In the 5 o’clock hour, voters make their voices heard at Lake Shore High School.

In the 5 o’clock hour, voters make their voices heard at Lake Shore High School.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes

New faces elected to serve school boards, county commission in St. Clair Shores

Hertel wins reelection; other incumbents lose seats

By: Kristyne E. Demske | St. Clair Shores Sentinel | Published November 6, 2020

 A voter heads to cast a ballot at precincts 18/21, inside Lake Shore High School, Nov. 3.

A voter heads to cast a ballot at precincts 18/21, inside Lake Shore High School, Nov. 3.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes


ST. CLAIR SHORES — Absentee ballots were counted into the early morning hours of Nov. 4, so many local candidates had to burn the midnight oil or go to sleep on election night not knowing if they had won or not.

St. Clair Shores Resident Todd Barton said he’d never seen lines to vote as long as they were Nov. 3.

“I’ve never had to wait outside at all,” he said. “(It’s) good to see everybody coming out.”

Barton said he came to vote in person because he felt it was more secure than mailing back his ballot.

“There’s been so much talk about the mail-in votes being lost or otherwise not being counted,” he said. “I felt it was easier and more secure to come here and vote in person.”

Plenty of residents did cast absentee ballots, however, either through the mail or by dropping their ballot at a city drop-box. St. Clair Shores experienced a 75.3% voter turnout according to the Macomb County Clerk’s office, with more than 38,500 ballots cast. Of those, more than 23,000 voted absentee.

All the votes weren’t tallied in St. Clair Shores until about 3 a.m. Nov. 4, reported City Clerk Mary Kotowski.

“It went pretty good, it was just a really busy day,” she said.


Race results
State Rep. Kevin Hertel, D-St. Clair Shores, who has been in office since 2016, won reelection to his seat with 60% of the vote. He received 32,571 votes, according to unofficial results from the Macomb County Clerk’s office, compared with 21,463 votes going toward Republican challenger Michael Babat.

Although early results showed Babat with a considerable lead, Hertel received more than twice as many votes through absentee voting than through in-person votes.

“When we saw the original results, we knew absentees were (going to make a difference),” he said. “We felt good, but you never feel good until the final numbers come out.”

He said he wants to continue working to bring resources back to Macomb County and his district.

“I’m honored to have the support of the residents again, and we’re going to continue to do the work that we’ve been doing,” he said.

For the Macomb County Board of Commissioners race, District 3 Commissioner Veronica Klinefelt, D-Eastpointe, did not have anyone challenging her in the race. The district encompasses Eastpointe, St. Clair Shores and portions of Grosse Pointe Shores and Warren.

District 10 Commissioner Robert Leonetti, D-Harrison Township, however, lost his seat to Republican challenger Barbara Zinner. Zinner, of Harrison Township, received 51.6% of the vote, or 19,419 votes, compared with Leonetti’s 18,198 votes, which were 48.4% of the total. District 10 encompasses St. Clair Shores and Harrison Township.

Leonetti said he felt good about the race he ran. From his analysis, he said there were about 5,000 additional voters who haven’t come out in the past and many of them voted straight ticket for the Republican Party.

“The unknowns, I couldn’t overtake it,” he said. “Straight ticket voters carried it on down.”

He said it was good to see more voters turn out for the election and it had been an honor serving the county.

“Barb will be a good commissioner, and I’ve enjoyed my time in public service, and I’m ready to go back to the public sector,” he said Nov. 4.

Zinner said she entered the race because she was concerned there wouldn’t be a Republican candidate running for the office if she didn’t, and she wanted to support President Trump in Macomb County.

“I think my win really represented the president’s coattails,” she said.

She said many voters told her they were voting straight Republican ticket and were happy that she was running for office.

“They thanked me. (They said) thank you for coming to my door, for being a Republican and coming,” she said. “I want to be a voice for the people. This has nothing to do with me.”

Zinner said she is also concerned there could be dwindling support for public safety on the Macomb County Board of Commissioners.

“I was very concerned that there might be people on the county board that are thinking about defunding the police,” she said. “I wanted to be sure that we kept our police.”


St. Clair Shores schools, charter amendment
In local races for school boards, Amy Thomas-August won election to the Lake Shore Public Schools Board of Education for a partial term ending Dec. 31, 2022, with 4,842 votes compared with incumbent Trustee Michael Bakotich, who received 4,022 votes.

Incumbent South Lake Schools Board of Education Trustee Renard Morey-Greer also lost his spot on the board, with three newcomers winning election to the three available seats.

Veronica Williams received 5,244 votes, Joseph Fresard received 5,007 votes and Jamie Williams received 4,235 votes, which made them the top three vote-getters in the race for three seats on the Board of Education, compared with Morey-Greer’s 3,579 votes.

A Charter Amendment for the city of St. Clair Shores to require a period of public comment of at least two minutes per person at regularly scheduled City Council meetings, prior to council taking a vote on matters, and requiring a second period of comment near the end of each meeting, passed with overwhelming support. Ninety percent of voters, or 30,102, supported the measure, compared with 3,336 votes cast against it.


Residents stress importance of voting
Even though there was a large voter turnout for absentee voting, plenty of voters still turned out to vote in-person on Election Day.

Resident Jennifer Haas didn’t know what to expect when she pulled up to the polling location.

“I wasn’t sure because there was the option for mail-in,” she said.

Nevertheless, she called herself more of a “traditionalist” and said since this was the second presidential election she was voting in, she wanted to cast her ballot in person.

“I feel like it’s no different than going to a grocery store,” as far as safety from the threat of COVID-19 is concerned, she explained.

Haas said it felt more important to make sure to vote this year than in the past.

“The nation’s so seemingly divided,” she said. “I feel like there’s more on the line, but also more uncertainty either way.”

Resident Jennifer Sabaj, on the other hand, didn’t think there was any difference in the reason to vote in 2020 than in the past.

“I like in-person voting,” she said.

St. Clair Shores City Attorney Robert Ihrie traveled around the city Election Day to keep an eye out for any problems at the polls. He hadn’t seen anything amiss during morning voting.

“Everything looks like it’s in good order in St. Clair Shores,” he said.

Resident Tony Raffin wasn’t surprised to see the line extending outside the VFW Bruce Post 1146. He said he thought in-person voting was the most secure way to cast his vote.

“If you owed me money, would you trust a $100 bill in the mail? My vote is more valuable than $100,” he said.

This year’s election is different from years past, he said.

“This is totally different because all of our American civil liberties are at stake,” he said. “I don’t believe we’ll have a socialist government because we’ll keep it out.”