Incumbent Hieftje posts win over Lesko in Democratic mayoral primary

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Mayor John Hieftje celebrates at Vie Fitness and Spa after winning the 2010 Democratic mayoral primary election on Tuesday, August 3. Buy this photo

BY SUZANNE JACOBS
Daily Staff Reporter
Published August 3, 2010

“It’s a clean sweep, we took them all,” Ann Arbor Mayor John Hieftje announced last night after Sandi Smith’s victory over Sumangala Kailasapathy for the City Council Ward 1 Democratic candidate.

A crowd gathered at Vie Fitness and Spa for Hieftje’s election party and celebrated the win after a successful night for city council incumbents at the party, including Margie Teall (D–Ward 4) and Carsten Hohnke (D–Ward 5).

Congressman John Dingell (D–Mich.) stood out as an honored guest at the event. In a speech to the group, Teall made sure to thank Dingell not only for attending the party, but also for coming to Ann Arbor earlier in the year to address the safety issues concerning the E. Stadium bridge.

When it became clear that Hieftje, who has been the mayor of Ann Arbor since 2000, had defeated Lesko for the Democratic ticket, he stood up on a chair — microphone in hand — and addressed the crowd.

“You probably all realize the balancing act that it’s taken to get any city through this decade,” Hieftje said. “We’ve just come through the worst decade for government finance in any one of the lifetimes of anyone in this room looking out here, and it hasn’t been easy.

“We can’t hide our heads in the sand. We had a choice several years ago. We could’ve hunkered down, we could’ve stopped all movement forward, we could’ve said we’re not gonna be prepared for the future because we gotta take care of the present … but this city’s gonna make it through and I hope you understand, you live in one of the premier communities in America,” he continued.

In an interview with The Michigan Daily, Hieftje added that it has been especially difficult to avoid raising taxes with government financing the worst that it has been since the 1930s, and he said he believes the voters recognize that difficulty and trust that the city council will be able to continue to avoid raising taxes in the future.

Hohnke also spoke to the crowd about the “balancing act” that Hieftje mentioned in his address to the crowd.

“I think (voters) said we got the balance right in balancing preservation and growth and making sure that we stay rooted in all the best of Ann Arbor and keep reaching for a more vibrant, sustainable city,” he said.

Not too far from the celebration at Vie, a group of about 25 to 30 people who supported Patricia Lesko gathered at Café Zola to await the results of the primary election.

Among those present was Hatim Elhady, a former University student who graduated this past spring and ran for City Council Ward 4 last November. Elhady said Lesko lost because voters did not know Lesko’s true potential.

“I don’t think her blog is a good example of her true political personality. She doesn’t get the credit she deserves,” he said. “Those who know her (personally) acknowledge her ability.”

Lou Glorie, who was running against incumbent Hohnke, also showed her support for Lesko at Café Zola.

“I look at the issues,” Glorie said. “I look at the principles — Lesko was running on principles. Her take on the local issues I’m in line with, that’s why I’m voting for and supporting her.”

Glorie added that the problem with Lesko’s campaign became her personality, not the issues.

Longtime Ann Arbor resident and political activist Ethel Potts said she felt like Ann Arbor needed a change and could be better than just “a nice town,” but she said incumbents always have the advantage.

— Daily Staff Reporter Dylan Cinti contributed to this report.