Of the five City Council members up for re-election this year, only three were challenged in the Democratic primary. In the Tuesday primary election, all three prevailed, and, because Ann Arbor traditionally votes overwhelmingly Democratic, Councilmembers Sumi Kailasapathy (D–Ward 1), Graydon Krapohl (D–Ward 4) and Chuck Warpehoski (D–Ward 5) will most likely be re-elected in November.
In an interview following the final tally, Warpehoski said Tuesday’s results are an affirmation of the present state of affairs in local government.
“When three of the six seats are uncontested, and those three seats are won by the incumbent, I think that shows there’s a high level of satisfaction with the direction the city’s headed in,” Warpehoski said, also noting Mayor Christopher Taylor was also unchallenged for re-election. “I think the voters have said that they want a continuation of the policies that they’ve been seeing.”
In addition to all incumbents being re-elected, Warpehoski noted that voting along the lines of specific issues also fell along the status quo of Ann Arbor. For example, Warpehoski pointed out that Kailasapathy has been more skeptical of new development in the city than her colleagues on the council, as well as her two challengers. Though she was ultimately re-elected, her more development-friendly challengers Jason Frenzel and Will Leaf collectively secured 55 percent of the vote.
“It shows that there’s a sense that having a diversified economy is something that’s valued in this city,” Warpehoski said, referring to the election results. “And people recognize that means we need to add housing capacity and office capacity to support the diversified economy.”
This was also the pattern in the Ward 4 and Ward 5 races, Warpehoski noted. Incumbent Krapohl and his challenger Diane Giannola were more friendly to further expansions in downtown than the third candidate, Eric Lipson, and, collectively, they received 63 percent of the vote.
In Warpehoski’s own re-election race, his challenger — Kevin Leeser — had been vocally opposed to the construction of high-rise student housing and was defeated by 1,304 votes.
Leeser told the Daily after the results were released he intends to continue to advocate for improved pedestrian safety — his signature campaign issue — as a private citizen and reiterated that he is unhappy with the city’s current level of safety.
Of the three incumbents, only Kailasapathy — who has frequently been a dissenting voice against the majority on the council — was not endorsed by Mayor Taylor, who opted to endorse her opponent, Jason Frenzel. The Ward 1 race was particularly close, with Kailasapthy and Frenzel neck-and-neck for votes until the final precinct reported.
In an interview after the results were announced, Kailasapathy attributed her victory to her constituents’ satisfaction with her frequently dissenting opinions, particularly in her push for greater transparency regarding a proposed Amtrak project in Ann Arbor.
“This whole issue about the transparency, which erupted a couple of months ago, really made people worried,” she said. “Why should local government be secretive on an issue that should be publicly discussed and publicly debated? I really cared about checks and balances; I really cared about transparency. I strongly believe in these values too. … Just that one issue of transparency tipped the scale for us.”
The three-way Ward 5 race between Krapohl, Lipson and Giannola was the closest of Tuesday night, with Krapohl pulling ahead of Lipson by fewer than 100 votes.
Krapohl expressed relief after the final ballot count was clear and told the Daily his victory affirms the popularity of his pragmatic and non-partisan leadership style among voters.
“There was a large turnout, more than what is normal, so people have said the direction of what they think is important and that did not necessarily fall in line with what my challengers were saying,” he said.
Krapohl’s opponents both conceded the voters of Ann Arbor had made their choice.
“I think that this was a very substantive, honest and fair campaign,” Lipson told the Daily following the release of the election results. “He won fair and square and that’s what it’s all about. The people have made their decision. He is a competent and honest guy. We had policy disagreements and the people made their choice.”
However, Giannola also re-affirmed her policy differences with Krapohl.
“I don’t feel like Graydon did a great job last year,” she said. “But if they vote him back in you get the official that you vote for.”
Kevin Linder and Ishi Mori contributed to the reporting of this article.