Michigan’s Municipal Election Primary Results

Back in June, Grassroots Midwest took a look at several municipalities that were gearing up for mayoral and city council races on the August primary ballot. With the primary now behind us, let’s take a quick look at who made it and provide an early analysis of what we expect for the November election this fall in some cities across the Great Lakes state.

Lansing

In Michigan’s Capital City, four city council seats will appear on the ballot in November. They include two at-large council seats, and the seats in the 1st and 3rd Wards.  

  1. Two at-large seats, currently held by Councilmembers Patricia Spitzley and Carol Wood. They both handily made it out of the primary election and will now face off against challengers Yanice Jackson-Long and Julee Rodocker. 
  2. The seat for Lansing’s 1st Ward (northeast Lansing, including Old Town) is currently held by incumbent Councilmember Jodi Washington who faced 4 primary challengers. Brandon Betz came in second to Washington and moves on to face her this fall. Washington has created some controversy in the past and early this year it looked like some business owners in the Old Town area were trying to recruit a strong candidate against her. 
  3. Lansing’s 3rd Ward (southwest Lansing) is currently held by Councilman Adam Hussain, the son of Ward 1 Councilwoman Jodi Washington. He is running unopposed.

GRMW Assessment:  Carol Wood should have no problem this November. Patricia Spitzley also looks poised to return to council, but is still going to need a ground game heading into November, especially against Jackson-Long who is taking this race seriously.  In Ward 1 Washington should return as well, but Betz is an economist by trade and a young, energetic progressive. He will have to work hard to put together a campaign to give Washington a serious race.

Grand Rapids 

In addition to three City Commission seats appearing on the ballot in 2019, Grand Rapids will also have a mayoral election this year. The Grand Rapids races are:

  1. With two candidates in this race it was not on the primary ballot. Mayor Rosalyn Bliss is running for another term this year against challenger Daniel Schutte.
  2. Again, with only two candidates, the 1st Ward seat was not on the primary ballot. This November City Commissioner Jon O’Connor faces Allison Lutz, a young, progressive challenger.
  3. The 2nd Ward seat is currently held by term-limited City Commissioner Ruth Kelly. The top two vote-getters moving on to November in this open seat are Milinda Ysasi and Wendy Falb. 
  4. No primary was held in the 3rd Ward where City Commissioner Nathaniel Moody, who was appointed to the seat in 2018 to fill a vacancy, has no challenger.  

GRMW Assessment: Mayor Bliss should coast to re-election, along with O’Connor in Ward 1 and, obviously, Moody in Ward 3. The big fight here will be the 2nd Ward race where the top two ran pretty evenly – Falb at 2440 and Ysasi at 2671. Ysasi is executive director of the nonprofit business collaborative The Source, and has endorsements from Kelly and 3rd Ward Commissioner Senita Lenear. Falb is executive director of the Literacy Center of West Michigan and is a former Grand Rapids Public Schools board member. She has support from State Sen. Winnie Brinks, GRPS Superintendent Teresa Weatherall Neal and 1st Ward City Commissioner Jon O’Connor. Expect this race to be very close this fall.

Jackson 

In Jackson, the race for Mayor is the one to watch this November. Mayor Derek Dobies is up for re-election after unseating an incumbent two years ago. There are three ward-based seats on the ballot this November along with the mayor, including:

  1. Mayor Dobies faces challenger Jeromy Alexander, the current Ward 3 councilman. Dobies received 1,098 votes while Alexander mustered 568, and the third-place finisher coming in with 364, putting Dobies in a great position going forward.
  2. In Ward 2 (southeast Jackson) Councilman Freddie Dancy is up for re-election. No other candidates filed for this seat. 
  3. In Ward 4 (northwest Jackson) Councilman Craig Pappin is not running for re-election. Two candidates have filed here, Laura Dwyer Schlecte and Laura Beth Stephens. Dwyer Schlecte was the councilwoman from this ward until she ran for Mayor (and lost) in 2015.  
  4. In Ward 6 (southwest Jackson) Councilwoman Colleen Sullivan is running for re-election against Will Forgrave, who previously worked for the city as their public information officer.
  5. City Treasurer Martin Griffin was appointed to the post last year. He is a former mayor and state representative. No other candidates filed for this race.

GRMW Assessment: Mayor Dobies taking on Alexander will be the big race here. Making this more colorful is the fact that Alexander has a very checkered criminal past with a list of court records, arrests and convictions to make a voter’s head spin. We expect Dobies to be re-elected here, being the first incumbent Mayor to win re-election in Jackson in several cycles. In Ward 4, Dwyer Schlecte has the upper hand since she previously represented this ward and nearly won it back in 2015 in a write-in campaign after she lost the mayoral primary.  

Flint

After surviving a recall attempt two years ago, Mayor Karen Weaver is up for re-election and faces State Rep. Sheldon Neeley in November.

GRMW Assessment: Mayoral elections in Flint are always lively affairs and this November’s contest between Weaver and Neeley should be no different. Both have some ground to make up with Flint voters, but if city residents decide to make this a referendum on city government, we could see the mayor’s office flip yet again this year. Weaver squeaked past Neeley in terms of votes, beating him by only 229 votes. But, the two other challengers who didn’t come out of the primary had 1,650 votes between them. So if this becomes a referendum on the incumbent, she could be in serious trouble with voters.

Livonia

Former State Rep. & Senator Laura Toy was the big winner here on primary night and now faces Maureen Miller Brosnan this November. Toy carried 7,400 votes with Brosnan taking 6,124, and the third-place finisher getting 1,375.

GRMW Assessment: Toy has faced tough elections in the past but remains popular with Livonia voters who have always come through for her. In addition, she is being supported by out-going Mayor Dennis Wright and former long-time mayor Jack Kirksey. Toy, a long-time Republican official, faces Democrat Brosnan in this non-partisan race. Brosnan serves on city council and is no stranger to tough elections herself. While Livonia has been trending away from the GOP in recent years, Toy’s longtime service here gives her the upper hand this fall.

Warren 

As we said in June, Macomb County elections rarely disappoint. Even with recordings of Mayor Jim Fouts  making disparaging remarks, he crushed all of his competitors, getting 58 percent of the vote. Facing him in November will be Kelly Colegio, an at-large member of the city council.  

GRMW Assessment: To everyone outside the city of Warren, Mayor Fouts is extremely vulnerable given his apparent history of racist/ageist/sexist/ableist remarks, and placing his girlfriend on the city payroll. But all of that seemed to matter very little, at least to primary voters. So now the question is can Colegio capitalize on this and actually beat him? 

Some other interesting races in Warren to watch include former one-term state Rep. Patrick Green coming in first place for one of the two at-large seats that are open. In District 2, Richard Sulaka II, who is the son of a former Warren councilman and city clerk, and worked as deputy commissioner to disgraced former Macomb County Public Works Commissioner Anthony Marrocco, came in a close second to move onto the general election. Councilman Keith Sadowski is not running for re-election to take a shot at City Clerk. He took second in that race and moves on to November as well.

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