At a morning meeting on Saturday, Oct. 12 held at the Ann Arbor Community Center, Ann Arbor Democratic Party members affirmed the party’s endorsement of Kirk Westphal in the Ward 2 city council race. Westphal was unopposed in the Democratic primary held in August and is the Democratic Party nominee on the Nov. 5 ballot.
From left: (1) a puzzle with counting numbers, which was completed multiple times during the meeting by Ann Arbor city councilmember Chuck Warpehoski’s daughter; (2) the voting credential that had to be held aloft at the Dems meeting in order for a vote to be counted; and (3) Robert’s Rules of Order held aloft as the authority determining that a 2/3 majority of votes would need to be counted, in order for the endorsement of Kirk Westphal to be rescinded. (Photos by the writer.)
The party’s executive board had voted on Wednesday to endorse Westphal. But at Saturday’s meeting of the general membership, Jack Eaton – the Democratic nominee for Ward 4 Ann Arbor city council – brought forward a motion to rescind that endorsement of Westphal. His motion was defeated by a vote of the general membership.
Eaton had contested the August primary in Ward 4 with incumbent Democrat Marcia Higgins, and he won the race decisively. He is supporting incumbent independent Jane Lumm against Westphal in the Ward 2 election, as are Democratic councilmembers Mike Anglin (Ward 5) and Sumi Kailasapathy (Ward 1) and some other local Democrats. Lumm served on the council in the mid-1990s as a Republican. Except for Lumm, the entire 11-member council consists of Democrats. The Ward 2 race includes independent Conrad Brown in addition to Lumm and Westphal.
Anglin and Kailasapathy attended the Democratic Party meeting, as did several other councilmembers who have not endorsed Lumm: Sabra Briere (Ward 1), Sally Petersen (Ward 2), Christopher Taylor (Ward 3), and Chuck Warpehoski (Ward 5). Taylor and Warpehoski have endorsed Westphal.
In rising to express her support for Lumm, lifelong Democrat Jane Michener indicated that she felt Westphal was working toward making the world “safe for developers” instead of on behalf of residents, and that’s why she’s supporting Lumm. Westphal is chair of the city’s planning commission.
To vote on the question of Westphal’s endorsement, attendees held aloft squares with a Democratic logo – a voting credential issued that morning. With 56 people voting against the motion to rescind – that is, to leave Westphal’s endorsement in place – and only 21 voting to rescind it, a simple majority was not achieved. So the required 2/3 majority was also not achieved.
The question of Westphal’s endorsement came in the context of a meeting that had been billed as “Endorsement Saturday” by the party. Representatives for 2014 campaigns at the state and national level were on hand to deliver remarks and to receive the Ann Arbor Democratic Party’s endorsement.
Not every candidate was on hand in person, but the general membership of the Ann Arbor Democratic Party gave its endorsement to the following: Mark Schauer (governor), Mark Totten (Michigan Attorney General), John Dingell (U.S. House District 12), Pam Byrnes (U.S. House District 7), Gary Peters (U.S. Senate), Gretchen Driskell (Michigan state house representative District 52), Jeff Irwin (Michigan state house representative District 53), and Adam Zemke (Michigan state house representative District 55).
Not every candidate who attended the meeting was seeking an endorsement. Ward 1 Democratic incumbent Sabra Briere addressed the meeting, but explicitly stated that she was not there for an endorsement. The fact that she was the Democratic Party nominee was a sufficient endorsement, she said. Briere faces a challenge on Nov. 5 from independent Jeff Hayner.
Briere’s statement helped break a pattern of first hearing remarks of a candidate, followed by an endorsement vote. Washtenaw County commissioner Andy LaBarre also told the group he wasn’t there for an endorsement. But the previous pattern had led some in attendance to expect the same sequence – remarks, followed by a vote – to unfold after Westphal spoke. However, his endorsement had been handled by the executive board a few days earlier.
The motion to rescind Westphal’s endorsement came after Nora Wright, who presided over the meeting, declined to entertain a different motion from Eaton while other business was being considered. Later, after Westphal had spoken, Wright declined again to entertain a motion – that the party not make an endorsement in the Ward 2 city council race – because there was no such motion on the meeting’s agenda.
