By Paul Rozycki
Who’s your choice — Trump or Biden?
Sometimes it seems like the only thing on the ballot this year is Donald Trump vs. Joe Biden. It’s hard to turn on the TV without seeing an ad for either candidate. We’ve all felt the impact of the most divisive presidential contest in our lifetimes. With a month to go, it seems that this is the most important and critical presidential election in our lifetimes. The vacancy created by the passing of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg underscores the significance of this divisive election.
It looks like the turnout will be at record levels, and we may not have the results of the election until days later.
Some are saying that the post office is going to have problems with this election, and that mail-in/absentee ballots are going to cause all kinds of fraudulent voting. Others warn that Donald Trump may not leave the White House if he loses.
There is evidence that the Russians, and others, will be trying to influence the outcome of the 2020 presidential race.
Others fear that the presidential election will lead us to fascism, socialism, communism, or anarchy—or maybe all of those things.
How many of these things happen remains to be seen. But it’s going to be a contentious contest.
Beyond the presidential contest
And yet, for all the contention and conflict built into the presidential race, it’s easy to forget that there’s a lot more on the ballot this November. Beyond the presidential contest, we’ll be electing members of the U.S. House and Senate, the state House of Representatives, county officials, township officials, state Supreme Court, Circuit Court and District Court judges, school boards, university boards, and some city council members in Genesee County. On top of all that, there are two statewide proposals, and a few local issues facing voters.
With that in mind, here’s a preview of those races beyond the presidential contest that we will be voting on in the weeks to come.
But, before leaving the presidential contest, it’s worth noting that, while Republican Donald Trump and Democrat Joe Biden have dominated the headlines, there are several minor parties running this year. The Libertarians, the U.S. Taxpayers Party, the Natural Law Party, and the Green Party will be on the Michigan ballot. While they have little chance of winning, the minor party candidates have sometimes played a role in deciding who does win. For example, in 2016, the Green Party candidate Jill Stein, received about 50,000 votes, while Hillary Clinton lost Michigan by a little over 10,000 votes.
The U.S. Senate race
Except for the state Supreme Court, the major statewide race is the contest between incumbent Democratic Sen. Gary Peters and Republican challenger John James. By almost every measure this is expected to be a close contest. Two years ago, James, who had been little known in Michigan, ran a strong campaign against Sen. Debbie Stabenow. Though he lost, he did better than expected, and many feel that Peters, as a first term senator is more vulnerable than Stabenow. This race is important, not only for Michigan, but will be a critical factor in determining whether the Democrats can gain the majority in the U.S. Senate. They may need to gain four seats, and if they lose Michigan it will be much more difficult.
The U.S. House race
Our county is part of the 5th Congressional District, which runs up the east coast of the state from Genesee to Iosco County. Incumbent Democrat Dan Kildee is in his fourth term, having served since 2013. While the district has been solidly Democratic, Donald Trump did well in several areas, and his Republican opponent, Tim Kelly, has been running a somewhat more visible campaign than most Republicans have in past years.
The State House of Representatives
There are four State House districts within Genesee County.
The 48th District
The major race to watch, and the most competitive, will be in the 48th District, where Democratic incumbent Sheryl Kennedy is facing Republican David Martin. The district covers the northern tier of townships in Genesee County, and while Kennedy and other Democrats have done well in past years, much of the district voted for Trump in 2016. Martin, who served on the County Board of Commissioners, is putting on a strong campaign, with significant funding from the Republican Party.
The 34th District
The 34th State House District covers much of the northern and central parts of the city of Flint, and is currently represented by Democrat Cynthia Neeley, the wife of Flint’s mayor. She is opposed by Republican James Miraglia. The district is strongly Democratic, and Neeley has a strong advantage.
The 49th District
The 49th District covers Flint and Flushing townships, and the south central part of the city of Flint. It is currently represented by John Cherry Jr., the son of former Lt. Governor John Cherry and State Representative Pam Faris. Like most of Flint, the district is strongly Democratic and Cherry is favored over his Republican challenger Bryan Lutz.
The 50th District
The 50th District includes Burton and the Grand Blanc area, and is currently represented by Democrat Tim Sneller. His opponent is Republican Christina Fitchett-Hickson. The area has usually gone for the Democrats.
