Final Roundup: Ann Arbor Nov. 6 Election

Library bond, public art millage defeated; Kuhnke elected to Circuit Court; Driskell defeats Ouimet in 52nd District House race

Democrats gained ground in local elections on Tuesday, but two high-profile Ann Arbor ballot initiatives were defeated.

Campaign signs outside the polling location at Eberwhite Elementary School in Ann Arbor.

Campaign signs outside the polling location on Nov. 6 at Eberwhite Elementary School in Ann Arbor.

Voters rejected a public art millage and a $65 million bond proposal for a new downtown Ann Arbor District Library building. But renewal of a millage for park maintenance and capital improvements won overwhelming approval.

In countywide races, Carol Kuhnke of Ann Arbor defeated Jim Fink of Ypsilanti for a judgeship on the 22nd Circuit Court, replacing Melinda Morris, who is retiring. Incumbent judge Tim Connors retained his seat over challenger Mike Woodyard.

The Washtenaw County board of commissioners will see changes following Tuesday’s election. Incumbent Republican Rob Turner was defeated by Democrat Kent Martinez-Kratz, decreasing the number of Republicans on the nine-member board from three to two. Republican Alicia Ping won the District 3 seat over Democrat Wes Prater – the two incumbents faced each other due to redistricting that took effect with this election cycle. Other incumbents won their seats, as did Democrat Andy LaBarre, who secured his first term on the board.

Democrats prevailed in all local races for the Michigan House of Representatives, most notably with Gretchen Driskell – the current mayor of Saline – defeating incumbent Republican Mark Ouimet in District 52.

Details of these and other races are below. For complete election results throughout Washtenaw County, check the county clerk’s elections website.

Ann Arbor Library Bond Proposal Defeated

Two items on the Nov. 6 ballot related to the Ann Arbor District Library: a $65 million bond proposal for construction of a new downtown library, and the election of four positions on the AADL board of trustees.

The $65 million, 30-year bond proposal was rejected, gaining support from 33,604 voters (44.83%), with 41,359 votes (55.17%) cast against it. Support inside the city of Ann Arbor was slightly stronger, with 46.4% voting for the proposal compared with 41.2% voting for it outside the city. In addition to the city of Ann Arbor, the district includes parts of the townships of Pittsfield, Scio, Ann Arbor, Lodi, Webster, Salem and Superior.

The funds would have paid for the demolition of the existing library at 343 S. Fifth and the construction of a new building on that same site. Four campaign committees had formed, including three that opposed the project: Protect Our LibrariesSave the Ann Arbor Library and LOL=Love Our Library. The Our New Downtown Library campaign led by Ellie Serras supported the proposal.

In the nonpartisan AADL board elections, five candidates contested four open seats for four-year terms. The top four vote-getters were all incumbents: Nancy Kaplan (30,508 votes – 23.14%); Margaret Leary (28,060 votes – 21.29%); Rebecca Head (26,827 votes – 20.35%); and Pru Rosenthal (23,498 votes – 17.82%). Challenger Lyn Davidge received 21,670 votes (16.44%). Outside the city of Ann Arbor, Davidge and Rosenthal finished in nearly a dead heat, with Davidge receiving 6,800 votes compared to 6,839 for Rosenthal.

The board has said that the current downtown building needs major repairs. Options they’ll likely consider include placing another proposal on a future ballot to pay for renovations or a scaled-back project. The AADL board’s next meeting is on Monday, Nov. 19.

Ann Arbor Voters Reject Public Art Millage

A more flexible funding mechanism for public art in Ann Arbor was defeated by voters on Nov. 6. The 0.1 mill tax – which was expected to generate around $450,000 annually – was rejected by 28,166 voters (55.86%), with support from 22,254 voters (44.14%).

The proposal won a majority of votes in just 13 out of 59 precincts with the most support coming from Ward 5, Precinct 4 where 60.5% of voters supported the public art millage. Ward 5 had six of the 13 precincts where the proposal achieved a majority. And the proposal finished in a dead heat in Ward 5, Precinct 5 with 471 voting for and against it. Opposition among in-person voters was strongest in Ward 1, Precinct 9, where only 34.5% of voters supported it. The proposal did not win a majority of votes in any precinct of Ward 2.