But when Eaton then put forward a motion to rescind the executive board’s previous action of endorsement, Wright put that question to the membership.
Some back-and-forth between Eaton and David Cahill drew out the fact that a 2/3 majority would be required – as Cahill cited Robert’s Rules of Order on the issue. Cahill is one of the party’s two vice chairs for resolutions, bylaws, and policy. Cahill responded to a question from Eaton about the ability of the executive board to make endorsements, by citing the group’s bylaws that provide for the board to carry out the business of the party between general meetings of the membership. [By way of background, Cahill is married to Sabra Briere.]
The meeting had begun with a misunderstanding about who would be allowed to participate in the endorsement votes. Democratic Party chair Mike Henry first seemed to indicate that only those who were on the party’s list seven days earlier would be allowed to participate. Cahill rose to appeal Henry’s apparent ruling.
The potential disagreement proved to be moot. Graham Teall – who’d assisted in issuing the voting credentials earlier in the morning – pointed out that anyone who had asked to be added to the list that morning had been issued a credential. The party’s bylaws state that: “Residents of the Ann Arbor area who are in sympathy with the general aims and policies of the Party are considered members of the Party and are eligible to participate in Party activities and to vote at Party meetings.” [Teall is married to Ward 4 city councilmember Margie Teall.]
Supporters of both Lumm and Westphal had rallied people to attend the meeting to vote on the Ward 2 endorsement. It led to the observation by several speakers that it would be nice to have that kind of attendance on a regular basis. Democratic Party chair Mike Henry told attendees: “We would love to see you here all the time!” About 80 people attended the meeting.
After the meeting, Westphal responded to a question from The Chronicle – about whether he’d taken an affirmative step to request the endorsement of the Ann Arbor Democratic Party. Westphal said he wasn’t sure he’d taken such a step to request an endorsement of the group, beyond having implicit endorsement of being the Democratic Party nominee. But he allowed that he’d conveyed that he wouldn’t mind having that additional endorsement.
Kirk Westphal, the Ward 2 Democratic nominee in the Nov. 5 general election. He thanked attendees for all their support with his campaign. “It’s a big fight. It’s all about getting out the vote,” he said. “The city is at a critical point where we may be going into an era of missed opportunities and going backward instead of forward.”
Signs for both Ward 2 Ann Arbor city council candidates were placed at the entrance to the Ann Arbor Community Center on North Main Street, where the Ann Arbor Democratic Party held its Oct. 12 meeting.
From left: Ann Arbor Democratic Party chair Mike Henry and David Cahill, who’s one of the two vice chairs for resolutions, bylaws, and policy. They were discussing the issue of membership and who would be entitled to vote that morning.
Graham Teall assisted with the issuance of voting credentials.
Jane Michener described herself as a life-long Democrat, and spoke in support of Jane Lumm at the meeting.
Peter Eckstein took a photo of Jack Eaton. Eckstein and Eaton are supporting independent incumbent Jane Lumm in the Ward 2 city council race. Eaton is the Democratic candidate in Ward 4.
Nora Wright, one of the Ann Arbor Democratic Party’s three vice chairs for programs. She presided over the endorsements portion of the meeting.
David Cahill held aloft a copy of Robert’s Rules of Order.
David Cahill thumbed through a copy of Robert’s Rules of Order.
Attendees held their credentials aloft to vote.
Graham Teall counted the votes of those who were in favor of rescinding the executive board’s endorsement of Westphal.
Pam Byrnes is running to represent the 7th District of the U.S. House for Michigan. That’s a seat currently held by Republican Tim Walberg. “Tim Walberg is definitely beatable,” she said. “He epitomizes the gridlock that is in Washington. We are calling it the Walberg Shutdown.”
Stephanie White, political director of the Michigan Democratic Party. She spoke on behalf of gubernatorial candidate Mark Schauer who was campaigning in the northern part of the state. Wherever he goes across the state, she reported, good crowds are showing up to “meet the next governor of Michigan.” “He has incredibly progressive values,” she said. When asked if he supports gay rights, “he’ll say, ‘Hell, yeah, I support gay rights,’” she told the Ann Arbor Democrats.
