With the controversy regarding the presidential election overshadowing other major races this election cycle, it might be tough to think about how other races impact us locally. The decisions made by Alger County neighbors make statements about our state and region that will impact us locally. These are those races.
RACE: Michigan District 107
WINNER: John Damoose (R)
WHY IT’S IMPORTANT: A major legislative role will leave the U.P.
First-time politician Damoose beat out seven other more established Republicans to replace Lee Chatfield (R), the current Michigan State Congress Speaker of the House. Chatfield was ineligible to run again due to term limits.
For those that don’t know, the Upper Peninsula only has three and a half representatives — that half coming from the 107th, which is split between the eastern U.P. and the northernmost part of the lower peninsula. Whether you liked Chatfield or not, the power that comes with house leadership is something that benefited the region as a whole. Losing out on someone with rural economic experience and multiple Great Lakes in their district might mean that bills benefiting the area will not get the respect they deserve.
RACE: Proposals to build a Schoolcraft County jail
WINNER: Both failed
WHY IT’S IMPORTANT: Potential revenue streams for Alger County
For the second time, Schoolcraft County citizens turned away the necessary bond and millage to build a new county jail. Unlike the 2018 measure, this one would have used existing aspects of the current county jail architecturally, but the $9.99 million bond and the millage to pay for it both failed.
Alger County already has contracts with Luce County to lodge individuals in the Alger County jail. The amount of people needing to be lodged — either as they await a trial or as they serve a sentence — helps justify the costs of running the jail, so taking individuals lodged on contract can help cut costs for Alger County. If Schoolcraft County has issues lodging people in its current jail, this could mean big bucks for Alger County government.
RACE: Marquette Area Public School Board
WINNERS: Jennifer Ray and Jennifer Klipp
WHY IT’S IMPORTANT: Impact on school of choice in Western Alger County
The two ran jointly as Jen and Jenn to take the MAPS school board spots, but despite what many people realize in Munising is that the battle for students between Marquette and AuTrain-Onota, Munising and Superior Central is prevalent. ATO is only K-8, so those high school years are usually spent at one of the neighboring school districts. Occasionally one will go to a different kind of school like Northstar or Munising Baptist, but usually, it’s between the public schools.
One of the underlying aspects of this race was that Ray and Klipp were vocally against the Redmen moniker while their opponents supported retaining it. How, or even if, the mascot name discussion comes into school of choice is up in the air, but one of the consistent starters for MSHS hockey team lives in Rumely. You could also see more conservative individuals in the Skandia area move their kid out of the Marquette district and into Gwinn or Superior Central or the kids in Onota Township take the drive to Munising.
RACE: Forsyth Township Trustees
WINNER: Neil Armatti (D) and Leonard Bodenus II (D)
WHY IT’S IMPORTANT: Economic future of the employers of many Alger County residents
Since the KI Sawyer Air Force Base was decommissioned in 1995, 90 percent of its residential population went into Forsyth Township. For comparison purposes, 90 percent of KI Sawyer’s population is approximately the population of the city of Munising. In 25 years, no KI Sawyer residents have been elected to the township board.
That’s a staggering number when you realize the impact that KI Sawyer’s industrial park has on employment for residents of Western Alger County. Argonics and Superior Extrusion both employ more people than Alger County’s largest employers of Alger Correctional Facility and Neenah Paper. The KI Sawyer factories have expanded significantly bringing on more workers, taking up more land and anchoring a district that has no direct input from their closest neighbors.
Seeing how separated the Forsyth Township Board can be from KI Sawyer, it does impact the decision-making process used by the elected officials. Seeing what businesses can and have been able to do with the status quo is intriguing, but given the area’s impact on Alger County’s job market makes Forsyth Township an area to watch for decades to come.
RACE: Houghton County Clerk
WINNER: Jennifer Kelly (D)
WHY IT’S IMPORTANT: It was the most talked about U.P. election downstate
Before the protests over ballot counting in Detroit and the tabulation errors in Anterim County, the most dramatic race in Michigan seemed to be the Houghton County Clerk. Alleged threats of killing pets, one law firm representing multiple parties close to the issue, closed-door public meetings, harassment investigations — this had all the drama of a primetime soap opera. Kelly initially made a complaint about a call made by a Genesee County Commissioner candidate that harassed Kelly in the presence of Kelly’s opponent Justin Kasieta. Kelly was then sued by a former deputy clerk for workplace intimidation by the same law firm that represents Kasieta. Ultimately, Kelly retained her seat, but the lawsuit is still pending at time of publication.
While the drama would make a great made-for-TV movie, the fact is many downstate news organizations covered the race. Not a good look for the Copper Country or the Upper Peninsula in general. But hey, Matthew Smith, the guy who actually made the phone call, lost his Genesee County Commissioner race as well.
RACE: Wayne County Prosecutor
WINNER: Kym Worthy (D)
WHY IT’S IMPORTANT: Michigan’s election laws can’t interpret the results
Worthy ran a fine race, winning by almost 64 points. But with all due respect to Worthy, this race is on this list because of her challenger, Libertarian Daniel Ziemba. No Republicans ran for the position, so this was a two-horse race and Ziemba garnished 125,944 votes (17.1 percent) in the effort.
This is the first time in Michigan history that a third party has received more votes in a municipal or county election than a state election. The Libertarians second-most vote getter was Jon Eglas for the Wayne State University Board of Governors, who had 125,792 votes, but only 1.3 percent in that race. Depending on which election the Bureau of Elections accepts can have major impact on maintaining ballot access for the Libertarians.
Out of all the Independents, Libertarians, Greens, US Taxpayers and Working Class candidates, only Mary Anne Hering (WC) received more votes than Ziemba, grabbing 146,558 votes in a fifth-place effort for the State Board of Education, so this ruling could have a trickle-down effect to other parties.