The city’s current funding mechanism for public art, the Percent for Art ordinance, will remain in place unless action is taken by Ann Arbor city council to change it. It’s possible that an amendment would be brought forward to redefine what counts as an eligible project is under the ordinance. One of several previous attempts by the council to revise the ordinance had included a restriction on the eligible funds that could be used.

The Percent for Art program, in place since 2007, requires that 1% of all city capital projects be set aside for public art, up to a limit of $250,000 per project. According to the most recent budget update at the Oct. 24, 2012 meeting of the Ann Arbor public art commission, the Percent for Art program has a balance of $1.533 million. Of that, $847,104 has been earmarked for previously approved projects, leaving about $686,000 unallocated. [.pdf of budget summary]

The millage proposal had been introduced without public input in August, brought forward by city councilmember Christopher Taylor (Ward 3), to the surprise of the arts community. Leaders of many local arts organizations had urged the city council to hold off and take a more strategic approach to floating a millage. Concerns included a lack of clarity for voters about how yes or no votes would impact public funding for art, the short time frame during which a millage campaign could be mounted, and the fact that Ann Arbor voters would also be voting on two other millages on the Nov. 6 ballot: (1) renewal of a 1.1 mill tax to pay for park capital improvements and maintenance; and (2) a library millage to support construction of a new downtown branch of the Ann Arbor District Library. [The library bond proposal was also defeated. The parks millage renewal passed.]

Those concerns were not compelling to the majority of councilmembers, who voted on Aug. 20 to put the millage on the Nov. 6 ballot. Subsequently, supporters of the arts community formed a campaign committee (B for Art) to support the millage.

The Percent for Art funds are overseen by the Ann Arbor public art commission, which makes recommendations to the city council about spending decisions for public art. The city’s most high-profile – and controversial – project to date has been the water sculpture in front of city hall, designed by German sculptor Herbert Dreiseitl.

Ann Arbor Parks Tax Renewal Passes

Renewal of the park maintenance and capital improvements millage was overwhelmingly approved by Ann Arbor voters on Nov. 6, with 34,959 voters (68.44%) casting yes votes compared with 16,123 (31.56%) voting against it.

The millage was approved by a majority of voters in every precinct in the city, with the strongest support coming from Ward 1, Precinct 3, where 82.3% of voters supported the parks tax.  Weakest support for the parks tax citywide came in Ward 2, Precinct 2 where 53.6% of voters said yes.

The current 1.1 mill tax expires this year. The renewal runs from 2013-2018 and will raise about $4.9 million next year. The recommended allocation of revenues is 70% for park maintenance activities, and 30% for park capital improvement projects. Of that allocation, up to 10% can be shifted between the two categories as needed.

Examples of park maintenance activities include “forestry and horticulture, natural area preservation, park operations, recreation facilities, and targets of opportunity,” according to a staff memo distributed to PAC in June. Capital improvement projects would cover parks, forestry and horticulture, historic preservation, neighborhood parks and urban plazas, park operations, pathways, trails, boardwalks, greenways and watersheds, and recreation facilities. [More projects are listed on the city's website.]

There had been no formal opposition to this millage renewal. Ingrid Ault, a member of the city’s park advisory commission, formed a campaign committee (Friends of the Parks) in October  to promote the renewal.

Mexicotte Re-Elected to Ann Arbor School Board

One seat was on the Nov. 6 ballot for the Ann Arbor Public Schools board of trustees, a nonpartisan position for a four-year term starting Jan. 1, 2013. Incumbent Deb Mexicotte, who serves as board president, defeated Dale Leslie by a vote of 31,436 (63.19%) to 17,758 (35.69%).

Leslie’s support was somewhat stronger outside the city of Ann Arbor where he received 41.3% of the vote compared to 33.1% inside the city. The school district also includes portions of the townships of Ann Arbor, Lodi, Northfield, Pittsfield, Salem, Scio, Superior, and Webster.

