By Paul Rozycki
With a turnout of about 26 percent, Genesee County voters gave victories to former Vice President Joe Biden, Flint Community Schools, Mott Community College, and Cynthia Neeley, in the March 10th “Big Tuesday” primary election.
The presidential primary: Michigan mattered
Unlike 2016, when Bernie Sanders outpolled Hillary Clinton in Michigan’s Democratic primary, the voters in Michigan didn’t surprise the pollsters this year. While Sanders hoped for a repeat of his upset four years ago, this year Michigan voters kept former Vice President Joe Biden’s recent revival on track, handing him a 53 percent to 36 percent victory over Bernie Sanders.
Genesee County gave Biden an even larger margin, where he won with a 58-32 percent edge. Both Biden and Sanders campaigned in Genesee County over the past weekend. Sanders held a large rally at Mott Community College on Saturday, and Biden met with Democratic leaders at Berston Field House Monday. Jill Biden met with business innovators at the Ferris Wheel in downtown Flint Tuesday.
With Biden’s victory in South Carolina, and his strong showing on ‘Super Tuesday’ a week ago, many of his rivals have dropped out of the race and endorsed him. Though Biden and Sanders have emerged as the two main competitors for the Democratic nomination, voters had a list of 15 candidates to choose from, since the ballots were prepared before many dropped out in the last week or two.
While voters had the option of changing their votes if they voted absentee for those who were no longer running, even some of the non-candidates received a small percentage of votes. Mike Bloomberg, received almost five percent and a half dozen other candidates received a percent of the vote or less.
Yet Michigan proved to be a key state in Tuesday’s primary contests, for several reasons. It has the largest number of delegate votes at state for the Democrats—125. It was a state that Bernie carried over Hillary Clinton in 2016, and it was part of the traditionally Democratic ‘blue wall’ that Donald Trump carried in 2016. Michigan was also the state that Trump won with the narrowest margin that year—just over 10,000 votes statewide. For that reason many expect the state to be a major battleground in the 2020 election. While health care was a key issue, the major issue for most voters was who was most electable and able to take on Donald Trump.
Michigan’s victory for Joe Biden capped off a good night for the former VP, as he carried four of the six states having primaries—Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri and Idaho. Sanders is projected to win in North Dakota, and the state of Washington has not declared a winner yet. The current count gives Biden 847 and Sanders 685 delegates. At the Democratic convention in Milwaukee it will take 1991 delegates to win the nomination.
Sanders has said that he intends to continue his campaign, though the road ahead looks more challenging. He has fallen behind in delegates, and the upcoming primary elections in the next few weeks are generally considered to be favorable to Biden. In his victory speech on Tuesday, Biden made an attempt to reach out to Sanders supporters to unify the party.
As expected, President Donald Trump won overwhelming support among Republicans earning 94 percent of the vote, with uncommitted and Bill Weld receiving the rest.
Cynthia Neeley wins in the 34th
When state Rep. Sheldon Neeley was elected mayor of Flint last Nov. his 34th district seat was vacated, and a number of Democratic candidates competed in an early January primary. Sheldon Neeley’s wife emerged victorious, but it wasn’t until Tuesday’s election that Cynthia Neeley was elected as a state representative from the heavily Democratic district. She won easily over Republican Adam Ford, with 85 percent of the vote. Because her election is only to complete Sheldon’s term, Cynthia Neeley will have to run in the August primary and in the Nov. general election as well.
The Neeleys become the third married couple to represent Genesee County in the state house. (John Cherry and Pam Faris, and Floyd and Brenda Clack were the others). Neeley is also the only ‘First Lady of Flint’ to also be a state representative. Her election makes the Democratic caucus in the state house half male and half female for the first time.
Genesee County millage and bond issues
Genesee county voters also voted on several education millage and bond issues.
The Flint Community Schools asked voters to approve both a school bond issue and a sinking fund millage proposal. Both passed by similar margins. The bond issue was approved by the voters with a 69 percent approval, and the sinking fund millage had a 65 percent yes vote. Though local voters usually support local school proposals, there was some concern on this vote because of recent financial problems, and conflicts on the Flint School Board over school closings, covered extensively in earlier East Village Magazine stories.
Mott Community College bond issue
Mott Community College’s bond proposal also won on Tuesday with a 59 percent yes vote. The issue was a continuation of an existing bonding authority and would result in a slight reduction in taxes because of lower interest rates.
Davison bonding issue
The Davison schools also had a bonding issue on the ballot, and it narrowly won with 51 percent of the voters saying yes.
The only school issues to lose in the county were the two Millington issues on the ballot. Voters turned both of them down, with 53 percent and 55 percent voting no on the proposals.
The March primary was only the first of several elections this year. In May, voters in Clio, Bentley, Durand, Goodrich, Grand Blanc, Linden and Mount Morris (and perhaps others) will be voting on school bond issues or millages. The traditional Michigan primary for the U.S. Senate, U.S. House, state House, county offices, and others will be in August, and the presidential general election will be in Nov.
EVM Political Commentator and Staff Writer Paul Rozycki can be reached at email@example.com.