Grosse PointesAugust 15, 2012
Primary voters weigh in on candidates and millages
By K. Michelle Moran
C & G Staff Writer
GROSSE POINTES — Voter turnout in the Pointes tends to be higher than the national and state averages, and that was once again the case during the Aug. 7 primary election.
In Grosse Pointe City, for example, 38.22 percent of registered voters went to the polls. In Grosse Pointe Park, that tally was 34.74 percent. Grosse Pointe Farms had a voter turnout of 40.95 percent, according to unofficial vote counts available at press time.
As of mid-afternoon, Steve Palffy, a co-chair at the Farms precinct at Grosse Pointe South High School, said turnout had “been steady” all day.
Besides candidates for national races, including the U.S. Senate and House, voters named Democratic and Republican candidates for newly redrawn state legislative districts, as well as county races including county commissioner, sheriff, clerk and treasurer, among others.
A 10-year Wayne County jail millage renewal at the 2011 rollback rate of 0.9381 mill was approved at the county level as well as locally, where voters in Grosse Pointe Shores, Farms, City and Park all overwhelmingly voted in favor of retaining it through 2021. The millage is expected to generate at least $38 million this year, and at least one-tenth of it must be applied toward constructing and running a work or training facility for juvenile offenders.
Signs of support for a new 10-year, 0.2-mill levy for the Detroit Institute of Arts were literally all over the Pointes, where blue and white lawn signs urging people to vote yes were prominent fixtures on countless lawns. According to unofficial vote tallies available at press time, voters locally were in even greater favor of the proposal than they were at the county level, where 68.15 percent of Wayne County voters approved the DIA millage. In Grosse Pointe Park, a whopping 82.94 percent of voters said yes to the millage. It was slightly more staggering in Grosse Pointe City, where 84.84 percent voted in favor of it. In the Farms, 83.04 percent approved the millage, and in the Wayne County portion of the very fiscally conservative Shores, 73.91 percent voted for the DIA millage.
Although he ultimately lost his bid to challenge Democratic U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow to former U.S. Congressman Pete Hoekstra, Republican Clark Durant got considerable support locally. In Grosse Pointe Park, he earned 59.32 percent of the vote, compared with Hoekstra’s 36.39 percent. His tallies were even higher in Grosse Pointe City, where he emerged with 65.82 percent of the total to Hoekstra’s 31.78 percent. In Grosse Pointe Farms, where Durant lives, the numbers were similar; he earned 63.56 percent of the Farms primary vote, compared with 34 percent for Hoekstra. In the Wayne County portion of Grosse Pointe Shores, where the vast majority of the electorate lives, Durant got 56.99 percent of the vote to Hoekstra’s 40.25 percent.
Joyce Banks, of Harper Woods, had the unenviable task of passing out campaign literature for a Democratic candidate at the Republican stronghold that is Grosse Pointe Shores, but she didn’t seem to mind: After all, the candidate in question was her son, Brian Banks, of Harper Woods, a lawyer and Baker College professor. In a field of five Democratic candidates for the newly created State House District 1 — which includes Grosse Pointe Woods, Grosse Pointe Shores, Harper Woods and a large section of Detroit — Banks narrowly edged out his closest competitor, Scott Benson, by a vote of 2,304 to 2,209, or 30.71 percent to 29.44 percent. Joyce Banks said this is her son’s first run for office, and it’s fueled by a passion instilled in him by his father, a union man and autoworker who campaigned for Democratic candidates.
Sridhar Lakshmanan, of Belleville, was also outside of Shores City Hall campaigning for a Democratic candidate — his friend, Benson. Lakshmanan called Benson a “stand-up guy,” and said the “very business-friendly” candidate is a U.S. Army veteran who served in the Persian Gulf and now runs an incubator for small businesses in Midtown Detroit.
The sole Republican candidate for the new District 1 seat is Shores City Council member Daniel Schulte, a marketing and media consultant.
In what is now state House District 2, incumbent State Rep. Tim Bledsoe, D-Grosse Pointe City, lost his bid for a third and final term to fellow incumbent State Rep. Alberta Tinsley Talabi, D-Detroit. Talabi will square off this November against the sole Republican primary candidate for this seat, Park City Council member Daniel Corrigan Grano, an attorney. The district includes the City, Park, Farms and another large chunk of Detroit’s eastside.
Wayne County Commissioner Tim Killeen, D-Detroit, won another chance to run for that seat. In November, he’ll face Republican challenger Robert Sheehy, of Grosse Pointe Woods, who also ran against Killeen in 2010.
The ballot was full of issues and races, but Farms voter Catharine Broderick said there wasn’t anything in particular that drove her to the polls.
“It’s our democratic right, and we should exercise it,” she said after voting at Farms City Hall.
Dieter Tech and his brother, Konrad, were among the younger voters who cast ballots at Farms City Hall. Dieter Tech said they vote regularly because their parents encourage their participation in the electoral process.
For Shores voter Alan Silverston and his family, voting takes on even greater significance. His wife, a Shores election inspector, is a naturalized U.S. citizen who was raised under the Communist regime in Poland, so when Silverston says the right to vote “is important,” he means it.
In the Farms, the primary marked the first election since the recent departure of City Clerk/Assistant City Manager Matthew Tepper. City Manager Shane Reeside, the former city clerk, now holds that title again. After the election, Reeside said the day “went smoothly,” but said turnout — while higher than the county, state and national averages — was still down about 8 percent from the total for the August primary four years ago.
“We obviously anticipate that turnout will be much heavier at the November general election, the presidential election, this year,” he said. “We will be encouraging eligible voters to vote absentee at the presidential election in order to have more time to have the ballot in hand and fill it out, and also to avoid long lines at the polls.”
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