The 51st District
The 51st District, which covers most of southern Genessee County, is the only State House seat in the county where Republicans have won consistently. Incumbent Mike Mueller is facing a challenge from Democrat Brad May.
Genesee County contests
Voters will be electing a long list of county officials on Nov. 3 as well.
Incumbent Democratic Sheriff Chris Swanson will face Republican Stephen Sanford to be the top law enforcement officer in the county.
County Prosecutor David Leyton, a Democrat, is unopposed.
County Clerk/Register of Deeds, Democrat John Gleason, will face Republican Jesse Couch to earn the next full term.
Incumbent Democratic County Treasurer Deb Cherry faces a challenge from Republican Deborah Hass.
Democrat Drain Commissioner Jeff Wright is unopposed in November, as is County Surveyor Kim Carlson.
Of the nine members of the Genesee County Commission, four of them are within the city.
In the 1st District (Mount Morris Township and north Flint), Democratic incumbent Bryant Nolden is unopposed.
In the 2nd District (central and East Flint), Democrat Charles Winfrey is unopposed.
In the 3rd District (Burton, east Flint, part of Genesee Township), incumbent Democrat Ellen Ellenburg faces Republican Gary Goetzinger.
In the 4th District (southwest Flint and Flint Township) Democrat Domonique Clemons is unopposed.
A number of judicial candidates are unopposed, but there are several contests of local interest.
A major contest is for the open position on the 7th Circuit Court, where Chris Christenson and Herman Marable Jr. are facing off for a six-year term.
For the 67th District Court (2nd division), incumbent Jessica Hammon is being challenged by Dawn Weier.
For the 67th District Court (5th division), Torchio Feaster and Tabitha Marsh are competing for the open seat.
State Supreme Court
There are seven candidates competing for two positions on the Supreme Court.
Most of the schools in the county are also electing members to their boards.
For the Flint Community Schools, a dozen candidates have filed to fill three positions for a six-year term. They are: Timothy Abdul-Matin, Mario DeSean Booker, Michael D. Doan, Joyce Ellis-McNeal, Antonio V. Forte II, Ariana Hawk, Jaron Houston, Laura Gillespie MacIntyre, Billie Mitchell, Anita M. Moore, Roemon M. Murphy, and Leondrew Wesley.
Mott Community College is also electing two new board members for six-year terms. The candidates are: Janet Couch, John Daly, Kris Johns, David Lossing, Michael J. Stikovich, Anoopa K. Todd, and Rafael Christopher Turner.
Voters will also be choosing the governing boards of the University of Michigan, Michigan State University and Wayne State University, as well as the State Board of Education.
City and village elections
The cities of Linden, Davison, Montrose, Mount Morris and Swartz Creek will be electing mayors and city council members. The villages of Lennon, Otter Lake, Gaines, Goodrich and Otisville are also electing their officials.
All of the 17 townships in Genesee County will be electing supervisors, treasurers, clerks and trustees.
There are two statewide proposals on the ballot this November.
Proposal 20-1 would amend the state constitution to allow money from oil and gas drilling on state-owned lands to be used for creation and maintenance of state parks, nature areas, and other public recreation facilities.
Proposal 20-2 would amend the state constitution to require a search warrant to access an individual’s electronic data or electronic communications.
Locally, both Flushing and Linden schools have bond issue or millage proposals on the ballot.
Where to learn more
As long as this list has been, it doesn’t include every election in Genesee County — there are simply too many contests to include in a single column. However, there are several places where you can find out more about your own local contests. The Genesee County Clerk’s website, gc4me.com, will give a full list of everyone running in the county, along with contact information for the candidates. There are 41 pages of candidates. The League of Women Voters also gives voters a look at their own ballot, along with information about the candidates. Their site is Vote411.org. The Michigan Secretary of State’s website (Michigan.gov/vote) will show a sample ballot and allow voters to check the status of absentee ballots.
This year, many if not most, voters will be voting absentee or by mail. With a list of candidates this long, that may actually be an advantage. Voters will have more time to review their ballots, and learn more about the candidates before they cast their votes.
If you are voting by mail, or with a drop box, vote early, and take the time to check your ballot and sign the envelope. It’s a critical election. However you vote, be sure to vote!
EVM Political columnist Paul Rozycki can be reached at email@example.com.