Primaries end close races despite low voter turnout

BY MELTON LEE
Daily Staff Reporter
Published August 8, 2004

Amid low voter turnout, Tuesday’s primaries brought
several heated local, state and congressional races to a close,
setting the stage for the November elections.

One of the most contested races in the primaries that gained
state and national media attention was for an opening in the
conservative 7th Congressional District. Six contenders vied for
the Republican nomination in that district and a shot at the U.S.
House of Representatives. Moderate Joe Schwartz won the Republican
primary, collecting 28 percent of the total vote, edging out his
right-wing competitors, who split the conservative vote among
themselves.

“We had a plan and we executed,” said Schwartz, who
focused his campaign around the economy, unemployment and health
care issues. He attributed the victory to his determined campaign
team.

“They worked hard,” he said. “I had to work
even harder (to keep up).”

Schwartz will be challenged by Sharon Renier, who triumphed in
the Democratic primary with 51 percent of the vote.Drew Walker had
24 percent and Douglas Wilson earned 23 percent.

Schwartz received 22 percent of the Washtenaw County vote,
second to state Rep. Gene DeRossett, who collected 48 percent
locally.

Brad Smith, son of the current, retiring seat-holder Rep. Nick
Smith, finished with a total of 22 percent, former state Rep. Tim
Walberg had 18 percent, Clark Bisbee had 14 percent, DeRossett had
11 percent and former state Rep. Paul DeWeese collected 7
percent.

In the 52nd state district, seven candidates competed for the
state representative seat that the term-limited Gene DeRossett will
be vacating.

According to statistics from Washtenaw County Clerk’s
Office, only about 9 percent of registered voters in the city of
Ann Arbor cast a ballot on Tuesday. County-wide, voter turnout was
roughly 16 percent.

Voting at campus polling places was sparse, with an average of
fewer than 2 percent of registered voters who cast ballots. Turnout
was considerably higher at off-campus locations, such as schools
and churches.

Precinct workers at the South Quad polling place remarked that
low voter turnout at campus locations might have been attributed to
relatively difficult campus parking as compared to the other
locations in the city. Only 7 people showed up at their location on
Tuesday.

Several Ann Arbor voters revealed that issues such as education,
the economy, national security and the Iraq war resonated in their
minds when casting their ballots.

“I’m not against Republicans per say, I’m just
against the President,” explained Emily Milner, an Ann Arbor
resident and retiree, who voted at Pioneer High School.

In Michigan’s traditionally progressive 15th Congressional
District, which includes the heavily student-populated 53rd state
district, incumbent John Dingell ran unopposed for Democratic Party
nomination, as did his eventual Republican challenger Dawn Anne
Reamer. Dingell received 15,460 Washtenaw County votes, while
Reamer collected 4,083.

Also in the 53rd district, Democratic incumbent state Rep. Chris
Kolb won his party’s nomination with about 92 percent of the
vote, defeating newcomer Scott Schlimmer, who garnered almost 8
percent. Kolb will face Erik Sheagren, who ran unopposed for the
GOP nomination.

Washtenaw County Commissioner Joe Yekulis won the GOP nomination
with about 54 percent of the vote, edging out Saline City
Councilwoman Alicia Ping by 9 points.

Yekulis described his outlook for November is “very
positive” and his game plan as being “very
simple”.

“It comes down to meeting as many people as possible and
convincing them that I have the experience, skills and abilities to
represent them in the Michigan House of Representatives next
year.”

Pam Byrnes, Washtenaw County road commissioner, won the
Democratic primary, finishing with 56 percent of the vote. Philip
Zazove was second, with 35 percent, and Fran Brennan Pontoni
finished with 9 percent.

The Ann Arbor Medical Marijuana Act may gain momentum, following
the approval of a similar initiative in Detroit on Tuesday.

If approved, the act would modify the Ann Arbor city code to
allow qualified patients to possess and cultivate marijuana for
medicinal purposes with a doctor’s authorization.

The controversial initiative has received criticism from a range
of legislators, who are wary of the implications of passing the
act, and point to the unproven effectiveness of the substance as a
medical treatment.

LSA junior Caitlin McCarthy says she supports the act.

“In terms of legalizing in general, I’m very
ambivalent, but for medical purposes, why not?” she said.

LSA junior Candace Forte believes that marijuana should be
completely legalized because she thinks it is no more dangerous
than the abuse of substances that are legal, such as alcohol and
over-the-counter drugs.

The Ann Arbor Medical Marijuana Act will appear on the Nov. 4
ballot.