It is far from surprising that the Democratic Party should see
its best electoral results in Washtenaw and Wayne counties, with 63
and 69 percent of voters choosing John Kerry last week. While the
national Democratic Party seems to be in shambles, local Democrats
did very well in Ann Arbor and the surrounding municipalities,
raising hopes that the Greenbelt to preserve open space in and
around the City of Ann Arbor may soon become a reality.

From Scio Township, where Democrats now hold all six of the
board positions they ran for, to Monroe County, where Democrat
Kathy Angerer won incumbent Republican Matt Milosch’s seat in
the state House, the local Democratic Party had a very successful
election day.

Many of the successful Democrats ran on platforms that promoted
the prospects of the Greenbelt proposal, which will be instrumental
in protecting local open space from urban sprawl. A lack of
cooperation between surrounding townships and counties threatened
the Greenbelt and many other proposals, such as the idea of
instituting a train service between Ann Arbor and Detroit.

By voting in so many anti-sprawl officials, surrounding
townships have made the Greenbelt a true priority, and Ann Arbor
residents may not have to worry about bearing the entire burden of
the cost of such an effort alone anymore.

Beyond the issue of the Greenbelt, the acquisition of more local
offices by Democrats may signal a larger shift in this area of
southeast Michigan. Some of the townships that showed solid support
for Kerry, such as Pittsfield, Superior and Scio, were expected, in
part because more urbanized areas are likely to vote Democratic.
But other Democratic victories were much less predictable, such as
the election of Pam Byrnes over Republican Joe Yekulis for State
Representative. Byrnes won in a more rural area where the
republicans have a strong presence.

It may be, in fact, that the Republican Party’s divisive
agenda turned off a significant block of voters who are not
necessarily as conservative on issues like gay marriage and
abortion. Clearly, Washtenaw County, while not without its strong
Republican influence, remains one of the most left-leaning counties
in the state of Michigan.

However, it should not go without mentioning that local
Democrats as a whole ran smart, aggressive campaigns and were able
to present a clear, attractive message to voters. Whereas national
Democrats sought the center, the locals sought the true left.
There, they found a number of citizens in support of smarter growth
in Washtenaw County. That, above all else, appears to have made a
difference.

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