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Democrats knock holes in Republican wall of state control

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — The Republican wall that has stood in state capitols for much of the past decade now has a few holes in it.

Democrats flipped control of seven gubernatorial offices and about a half-dozen state legislative chambers in Tuesday’s first midterm elections of President Donald Trump’s tenure.

Yet those victories didn’t quite reach the lofty goals of an anticipated blue wave. That left both major parties with reasons for hope as they look ahead to another pivotal battle in 2020.

Some of the biggest wins for Democrats came in the Midwest, where they defeated Republican Govs. Scott Walker in Wisconsin and Bruce Rauner in Illinois and picked up open Republican governor’s seats in Michigan and Kansas.

Democrats also flipped control of governor’s offices being vacated by Republicans in Maine, Nevada and New Mexico.


3 get prison in Fiat Chrysler-UAW training center scandal

DETROIT (AP) — Two former Fiat Chrysler executives and a union official have been sentenced to prison in a corruption scandal at a labor training center.

Jerome Durden, who controlled the finances at the UAW-Chrysler National Training Center, was sentenced Wednesday to 15 months in prison. Michael Brown, who helped run the center, was sentenced to a year in prison. United Auto Workers official Keith Mickens got a similar sentence.

Seven people have pleaded guilty in the federal probe, including Fiat Chrysler’s former senior labor negotiator . The indictment alleged there was a conspiracy between some company officials and senior members of the union to use money from a training center for travel, clothes, booze and other luxuries.

The union’s Fiat Chrysler negotiator, General Holiefield, died in 2015. He got $262,000 to pay off a mortgage .


Man again sentenced to life, no parole for 1996 decapitation

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (AP) — A western Michigan man has again been sentenced to life in prison without parole for killing and decapitating a teen in 1996 and mutilating the head in front of a video camera.

WOOD-TV reports that 39-year-old Federico Cruz learned his fate Wednesday in a Kent County courtroom.

Cruz was 16 when 17-year-old David Crawford was suffocated. Crawford’s head was cut off and later mutilated.

Cruz was convicted of murder and got the mandatory sentence after a jury rejected an insanity defense. Cruz and many Michigan juvenile lifers who are serving no-parole sentences are eligible for a new hearing because of a U.S. Supreme Court decision.

The newspaper reports that a judge told Cruz Wednesday that progress made in prison toward rehabilitation does not mitigate that he is a sociopath.


Michigan eyed as bellwether for legal pot in Midwest

DETROIT (AP) — Michigan is aiming to build a potentially lucrative industry from the ground up with passage of a ballot initiative to legalize recreational marijuana.

It could do more by serving as a model for the rest of the Midwest — and possibly beyond.

Michigan is the first state in the Midwest to legalize recreational marijuana. Voters Tuesday passed a ballot measure Tuesday that will allow people 21 or older to buy and use the drug. North Dakota voters decided against recreational pot. Including Michigan, 10 states and the District of Columbia have legalized recreational marijuana.

Attorney Douglas Mains helped draft bills to amend the state’s medical marijuana law passed a decade ago. He says the state is expected to be a bellwether, particularly in neighboring Ohio and nearby Illinois.


The Latest: University regent to lead Whitmer transition

LANSING, Mich. (AP) — Democratic Gov.-elect Grechen Whitmer has named a University of Michigan regent to lead her transition to taking the state’s top job.

Mark Bernstein is president and managing partner of the Sam Bernstein Law Firm. Others who will assist him with daily transition operations like identifying people to join Whitmer’s administration include Awenate Cobbina, an executive with the Detroit Pistons and Palace Sports & Entertainment; JoAnne Hulls, a former aide to Sen. Debbie Stabenow who works for a Detroit real estate company; longtime Whitmer adviser Mark Burton; and Steve Liedel, who was former Gov. Jennifer Granholm’s legal counsel.

Whitmer also announced honorary transition committee members Wednesday. They include Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha, who helped expose Flint’s water crisis; ex-Detroit Mayor Dennis Archer, retired Ford Motor executive Allan Gilmour; ex-Republican U.S. Rep. Joe Schwarz; and others.


Whitmer: Drinking water, roads will top legislative agenda

LANSING, Mich. (AP) — Gov.-elect Gretchen Whitmer says her initial legislative priorities will include cleaning up drinking water and fixing the roads.

The Democrat spoke with reporters in Detroit on Wednesday after her victory over Republican Bill Schuette.

She says working on infrastructure “is at the top of the list.”

She campaigned on a pledge to “fix the damn roads” and says too many Michigan communities are grappling with contamination from old chemicals — not to mention infrastructure issues exposed by Flint’s water crisis.

Whitmer, a former legislative leader, will be proposing her initiatives to a Republican-led Legislature. She says the Legislature is a co-equal branch of government and she will work very hard to build relationships with lawmakers and forge bipartisan deals.


Police identify woman whose body was found in UP dumpster

IRON MOUNTAIN, Mich. (AP) — Police say a body found in a dumpster behind a resale shop in the western Upper Peninsula belonged to a woman was looking for usable items when she died.

The Iron Mountain Police Department said Wednesday that 59-year-old Shelley Bowman apparently slipped and fell head-first into an approximately 5-feet-deep open space within the dumpster.

She was found dead Tuesday morning.

Police say the preliminary cause of death, pending toxicology results, is accidental positional asphyxiation.

The dumpster is behind a Goodwill Industries store in Iron Mountain, 190 miles west of the Mackinac Bridge.


Midterm voting exposes growing problem of aging machines

ATLANTA (AP) — Election experts have long warned about the nation’s aging fleet of voting equipment. This week’s elections underscored just how badly upgrades are needed.

Across the country, reports poured in Tuesday amid heavy voter turnout of equipment failing or malfunctioning.

Scanners used to record ballots broke down in New York City. Voting machines stalled or stopped working in Detroit. Electronic poll books used to check in voters failed in Georgia.

Voting experts had hoped the threat of foreign governments meddling in U.S. elections would prompt action to upgrade election machinery.

But two years before the 2020 presidential election, 41 states are still using machines that were manufactured more than a decade ago and a dozen states are using at least some electronic machines that produce no paper trail.


Second trial set for ex-Michigan trooper in boy’s death

DETROIT (AP) — A former Michigan state trooper will face a second trial in April in the death of a Detroit boy who crashed an all-terrain vehicle after he was shot with a Taser.

Mark Bessner’s first trial ended without a unanimous verdict on Oct. 31. A judge on Wednesday set another trial for April 1.

Bessner is charged with second-degree murder and involuntary manslaughter in the death of 15-year-old Damon (Da-MAHN’) Grimes, who crashed an ATV in August 2017.

Bessner shot Grimes from the passenger seat of a moving patrol car as he and his partner pursued the boy at high speed. Bessner says he believed Grimes was armed, but the teen had no weapon. He quit the state police.


This story has been corrected to fix the spelling of ‘quit.’