Commentary: A primary primer for the Aug. 7 election — REMEMBER TO VOTE

By Paul Rozycki

In less than a month, in the midst of summer vacations, art fairs, festivals, and car shows, Michigan will hold its regular primary, and the turnout is likely to be low, as it has been for years. That’s unfortunate because, for most officials, the primary is the real election—whoever wins the primary is likely to win in November. That’s because most of our election districts are gerrymandered to favor one party or the other. In most of Genesee County the winner of the Democratic primary is almost certain to win in November. In other places, such as Lapeer County, the reverse is true.

With that in mind, here’s a brief preview of the more important races and proposals on the Aug. 7 ballot.

The Governor’s race

The race to nominate Democratic and Republican candidates for Michigan’s next governor is clearly the biggest contest on the ballot.  The Republicans have a choice between four candidates, Attorney General Bill Schuette, Lt. Gov. Brian Calley, Dr. Jim Hines, and Sen. Patrick Colbeck. The main contest is between Schuette and Calley, with Schuette the front runner in the race. Many see the race between Schuette and Calley as a contest between President Trump, who backed Schuette, and Gov. Snyder who is supporting Calley.

Democrats have a choice of three candidates, ex-Senator Gretchen Whitmer, Shri Thanedar and Dr. Abdul El-Sayed.  By most estimates, Whitmer is the front runner, but Thanedar has become increasingly well-known with his early and clever ad campaign, and might offer a significant challenge.

The U.S. Senate

Incumbent Democratic Senator Debbie Stabenow is unopposed for her nomination and she will face either Sandy Pensler or John James for the Republicans in November.

The U.S. House of Representatives

For the 5th Congressional District, both incumbent Democrat Dan Kildee and Republican Travis Wines are unopposed for their nominations and will face off in November.

The State Senate

For the 27th District, which covers most of Genesee County, incumbent Democrat Jim Ananich and Republican Donna Kekesis are unopposed for their party’s nomination and will compete in November.

The 32nd District includes the western townships of Genesee County, and all of Saginaw County. Phil Phelps and Henry Gaudreau are seeking the Democratic nomination. The winner will take on incumbent Republican Ken Horn in the fall.

The State House

There are five races for the State House of Representatives in Genesee County.

The 34th District covers much of the northern and eastern parts of the City of Flint. Incumbent Democrat Sheldon Neeley is facing Steve Greene and Syrron Williams for the Democratic nomination. The winner will face Republican Henry Swift, who is unopposed for his party’s nomination.

The 48th District, covering much of northern and north eastern Genesee County is currently represented by term-limited Democrat Pam Faris.  Three Democrats, Eric Gunnels, Sheryl Kennedy and Jordan Tiffany are running for their party’s nomination. Two Republicans, Shari Cross, and Al Hardwick are opposing each other for the GOP nomination.

The 49th District, covering Mt. Morris and Flint townships, and parts of the City of Flint (including the East Court area) is also an open seat, with Phil Phelps being term limited. The district has drawn six Democrats into the race to replace Phelps. They are John D. Cherry, LaShaya Darisaw, Justin Dickerson, Jacky King, Dayne Walling and Don Wright. The winner of the Democratic nomination will face Republican Patrick Duvendeck, who is unopposed for his party’s nomination.

The 50th District covers much of Burton, Grand Blanc, and south eastern parts of Genesee County and is currently represented by Democrat Tim Sneller, who is unopposed for his nomination. He will face Republican Trace Fisher in November, who is also unopposed.

The 51st District covers western and southern Genesee County and parts of northern Oakland County, and is currently represented by Republican Joe Graves, who is term limited. Four Republicans, Matthew Anderton, Mike Mueller, Drew Shapiro, and Ian Shetron are competing to replace him on the Republican side. Democrat David Lossing is unopposed for his nomination and will face the winning Republican in November. While most of Genesee County’s house districts lean Democratic, the 51sthas a history of Republican advantage.

The Genesee County Commission

Of the nine members of the Genesee County Commission, the first four districts include parts of the City of Flint.

The 1st District covers the northern parts of Flint and the Mt. Morris area.  Incumbent Democrat Bryant Nolden is being challenged by Kenneth Andrews for the nomination. No Republican has filed to run in the district.

The 2nd District covers central and eastern parts of Flint. Incumbent Democrat Brenda Clack is facing a challenge from David Davenport and Adam Ford. No Republican has filed to run.

The 3rd District includes much of Burton, and parts of the east side of Flint. Democratic incumbent Ellen Ellenburg is facing a challenge from Steven Hatfield for her party’s nomination. Three Republicans, Gerald Cross, Gary Goetzinger, and James Miraglia are competing to run against the winning Democrat in November.

The 4th District includes the southern half of the City of Flint and parts of Flint Township. Incumbent Democrat Kim Courts is unopposed for the nomination and no Republican has filed to run against her.

The 5th District covers much of the Grand Blanc area. Incumbent Democrat Mark Young is unopposed for the nomination as is his Republican challenger, Brian Holyfield.

The 6th District includes the Fenton and Linden area in southern Genesee County. Republicans Shaun Shumaker and William Stiverson III are competing for the GOP nomination. Greg Curtiss is unopposed for the Democratic nomination.

The 7th District covers the Flushing, Montrose and Mt. Morris areas in northwestern Genesee County. The incumbent Democrat Martin Cousineau is unopposed for his party’s nomination and Donald Rockey is unopposed for the Republican nomination.

The 8th District including much of the Swartz Creek area, has two Democrats seeking the nomination. Incumbent Ted Henry is being challenged by Ryan Loree for the nomination. No Republicans have filed to run.

The 9th District covering the Davison area, has Republican David Martin facing no opposition for his party’s nomination. Democrat Bobbie Clayton-Walton is also unopposed for her party’s nomination.

The Circuit Court Judges

On the non-partisan ballot, voters will choose two Circuit Court judges from eight candidates. Those running to fill the judicial slots are: K.C. Baran, Chris Christenson, Glenn Cotton, Marvin Jennings Jr., Elizabeth Kelly, Richard F. McNally, Brian Pickell and Stephanie Witucki.

The Proposals

Voters will also decide on several proposal on August 7th.

Several proposals are county-wide.

The Mass Transportation Authority is seeking a renewal of their .40 millage for five years.

Perhaps the millage that has drawn the most attention is the Arts Education and Cultural Enrichment Millage, which would levy a .96 millage to support the Cultural Center, Capital Theater, McCree Theater and Berston Fieldhouse.  (See Jan Worth-Nelson’s story here).

Michigan State Extension Services is also requesting a renewal of their .04 mill levy for the next four years.

Other proposals will face voters outside of Flint.

Voters in the City of Davison will also vote to amend their city charter. Grand Blanc Township will vote on a fire protection millage, and a mosquito control millage. Atlas Township voters will decide on a recreation millage. Voters in the Genesee School District will decide on both renewing an operating millage and a new sinking fund millage. And Lake Fenton will vote on an operating millage renewal.

Paul Rozycki

Even with all the summertime activities, take the time to vote in your parties’ primary. More information on all the candidates is available from the League of Woman voters at

EVM political commentator Paul Rozycki can be reached at


Author: East Village Magazine

A Non-profit, Community News Magazine Since 1976

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