All quiet on the primary election front in Pointes

By: K. Michelle Moran | Grosse Pointe Times | Published August 3, 2016

 Grosse Pointe Farms Election Inspector Alex Livingston and Stefany Segesta, co-chair of Precinct 5 at Brownell Middle School, assist a voter during the Aug. 2 primary election.

Grosse Pointe Farms Election Inspector Alex Livingston and Stefany Segesta, co-chair of Precinct 5 at Brownell Middle School, assist a voter during the Aug. 2 primary election.

Photo by K. Michelle Moran

Maybe people are saving their voting energy for the November presidential race — one that’s likely to bring out voters in droves — but the polls were relatively quiet for the Aug. 2 primary in the Grosse Pointes.

According to unofficial vote tallies that were available at press time, 19.7 percent of registered voters in the City, 22.18 percent of registered voters in the Farms, 19.87 percent of registered voters in the Park, 27.53 percent of registered voters in the Woods and 22 percent of registered voters in the Wayne County portion of Grosse Pointe Shores cast ballots in the primary. In the much tinier section of Grosse Pointe Shores that’s in Macomb County, 19 of the 61 registered voters — or 32 percent — took part in this election.

Those numbers were still better than Wayne County as a whole. According to unofficial vote tallies from the Wayne County Clerk’s office, about 15.27 percent of the county’s registered voters took part in this election.

In a tightly contested election for the Democratic nominee for the open 2nd District state House seat, former state Rep. Bettie Cook-Scott, of Detroit, narrowly edged out Carla Tinsley-Smith — the daughter of Alberta Tinsley Talabi, who wasn’t able to run again because of term limits. According to unofficial vote totals, Cook-Scott received 22.98 percent of the district vote, compared to Tinsley-Smith’s 22.66 percent. Jeremy Henner, of Grosse Pointe Farms, the sole candidate in the Democratic field from the Pointes, came in fourth with 16.9 percent of the vote.

Pointers showed Henner a lot of love; in his hometown, for example, he got nearly 50 percent of the Democratic vote. In the Park, he got 41.46 percent of the Democratic vote for the state House seat, and in the City, he earned 38.52 percent of the vote.

On the Republican side for the 2nd District State House seat, Anthony Matthew Murray, of Grosse Pointe Park, bested Molly Augustine, also of the Park, earning almost 62 percent of the total vote.

For the 1st District Wayne County Commission race, lone Republican John Steininger, of Grosse Pointe Farms — a former Grosse Pointe Public School System Board of Education member and president — will square off this fall against Democratic incumbent Tim Killeen, of Detroit. Killeen, who is currently in the middle of his fifth term, soundly defeated Democratic challenger DaRell Andre Reed, of Detroit, earning 76.83 percent of the vote compared to Reed’s 22.71 percent.

It could be due at least partially to the fact that the Shores is a Republican stronghold and many of the Republican candidates had no opponents, but Shores Election Administrator Tom Krolczyk said the city “had so many (absentee) ballots (that were mailed out to voters) that just never came back.”

Marie Brady, election inspector for Precinct 1 in the Shores — the larger of the two precincts in the Wayne County portion of the city — likewise wasn’t seeing droves of completed ballots from voters.

“It’s been steady, but we haven’t had too many people lined up,” she said of the turnout. “It’s not a record.”

At Pierce Middle School in the Park, Precinct 7 Chair Judith Wanderer said things were “very slow up until 5 o’clock” when they started “really picking up.”

One of her colleagues, Precinct 4 Chair Courtney Johnson — who was also at Pierce — said it had “been a little bit slower than usual,” but the city “did have a lot of absentee ballots.”

Donna Livingston, the Precinct 5 co-chair at Brownell Middle School in the Farms, said turnout had been “steady but slow” all day, until close to the end of the voting day; the polls were opened until 8 p.m.

“We’ve been slow all day, but in the last hour, bam,” she said, noting that her precinct saw close to 100 voters between 7 and 8 p.m.

A number of primary races on the ballots Pointers got will essentially determine who’s going to serve a particular area, because the districts lean heavily in favor of one party.

Those who did come to the polls said they largely did so not because of any particular races or issues, but out of a sense of civic duty.

“It’s the first Tuesday in August, and we always vote,” said George Hendrie, of Grosse Pointe Shores, who cast a ballot along with his wife at Shores City Hall.

After voting at Defer Elementary School in the Park, Steve Wildern said he was there because “it’s important to vote every opportunity that we have.” He said his wife would be coming to the polls later that evening.

“I tell my kids, I don’t care who they date as long as they have a library card and they vote,” said Grosse Pointe Park voter Sandy Ambrozy after she cast her ballot at Pierce Middle School. “It’s about citizen engagement. … And then (if I vote), I get to complain,” she added with a laugh.

Susan Tait, of Grosse Pointe Farms, expressed a similar sentiment just before casting her ballot at Brownell Middle School.

“It’s really important every election (to vote),” she said. “You have to voice your thoughts, your opinions. It’s your constitutional duty.”

Another Farms voter at Brownell, Donna Harper, felt a sense of duty as well.

“Every vote counts,” she said. “It does make a difference, whichever side you’re for. Staying home would mean you have no voice.”

Her husband, Mike Harper, also said voting is “our responsibility” and “a privilege.”

“These are difficult times, with a lot of different forces pulling the country in different directions,” he continued.

Michael Hindelang, of Grosse Pointe Park, took sons Robert, 6, and Joey, 3, to the polls at Pierce Middle School, and both boys proudly wore “I Voted” stickers on their shirts. He said it was “important for my sons to see” the importance of voting. Hindelang also wanted to support the Detroit Zoo millage.

“The zoo has done some great (work) and I wanted to support their efforts,” he said.

Janice Campagna, of Grosse Pointe Park, said her decisions on who to vote for were strongly influenced by talking to candidates who came to her door, enabling her to find out more about what they stood for.

“And, I had a student in school who’s running for judge, so I wanted to be here (to vote) for her,” said Campagna, a former teacher, after she cast a ballot at Defer Elementary School.

Setting an example for her fellow millennials was Brenna Loren, of Grosse Pointe Farms, who made sure to come to Brownell Middle School to cast a ballot in the primary.

“Personally, I think it’s important (to vote) because if we don’t, it’s going to be our generation that suffers,” she said. Loren added that she wanted to support the zoo millage because amenities like the zoo and the parks are things she’d like her children to be able to enjoy when she has her own family.

Those who didn’t vote might want to reconsider their excuses for not exercising this right. Jeff Bickerstaff, of Grosse Pointe Shores, was injured in an accident earlier in the day while he was riding his bike, and he came to the polls still wearing his wristband ID from the hospital.

“Voting is important,” he said. “I always vote.”

Bickerstaff said his older daughter, who is working on her law degree, “reminded us the past two days to vote,” he said with a smile. He came to the polls with his wife and their younger daughter, Maggie Bickerstaff, 20, who had just returned home from a trip to Italy that day and likewise felt the need to cast a ballot. Like Loren, she was bucking the perception of younger people staying away from the polls.

“I think it’s important to remember that each vote does count,” Maggie Bickerstaff said. “My vote is just one vote, but it’s not (inconsequential). Especially because my demographic is so vocal in some areas. You can post on Facebook all you want, but until you vote, nothing changes.”