MARQUETTE - In a tight race, John Kivela claimed slightly more than 51 percent of the vote Tuesday and defeated Tony Retaskie to secure the Democratic nomination for the 109th District of the Michigan House of Representatives.
By a margin of only 196 votes, the electors of Marquette, Alger, Luce and Schoolcraft counties sent Kivela, the current mayor of Marquette, to November's general election. The final tally was 4,512 to 4,316.
"We knew all along it was going to be very tight," Kivela said today. "We worked very hard and it's just a sense of relief. We were up against a very strong opponent and a very well-respected gentleman."
John Kivela - Democrat
Kivela carried Marquette County 3,792 to 3,627 and won Schoolcraft and Luce by even smaller margins. Retaskie outpolled Kivela, 413 to 329, in Alger.
Leading up to the primary, Kivela highlighted his ability to work with people and his experience. He is wrapping up his sixth year on the Marquette City Commission and served previously on the city's board of zoning appeals.
As he prepares for a general election battle for the 109th - a district which has leaned Democratic for decades - Kivela said he thinks his party's voters will align behind his candidacy.
"We had two strong candidates on this side splitting the vote," he said. "So hopefully they will align in November. I hope that a lot of that support will come my way, but we're prepared to work very hard."
In the Republican primary, Burt Township Supervisor Jack Hubbard defeated Negaunee's Jim Hafeman by a margin of 3,365 to 1,299.
"I'm obviously very pleased at how things worked out," Hubbard said this morning. "I spent a long time on this campaign and put a lot of time into it and it's nice to get the support that I've got. I think people really want to have somebody in Lansing that's going to fight for them."
He said his attention has already turned to the general election, which will demand a great deal of preparation.
Hubbard, who will face off against Kivela in November, won decidedly in Luce and Alger counties, outpolling Hafeman by a total of 1,570 to 265. In Schoolcraft County, Hubbard had 380 votes to Hafeman's 110 and in Marquette, he won 1,415 to 924.
Of 13,492 votes cast in the 109th race Tuesday, less than 35 percent were Republican votes. Hubbard said that was expected, but added that he plans to see a much better turnout from his party in November.
"That's pretty much a given," he said. "You expected a lot of people to come out in the Democratic race, because that was a closely contested race, but it's a whole different ballgame when you get to the general election. Primary numbers are not any indication of what's going to happen in a general election."
Kivela and Hubbard are both hoping to succeed current state Rep. Steve Lindberg, D-Marquette, who cannot seek re-election due to term limits. Lindberg has served in the house since first being elected in 2006.
Kyle Whitney can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 250.