Mexicotte was first elected to the seven-member board in 2003, and has been elected by her peers on the board for three terms as president.

Kuhnke, Connors Elected to 22nd Circuit Court

Two nonpartisan countywide races for seats on the 22nd Circuit Court bench were on the Nov. 6 ballot, each for a six-year term. In a race with no incumbents, Carol Kuhnke won with 67,051 votes (54.14%), compared to 55,704 votes (44.98%) for Jim Fink. Kuhnke will be replacing judge Melinda Morris, who is retiring because of state-mandated age limits.

Incumbent Timothy Connors retained his seat, defeating challenger Michael Woodyard with 83,101 votes (75.66%) compared to Woodyard’s 25,432 votes (23.15%). Connors was first appointed to the 22nd Circuit Court in 1997 by then-Gov. John Engler, a Republican, to replace judge Karl Fink – the older brother of Jim Fink. In his three subsequent elections, Connors has been unopposed. Before making the circuit court appointment, Engler had appointed Connors in 1991 to a seat on the 15th District Court in Ann Arbor.

Kuhnke carried just seven out of 24 countywide jurisdictions, but had a large enough plurality in those areas to win. She carried Ann Arbor with 68.1% of the vote.

Connors carried every jurisdiction in the county with a minimum of 72% – the amount of votes he received in Augusta and Northfield Townships.

According to documents filed with the state, Connors raised over $100,000 in campaign contributions. Woodyard’s campaign finance report shows contributions of $7,266.

Other local judicial races were on the ballot, but the incumbents were unopposed: Darlene O’Brien, probate court judge; Cedric Simpson, 14A District Court; and Joseph Burke, 15th District Court.

In the Michigan Supreme Court race, Bridget Mary McCormack – an Ann Arbor resident and University of Michigan law professor – is likely to win one of two contested judgeships for a full eight-year term, according to reports in the Detroit News and Detroit Free Press, and based on results posted on the Michigan Secretary of State’s website.

Democrats Finish Strong in County Races

There were few surprises in the races for Washtenaw County elected offices, with Democrats – and two out of three Republican incumbents – winning their respective races on Nov. 6.

The three seats representing Ann Arbor districts on the Washtenaw County board of commissioners were on the ballot for two-year terms. Due to redistricting that takes effect with this election cycle, the county board will shrink from 11 districts currently to 9 districts on the new board, starting in January 2013. [.pdf file of 9-district county map] District 2 also includes a small portion of Ann Arbor, but the incumbent in that district, Republican Dan Smith, was unopposed.

In District 7, Democrat Andy LaBarre defeated Republican David Parker with 12,817 votes (77.37%) compared to Parker’s 3,675 votes (22.18%). The incumbent, Barbara Bergman, did not seek re-election.

Democrat Yousef Rabhi was re-elected to serve as District 8 representative with 10,562 votes (77.75%) compared to 2,922 votes (21.51%) for Republican Joe Baublis. And in District 9, incumbent Democrat Conan Smith won with 15,849 votes (79.88%) over Republican John Floyd’s 3,878 votes (19.55%).

Most incumbent commissioners fared well in other parts of the county, but not every current commissioner was returned to office. In a close race in District 1 on the west side of the county, Democrat Kent Martinez-Kratz defeated incumbent Rob Turner by a vote of 10,904 (51.34%) to 10,258 (48.3%).

District 7 – covering Pittsfield Township – saw the re-election of Democrat Felicia Brabec with 10,506 votes (66.61%) over Republican Richard Conn’s 5,186 votes (32.88%).

On the east side of the county, District 5 incumbent Democrat Rolland Sizemore beat Republican Richard Deitering with 12,850 votes (71.49%) to Deitering’s 5,035 votes (28.01%). And District 6 incumbent Democrat Ronnie Peterson prevailed over Republican David Raaflaub with 13,462 votes (83.44%) to Raaflaub’s 2,544 votes (15.77%).

