Taylor wins Ann Arbor mayoral race

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Ann Arbor Mayor elect Chris Taylor interacts with supporters at a watch party at the Ann Arbor Brewing Company Tuesday, Buy this photo

By Emma Kerr, Daily Staff Reporter
Published November 4, 2014

Christopher Taylor was elected mayor of Ann Arbor Tuesday night in a landslide victory, earning 84.21 percent of the vote. His competitor, independent candidate Bryan Kelly, garnered 4,728 votes, approximately 15.34 percent of the vote.

Along with Taylor’s assumption of the mayoral seat, City Councilmembers Sumi Kailasapathy (D–Ward 1) and Chuck Warpehoski (D-Ward 5) were reelected as incumbents, in addition to the three councilmembers elect Julie Grand (D-Ward 1), Graydon Kraphol (D-Ward 3) and Kirk Westphal (D-Ward 2).

“I am just so excited to have been elected mayor,” Taylor said. “It is a great honor and Ann Arbor is such a wonderful place; I am thrilled and honored. The city is really going in the right track. I think we are making progress just taking care of the basics as well as improving people’s way of life. We’ve got a lot to do, we’re not perfect, but I think these areas are going in the right direction.”

Since the declaration of his candidacy in December 2013, Taylor spent more money than any other candidate in this highly contested race. Though his campaign came to a screeching halt in August, he raised a total of $75,698 in the months preceding the primary. Fellow Councilmembers Stephen Kunselman (D-Ward 3), Sabra Briere (D- Ward 1) and Sally Hart Petersen (D-Ward 2) all ran in the Democratic Primary alongside Taylor, who carried 47.57 percent of the vote.

As an independent candidate, Kelly’s goal in the election was not entirely to win, but rather to spark debate and turn an uncontested, one-party election into an opportunity for further discussion of the issues surrounding the city. Following the announcement of his candidacy in July, Kelly did little campaigning and focused on developing his position on the issues themselves through his website and various mayoral debates.

Taylor said while his victory was not a surprise, Kelly took initiative and showed a passion for local politics.

“I think that it is a democracy and people who want to run can and chose to run, and he did make that decision and I hope that it was an experience that met his expectations,” Taylor said.

Taylor is currently in his third term as a city councilmember representing Ward 3. As the first new mayor in 14 years, Taylor has positioned himself to follow in current Ann Arbor Mayor John Hieftje’s footsteps. His approach to key issues in this election, which include development, University and city relations and addressing infrastructure needs, echo that of Hieftje’s.

For Kelly, he said the race was a good experience, generating thoughtful debate about the issues in Ann Arbor while keeping a lighthearted atmosphere. On top of that, Kelly said he was happy to see his work didn’t go unnoticed.

“I did not know what to expect and it feels really good when you’re an independent to see 5,000 people vote for you because that means 5,000 people took the time to bubble in your name,” Kelly said. “I feel like even as a newcomer to politics, this is a very welcome development. Chris obviously received a lot more, and that makes sense, but I’m thrilled with this.”

Kelly added that he is still interested in city government.

“I’m going to keep an eye on how the city council Ward 1 race and see if I agree with the people who are running for that,” he said.

Taylor considers himself to have a balanced and practical approach to development, considering each construction opportunity individually and seeking to amend current zoning to better represent the needs of the city.

Attending the University as an undergraduate and a law student, his perspective on town-gown relations centers on communication. Taylor said he expects to meet with University President Mark Schlissel next week to discuss issues surrounding the University’s relationship with the city.

Furthermore, Taylor recognized infrastructure to be one of the key issues following last winter’s harsh conditions. He said this is in many ways already being addressed by the county as a whole, which voted last month for a one-year millage that would be levied on Washtenaw County residents for the explicit purpose of fixing roads. While Taylor said his experience has prepared him to become mayor, there will still be new challenges.

“I’m well-versed in present issues having been a councilmember, but there are naturally a lot of things a mayor does that I have never done that will be new,” Taylor said.

Taylor said a private swearing in will occur next Monday and the public event will come at his first council meeting as mayor Nov. 17th.

New councilmembers Grand, Kraphol, and Westphal all ran unopposed in the general election, but Grand said they used this time between the primary and the time when they will take their seat on council to get an early start learning the ropes of city council.

“There are three of us who are all running unopposed, so we have started orientation early. There is going to be a learning curve,” Grand said. “We’ve had a couple meetings with the city attorney, but things like legal details can’t be learned in just a brief orientation.”

Westphal said in the next few weeks, communication will be key as he begins his time on city council.

“There are some clear signs that Ann Arbor is going through some evolution,” Westphal said. “I encourage collaboration and coming together to see what Ann Arbor will look like in the future, so to the extent that we can keep everything that is special about Ann Arbor and yet welcome more people here and more opportunity, the better.”

Daily Staff Reporter Jack Turman contributed reporting.