After months of speculation and polls, one of the most unpredictable primary races for governor in recent Michigan history saw Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero and Ann Arbor businessman Rick Synder come out on top in their respective primaries on Tuesday, August 3.
Snyder, nickanamed “One Tough Nerd”, saw his 36% total outpace the 27% mark of U.S. Congressman Pete Hoekstra of Holland om the Republican side. Michigan Attorney General Mike Cox finished third with 23% while Oakland County Sheriff Mike Bouchard received 12% and finished fourth.
Bernero, aka “The Angry Mayor,” got the Democratic Party’s nod after defeating Michigan Speaker of the House Andy Dillon by a total of 59% to 41%.
The margin of Bernero’s victory came as a surprise to many, but he was quick to dismiss the importance of the pre-election polls at his victory party at the Atheneum Hotel in Detroit’s Greektown area on Tuesday, August 3 after getting word that he had won.
“We heard from the prognosticators and the pundits and the corporate media that we couldn’t do it, but we knew something all along that they’d forgotten,” he said, adding that he was outspent by his opponent, “It’s the people that decide the election.”
Bernero also had a message for fellow Democrat Dillon after he conceded the race.
“We look forward to working with Andy Dillon to unite the party,” he said, although he did not mention in what capacity.
Bernero also reiterated his plan to re-invest in domestic manufacturing and also to create a state bank in Michigan to provide small businesses with loans.
Arab American John Gedeon, a convenience store owner in Lansing, said he believes that Bernero has been good to the local Arab American and business communities.
“He’s always been very helpful for me as a business owner, and he’s got the Arab American community behind him up here,” he said.
Fellow Lansing small business owner Adnan Mesi echoed his statements.
Amir Makled, a Wayne State law student, said that he believes Bernero’s support for the Arab American community is genuine as he said he has seen Bernero at numerous events.
He pointed out that Bernero’s deputy campaign manager, Farhan Bhatti, is a Muslim, citing it as an example of the inclusive nature of Bernero’s campaign.
Michigan Civil Rights Commissioner and Arab American Political Action Committee (AAPAC) Vice President Nabih Ayad, who held a fundraiser for Bernero at his house in Canton in the weeks leading up to the election, was also excited to see the Lansing mayor prevail in the primary.
|Bernero will face Snyder in Novemebr|
Bhatti said that he was a bit surprised to see Snyder come out on top on the Republican side but added that Bernero is ready take on Snyder and the other challengers come the November 2nd general election.
“We’re excited and we look forward to the opportunity,” he said. “It’s Snyder and that’s fine; he’s never held public office before. We believe that Virg is the candidate for all people.”
Other results of local interest
Local races ranged from unexpectedly strong showings to tough losses and easy wins for candidates endorsed by AAPAC and The Arab American News (TAAN).
Two Dearborn City Council members were successful in their bids with Suzanne Sareini running unopposed in the state House District 15’s Republican primary, garnering 4,492 votes, and George Darany defeating next-closest finisher Linda Tafelski by a count of 44% to 36% with Steven Dobkowski coming in third at 12%.
Darany and Sareini now compete against each other in the general election on November 2 for the position.
Another close race unfolded in the state Senate’s District 3 as well, as Morris Hood narrowly beat AAPAC and TAAN-endorsed William Isaac Roninson by a total of 45% to 40%. Robinson was considered a long-shot going in but used grassroots politics to make it a close race. Former Detroit City Council finalist Mohamed Okdie came in third at 15%.
The Wayne County Sheriff’s Democratic primary went to incumbent Benny Napoleon as he beat out Walter Epps by a total of 81% to 10% in a campaign that had plenty of Arab American support.
Two other AAPAC and TAAN-endorsed candidates enjoyed solid victories in Wayne County Commissioner races as incumbent Diane Webb beat Michael Todd by a total of 74% to 26% in the 9th District Democratic primary and Martha Scott defeated Moe Blackwell, the incumbent, by a tally of 49% to 31% in District 3.
Incumbent Wayne County Executive Robert Ficano also won the Democratic primary for his seat after running unopposed and receiving more than 113,255 votes.
AAPAC and TAAN-endorsed John Sullivan fell short in the race for Wayne County 3rd Circuit Court Judge, however, as he lost by a tally of 50% to 35% in his race with Susan Hubbard.
An extremely tight Dearborn Heights City Council race ended with Ned Apigian, a 72-year-old architect and city planner, finishing first over TAAN-endorsed Kathy Abdel-Hak. Abdel-Hak finished 40 votes behind Apigian and Robert Yahrmatter finished just three votes behind Abdel-Hak.
Apigian received 34% of the vote in the race for current council member Roy Pilot’s spot and will likely face off with Abdel-Hak, who received 33% of the vote, in November according to city clerk Dudzinski as of press time. Pilot chose not to run for re-election for the partial term, which will end on December 31, 2011 after the replacement is elected in November.