Because of redistricting, two incumbents – Democrat Wes Prater and Republican Alicia Ping – faced each other on Nov. 6 for District 3, covering parts of southern Washtenaw County, including Saline. Ping won that race with 10,896 votes (55.69%) compared to 8,603 votes (43.97%) for Prater, who had served for five previous terms.

Several other elected county incumbents – all Democrats – prevailed in their races for four-year terms.

County prosecuting attorney Brian Mackie defeated Libertarian Justin Altman with 123,148 votes (85%) compared to Altman’s 21,032 votes (14.52%). There was no Republican in this race. For Washtenaw County sheriff, Jerry Clayton was re-elected over Republican Jeffrey Gallatin with 115,731 votes (70.53%) compared to Gallatin’s 47,621 votes (29.02%).

For the county clerk/register of deeds race, Larry Kestenbaum was re-elected with 109,324 votes (68.39%) over Republican Stanley Watson, who received 49,649 votes (31.06%). County treasurer Catherine McClary won re-election over Republican Marlene Chockley, with McClary drawing 109,236 votes (68.51%) to Chockley’s 49,528 votes (31.06%).

The current county water resources commissioner, Democrat Janis Bobrin, did not seek re-election. In that race, Democrat Evan Pratt – who was endorsed by Bobrin – defeated Republican Eric Scheie. Pratt received 108,354 votes (68.76%) compared to 48,498 votes (30.78%) for Scheie.

Hieftje Re-Elected, Warpehoski Wins Ward 5

Only two races were contested on Nov. 6 for Ann Arbor mayor and city council – both for two-year terms. Incumbent Democrat John Hieftje defeated independent Albert Howard with 42,255 votes (84.11%), compared to 7,649 votes (15.23%) for Howard. Hieftje was first elected mayor in 2000, and will now start his seventh term in that office.

In Ward 5, Democrat Chuck Warpehoski was elected over Republican Stuart Berry, winning with 10,371 votes (81.49%) compared to 2,281 votes (17.92%) for Berry. The incumbent Democrat, Carsten Hohnke, did not run for re-election.

The four other city council races, also for two-year terms, were not contested. Democrat incumbents Christopher Taylor (Ward 3) and Margie Teall (Ward 4) were on the ballot, along with Democrats Sumi Kailasapathy (Ward 1) and Sally Hart Petersen (Ward 2). Petersen had defeated incumbent Tony Derezinski in the Aug. 7 Democratic primary. Kailasapathy prevailed in the primary over candidate Eric Sturgis. The current Ward 1 councilmember, Sandi Smith, did not seek re-election.

The 11-member city council includes the mayor and 10 city councilmembers, two from each ward.

Democrats Win State House Seats

Four districts in the Michigan House of Representatives cover parts of Washtenaw County, and all will be represented by Democrats following the Nov. 6 election. District 53, which covers most of Ann Arbor, is represented by Democrat Jeff Irwin – he won another two-year term by defeating Republican John Spizak. Irwin drew 32,569 votes (80.48%) over 7,670 votes (18.95%) for Spizak.

In District 52, incumbent Republican Mark Ouimet was defeated by Democrat Gretchen Driskell, who currently serves as mayor of Saline, by a vote of 26,646 (52.86%) for Driskell to 23,609 (46.83%) for Ouimet. The district covers western, northern and parts of southern Washtenaw County.

Winning re-election was Democrat incumbent David Rutledge of District 54, representing the eastern portion of Washtenaw County, including Ypsilanti and Ypsilanti Township. He defeated Republican Bill Emmerich by a vote of 29,869 (76.77%) to 8,716 (22.4%).

In District 55, Democrat Adam Zemke won a three-way race with 26,195 votes (64.33%) over Republican Owen Diaz (13,029 votes – 32.0%) and Green Party candidate David McMahon (1,415 votes – 3.48%). District 55 covers parts of northern Ann Arbor, the townships of Ann Arbor, Augusta, Pittsfield and York, and a northern part of the city of Milan.

