Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel is projected to win reelection in her race against a Republican opponent who spread conspiracy theories about the 2020 election and attempted to contest the results of Donald Trump’s loss in the state.
The Associated Press projected Nessel as the winner Wednesday morning. She held a 53%-45% lead with roughly 87% of votes counted.
Nessel was one of three Democratic candidates ― along with Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson ― seeking reelection to top statewide offices in Michigan, which became a major battleground over both the 2020 election and abortion rights.
Nessel cast the attorney general contest as part of a broader fight to preserve democracy in both Michigan and nationwide. Her projected victory will prevent her opponent, Matthew DePerno, from taking the reins of an office with significant power over Michigan elections ahead of the 2024 presidential race, when the swing state could once again be key to determining the outcome.
DePerno, an attorney, led a legal effort to force an audit of election results in one Michigan county, a blatant attempt to cast doubt on Trump’s loss in the state. (Michigan conducted hundreds of routine and legitimate audits of the results and found no evidence of fraud or malfeasance.) He met with Trump officials in Washington on Jan. 6, 2021, as they plotted to use a fake-electors scheme to overturn his loss in several states. In August, Nessel called for a state prosecutor to investigate allegations that DePerno was part of a scheme to tamper with election machines during an effort to find evidence of fraud.
“These are the offices that make democracy work,” Nessel told HuffPost in October. “If we have the wrong people in these offices, it’s not just that democracy won’t function well. We won’t have a functioning democracy at all.”
DePerno was one of nearly 300 election deniers seeking office in 2022, and was running alongside two other conspiracy theorists in Michigan’s statewide races. Tudor Dixon and Kristina Karamo, the GOP’s gubernatorial and secretary of state nominees, also spread lies about the 2020 election.
Reproductive rights were also a major issue in the race. Michigan emerged as one of the most prominent battlegrounds over access to abortion after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade this summer. Nessel refused to defend a 1931 state law that broadly outlawed the practice, and a Michigan judge ruled it unconstitutional in September.
DePerno had vowed to enforce the 1931 law, which has no exceptions for rape, incest or maternal health, and said that he would also seek to ban the use of Plan B. He said at one event that Griswold v. Connecticut, a 1965 Supreme Court decision that ruled that married couples had the right to access contraception, was wrongly decided.