Trustee candidates react to election results; Balow and Menge accept losses | #students | #parents

Following the Nov. 8 midterm election, trustee Renee Knake Jefferson won re-election for eight more years on the board and researcher Dennis Denno will fill the seat vacated by trustee Melanie Foster in Jan. 2023.

Republican candidates Mike Balow and Travis Menge said they accept the results and don’t plan on requesting a recount.

It was a close race. Knake Jefferson received 24.94% of the votes at 1,982,911. Denno received 24.35% of the votes at 1,936,682. Menge and Balow received 23.20% and 24.22% of the votes, respectively.

Knake Jefferson, who won the highest number of votes and was originally appointed to the board by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer in 2019, said she was humbled to be elected for a full term. Much of Knake Jefferson’s campaign centered around increasing campus safety and providing support for student survivors, work she said she is hopeful to continue as trustee.

“I look forward to continuing to work with President Woodruff and my fellow trustees to make MSU excellent in every way, especially in our commitment to Title IX and campus safety,” Knake Jefferson said in an email.

Denno said he was honored and humbled to win a seat on the board. Beyond his own election, he said he was excited about the results across the ballot, particularly the passing of Proposal 3, which will add the rights to abortion and contraceptives to the Michigan Constitution.

One major decision the board will have to make soon is the selection of the next permanent president of Michigan State. Denno said this responsibility will be the most important thing facing the board. He said when his trustee term starts, he wants to talk to students and faculty directly to address their top concerns.

“Something I’ve talked about from day one of my campaign is talking to students and employees on campus to see, do they feel safe?” Denno said. “Is campus a safe place to work? Is it a safe place to be, to live, to study? And if it’s not, where do you go? How do you address those concerns? Are those concerns being seriously addressed?”

On election night, Denno said he and his wife handed out snacks, water and portable chargers to the hundreds of MSU students waiting in line at Brody after polls had closed to vote. He said they even added money to one student’s meter so he wouldn’t have to leave the line. 

“Just making sure students had what they needed and realized that, if they left, they couldn’t come back in,” Denno said. “They were just so polite and they were patient. It was great to see. I was really, really proud of Michigan State students yesterday.”

Balow said although he was disappointed in the results, he felt he ran a great campaign and was proud of the message he put out. He said he “wouldn’t change a thing.”

“Many things were out of our control,” Balow said. “There was a lot of straight-ticket voting yesterday, which didn’t go our way, and that’s just the way it goes.”

Reflecting on his campaign issues, like the return of MSU Swim and Dive and the release of thousands of ex-MSU doctor Larry Nassar’s case documents, Balow said he will encourage the trustees to pay attention to and act on issues that “cross party lines.” Balow said he hasn’t ruled out running again in two years.

Menge congratulated Knake Jefferson and Denno and said he wishes them the best of luck in their roles as trustees. He said he will continue fighting for the future of education, even if it is not as a member of the board.

“I want to continue to fight for continued success for Michigan State and really continue to fight for our next generation of children and college students,” Menge said.

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