Clinton, Trump fight for ‘blue’ Michigan

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LANSING, Mich. (AP) – Michigan was a battleground until the very end for Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and Republican rival Donald Trump, who both campaigned in the traditionally “blue” presidential state in the final hours of their punishing 2016 race.

Now, they wait for the votes.

Tuesday’s election also will cap two close U.S. House races at opposite ends of the state and a closely watched battle for control of one-half of the GOP-led Legislature – the outcome of which will influence Gov. Rick Snyder’s governing agenda in his last two years in office.

Here’s a closer look at the contests:

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RED BRICK IN THE BLUE WALL?

Democrats have carried Michigan, a state in the traditional “blue wall” of 18 states and Washington, D.C., for at least six straight presidential races. But the state’s status was clearly at risk, given the amount of attention Clinton and Trump gave Michigan Monday – an indication that neither candidate wanted to give ground.

Both visited the Grand Rapids area, a conservative-leaning part of the state where neither candidate did well in the primary. President Barack Obama campaigned in Ann Arbor, while Republican vice presidential nominee Mike Pence visited Traverse City.

A Trump victory in Michigan could portend a big night for him nationally, while winning the state’s 16 electoral votes would put Clinton well on her way to the White House.

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HOUSE RULES

The Michigan House stands out this year, given there are no statewide proposals and few statewide races on the ballot. It’s the Democrats’ last shot to disrupt the GOP agenda or else Republicans will lead the Legislature all eight years of Snyder’s tenure.

Conditions are ideal for Democrats to bolster their ranks, but capturing the majority could be tough. At least a dozen GOP-held House districts – half with incumbents, half open due to term limits – will determine which party secures the minimum 56 seats needed.

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TO WASHINGTON YOU GO

Michigan Democrats hope to offset Republicans’ 9-5 edge in the U.S. House, and are eyeing two seats in typically GOP-leaning areas. One is the vast, mostly rural 1st District in northern Michigan, and the other is the 7th District, which stretches south and east from the Lansing area to the state line.

The 1st District race pits Republican Jack Bergman against Democrat Lon Johnson after third-term Rep. Dan Benishek opted not to run again. In the 7th, fourth-term Rep. Tim Walberg faces a challenge from state Rep. Gretchen Driskell.

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SUPREME COURT SEATS

The two most significant statewide races are for spots on the Michigan Supreme Court, where Republicans have a 5-2 majority. Party affiliations are not listed on the ballot, but parties nominate the candidates. And conservative incumbents Joan Larsen and David Viviano will be labeled as justices, a clear advantage when voters usually have no idea who is on the bench.

Larsen, who Snyder chose to fill a vacancy in 2015 and Trump has mentioned as a possible U.S. Supreme Court pick, is being challenged by Wayne County Circuit Judge Deborah Thomas for a two-year term. Viviano faces Wayne County Probate Judge Frank Szymanski for an eight-year term.

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TO VOTE

Polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday. Voters must have a photo ID or sign an affidavit. Absentee voters have until 8 p.m. Tuesday to return their ballot to the clerk’s office.

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SAY NO TO SELFIES

Michigan’s ban on voters taking photos of their completed ballot was upheld by a federal appeals court – for now. The prohibition has been in place for 125 years, but a judge ruled last month it is a free-speech violation in the era of cellphone cameras and instant social media posts. The lawsuit, filed by a Portage resident, will continue after the election.

We welcome thoughts and comments from our viewers. We ask that everyone keep their remarks civil and respectful. Postings that contain profanity, racist, or potentially libelous remarks will be deleted. We will delete any commercial postings, as well.

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