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Write-in candidates look to defy odds in Warren

By: Brian Louwers | Warren Weekly | Published October 25, 2019


WARREN — You’ll find Jason McClanahan’s name around town on “adopt-a-highway” signs placed along the various stretches of road he’s committed to beautifying. Where you won’t find it is on the ballot as a candidate for the Warren City Council in District 4.

McClanahan, who is also the vice chair of the Warren Planning Commission, said he was content to support District 4 Councilman Steve Warner this year before the eligibility of several incumbents, including Warner, was challenged in a lawsuit over term limits. The result was their removal from the ballot, which McClanahan said created a void in representation.

He even filed a federal lawsuit in an unsuccessful attempt to have those candidates restored.

“I would have filed to run right off the bat if I’d known that Steve Warner wouldn’t be on the ballot,” McClanahan said Oct. 23. “Whether or not I agree with the decision of the term limits on that, it’s irrelevant. I just think that the timing, with it being when it was, they should have opened it up so the process would be fair.”

Because they were removed after the filing deadline, McClanahan said he had no other choice but to file as a declared write-in candidate in District 4, where candidates Melvin Logan and Garry Watts appear on the ballot.

McClanahan said he’s deployed more signs than any candidate in the district, instructing voters to write his name or even just “Jason” on the ballot. He’s said he’s proud to have the endorsement of Warren Mayor Jim Fouts.  

“My neighbors know me. I’m not a Johnny-come-lately,” McClanahan said. “I’m somebody who’s been active for a long time. This is definitely a doable write-in campaign.”

While he was the only write-in to declare as a candidate in District 4, he’s not the only one seeking office as a write-in on Nov. 5.

In District 5, write-in candidates Michelle Nard and Henry “Hal” Newnan will contend with ballot candidates Jerry Bell and Eddie Kabacinski. Both Nard and Newnan said the court ruling that pulled candidate Robert Boccomino from the ballot played a role in their decision to file as a write-in.

“Actually, when I saw that Robert Boccomino was able to put his name on the ballot and put out signs, I felt like it was a lost cause because I knew that his term was up,” Nard said. “I figured, oh well, here they go with one of these little tricks, so I didn’t even want to spend the energy. I was just going to find somebody to support in District 5. But when the judge ruled that he was unable to run, I decided to go ahead and do it, because I know that I would be the best candidate.”

This will be Nard’s third run, but her first attempt as a write-in. She filed to run for the council in 2011 and 2015, and is again running a grassroots campaign.

“Third time’s the charm,” Nard said. “I’m hoping I make it. Even if I don’t, I’m still going to be active in the city. I’m going to run again. Lord give me breath, I’m going to keep doing it until they say yes.

“Warren is sick, internally, and they don’t even know it. Some people don’t even realize how bad it’s getting, the enemy from within, so to speak,” Nard said.

Newnan ran at large in 2007 before the districts were put in place, and he filed to run in District 5 in 2015, where he said he wasn’t very aggressive.

He’s been much more so this time as a write-in, inspired by friends and neighbors who urged him to run after the court-ordered removal of candidates left the district’s voters with limited choices.

“This year, I was planning on voting for Robert Boccomino,” Newnan said. “Some friends of mine asked me to step forward and give us good representation in District 5.”

Newnan currently serves on the Center Line Public Schools Board of Education and would have to resign the post if elected to a city office. As a write-in candidate for the council, he said he’s spent about $20,000 of his own money to place 24 large signs along major thoroughfares and distribute 300 smaller lawn signs. Likely absentee voters, as well as those who cast ballots at the polls, will receive his mailings. He said he’s also raised roughly $1,500 in small contributions.

“I’ve been contacting voters. I’ve been  knocking on doors. I’ve been taking notes on what the problems they’re experiencing in Warren are and how they would like to see it improved, and I’m working hard to make Warren a safer and more welcoming place for everyone,” Newnan said.

There are also two write-in candidates in Warren’s District 3, where candidates Mark Dennings and Mindy Moore appear on the ballot.

Jocelyn Howard, the current chair of the Warren Planning Commission, told the Warren Weekly previously that she’s running as a write-in candidate to “make Warren one city, where there is development on both sides of the city.”

“I would also involve young people in city government for ideas and modernization of city systems,” Howard stated in her Warren Weekly candidate profile.

Kevin Wittbrodt, a retired U.S. Marine, previously told the Warren Weekly he lives in the city’s southern section and that he wants to lower taxes and limit the term of millage levies.

“It’s ridiculous to put forth a request for 20 years, things change, property goes up in value thereby increasing taxes automatically,” Wittbrodt stated in his candidate profile.