"Projected Winners Harrison, Akmon & Cornell Democratic Primary Ann Arbor City Council" is in white on a backdrop of a white outline of Michigan on navy blue
Design by Shannon Stocking

The Ann Arbor City Council will be introducing several new faces to city hall, according to Washtenaw County’s unofficial primary results. Democrats Cynthia Harrison, Dharma Akmon and Jenn Cornell won seats in Wards 1, 4 and 5, respectively. Two incumbents who ran for re-election, Elizabeth Nelson in Ward 4 and Ali Ramlawi in Ward 5, were ousted in their respective races.

All City Council-elects were endorsed by Mayor Christopher Taylor, who also won his re-election bid with 61% of the vote against opponent Anne Bannister. 

Unopposed in the primaries, Democratic candidates Chris Watson and Ayesha Ghazi Edwin will fill the remaining seats for Wards 2 and 3, respectively. Given Ann Arbor’s Democratic lean, candidates who win the August primaries will run unopposed in the Nov. 8 general election, barring any write-in candidates until then. 

Ward 1 –  Cynthia Harrison (D)

Democrat Cynthia Harrison will be the next Councilmember for Ward 1, unofficial results show. Harrison won with 71% of the vote over opponent Angeline Smith, who received 29% of the votes. Harrison’s platform focused on mental health-driven criminal legal reform, accessible transportation and the development of affordable housing.

As a lifelong Ann Arbor resident, Harrison is also a member of Ann Arbor’s Independent Community Police Oversight Commission and Washtenaw County’s 21st Century Policing Compliance Commission

Along with Taylor, Harrison received endorsements from Washtenaw County Sheriff Jerry Clayton and state Sen. Jeff Irwin. Harrison will be the first Black female city Councilmember in 15 years, following Wendy Woods, who served from 2001 to 2007, according to MLive. Prior to Woods, there have been a number of Black Councilmembers, including Larry Hunter from 1982 to 1994 and Pat Vereen-Dixon from 1994 to 1999.

Harrison will serve alongside current Councilmember Lisa Disch, D-Ward 1, following the Nov. 8 general election. 

Ward 4 – Dharma Akmon (D)

Democrat Dharma Akmon is projected to serve as the next city Councilmember for Ward 4, according to Wednesday morning’s unofficial results. Akmon, receiving 49% of the votes, narrowly defeated incumbent Elizabeth Nelson, who received 46% — a margin of 165 votes. Democrat Mozhgan Savabieasfahani also ran for the Ward 4 seat and received 4% of the votes.

“We worked so hard, and we did it. I’m incredibly excited to have won the support of Ward 4, and eagerly look forward to serving you on council,” Akmon wrote on Twitter Wednesday morning. “With a *165* vote margin, every single person that volunteered to get out the vote made the difference. THANK YOU.”

Akmon, who moved to Ann Arbor in 2002, focused her campaign on committing to the city’s A2Zero plan to achieve carbon neutrality by 2030, as well as efforts to reduce reliance on DTE following months of community backlash to the scattered power outages in the last year. Akmon also hopes to address affordable housing and transportation improvements, among other goals.

While earning a Ph.D. at the University of Michigan’s School of Information, Akmon was a member of the Graduate Employees’ Organization and is now an assistant research scientist at the U-M Institute for Social Research. Starting in 2019, Akmon was elected as vice president of the Ann Arbor District Library Board of Trustees.

Nelson, who has served one term on Council starting in 2018, released a statement Wednesday morning thanking Ward 4 constituents for their support. 

“Thank you to everyone who supported my campaign and appreciated my work these last few years! I am grateful for the new friends I have made, folks who share my interest in seeing a local democracy that is transparent and accountable.”

Following the Nov. 8 general election, Akmon will serve on the council alongside current Councilmember Jen Eyer, D-Ward 4.

Ward 5 –  Jenn Cornell (D)

Democrat Jenn Cornell defeated incumbent Ali Ramlawi for the Ward 5 seat on City Council, according to Tuesday night’s unofficial results. As of Wednesday morning, Cornell received 57% of the vote and Ramlawi received 43%. 

Cornell’s campaign page listed several core values, including providing a variety of housing options, implementing an expanded transportation plan and infrastructure improvements. 

With a background in communications, Cornell has worked with and volunteered for multiple local nonprofits and businesses. Cornell is a board member for the Ecology Center, the Main Street Area Association and the Family Learning Institute. Cornell also volunteers with A2Zero, a campaign to achieve carbon neutrality in Ann Arbor by 2030.

Cornell will be serving alongside current Councilmember Erica Briggs, D-Ward 5.

Uncontested Primary Candidates:

Ward 2 – Chris Watson (D)

Ann Arbor native Chris Watson ran on a platform of strengthening city services, supporting climate responsibility through A2Zero, improving roads, increasing housing and affordability, and inclusivity. Watson will be serving alongside current Councilmember Linh Song, D-Ward 2, after the Nov. 8 general election. 

After graduating from Yale University with an economics degree in 2014, Watson returned to Ann Arbor where he now works at the American Mathematical Society to refine MathSciNet, a database for authors of STEM papers. Watson was also elected to the administrative board of the St. Andrews Church in 2021. 

Outgoing Councilmember Kathy Griswold, D-Ward 2, withdrew from the race following Watson’s campaign announcement in April, citing her support for Watson in an interview with MLive.

“I was never going to run if we had a viable candidate, and I couldn’t find one, but I’ve heard nothing but good things about Chris Watson,” Griswold told MLive in April. 

Watson will be Ann Arbor’s first Black male Councilmember since activist Larry Hunter served from 1982 to 1994.

Ward 3 – Ayesha Ghazi Edwin (D)

Ayesha Ghazi Edwin, adjunct lecturer at the University of Michigan School of Social Work, ran for City Council on a campaign to increase dense housing and affordability and improve quality of life for working families, among other goals. 

With a background in civil rights and immigration reform, Ghazi Edwin currently serves as a deputy director of Detroit Disability Power and has been on the Ann Arbor Human Rights Commission for two years. Ghazi Edwin will be serving alongside current Councilmember Travis Radina, D-Ward 3, after the Nov. 8 general election. 

Outgoing Councilmember Julie Grand, D-Ward 3, did not seek re-election and will be stepping down in November. 

Managing News Editor Kristina Zheng and Summer News Editor Irena Li can be reached at krizheng@umich.edu and irenayli@umich.edu. 

Correction: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that Larry Hunger was Ann Arbor’s last Black city Councilmember. Wendy Woods was the last Black Councilmember. She served from 2001 to 2007.