Weiser unseats Deitch on Board of Regents, Ilitch retains position

Wednesday, November 9, 2016 - 2:45am

Echoing the presidential election results in the state, the election for two seats on the University of Michigan’s Board of Regents remained close until the very last precinct.

After staying neck and neck all night, former ambassador Ron Weiser, a GOP candidate, narrowly pulled away to unseat incumbent Regent Laurence Deitch (D) and bring a third Republican voice to the governing body. He will be joined by incumbent Regent Denise Ilitch (D), who was ahead of all other contenders with all counties tallied with 2,028,649 total votes, or 24 percent of ballots cast. Following close behind was Weiser, who received 1,933,376 total votes.

Deitch ultimately received the fourth-highest number of votes with 1,777,378 total votes, or 21 percent of those cast, falling behind the other Republican candidate, Carl Meyers, who received 1,866,524 votes.

The two Democratic candidates received the top vote shares in Washtenaw and Wayne counties, but Weiser’s high performance in other major countries helped lead him to victory. Weiser narrowly trailed Deitch in Oakland county, the second most populous county in the country, as the two received 22.57 percent and 22.61 percent of the vote share respectively. In Macomb, the third most populous county, Weiser beat out Deitch by 24,040 votes.

The former ambassador is also riding on the coattails of a narrow Republican presidential victory in the state. As of midday Wednesday, Trump was narrowly ahead of Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton by just 13,225 votes in Michigan. Clinton conceded to election to Trump early Wednesday morning, before the state’s votes had been totalled.

Weiser’s election will be a shift to the board’s balance of GOP and Democratic members - for the past decade, it has had a 6-2 Democratic majority. Now, it will have a 5-3 Democratic majority. The last time three Republicans sat on the Board was in 2006, when former athletic director David Brandon joined current Regents Andrea Newman (R) and Andrew Richner (R).

Weiser, a prominent state Republican party member and University alumni, campaigned on using his finance expertise as the founder of McKinley Associates to rework the budget to lower tuition. This is Weiser’s second time running a full campaign for regent, after an unsuccessful bid for the seat in 2014.

In an interview early Wednesday morning, Weiser said he is wary of the outcome without Wayne County fully reported, noting that he was up by 160,000 votes at one point in 2014 but lost after Wayne’s votes came in.

However, he said the fact that Trump is pulling ahead on the top of the ballot benefits other local Republican elections.

Overall, he said if elected, his focus remains on keeping the University affordable for all students around the state if elected to the Board.

“My biggest priority is seeing how we can keep tuition for freshman coming in at the same level for all 4 years that they’re in school,” Weiser said. “The other is trying to make sure the people going to Flint and Dearborn have the same quality of education as in Ann Arbor.”

Ilitch, a Detroit businesswoman, ran for her second term on the Board on a platform focusing on student affordability and minimizing tuition costs.

“I want to stay laser-focused on an affordable, accessible, quality education for all students,” she said in an October interview with The Michigan Daily.

Deitch, in his 24th year on the board, emphasized his experience and commitment to diversity during his campaign. Both he and Ilitch criticized Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump and “Trumpism” at a Clinton rally on Monday featuring President Barack Obama, with Deitch tying Weiser to Trump. Weiser is a finance vice chair for the Trump campaign.

Early Wednesday morning, Deitch said he was shocked by the results of the national election, as Donald Trump had 248 electoral votes as of 2:30 a.m. in a race many predicted would swing toward Hillary Clinton, but he was honored to serve for the past 24 years.

“If I win, I’m happy to serve,” he said. “If I lose, I’m honored to have served my time on the board but again, I’m just not sure what’s going to happen.”

Meyers, a Republican from Dearborn, has focused his campaign on three main issues: freezing tuition, improving transparency between the board and students, and increasing in-state enrollment at Flint and Dearborn campuses.

“I think the conversation needs to be bigger than just the number of underrepresented minorities who go here,” Meyers said in October interview with The Michigan Daily. “Focus on black, white, and brown statistics does not do justice to the challenge here.”