Michigan state house representative Gretchen Driskell (D-District 52). She’s running for e-election in 2014. She called her first two years frustrating, because the Michigan legislature is controlled by Republicans.
Travis Gonyou, who’s U.S. representative John Dingell’s field representative for Washtenaw County. Dingell was “stuck in D.C.” he reported, with votes scheduled over the weekend. “Whether that yields us any progress, I’m still not sure,” he said.
Debbie Dingell, who’s married to U.S. Rep. John Dingell (D-District 12) also delivered some remarks to the audience. She’d just come from a breast cancer fundraiser, she said.
Alma Wheeler Smith attended the meeting to promote the candidacy of Gary Peters for U.S. Senate. Peters is running in the 2014 election for the seat being vacated by retiring Sen. Carl Levin. Smith said the answer to the question of “Who’s that guy?” is someone with progressive values, who knew how to use his experience in business to work across the aisle.
Mark Totten is running for Michigan attorney general in 2014. He holds a PhD in ethics. He asked the group: “Who is the attorney general supposed to represent?” The response from the members of the Ann Arbor Democratic Party who were assembled Saturday: “The people!” Totten called the position of attorney general “the people’s lawyer.”
From left: Michigan state house representatives Jeff Irwin (D-District 53) and Adam Zemke (D-District 55). Irwin called Gov. Rick Snyder’s policy one that lowers taxes on wealthy people and raises them on low-income people, which is “wrong for the future of Michigan.”
From left: Michigan state house representatives Jeff Irwin (D-District 53) and Adam Zemke (D-District 55). Zemke called Lansing “a horribly partisan place.”
Elected Officials Not Seeking Endorsement
Washtenaw County commissioner Andy LaBarre (D-District 7) told the members he was not there for an endorsement. He was there to encourage people to attend the next meeting of the Washtenaw County board of commissioners, on Wednesday, Oct. 16 at 6:30 p.m. to help support a resolution calling for the repeal Michigan’s Stand Your Ground law.
Incumbent Democrat Sabra Briere (Ward 1) faces a challenge in the November general election from Jeff Hayner. “I’m unopposed as a Democrat. What that means is that I have the Democratic nomination. I have your endorsement. I don’t need anything else, except for you to tell me if I step wrong. And for you to tell me when I step right. Because it’s important that I listen to you.”
Other Faces in the Crowd
From left: Ann Arbor city councilmembers Christopher Taylor (Ward 3) and Mike Anglin (Ward 5).
From left: Ann Arbor city councilmember Sally Petersen (Ward 2) talked with Ann Arbor District Library board member Nancy Kaplan.
From left: Kirk Westphal, Ward 2 Democratic nominee in the Nov. 5 general election, and Ann Arbor city councilmember Chuck Warpehoski (Ward 5).
Washtenaw County commissioner Andy LaBarre (D-District 7) talked with resident Kathy Griswold.
Linda Lombardini, who is newly wed to Sandi Smith, former Ann Arbor city councilmember.
From left on the sidelines: Ann Arbor city councilmember Sally Petersen (Ward 2), Washtenaw County commissioner Andy LaBarre (D-District 7) and Michigan state house representative Jeff Irwin (D-District 53). LaBarre is not sending Irwin in with a play called “Dems Huddle.”
Former Ann Arbor Transportation Authority board member Ted Annis.
Clockwise from left foreground: Mike Allemang, former Washtenaw County water resources commissioner Janis Bobrin (who’s married to Allemang), Ward 2 Democratic nominee Kirk Westphal, Ann Arbor Democratic Party officer David Cahill, and former state representative Alma Wheeler Smith.
From left: former Ann Arbor city councilmember Eunice Burns, current councilmember Sabra Briere (Ward 1) and a longtime Ann Arbor Democratic activist Doug Kelley.
Anne Bannister, past chair of the Ann Arbor Democratic Party.
Resident Kathy Griswold talked with Michigan state representative Adam Zemke (D-District 55).
Ann Arbor resident Peter Nagourney.
Ann Arbor city councilmember Chuck Warpehoski’s daughter Camille completed a puzzle several times during the meeting.
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