WATERVLIET — Incumbent 79th District state House Rep. Pauline Wendzel declared victory late Tuesday night over Republican challenger Jacquie Gnodtke-Blackwell in a lopsided primary contest.

“I want to thank my family, my team, and the thousands of Berrien County residents who put their continued faith in me to serve our community,” Wendzel said in her statement declaring victory. “This primary was a good warm-up for the general election. I’ll always be a strong voice for Southwest Michigan, I have the best supporters, and I won’t be outworked.”

Wendzel, 30, of Watervliet, had a huge lead over her challenger, Gnodtke-Blackwell, 58, of Bridgman, a little while before press time Tuesday night, and her campaign declared victory a few minutes before 10 p.m. She will face Democratic challenger Chokwe Pitchford in the November general election.

With 23 of 35 precincts reporting and some absentee ballots still to be counted, Wendzel led the race 4,617-872.

Wendzel said getting Michigan back open in a safe manner is one of her top priorities, along with supporting small businesses in any way possible. She said she sees getting the state through the coronavirus crisis as the most critical issue facing Michigan.

Wendzel said serving as state representative is “the honor and privilege of a lifetime,” and she believes in “efficient, effective and accountable government.”

Wendzel was first elected to the Michigan House of Representatives in November 2018.

She serves as vice chairwoman of the Commerce and Tourism Committee and the Energy Committee for the 2019-20 legislative session, and serves as a member of the Agriculture Committee and the Regulatory Reform Committee.

She is a graduate of Watervliet High School. In 2014, she became the program director at the North Berrien Historical Museum. She has also worked on her family’s farm and spent time counseling young children at Five Pines Christian Camp. Prior to her election to the state house, she was the product brand manager at Coloma Frozen Foods, and previously served as the assistant deputy clerk for Bainbridge Township.

The 79th District includes the cities of Coloma, St. Joseph, Benton Harbor, Bridgman and Watervliet, and the townships of Bainbridge, Benton, Coloma, Hagar, Lake, Lincoln, Royalton, St. Joseph and Watervliet.

Contact: jswidwa@TheHP.com, 932-0359, Twitter @HPSwidwa