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Race oddity: Surprises, upsets in Tuesday state primary

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MICHIGAN — The state primary election has come and gone, but not without some surprises and a few upsets along the way.

From incumbents overpowered by challengers—notably in local county sheriff races—to some arguably unexpected wins in the state House races, the variety in the win column runs the gamut.

Steve Johnson

Steve Johnson

25-year-old Steve Johnson, fresh out of college and having never held political office before, said he quit his job to run for state House.

Less than 24 hours after winning with 30 percent of the vote in the state's 72nd House District, Johnson turned down several requests for an on-camera interview Wednesday.

The political novice beat out four Republican challengers, including area restaurant owner Tony Noto who had received backing from the Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce.

"Our state’s going in the wrong direction and I got sick and tired of complaining about it," Johnson said by phone. "I figured I’d step up and try to do something.”

Johnson said he won by sticking to his conservative values "grounded in the U.S. Constitution," adding he's ready for the challenge despite limited political experience, which includes just a month-long internship stint in disgraced former Rep. Cindy Gamrat's office last summer.

“I’m prepared, sometimes you have to turn down media requests," he said, responding to questions of whether he'd be ready for the increased scrutiny and media inquiries that come with the territory of being a state representative.

"The job of the legislature is not to be on every TV, but to legislate.”

But before he can legislate, Johnson will square off against Democrat Steve Shoemaker in November to replace term-limited state Rep. Ken Yonker, R-Caledonia.

Terrance "Man Beast" Rhyno Gerin (WWE)

Terrance "Man Beast" Rhyno Gerin (WWE)

In another surprise victory on the opposite end of the state, WWE wrestler Terrance Gerin beat down his opponents in the Republican primary for the state's 15th House District.

Known as "Man Beast" Rhyno in the ring, the wrestler's campaign slogan is "I'll Fight for You." He appeared on a live USA Network broadcast Tuesday night while primary results were being counted.

Embattled state Rep. Brian Banks of Detroit beat out five Democratic challengers to hold on to his seat, despite facing new criminal charges for bank fraud. Banks has already been convicted of similar crimes.

Democrats in the House of Representatives are now looking to November where they hope to reclaim the majority from Republicans  for the first time since 2011.

Rep. Brian Banks, D-Detroit

Rep. Brian Banks, D-Detroit

"Democrats are winning across our state, so that township halls, county commissions, the state legislature, and Congress, will all have more individuals fighting for the people that sent them there," Michigan Democratic Party Chair Brandon Dillon said in a statement.

Aside from races in the House, incumbent sheriff candidates in Muskegon and Newaygo lost to primary challengers. Muskegon County Sheriff Dean Roesler lost to Democratic challenger Michael Poulin. Roseler has been sheriff since 2008.

Newaygo County Sheriff Pat Hedlund lost to challenger Bob Mendham, the police chief in White Cloud and Grant.

In Algoma Township, eight years removed from a widely publicized video of his drunken driving arrest that effectively ended his career in the state House, Kevin Green won the Republican nomination for supervisor. Green won with 61 percent of the vote to easily beat incumbent Nancy Clary. He will run unopposed in November.

See full primary election results here.

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