DEARBORN — Democrat Jeff Pepper defeated Republican challenger Ginger Shearer for the District 15 State House partial term in Tuesday’s special election, amid low voter turnout and heavy absentee voting.
The low overall turnout was consistent with the special primary that preceded Tuesday’s general. Only 9.5 percent of registered voters cast a ballot, according to unofficial results from Wayne County Clerk’s Office.
Out of those some 5,000 were absentee votes and only 1,403 voted on Election Day.
Pepper scored 4,628 votes to Shearer’s 1,748.
With five write-ins, only 6,409 total votes were cast in Tuesday’s election, which coincided with Eid al-Fitr celebrations in the city, the population of which could be more than half Arab American, according to recent surveys.
But the special election, which sought to fill out the vacancy left by Dearborn Mayor Abdullah Hammoud till the end of this year, followed somewhat similar trends in both the primary and general elections.
March’s primary saw a mere 11.75 percent turnout, even with local Arab American Alabas Farhat vying for the Democratic spot against Pepper.
In both the primary and general election, voter turnout was lower in the easternmost precincts, climbing higher westwards with constantly higher numbers in the western part of the city.
District 15 covers all but three northeastern precincts in the city. Local political analysts have located Arab American densities in the eastern and central parts of the city, with Whiter, and wealthier, neighborhoods in the west.
The area currently covered by the District will be transformed come next year, thanks to citizen-led redistricting efforts in the state.
Farhat is a contender for the Democratic primary in August, alongside Arab Americans Sam Luqman, Khalil Othman and Rosyln Ogburn, and Shearer, in the newly drawn District 3, which covers much of Dearborn, save easternmost neighborhoods north and south of Ford Road.
Farhat endorsed Pepper for the special general election.
Infrastructure funds are a big ticket item for the current district, which continues to see deteriorating roads and bridges, and worsening sewage and flooding problems, funds that a state representative can help direct to needed areas. Combined with those are the persistent environmental issues facing the south and eastern parts of the city in particular.
Before the election, Pepper told The Arab American News that Dearborn faced some serious needs.
“We need additional assistance here in connection with the sewage separation project, there are things that Mayor Hammoud would like to do with Camp Dearborn, the splash pad in southeast Dearborn that the mayor has a bigger vision for; there’s always a need for money,” Pepper said.
The election also saw election wins for partial terms in the State House for other Michigan districts.
Carol Glanville became the first Democrat in nearly three decades to represent the 74th District in Kent County. Former President Trump won that district in 2020 by 16 percent.
Republicans Mike Harris of Clarkston and Terence Mekoski of Shelby Township won in the District 43 and District 36 contests respectively.
The election has dampened Republicans’ control over the State House they’ve enjoyed since the November 2020 election, from 58-52 down to a 57-53 majority.