A record number of Troy voters cast absentee ballots in the August primary election.

A record number of Troy voters cast absentee ballots in the August primary election.

Photo by Tiffany Esshaki

Chamberlain-Creanga defends seat on Troy City Council

By: Terry Oparka | Troy Times | Published August 11, 2020


TROY — Earlier this year, Rebecca Chamberlain-Creanga was appointed to fill a vacancy on the Troy City Council left by the resignation of Ed Pennington in January. Now, following her victory in the Aug. 4 election over challenger David Carl Anderson, her term has been extended until late 2021.

Chamberlain-Creanga received 8,872 votes during the election versus Anderson’s 6,838. There were 28 unassigned write-ins and no rejected write-ins. There were 31 precincts reporting.

Chamberlain-Creanga has a doctorate in economic anthropology from the London School of Economics and works at the Kresge Foundation. She has served on the Troy Downtown Development Authority and the Global Troy Advisory Committee.

She and her opponent in the election, Anderson, were among several people who interviewed to be Pennington’s replacement on the council back in February.

Following the Aug. 4 election, Chamberlain-Creanga thanked all of her supporters, with a special shoutout to her campaign manager, Deanna Katto, and team members Maggie Hughes, Chuck Shepherd and Hemanth Tadepalli. She also thanked her husband and son.

She said she is deeply humbled by the experience and thankful for the opportunity to have connected with Troy residents one on one. She said this connection is why she ran in the first place.

Going forward, the pandemic is of utmost concern, she said.

“COVID-19 is one of the greatest crises our city has faced in a lifetime. It necessitates more than ever that all decisions on council are made through a lens of protecting the health, safety and welfare of our residents. It also means that we must focus on strengthening our local economy and supporting our quality of life,” Chamberlain-Creanga said in an email. “This pandemic has given rise to financial hardship and uncertainty. It has put everyone at risk, especially our seniors. It will be paramount to closely monitor the budget to make spending adjustments as needed.

“I will also continue to use every resource available, coordinating with county, state and federal government to help Troy’s small business community,” she said. “I would like to partner with the Troy Chamber of Commerce — as I proposed, and our mayor has taken forward — to help foster dialogue between businesses, health professionals and residents on our shared wellbeing.

“In addition, I will prioritize protecting our quality of life by continuing to support our library and community assets, like the Stage Nature Center and Troy Historic Village,” she said. “I will leverage my background in community engagement to listen to residents to update Troy’s master plan in 2021, ensuring that we safeguard the quality and character of our neighborhoods and green spaces.”


High turnout
According to Clerk Aileen Dickson, turnout for the Aug. 4 primary was 38%, which is a “huge jump” from the typical turnout for an August primary in a presidential year, which is usually around 25%.

The percentage of people voting absentee saw an even more dramatic increase, with 74% of all voters voting absentee, up from the usual 25%.

Even back in the March presidential primary, before there were any confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Michigan, Troy saw a 35% voter turnout with 50% of voters casting absentee ballots.

However, Dickson said that during the August election, there was a drop in the return rate for absentee ballots — 78% versus the typical 93% or more.

“I attribute this to two things: Some voters did not receive their ballots, and some voters who did receive their ballots were not familiar with voting in a primary, so they decided not to vote,” Dickson said via email. “The latter is a direct relation to the mass mailing of absentee applications that reached voters who may not be familiar with the many different elections that occur outside the presidential general. It is clear, though, that mass mailing of absentee applications brought more voters into the mix for this August primary.”

She said that the city currently has about 30,000 applications for absentee ballots for the November election, which is about half of the city’s total voter population. The city’s typical voter turnout overall for such an election is 74%-79%.

“We are hoping to have more voters contact us to work the election. We will need more workers than ever. Our precinct staffing was at bare minimums in many precincts on Aug. 4 due to a significant number of workers canceling on us last minute,” Dickson said. “We understand that working in a precinct during the pandemic is not ideal. However, we have heard from our workers that they felt safe, and fully supplied with the (personal protective equipment) and sanitizing products they needed in order to feel safe working.”


The challenger
For his part, Anderson said via email that the pandemic “made it impossible to campaign in traditional ways,” since he could not go through neighborhoods safely knocking on doors and introducing himself to new neighbors, explaining his vision directly to them. The current health crisis also made it difficult to hold traditional fundraiser events, he said.

“As such, as a nonincumbent candidate running for City Council, this fact hurt my campaign efforts,” said Anderson.

He said the City Council election, in which candidates do not declare a party, nevertheless had a partisan bent that worked against him. He said a record 1.6 million Michigan voters voted absentee for the Aug. 4 primary. He said he “did very well” at polling locations on election day, beating his opponent by several hundred votes. However, “more than 3,000 Democrats voted in the Troy primary election than Republicans did using absentee ballots,” he said, a trend along party lines that “made this primary a bad time to be an identified Republican candidate,” so that “it was impossible for me despite running a very strong and positive campaign to overcome this one-sided voter surge.”

Anderson said he remains invested in his community and he wants the Troy City Council to focus on a number of things, including funding for law enforcement to keep neighborhoods safe; working to keep taxes low and city services efficient; supporting the Troy library millage renewal; seeking citizen input on council decisions before money is spent; providing “common sense development” that grows the city’s tax base while protecting the city’s green space; improving and maintaining local infrastructure, including streets and bridges; and following the city’s master plan while keeping the budget balanced.

“I am very proud of the fact my City Council campaign was supported by so many diverse groups,” Anderson said, noting he received endorsements from Republican and Democratic figures in law enforcement, on school boards, and in city, county and state government.

“I wish to congratulate my opponent on her victory,” he concluded. “I wish to indicate to the mayor and City Council members that I am delighted to assist them in any way I can to make Troy the best place in Michigan to live. Making Troy the best place to live and work has been in my DNA for 40-plus years. I will continue until my last breath to seek new ways to make Troy even better than what it is today.”