 2,924 to 2,675; she beat Horford in Clinton County by 339 votes, 1,401 to 1152. Horford, who played on the Grand Ledge High School basketball team, won in Eaton County by 473 votes, 695 to 222 for Dievendorf.
Logan Bryne of Dewitt finished third with 1295 votes.
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