Welcome to 2023, a UP Leader Retires, 2022 Election for Governor and Abortion, and Urban Control of State Board of Education



This Week in RI

On Wednesday we will be publishing an article by Michael and John Broadway exploring whether there is a rural-urban split in Michigan when looking at economic and demographic factors, comparing a sample of counties from the UP and downstate.

Welcome to 2023

Happy New Year to our readers and friends. Our wish is for all of us to be optimistic and happy about our State of Michigan and America. It will get better. Let’s generate ideas and concepts to share with our friends and neighbors. Listen more than talk.

2023 brought us some governing news. All of the top elected officials in Michigan are Democrats. They control all three branches of government. That is a first in over forty years.

What will that mean to the Upper Peninsula and other rural areas in Michigan. We, like you, will be watching these policy makers in the majority or in the minority. What will be their rural majority? Hopefully we will see one soon.

Upper Peninsula Leader Retires

Gary McDowell has retired as the Director of the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development. He is a resident of the eastern UP and served as their state Representative prior to being appointed by the Governor as Director and as a member of her Cabinet. He is one of two UP folks the Governor had in her Cabinet. The other is the Director of the State Police–and he will remain in his position. Director McDowell has, according to most observers, left an excellent legacy in Michigan.

Upper Peninsula and the 2022 Election for Governor and Abortion

Governor Whitmer won in what many called a landslide. At a minimum it was not a very close race between Gretchen Whitmer and Tudor Dixon. One interesting statistic does stand out–eight counties in Michigan supported Republican Dixon and also supported the abortion ballot proposal (Proposal 22-3) putting it in the state constitution.

Those eight counties included some UP counties: Alger, Gogebic and Keweenaw. These counties gave a majority vote for Dixon in their county and supported putting abortion rights in the state constitution. Interesting voter patterns in these counties.

The downstate counties that did the same were: Midland, Manistee, Calhoun, Emmet and Van Buren.

State Board of Education Controlled by All Urban/Suburban Members

In 2022 the entire State Board of Education (SBE) was from urban/suburban areas of the state. Not one single member was from the Upper Peninsula or any other rural areas. Then in late 2022 a member of the SBE resigned and left the Governor with to fill the position with an appointee of her choosing. She chose someone from Detroit, again leaving the SBE with no rural voice on important education policies/issues.

No one would deny that there are many education issues in common between urban/suburban and rural areas. However, observers say that does not mean there are not education issues that are unique to rural areas, just like urban/suburban areas have educational issues unique to them.

These observers say that there needs to be a rural voice on the SBE in order to have educational policy equity in Michigan. They also urge people in rural areas to talk to their elected legislative members and the Governor about this inequity for rural areas.

Members of the State Board of Education are nominated at political conventions and run in the statewide elections as nominees of their political parties.

It has been decades since anyone from the UP has served on the SBE.

The World Around Us

More than 10,000 children are in the Michigan foster care system, according to the Children’s Defense Fund. Only 40% of these children graduated from high school in four years. 80% of children not in foster care graduated from high school in four years.

Quotes That Make Us Go Hmmm

“I’m not particularly afraid of death. But I’m afraid of dying.” Andrew Sullivan.

“The past is never dead. It’s not even past.” William Faulkner.

Books Recommended by Readers

“And There Was Light. Abraham Lincoln and the American Struggle.” Jon Meacham. 2022

“We are Proud Boys.” Andy B. Campbell. 2022.

Talk To Us

Keep your raves, laurels, rants and darts coming. Send them to us at david@ruralinsights.org. We love to read them. 

About Us

Rural Insights connects policy, information, news and culture to raise topics and stories/information you might have not seen or overlooked. We bring you original writing from Rural Insights and other researchers, change makers, and storytellers, as well as our latest research and analysis.

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David Haynes

David Haynes has served as a professor of public administration and public policy. He previously has served as President of Northern Michigan University. David has been involved in the public administration and political science field for over 45 years.


  1. Robert Benkendorf on January 9, 2023 at 8:15 am

    The state control by one party leaves entire geographic areas disenfranchised and unrepresented. This illustrates why the Founders set up an Electoral College in the federal level and why one is also needed on the state level. This is not democracy, but rather mob rule.

    • Andrew on January 9, 2023 at 11:41 am

      After being “disenfranchised” by the Republican party these past 40 some years…
      Suck it up!

    • Paul Sturgul on January 9, 2023 at 4:47 pm

      I do not understand your comment that “state control by one party leaves entire geographic areas disenfranchised and unrepresented.” The voters in all the UP counties except Marquette chose to elect Republicans to represent them. A serious problem for the UP lies in the Republican supported term limits. The UP will never have the clout it had before term limits, when long-serving Senator Mack and Representatives Jacobetti and Hellman held powerful legislative positions. Additionally, your comment about one party rule being “mob rule” is nonsense. The only mob rule I can think of is the attempt by the Trump incited mob to take over the US capitol on January 6, 2021.

  2. J Menhennick on January 9, 2023 at 9:05 am

    And Mr Benkendorf what do you say about the Republican controlled Government for the past 40 years; you can’t have it both ways

  3. Monica Thoune on January 9, 2023 at 11:47 am

    In your opinion, why are no UP residents being nominated for the SBE positions? From what I recall, aren’t they first nominated and then voted for in the general election? It appears two members’ terms expired 1/1/3923.

    • Brian Hoduski on January 9, 2023 at 12:37 pm

      The UP has 3% of Michigan’s population and as was noted in the piece, the candidates are nominated in their respective Democratic and Republican conventions. Those conventions are held (at least for the Democrats) in Detroit or Lansing. Voting in the Democratic convention is proportional, based on Democratic vote in each county. It is very tough to garner support for candidates from rural counties, and even more difficult for those from rural UP counties. The UP sends only a handful to these conventions. For someone from Keweenaw County it is almost 11 hours to Detroit.

      • Monica Thoune on January 11, 2023 at 11:23 am

        Thanks Brian. Yes, as Yoopers, we know how far away everything is and the travel it entails. Not only for a convention. But let’s say I, a resident of Menominee County, sit on the SBE – 8-9 hour trip – monthly.

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