Republicans gained one seat on the Ann Arbor City Council last night, with GOP challenger Michael Reid edging out Democratic Councilwoman Joan Lowenstein by a 1.5 percent margin. It was Lowenstein”s first election since her appointment to the 2nd Ward seat last year.
Reid, a portfolio manager, attributed the win to his experience with budgetary issues as the city is forced to work with a smaller budget. He and fellow Republicans, including former Mayor Ingrid Sheldon, celebrated last night at Cleveland”s Gill and Grill on Main Street.
“A lot of people realized that budget issues are real important and I have a lot of experience in that,” he said.
He also said his opposition to accessory apartments extra apartments built onto houses put him over the top.
Residents were “concerned it would change the character of the city,” he said.
Democrat Robert Johnson of the 1st Ward and Republican Marcia Higgins of the 4th Ward easily won re-election, while 3rd Ward Councilwoman Heidi Cowing Herrell and 5th Ward incumbent Wendy Ann Woods, both Democrats, ran unopposed.
Democrats now hold an 8-3 majority on the council, including Mayor John Hieftje. Five of the 10 seats are up for election each year.
Lowenstein, who waited out the close election in the 2nd Ward with fellow Democrats at Arbor Brewing Company on Washington Street, promised to remain active in local affairs. Democrats crossed their fingers as they waited for the results from the ward”s final precinct to come in. But the net two-vote gain she received in that precinct was not enough to overcome Reid”s lead.
“A lot of other politicians have lost elections and gone on to win other ones,” she said.
University of Michigan College Democrats Chair Eric Feldman said students could have delivered the close election to Lowenstein.
“A heavily Republican ward could have turned Democratic if we had had higher student turnout,” he said.
In the 1st Ward, Johnson defeated Republican challenger Scott Wojack, 77 percent to 22 percent.
Johnson pledged to “build relationships with the surrounding townships” and deal with the economics concerning lower income housing. “We”re going to have to deal with the economic climate,” he said. “This is not an issue people are going to want to deal with.”
Wojack, who also suffered a loss in last year”s 52nd District state House election, said he did well for a heavily Democratic ward. He hopes to work with the city to increase student voter turnout and promote renewable energy.
“I would like to see the city move to half of the people using renewable energy,” he said. “It may take time to work with the community and share my ideas.”
In the 4th Ward, challenger Michael Nowak failed in his attempt to give the Green Party its first council member, losing by about 36 percent. Nowak had hoped that without a Democrat running in the race, he would have a better chance at defeating Republican incumbent Higgins.
“I am very pleased to serve the constituents of the 4th Ward,” Higgins said last night. She said she would work to “remove barriers” to making housing in the city more affordable.
“We”re pleased that the Green Party is making progress,” Nowak said. “We”ve tripled our numbers since the last election.”
Nowak was satisfied with the turnout after the Green Party”s second year on the ballet. He plans to work on increasing voter turnout among students and has not decided if he will run again.
“The University of Michigan is real strong in terms of social justice,” he said. “The Green Party really fits in with their views.”