Longtime Independent Jane Lumm announces candidacy for City Council as Democrat

Wednesday, April 22, 2020 - 10:39pm

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File Photo/Daily

Councilmember Jane Lumm, I-Ward 2, will be running to hold onto her seat on City Council, this time as a Democrat.

Lumm has represented Ward 2 as an Independent since November 2011. In 2004, Lumm ran unsuccessfully as a Republican for mayor. From 1993 through 1998, Lumm served on City Council as a Republican. 

In a statement to MLive, Lumm explained her decision to run again, citing her institutional experience.

“Over the past few months, six of the other nine ward representatives on the council — all Democrats — have urged me to run for re-election this year,” Lumm said. “They tell me that they need to be able to draw on my long institutional memory about how Ann Arbor government works, and my many hours of poring over the agenda for each council meeting.”

Lumm did not respond to request for comment in time for publication. 

In 2017, Lumm said she would not be running again for re-election in 2020 as her chances of winning as an Independent would be “zero.” 

“This will be it for me," Lumm said in an interview with MLive in April 2017. “This is the end of the road for me.”

Before that, she said the last time she would run for council would be in 2015, but later changed her mind for the 2017 election.

Lumm will be facing Linh Song, board president of the Ann Arbor District Library, in the Democratic primary on Aug. 4.

Councilmember Jack Eaton, D-Ward 4, has endorsed Lumm. Eaton, who has supported Lumm in previous elections, told The Daily his decision to support Lumm was the result of her strong work ethic and institutional knowledge.

“She and I don’t always agree, but I always understand how she reaches her conclusions and her vote,” Eaton said. “I have great admiration for her. She has a set of principles that she is true to.”

Eaton said Lumm’s decision to switch parties and run as a Democrat is not unusual in Ann Arbor, citing former Councilmembers Stephen Rapundalo and Marcia Higgins. Though she is fiscally conservative, Eaton said it makes sense for Lumm to run as part of the Democratic Party due to her positions on various social issues.

“Ann Arbor Republicans are considerably more moderate than what we think of Republicans in our current time,” Eaton said. “Jane is very liberal, progressive even, on social issues such as choice, reproductive rights, LGBT issues, guns, across the board.”

Lumm has long been critical of the city’s partisan elections, arguing that it breaks with common practice and makes Ann Arbor an outlier among cities in the state. Apart from Ionia and Ypsilanti, which also have partisan local elections, most other municipalities in Michigan have nonpartisan races, in which candidates do not campaign as members of a political party. 

Over the years, Lumm has repeatedly introduced ballot proposals before City Council to allow residents to vote to end partisan city elections. Her efforts were consistently shot down. 

In an interview with The Daily in October 2018, Lumm said political parties are not useful in local races and denied that her proposal was not tied to her status as the only Independent on an otherwise entirely Democratic City Council.

“This isn’t about me,” Lumm said. “Local elections are not philosophical, ideological issues where party matters. It’s best practice. We’ll have higher turnout, we’ll attract more qualified candidates. It would require more voter scrutiny on the issues or candidates’ positions on the issues and the candidates’ priorities and those are all really good things. I think it’s just good government and that’s why I think we should be doing this.”

In July, Council voted 7-4 in favor of placing a city charter amendment proposal on the November ballot to let voters decide if they want to switch to nonpartisan elections. However, Mayor Christopher Taylor vetoed the measure.

In his letter explaining the veto, Taylor said partisan affiliation was an important expression of a politician’s beliefs.

“Some who support non-partisan elections claim that our form of local government is unfair to Ann Arbor Republicans and that it prevents them from running for office and participating in government,” Taylor wrote. “Nothing in our system prevents these folks from running or, if elected, serving. Republicans do not run for office in Ann Arbor because the values of the modern Republican party are inconsistent with the values of the vast majority Ann Arborites. They do not run because they will not win.”

Managing News Editor Leah Graham can be reached at leahgra@umich.edu. Daily News Editor Barbara Collins can be reached at bcolli@umich.edu