Commentary by Paul Rozycki
I planned on writing about the upcoming Republican national convention, the desperate attempts to block Donald Trump’s nomination, Trump’s latest outbursts and how it all promises to be more fun than a barrel of monkeys. However, I’ve since learned that the monkeys are deeply offended and resent the comparison to Trump. So out of deference to the apes, I’ll turn my attention to our upcoming primary election in Genesee County. It may not be as entertaining as The Donald’s antics, but at least it won’t insult the monkeys.
Though less of a spectacle than a national convention, our Aug. 2 primary is one of the most important elections we face. Because Genesee County is so strongly Democratic most of those who win the Democratic primary are assured election in November. (We’re not unusual. Most election districts in the nation are similarly solid for one party or the other.) Unfortunately, even though the August primary will decide most local elections, the turnout will almost certainly be very low—much lower than the November turnout.
For the August primary voters will choose candidates for the U.S. House, the state House of Representatives, all county level offices, the Genesee County Board of Commissioners and many township officials. There will also be three county-wide millage proposals and several local millages or bond issues.
There are many offices where candidates face no opposition for either the nomination of their party or the final election in November. Here is a summary:
U.S. House of Representatives
Michigan elects 14 individuals to the 435 member U.S. House for two-year terms.
–Fifth District, (Genesee, Tuscola (part), Saginaw (part) Bay, Arenac and Iosco counties) Incumbent Democrat Dan Kildee will face Republican challenger Al Hardwick in November.
The State House of Representatives
There are 110 members in the state house. They serve two-year terms and are limited to three terms.
–34th District, (north Flint city, Burton) Democratic incumbent Sheldon Neeley will face Republican Page Brousseau in the fall.
–48th District, (Montrose, Vienna, Thetford and Genesee townships) Democratic incumbent Pam Faris will face Republican Joseph Reno in the general election.
-49th District, (Mt. Morris, Flint townships, southwest part of Flint city) incumbent Democrat Phil Phelps will face the winner of the Republican primary—either Jeremy Baker of Mt. Morris or Patrick Duvendeck of Flushing.
-50th District, (southern Genesee County, Mundy, Grand Blanc townships, Burton) incumbent Charles Smiley is term-limited and there are contests for his seat in both parties. Democrats Tim Sneller and Raymond Freiburger are competing for their party’s nomination as are Republicans Michael Matheny and Jackie Seal.
-51st District, (western Genesee County, Gaines, Clayton, Flushing townships) Republican incumbent Joe Graves faces Katherine Houston and John Lauve for his party’s nomination. Democrat Ryan Bladzik will oppose the winner in November.
The Genesee County sheriff, clerk, treasurer, prosecutor, drain commissioner and surveyor are all elected for four-year terms in the presidential election year.
With only one exception there is no opposition for the top officials in Genesee County. Prosecutor David Leyton, Treasurer Deb Cherry, Drain Commissioner Jeff Wright, Clerk/Register of Deeds John Gleason and Surveyor Kim Carlson face no opposition for either the primary or the November general election.
Sheriff Robert Pickell is being challenged for the Democratic nomination by Dan Allen, who has run for the nomination before. Early indications are that Allen is putting on a spirited campaign. The winner will face Republican Matthew Krol of Linden in the general election.
County Board of Commissioners
Genesee County elects nine members to the County Board of Commissioners for two-year terms.
-1st District, (north Flint city, parts of Mt. Morris and Genesee townships) Democratic incumbent Bryant Nolden is unopposed in both the primary and general election.
-2nd District, (north and central Flint city) Democratic incumbent Brenda Clack is being challenged by former Flint School Board member, David Davenport.
-3rd District, (east Flint city and Burton city, part of Genesee Township) County Board Chair Jamie Curtis is facing challenges for the Democratic nomination from Ellen Ellenburg of Burton, and Deborah Groulx of Flint. The winner will face Republican James Miraglia of Flint, in the fall.
-4th District, (south Flint city and Flint Township) Democrats Kim Courts, James Franklin III are challenging incumbent John Northrup for the nomination. No Republicans are running in the 4th District.
-5th District, (Grand Blanc city and township, Atlas Township) Democratic incumbent Mark Young is being challenged by Anoopa Todd. No Republicans have filed for November.
-6th District, (Argentine, Fenton, south Mundy and Grand Blanc townships) Republican incumbent Tony Brown is being challenged for his party’s nomination by Drew Shapiro, president of the Fenton School Board. The winner will face Democrat Pete Ponzetti in the general election.
-7th District, (Flushing, Montrose, Vienna and Thetford townships) Democratic incumbent Mike Lynch faces a challenge from Martin Cousineau, who ran two years ago. No Republicans have filed in the district.
-8th District, (Mundy, Gaines, Clayton, parts of Flint, Vienna and Mt. Morris townships) Incumbent Ted Henry is being challenged for the Democratic nomination by Mike Coburn. The winner will take on Republican Bradley Anthony in the fall.
–9th District, (Forest, Richfield, Davison and Genesee (part) townships) Democratic incumbent, Pegge Adams initially faced two challenger for the nomination, in what could be a competitive race. However, ex-Flint councilman Joshua Freeman dropped out and Brian Norman is the lone challenger. The winner will face Republican David Martin in November.
Genesee County voters will face three county-wide ballot proposals in August—a millage renewal for Mott Community College, a millage renewal for Genesee County Emergency Medical Services and a millage increase, of .25 mills, for the Genesee Intermediate School District
There are also seven local issues on the ballot throughout the county for parks, school and library millages and bond issues, mosquito abatement and changes to the Otter Lake charter.
In addition, Genesee County townships are electing supervisors, treasurers, clerks and trustees. Precinct delegates for both parties are also elected.
For as important as they are, primary elections are often confusing. Unlike the general election in November, primary voters must vote for candidates of only one party. In Michigan, unlike many states, voters don’t have to register as a Democrat or Republican, so the choice is made in private, in the voting booth.
Take the time to learn about your candidates. One good source is the League of Women Voters site <Vote411.org> where you can enter your address and find a personalized ballot, with information about the candidates in your area. Many groups also host candidate forums.
That complexity discourages many voters. It shouldn’t. For many offices it’s the primary election that is most important.
Even if the barrel of monkeys is a lot more fun.
Paul Rozycki can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.