Briere Running for Mayor of Ann Arbor

In a statement released around 2:30 p.m. on Friday, Jan. 10, 2014, Ward 1 city councilmember Sabra Briere has announced that she will run for mayor of Ann Arbor in 2014. [.pdf of Briere's press release]

Sabra Briere, Nov. 18, 2013 city council meeting

Sabra Briere at the Nov. 18, 2013 Ann Arbor city council meeting.

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. Ward 3 councilmembers Stephen Kunselman and Christopher Taylor have already pulled petitions to contest the Democratic primary.

Briere will continue her service on the council at least through 2015, regardless of the outcome of the mayoral election. If she prevails, she would remain a member of the council – because under Ann Arbor’s council-manager form of government, the mayor is also a councilmember. On that scenario, the council would need to appoint someone to fill the Ward 1 seat currently held by Briere.

If she does not prevail, then she would retain her Ward 1 seat, having won re-election to a two-year term in November 2013. That was a race she won against independent Jeff Hayner, who received 32% of the 1,747 ballots cast.

With Hieftje stepping down and Margie Teall’s intentions to seek re-election to represent Ward 4 not yet clear, in November 2014 Briere could become one of the two most-senior members of the council. Mike Anglin (Ward 5) and Briere were both first elected to the council in November 2007.

Briere was not opposed in the 2007 general election. She had prevailed in a three-way Democratic primary to fill the seat left vacant by Bob Johnson, who did not seek re-election that year. In the August 2007 primary, she polled 46% of the vote, compared to 34% for John Roberts and 19.5% for Richard Wickboldt. That race saw 920 votes cast.

Briere has served on the city planning commission as the council’s representative to that group for since November 2012.

The other declared candidates for mayor – Ward 3 councilmembers Kunselman and Taylor – announced their intent last year. Kunselman holds a masters of urban planning from the University of Michigan and works for the university as an energy conservation liaison. Taylor, a graduate of the University of Michigan law school, is an attorney with Hooper Hathaway.

Washtenaw County board of commissioners chair Yousef Rabhi announced on Jan. 9 that he would not be running for Ann Arbor mayor.

Each of the city’s five wards is represented by two members on the 11-member council, which includes the mayor. Council terms are two years, so every year one of the two council seats in each ward is up for election.

Kunselman was the first to announce a candidacy for mayor and took out petitions on Sept. 27, 2013 – even before winning re-election to his Ward 3 council seat on Nov. 5, 2013. Taylor followed three months later by taking out petitions on Dec. 20, 2013.

Taylor’s 2008 Democratic primary win came over then-incumbent Kunselman. Kunselman was subsequently returned to the council representing Ward 3 the following year, in 2009, when he received more votes than incumbent Leigh Greden.

Taylor’s two-year term ends in November 2014, so Taylor’s decision to run for mayor is also a choice not to seek re-election to a fourth term on the council. If Taylor does not prevail, he won’t remain on the council. In contrast, Kunselman would retain his seat on the council, even if he is not elected mayor.

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. If Kunselman prevails as mayor, the council would need to appoint someone to fill the seat left vacant by Kunselman.

Ward 2 could also see an open seat due to a mayoral candidacy – if Democrat Sally Petersen decides to run for mayor. Petersen wrote in a Jan. 8, 2014 email to The Chronicle that she had not yet made a decision on that. She was first elected to the council in November 2012. Like Taylor’s situation, a choice by Petersen to run for mayor would be a simultaneous choice not to seek re-election to her current council seat.

That seat could be contested by Democrat Kirk Westphal, who lost the November 2013 Ward 2 general election to independent Jane Lumm. In an email sent Jan. 10, Westphal said he would definitely consider running for an open Ward 2 seat. A potentially open Ward 2 seat would not be contested by Stew Nelson, who lost the 2008 Democratic primary in Ward 2 to Tony Derezinski. Nelson wrote in a Jan. 8 email that his current professional obligations are too demanding on his time, saying that he would leave politics to the younger generations.

Petitions for the mayoral partisan primary in August 2014 must be turned in by April 22 May 13. The requirement is for 50 signatures from each of the city’s five wards, for a total of 250 signatures.

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