Republican candidate takes the lead in District 78 state representative race
NILES — It has been a long road of campaigning for District 78 state representative candidates.
Republican Brad Paquette, 31, and Democrat Dean Hill, 67, both hit the pavement hard in the final days before the midterm election, knocking on hundreds of doors, attending local debates and seeking to rally voters to the polls. But Tuesday night all they could do was wait.
As of 11:30 p.m. Tuesday night, Paquette pulled into the lead by a wide margin, with 10,701 votes in Berrien County and 5,062 votes in Cass County. Hill earned 7,846 votes in Berrien County and 2,490 votes in Cass County, according to unofficial results.
Paquette said he looked forward to serving at the level of state representative.
“It would just be really, really an opportunity for me to grow and continue to meet so many people in this district that is 80 some thousand people here,” Paquette said. “I would love to be able to interact with as many of them as I can.”
If he officially claims the role as state representative for District 78, Paquette said he first intends to get on the education committee in Lansing and auto insurance reform committee.
“Those are my two passions, auto insurance reform and the education piece,” Paquette said. “I would love to reshape the role of the Michigan Department of Education to be more of a network that brings educators in.”
Both Paquette and Hill are former teachers and targeted education reform while campaigning. Hill served 44 ½ years as a teacher with Dowagiac Union High School and Paquette was a teacher at Niles New Tech for about five years.
“I always ask the question to every person I encounter in education, ‘if we can’t better the system of education, who can? And if we are not going to, who will?’” Paquette said. “I was teaching civics and my kids were asking me, ‘well, what am I going to do after I was challenging them to get more involved in civic life?”
This election marks the second time that Hill has run for state representative for the District 78 seat. He last ran for the seat in 2016, but lost to Republican Dave Pagel.
“This election has had a lot more intensity. People have really worked hard to make a change if this doesn’t happen [him winning],” Hill said.
Hill said he believed that President Donald Trump had ignited a mobilization for people across party lines to take to the polls to provide a voice for their party. Across Michiana, polls saw long lines and a consistent outpouring of voters.
“There have been a lot of people that when you knock on their door they are concerned about Trump and the things he has affected,” Hill said.
This year, hours before the results began pouring into the polls, Hill expressed a little skepticism at claiming the victory.
“I’m going to be amazed if I win, because no Democrat has won in the 78th District since 1964,” Hill said.
Hill said he was disappointed to lose the race, especially given so many had worked hard on the campaign.
This was Paquette’s first year running in an election. He said he had enjoyed all that the campaign experience had taught him.
“It’s been fantastic. It’s given me a free pass to go and talk to people I probably would have never talked to in my entire life,” Paquette said. “You cram hundreds of conversations into the past couple of months and it is exactly what I love to do.”
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