Marked by heated disagreements and personal accusations, Ann Arbor’s upcoming mayoral democratic primary continues to see its two candidates remain neck and neck in the race.
The city’s two democratic candidates — current mayor John Hieftje and former local political blogger Patricia Lesko — are vying for the mayoral spot in the forthcoming Aug. 3 state primary elections.
According to a Jun. 4 poll conducted by AnnArbor.com, local voter support for Hieftje and Lesko is split at 44 percent for each candidate. As the mayoral race continues to heat up, the two candidates have also leveraged accusations against one another.
Lesko used a recent public debate to accuse mayor Hieftje, who’s served as mayor of Ann Arbor since 2000, of questionable backroom dealings, according to a Jul. 10 article by AnnArbor.com.
“Has there been backroom dealing? Absolutely,” Lesko said in the article.
A visibly annoyed Hieftje responded by dismissing Lesko’s comments as “conspiracy theories,” the AnnArbor.com article reported.
The heated nature of the debate may have come as a surprise to some, but current Ann Arbor city councilmember Mike Anglin (D–Ward 5) said it’s nothing new for Lesko.
“Pat’s very sincere in what she’s talking about,” Anglin said on Sunday in an interview with The Michigan Daily. “She’s a humorous person. And she can be argumentative.”
That argumentative streak began last August when Lesko began blogging about city politics under the alias “Sam Rosenthal.” Her blog — a2politico.com — criticized Hieftje for what she considered his lack of fiscal responsibility and disregard for key public services.
In a Jan. 13 post, Lesko said, “By 2008, I would have voted for Satan if he’d have run against our mayor.”
Instead, she decided to start her own campaign.
Lesko said her campaign centers on what she calls a “return to the basics.” According to Lesko, this means focusing more on core services the city provides — like police, firefighters and public parks.
“The city’s infrastructure isn’t being tended to,” Lesko said.
However, Hieftje’s supporters argue that he has a firm grasp on city infrastructure and is doing the best work he can in an economic downturn.
Current councilmember Christopher Taylor (D–Ward 3), one of Hieftje’s vocal supporters, said he thinks Lesko is unfairly using the long economic recession against Hieftje.
“The city budget … has experienced substantial losses,” Taylor said in an interview with the Daily on Sunday. “One must consider one’s success based on (available) opportunities. (Hieftje) has led city council to cut expenses … without material impact on services.”
Hieftje — who could not immediately be reached for comment — states on his reelection website that he will “ensure that our City continues to invest in infrastructure” and “maintain focus on providing high-quality core City services.”
According to councilmember Taylor, nearly every current councilmember is likely to support Hieftje.
At the moment, Mike Anglin is the sole councilmember publicly backing Lesko.
Anglin said he’s inspired by what he considers her honesty and commitment to direct communication.
“She’s honest in what she believes,” Anglin said. “She puts herself out there.”
Putting herself “out there” is a risk Lesko said she’s willing to take as part of her goal to expand and encourage citywide communication.
“Have no fear — the A2Politico will be inside city hall,” Lesko said.