In District 10’s Democratic primary, Harvey Santana beat out Stacy Pugh by 82 votes, winning by a total of 35% to 33%.
Incumbent Rashida Tlaib maintained her status as the favorite in the state House’s District 12 with an easy win over Jim Czachorowski by a total of 85% to 15% in the Democratic primary as well.
Another AAPAC and TAAN-endorsed candidate, Phil Cavanagh, won his state House District 17 race with a decisive victory of 73% to 27% over challenger Frank Tomcsik in the Democratic primary.
Macomb County’s District 5 Commissioner Democratic nod went to Robert Mijac as he ran unopposed and received 2,593 votes.
Abdul Al-Gazali of Hamtramck, a former city council member who narrowly lost in his bid for mayor in 2009, lost to John Olumba in the Democratic primary of the state House’sDistrict 5, finishing in fourth place with 7% of the vote to 34% for Olumba, rounding out the list of candidates endorsed by AAPAC and The Arab American News.
Perhaps the biggest upset of the primary election happened in the U.S. Congress District 13 Democratic primary as Bangladeshi American Hansen Clarke defeated incumbent Carolyn Cheeks-Kilpatrick by a total of 47% to 41%.
Also locally, Dearborn attorney Majed Moughni was unsuccessful in his bid to win the U.S. House’s District 15 in the Republican primary. Moughni finished with 4% of the vote as Rob Steele won the district with a 51% total.
In the state Senate’s 7th District Republican primary, Plymouth Twp. Trustee Abe Munfakh finished third with 6,183 votes as Plymouth resident and former rocket scientist Patrick Colbeck, who had 8,665 votes, finished first.
East side districts quiet early on
On the east side of Dearborn, where the majority of the Arab American community resides in the area, polls were mostly quiet as of Tuesday afternoon.
At William Ford Elementary School for example, only about 44 people had voted in Precinct 5 as of 1:30 p.m. with nearby schools Salina and McDonald reporting similar totals.
The city of Dearborn ended with a 21.73% voter turnout overall for the primary compared with about 23% for the state’s turnout.
City Clerk Kathy Buda said that the overall turnout for Dearborn was a bit higher than usual, however, a fact she attributed to the open spot for State Representative.
Dearborn resident Mana El-Jabri said he believed the turnout was low because the local Arab American community doesn’t believe that most politicians truly support them, saying that they only come around for votes but don’t come back after being elected.
But others including campaigner Souad Jomaa of Dearborn stressed the importance of the election, especially in regards to local races, which she said have more impact than the Presidential election despite a much lower turnout.
“People are always complaining but voting is one way they can make changes for a better future,” she said.
Primary Election Results
Below are results of the Michigan Primary election for state and local candidates in specific races that are of interest to the Arab American community and also where AAPAC and The Arab American News issued endorsements.
Michigan Governor- Democrat
Virg Bernero- 308, 864 votes
Rick Snyder- 380,720
Pete Hoekstra- 280,593
Mike Cox- 239,927
Mike Bouchard- 127,112
U.S. House District 13 Democrat
Hanson Clarke- 22570
Carolyn Cheeks Kilpatrick- 19516
State Senate District 3- Democrat
Morris Hood- 7,996
William Isaac Robinson- 7,168
Mohamed Okdie- 2,642
State House District 5- Democrat
John Olumba- 1,819
Abdul Al-Gazali- (4th place) 373
State Senate District 5-Republican
Patrick Colbeck- 8,665
Abe Munfakh – 6,183
State House District 10- Democrat
Harvey Santana- 1,891
Stacy Pugh- 1,809
State House District 12- Democrat
Rashida Tlaib- 3,004
Jim Czachorowski- 529
State House District 15- Democrat
George Darany- 2,129
Linda Tafelski- 1,753
State House District 15-Republican
Suzanne Sareini- 4,492
State House District 17- Democrat
Phil Cavanagh- 4,424
Frank Tomcsik- 1,630
Wayne Cty. Executive Democrat
Robert Ficano- 113,255
Wayne Cty. Sheriff Democrat
Benny Napoleon- 102,601
Walter Epps- 12,361
Wayne Cty Comm. District 3 Dem.
Martha Scott- 4,436
Moe Blackwell- 2,854
Wayne Cty. Comm. District 9 Dem.
Diane Webb- 5,604
Michael Todd- 1,928
Wayne Cty. 3rd Circuit Ct. Judge
(Two advance to compete in November 2)
(Two advance to compete in November 2)
Susan Hubbard- 73,465
John J. Sullivan- 51,442
Dearborn Heights City Council
(Two Advance to compete in November)
Ned Apigian- 1,868
Kathy Abdel-Hak- 1,828
Robert Yahrmatter- 1,825
Macomb Cty. Comm.
District 5, Democrat
Robert Mijac- 2,593 (unopposed)