Ward 2 city council representative Sally Petersen has announced that she’s running for mayor of Ann Arbor. She made the announcement in a press release Wednesday morning, Jan. 15, 2014. The city clerk’s office confirmed that she pulled petitions that morning to contest the August Democratic primary. [.pdf of Petersen's press release]
Petersen’s press release cites her previous employment experience with CFI Group, ABN AMRO Mortgage Group, and HealthMedia, as well as her service on nonprofit boards. Petersen holds an MBA from Harvard University.
If Petersen is elected mayor, it will be with two years of experience on the city council. She was first elected to the council in 2012, prevailing in the August 2012 Democratic primary against incumbent Tony Derezinski with 55% of the 2,102 votes cast. Among the four declared candidates from the council so far, two years would be the shortest period of service.
By November this year, Christopher Taylor (Ward 3) will have logged six years of council service, having been first elected in 2008. By election time, Sabra Briere (Ward 1) will have served seven years on council. And Stephen Kunselman (Ward 3) will also have seven years of Ann Arbor city council experience – which began with his election in 2006, but was interrupted for a year when he lost the 2008 Democratic primary to Taylor. Kunselman was returned to the council in 2009, prevailing in the Democratic primary over Leigh Greden.
The field of mayoral candidates in Ann Arbor is somewhat wide open this year, because mayor John Hieftje announced on Oct. 11, 2013 that he would not be seeking re-election to an eighth two-year term in 2014. Briere announced on Jan. 10, 2014 that she’d be running for mayor. Taylor announced his candidacy last year, on Dec. 20, 2013. Kunselman was the first to announce a candidacy for mayor, taking out petitions on Sept. 27, 2013 – even before winning re-election to his Ward 3 council seat on Nov. 5, 2013.
Ann Arbor’s city council includes two representatives from each of five wards, one of which is up for re-election every year for a two-year term. Ann Arbor’s mayor is also a member of the 11-member city council, and serves a two-year term. So only if Petersen or Taylor were elected mayor would either of them remain on the council. They can’t run for mayor at the same time they run for re-election to represent Wards 2 and 3, respectively.
The seat that Petersen is leaving open in Ward 2 could be contested by Kirk Westphal, who lost the November general election to represent Ward 2. In an email sent in response to a Chronicle query on Jan. 10, Westphal said he would definitely consider running for an open Ward 2 seat. He currently serves as chair of the city’s planning commission. Updated 11:40 a.m. Jan. 15: Westphal has now indicated via email that he has pulled petitions and the city clerk’s office has confirmed that.
The seat Taylor is leaving open in Ward 3 will be contested by Julie Grand, who lost the August 2013 Democratic primary to Kunselman. In a telephone interview with The Chronicle on Jan. 9, Grand said she is planning to run for election to the Ward 3 seat that’s being left open by Taylor – because her reasons for wanting to serve on the council had not changed. She pulled petitions on Jan. 14, 2014.
If Briere or Kunselman were to be elected mayor, the council would need to appoint someone to fill the vacant seat to serve out the remaining year on their terms. That kind of scenario unfolded in 2000, when Hieftje was first elected mayor. At that point he’d served just a year on the city council, representing Ward 1. Bob Johnson was then appointed by the council to serve out Hieftje’s term for Ward 1.
Petersen’s announcement means that of the 11 current members of council, four of them are running for mayor.
This year’s mayoral race could lead to record-setting campaign contributions. That’s because limits on the amount that an individual can contribute to a candidate’s campaign were lifted through Public Act 252 of 2013. For this year’s local elections, the limit that any individual can contribute to a city council candidate is $1,000. The limit for mayoral candidates is $2,000. Those amounts for councilmembers and mayor were previously $500 and $1,000 respectively.
Petitions for the partisan primary in August 2014 must be turned in by April 22
. For mayor, the requirement is for 50 signatures from each of the city’s five wards, for a total of 250 signatures. For councilmembers, 100 signatures are required from their ward.