From staff and wire reports

Michiganians will cast ballots today in mayoral and other local elections, while Traverse City, Kalamazoo and Huntington Woods all put gay rights measures before voters.

In Ann Arbor, three of the city”s five City Council seats up for election this year are contested.

Councilman Robert Johnson, a Democrat, faces Republican Scott Wojack in the 1st Ward. Incumbent Democrat Joan Lowenstein is challenged by Republican Michael Reid in the 2nd Ward. In the 4th Ward, GOP Councilwoman Marcia Higgins faces Green Party challenger Michael Nowak.

Ann Arbor voters will also decide whether to renew a 2-mill levy for street reconstruction for the next five years.

Elsewhere in southeast Michigan, voters pick mayors in cities including Detroit, Dearborn, Lincoln Park, Pontiac, Southfield, Sterling Heights and Westland. Lansing residents cast ballots for mayor, and voters in Traverse City pick a mayor for the first time since 1940.

One Michigan Senate seat the 12th district, formerly held by David Jaye also is up for grabs.

Residents of Traverse City and Kalamazoo will decide whether to adopt a charter amendment that prohibits the cities from passing laws that would offer civil protection to gays. In Huntington Woods, voters will decide whether to ratify an anti-discrimination ordinance that protects many groups, including gays.

Those measures have drawn heated debate over whether homosexuals deserve the same protections from discrimination as racial and religious minorities. Gay rights initiatives are on the ballot in at least two other U.S. cities Houston and Miami Beach and are not new to Michigan.

A dozen Michigan cities have policies, some nonbinding, against discrimination based on sexual orientation. In the last two years, voters have rejected gay rights measures in Ferndale and Royal Oak. One in Ypsilanti was approved.

Meanwhile, Detroiters braced for a night of surprises in the campaign for mayor as polls showed a tight race between City Council President Gil Hill and state Rep. Kwame Kilpatrick. Both candidates stumped for votes Monday in last-minute campaign blitzes.

A Detroit Free Press/WXYZ-TV telephone poll published yesterday indicated that Kilpatrick had 42 percent and Hill had 35 percent and 23 percent of voters undecided. A Detroit News/WDIV-TV poll published Sunday showed Hill with 48 percent and Kilpatrick with 47 percent.

The Free Press/WXYZ telephone poll of 401 likely voters was conducted Wednesday, Thursday and Sunday by EPIC/MRA of Lansing. It had an error margin of plus or minus 5 percentage points.

The News/WDIV poll was conducted Wednesday through Friday. The survey of 500 likely Detroit voters by SurveyUSA had an error margin of plus or minus 4.5 percentage points.

The winner will succeed Dennis Archer, who is not seeking a third term as mayor of the nation”s 10th-largest city. While the mayor”s race was going down to the wire, 18 candidates were vying to fill nine seats on the City Council.

Traverse City voters will pick a mayor after approving a change to the city charter to elect the mayor by popular vote. Previously, the mayor was appointed by the city commission. Commissioners Margaret Dodd and Phill Orth face off in what has become one of the most anxiously anticipated city elections in years.

In Dearborn, incumbent Michael Guido faces challenger Abed Hammoud, a Wayne County assistant prosecutor. Hammoud is the first serious Arab American candidate to run for the office in the city, home to an estimated 20,000 Arab-Americans. The vote could test the strength of the Arab American voting bloc.

In the 12th district, Republican state Rep. Alan Sanborn faces Democrat Carl Territo, a Utica school board member, with the winner completing Jaye”s term. Jaye was expelled from the Senate in May after several drunken driving arrests and accusations that he had assaulted his then-fiancee.

The victor in the special election in the traditionally Republican district will bring the Senate”s membership to a full 38 lawmakers, but won”t affect partisan control of the body. Republicans hold a 22-15 Senate majority.

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