A GOP effort to take back two pivotal Wayne County state House seats it lost two years ago was on track to fail, according to election results Wednesday night.
Incumbent Rep. Laurie Pohutsky, D-Livonia, had 50.2% of the vote with 100% of precincts reporting, though the Associated Press had not yet called a winner in the race Wednesday night. She was facing challenger Republican Martha Ptashnik, a Livonia schoolteacher, who was narrowly behind Pohutsky with 49.8% of the vote.
In the 20th District, which includes Northville, Plymouth and Northville townships as well as a portion of Canton Township, Republican political newcomer John Lacny failed in his bid to unseat state Rep. Matt Koleszar, D-Plymouth.
With 95% of precincts reporting, the Associated Press declared Koleszar the winner with 55% of the vote.
“I’m absolutely honored and so proud to represent my constituents here in the 20th district,” Koleszar told The Detroit News on Wednesday.
He attributed his win to his office’s approach to engaging with constituents: “I was always accessible, always responsive, and focused on local issues that were most important to my constituents.”
Koleszar, 39, is a former teacher at Airport Community Schools. Lacny, 59, is a Marine veteran and retired supply chain manager.
Koleszar and Pohutsky each narrowly won in 2018 when Democrats swept the statewide elected offices. Koleszar beat Republican state Rep. Jeff Noble of Plymouth 51%-49% while Pohutsky beat Republican Brian Meakin 50.2%-49.8%, or by 224 votes, after state Rep. Laura Cox, R-Livonia, unsuccessfully sought a Senate seat.
In the 20th District, Koleszar previously said he would continue to focus on education, but wants to tackle issues facing the environment, local businesses and the health care industry.
The COVID-19 pandemic caused a massive backlog in the unemployment system, causing some residents to wait for months to get assistance checks and other issues addressed.
“We do need to reform it once we get through this,” Koleszar said.
Lacny said his business background could help to rebuild Michigan’s economy by bringing back supply chain jobs that have been outsourced overseas. He worked for Raytheon Co., a defense industry supplier, as a global supply chain director through 2016. He worked as a consultant in 2017 before he retired.
“I have a very keen aspect of how import/export regulations work and building and bringing supply chains to and from North America,” Lacny said.
Lacny said he wanted the Legislature to approve Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s continued exercise of emergency powers. The state Supreme Court ruled unanimously that Whitmer broke a 1976 law when she kept operating under a state of emergency after April 30 without the Legislature’s approval.
He said he also wanted to develop legislation to protect seniors who have been especially vulnerable to the coronavirus.
In the 19th District, Pohutsky introduced legislation to ban guns in the Michigan Capitol after it was revealed that some of the suspects among the 14 men arrested in the alleged plot to kidnap Whitmer and storm the Capitol had taken firearms to prior Capitol protests against COVID-19 restrictions.
Pohutsky, 32, said she would also like to push for worker protections during the pandemic. In the spring, she introduced legislation with other lawmakers that would extend workers’ compensation protection to essential employees who contract COVID-19 while at work.
Republican opponent Ptashnik, 53, teaches math for the Livonia Public Schools, where she’s worked for 14 years. She wants to work on education issues, such as seeing schools prepare students for career paths beyond those that require a college education.
Before COVID-19, Ptashnik’s No. 1 issue was the roads, but she said she remains frustrated they haven’t been fixed. She also wants to see seniors protected better after nearly a third of Michigan’s COVID-19 deaths have involved nursing home residents and employees.
Staff Writer Kalea Hall contributed.