Bernstein, Diggs Ahead In UM Regents Race

Based on unofficial results posted on the Michigan Secretary of State’s website, Democrat Mark Bernstein of Ann Arbor is leading in the race for two open seats on the University of Michigan board of regents. Two current regents – Libby Maynard and Martin Taylor – did not seek re-election this year for another eight-year term on that eight-member governing body. The top two vote-getters to replace them were elected from a field of 10 candidates statewide. Results have not yet been posted for nine of Michigan’s 83 counties, including Wayne, Kent, Genesee and Muskegon.

Results as of 6 a.m. on Nov. 7 show Bernstein with 1,359,293 votes. Second place – by a relatively narrow lead – is held by the other Democrat on the ballot, Shauna Ryder Diggs, with 1,181,274 votes. Diggs is the daughter-in-law of outgoing regent Taylor. The two Republicans vying for the seats – Dan Horning and Robert Steele – have received 1,176,275 and 1,176,256 votes, respectively, according to the Secretary of State’s posting.

In Washtenaw County, Bernstein and Diggs won a decisive majority. Bernstein got 105,953 in Washtenaw County, or 33.47% of the vote, while Diggs received 95,184 votes (30.07%). Republicans Horning and Steele got 47,555 votes (15.02%) and 48,129 votes (15.2%), respectively.

Incumbents Returned to WCC Board

Three seats on the seven-member Washtenaw Community College board of trustees were on the Nov. 6 ballot in nonpartisan races. The race for a partial term ending Dec. 31, 2014 had only one candidate – incumbent Patrick McLean of Ypsilanti. He currently serves as treasurer of the board, and was elected with 85,262 votes (98.33%).

Two other incumbents were also re-elected to full six-year terms in a three-way race. Richard Landau and Diana McKnight Morton, both of Ann Arbor, received 56,875 (35.23%) and 68,797 (42.62%) votes, respectively. Challenger William Hazen Figg of Dexter got 34,002 votes (21.06%). The top two vote-getters were elected in this race.

The Chronicle relies in part on regular voluntary subscriptions to support our coverage of local government – we hope you elect to help. Click this link for details: Subscribe to The Chronicle. And if you’re already supporting us, please encourage your friends, neighbors and colleagues to help support The Chronicle, too!


  1. By Dan Cooney
    November 7, 2012 at 7:30 am | permalink

    For county results, maybe link to , as the link you use in the 6th paragraph goes down the wrong path & makes it harder than necessary to find the results link.

  2. November 7, 2012 at 7:36 am | permalink

    Re: [1] Thanks. The link you give was the intended one, and I’ve changed it.

  3. November 7, 2012 at 9:07 am | permalink

    The Library Bond advocates ran a great campaign. They gathered an impressive group of community leaders, including DDA board members Leah Gunn and Joan Lowenstein, neighborhood activist Ray Detter and many downtown business people. They raise more than twice as much money as the opponents and ran a polished campaign.

    They presented a vision of a grand (and expensive) downtown building. Unfortunately, the vision was myopic. Voters seemed to have perceived the plan as another example of their leaders believing they know what is best for the rest of us without considering who pays the bill.

    The voters bear the weight of the aggregate tax burden from property taxes. Although the millage for a library bond could not be used for other purposes, it comes from the same tax payers who might rather pay for increased safety services or other basic services. It might be nice to have a new building, but is that the first choice for an increased tax burden?

    Let’s note that the parks millage won overwhelmingly. Voters approve of the purpose of that millage and are willing to continue to pay those taxes. Let’s hope our leaders do not undermine that support by repurposing park lands.

    I think the defeat of both the library bond and the arts millage should be taken as a forewarning on the local vision of an expanded transit system supported by many of the same people. The City Council can pull the plug on the failed “countywide” transit authority at its November 19 meeting or face a humiliating defeat of a transit millage increase vote in May 2013. Are these leaders capable of learning from their experience with the arts millage and library bond?

  4. By Rod Johnson
    November 7, 2012 at 9:25 am | permalink

    Great news about Bridget Mary McCormack. Let’s hope it holds.

