Primary winners look ahead to general election

By: Nick Mordowanec | Fraser - Clinton Township Chronicle | Published August 10, 2016


CLINTON TOWNSHIP/FRASER — Now that the 2016 primary season has come and gone, the winners are now pivoting toward November’s general election.

According to the Macomb County Clerk’s Office, the Aug. 2 primary saw a turnout of 17.7 percent in Clinton Township — tied for 16th among Macomb County municipalities.

The Clinton Township Board of Trustees could experience quite the shakeup in November, with a new treasurer and possibly a new clerk and a new supervisor. The supervisor, treasurer and clerk races all involved candidates running unopposed in the primary. The Democrat in each of those uncontested races received more votes than the Republican.

Eleven candidates — eight of them Democrats — took part in the trustee’s primary race, and now three Republicans and four Democrats remain.

Jenifer “Joie” West, a current trustee and 12-year member of the township’s planning commission, said “it’s been a long couple months” but she was obviously pleased with the polls. She received the most votes of any Democrat with 3,869 — or nearly 20 percent — in 46 precincts.

West, like others, has stressed the importance of fixing local residential and commercial roads within the township. She also wants a “solid revitalization plan” to deal with the south end of the township, which encompasses areas like Quinn Road, Gratiot Avenue and Harper Avenue.

“I have to continue to knock on doors, to listen to people when they tell me what they want out of their local government and what needs to be done,” West said.

The second-biggest Democratic vote-getter was Mike Keys, who attributed his success to knocking on doors, conducting mailings and being involved in neighborhood watch meetings.

He said he couldn’t have made the top four without his family and friends, who kept him motivated and organized. Ever since he grew up in the township, surrounded by family, he wanted to make a difference.

“I want to market to younger families and people and continue the community with the next generation,” Keys said. “The community sees it as a young man who’s willing to put in the work.”

Current Trustee Ken Pearl received the third-most votes on the Democratic side.

He said that he thought everyone worked hard on their respective campaigns, and he wants to continue taking his vision of the township to every voter. Involved with schools and charities, he wants to hit home his message of fixing the roads and being a strong board member who gets things done.

“I want to thank all my supporters who came out and helped me, and the voters who voted for me,” Pearl said. “I think I’ve done a good job in the community and I’m looking forward to the general election.”

Newcomer Diane Zontini rounded out the top four.

She said she knocked on about 5,000 doors in the township, which she referred to as getting “the heartbeat” of residents, who wanted to discuss roads, growing rat populations and even unkempt lawns.

“You just find out what’s really on (residents’) minds and how can you not only hopefully resolve issues (but) point them in the right direction,” Zontini said. “I want to be a part of how I can make a good township even better, and I think I can be effective in that role.”

Three Republicans — Cathy Kirk, Joe Aragona and Leo Melise — are automatically on the November ballot. Kirk and Aragona each received 34.1 percent of the vote, with Melise finishing with 31.8 percent.

Current Township Treasurer Bill Sowerby handily defeated his opponent, Michael Brewington, in the race for 31st District of the state House of Representatives. The 31st District encapsulates Mount Clemens, Fraser and parts of Clinton Township.

Sowerby said the election is about the issues: providing good, traditional public education and being able to properly pay for it; protecting the environment and providing clean water so a Flint-like situation doesn’t occur; support hard-working families; supporting seniors; and keeping good-paying jobs in the state.

“It’s the years of hard work and the years of working with all the constituents here in the township, and beginning to work with constituents in Mount Clemens and Fraser,” Sowerby said.

He will face off against Republican Lisa Valerio-Nowc, who defeated Austin Negipe by a 2-to-1 margin.

“I was surprised by the large margin to be honest,” Valerio-Nowc said. “Nobody really knew either one of us, but I was pretty pleased. You don’t win without knocking on doors, and I did that.”

She understands that Sowerby is a tougher opponent to compete against, but she is sticking by her message of being there for the people and offering a fresh voice in Lansing.

“I’m not afraid of a challenge. … Career politicians sometimes forget who they’re really representing,” she said.

Democrat Elizabeth Ann Lucido defeated Mark Brewer by nearly 20 points (58.1 percent to 41.9 percent) in a contested race for the Macomb County Board of Commissioners 9th District seat, and she will face off against Republican Douglas Trost, who ran unopposed in the primary, in the fall.

“I wasn’t sure what was going to happen,” Lucido said. “We worked really hard, knocked on doors most days of the summer, going to events and got to know the community very well. I was hopeful hard work would pay off.”

Republican Mark Henry and Democrat Kathy Tocco both ran unopposed for 11th District County Commissioner. They will face each other this fall.

Republican James M. Perna defeated his partisan counterpart, Jeff Ford, 62.5 percent to 37.5 percent in their primary for the 12th District County Commissioner seat. Perna will go head to head against Democrat Bob Smith, who was unopposed, in November.