Conan Smith to Seek County Board Re-Election

Democrat Conan Smith has announced his intent to seek re-election to the Washtenaw County board of commissioners, representing District 9 in Ann Arbor.

Conan Smith, Washtenaw County board of commissioners, The Ann Arbor Chronicle

Conan Smith (D-District 9) at the Washtenaw County board of commissioners March 19, 2014 meeting.

He emailed The Chronicle about his decision on Saturday, March 22, 2014 and posted a comment on his Facebook page the following day, on March 23.

Smith was elected to his first two-year term on the county board in 2004. He served as board chair in 2011 and 2012. He is executive director of the Michigan Suburbs Alliance, a nonprofit based in Ferndale.

Smith is married to Rebekah Warren, a state senator representing District 18. Earlier this month, Smith told The Chronicle that his decision on seeking re-election hinged in part on whether Warren would decide to run for Congress. She had formed a Congressional exploratory committee for the 12th District seat held by Rep. John Dingell, who is not seeking re-election. But on March 7, Warren announced her decision not to run for that office, and to instead seek re-election to the state Senate.

It was also speculated that Smith might run for mayor of Ann Arbor. He’s the grandson of Ann Arbor’s first black mayor, Al Wheeler. So far, four current city councilmembers have announced their intent to run for that position: Sabra Briere, Stephen Kunselman, Sally Petersen, and Christopher Taylor. All are Democrats.

In his Facebook post, Smith cited several things he’d like to accomplish during another term on the Washtenaw County board:

There are a lot of big things on the horizon at the County that I’d love to see come to term. I wrote a Regional Prosperity Initiative grant that is going to help us restructure our workforce development programs and create new ways to deliver adult education. Verna J. McDaniel’s first four-year budget just won an award from the Alliance for Innovation, and I’m eager to expand on the success there integrating impacts and outcomes into our fiscal strategy. Robert Tetens and Rolland Sizemore are so close to building a new Rec Center in Ypsi on Water Street, which could be a strong anchor for a number of physical and programmatic investments on the east side of the County to help restore prosperity to hard hit communities.

April 22 is the filing deadline for partisan candidates  to be on the ballot for the Aug. 5 primary. For the office of county commissioner, candidates can file either 50 signatures from their district or pay a $100 fee to appear on the ballot.

The county board has nine seats. All commissioners serve two-year terms, and all seats are up for election in 2014. Commissioners elected in November will begin their new terms on Jan. 1, 2015.

So far, three candidates have filed petitions with the Washtenaw County clerk’s office to run for county commissioner in 2014, including two incumbents: Republican Dan Smith of District 2 and Democrat Kent Martinez-Kratz of District 1. Also running in District 1 is the third candidate to file – Republican Larry Murphy.

Rolland Sizemore Jr., a Democrat from Ypsilanti Township representing District 5, has announced that he does not intend to seek re-election. Sizemore and Ronnie Peterson (D-District 6) are the longest-serving current commissioners. Both were initially elected in November 2000, with their first terms beginning in January of 2001. Peterson’s district includes the city of Ypsilanti and small sections of Ypsilanti and Superior townships. Most other current commissioners were first elected in 2010 or 2012, with the exception of Conan Smith, who was elected in November 2004.

Other candidates have indicated plans to run for county commissioner, including incumbents Democrats Andy LaBarre (D-District 7) and Yousef Rabhi (D-District 8), both of Ann Arbor.