    The Republican ticket overall was really amateur hour. I’m a Democrat, but that doesn’t mean I don’t want some credible opposition. With the exception of John Floyd, Rob Turner and–alas–Alicia Ping, there were simply no credible Republicans. The idea that people could vote with a straight face for David Raaflaub or Jeffrey Gallatin… wow.

  5. November 7, 2012 at 11:41 am | permalink

    I’m puzzled that the library millage failed yet the current board members were re-elected. Not sure what that means.

  6. November 7, 2012 at 12:59 pm | permalink

    Re (5). I think it means that voters recognize that we have a great library system that is well run. The vote against the bond was not a rejection of what we have. If anything, it was confirmation that we believe the current library is great. I think the re-elected Library Board members should have no trouble adjusting to the idea that the public does not support the idea of building an expensive auditorium, cafe and catering service into our current system.

  7. By Mark Koroi
    November 7, 2012 at 1:01 pm | permalink

    As of the 11:46 a.m. updated return of the unofficial tally of the Michigan Secretary of State office, Colleen O’Brien leads by 15,000 votes over McCormick.

  8. November 7, 2012 at 1:16 pm | permalink

    Re (5) There was only one non-incumbent on the ballot, and four incumbents, so the majority of them would have been re-elected regardless. The way those seats are voted, a non-incumbent would have to run an extremely effective campaign and garner as many or more votes than (each of) all four incumbents.

    Probably the meaning is that voters weren’t angry, just not interested in what the board was selling.

  9. November 7, 2012 at 2:15 pm | permalink

    A small typo:

    “Connors carried every jurisdiction in the county with a minimum of 72% – the amount of votes he received in August and Northfield Townships.”

    that should be “Augusta”

    thanks for your hard work

  10. By Eric
    November 7, 2012 at 5:39 pm | permalink

    The defeat of the library millage shows that occasionally the electoral process yields a sensible result. The squanderites however will not accept it. Their game is heads we win and the result is final, tails we put it back on the ballot again…and again…and again until we get what we want then the result is final. They will probably reduce the proposal cost slightly then try to slip it through in a minor election with low expected turnout, quite possibly in April 2013. Fortunately the shift to digital information distribution is moving rapidly and in six months the stupidity of spending any money on the library will be even more obvious than it is now.

  11. By Mark Koroi
    November 7, 2012 at 5:48 pm | permalink

    The latest report from the Secretary of State – with not all precincts reporting – is that Bridget McCormick has pulled out to a lead over all candidates on that incumbent MSC ballot.

    The Associated Press wire has proclaimed Steve Markman and McCormick the winners on the incumbent ballot Michigan Supreme Court race.

  12. By John Floyd
    November 8, 2012 at 9:13 am | permalink

    @4 Rod –

    Thanks for your “Vote” of confidence here, even if you voted against me in the actual election.

    We agree that we need contested elections. That is a large part of what led me to run for office.

    I respect anyone who puts themselves out there to run for office – especially when odds are against them. Many “Stronger” candidates will not run under these conditions, preferring to leave an election uncontested than to sign up for likely failure defeat. When candidates run, in part, simply to ensure that elections are contested, it is hard for me to condemn them for being who they are. To me, there is even something a little bit heroic in the willingness of a less-political citizen to take on long odds to stand up for democracy and ensure that our elections are real.

    Footnote: Since foreign policy, defense spending, federal income tax policy, gay marriage, abortion, systemic health insurance, environmental regulation, education funding and other more-partisan issues are not influenced, let alone decided, at 5th & Huron (or Main & Huron), a greater willingness from our local electorate to look at local candidates with a more-open eye might encourage more contests in November elections.

    It is flattering to be named in public as a “Stronger” (if, so far, unpopular) Loyal Opposition candidate. Thank you.

  13. By Rod Johnson
    November 8, 2012 at 10:17 am | permalink

    You’re welcome! I have a lot of respect for you. You engage rationally and constructively with the issues and stand behind what you say. That’s what we need more of. My singling out of some individuals (I wouldn’t say “condemn”) has to do with who they are, not the fact that they’re running against long odds for office. (And I think it’s worth making a distinction between principled opposition and opportunism, but I think I’ll leave that topic alone for now.)