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Understanding Your Ballot

Primaries to be held Tuesday August 4th in Michigan

Next Tuesday, August 4th, is the Michigan state primary election. The general election in November is the big draw nationally, including the race between president Donald Trump and his Democratic challenger Joe Biden, and it steals most of the headlines between now and then. However, on the local level, for residents of Bruce and Washington Township, most of the decisions relating to who will represent your communities over the next four years will be decided. This is because the candidates running for Supervisor, Clerk, Treasurer and the Trustee positions are running almost exclusively on the Republican ballot. That means, whomever wins the primary election, will run unopposed in November, making the primary, by default, the general election. If you follow all of that, great. If not, don’t worry, we will walk you through the process here and help you understand what is on your ballot and how you can have the most say possible in your community.


Let’s start with how primary elections work. Unlike the general election, where you can vote for any candidate, regardless or party, in each individual race, in primary elections you must limit your votes to one party or the other as you are not picking who wins the election (officially) but rather who will represent each party in the November General Election. Now to be clear, Michigan does not have party registration, so you won’t be registered to either party and you are able to determine which ballot you vote on independently in all future primaries. There are two types of primary elections, open primaries and closed primaries. Michigan has both. The Presidential Primary, held in March of this year was a closed primary, in which voters selected which party ballot they wanted to receive. The August 4th primary is an open primary. In open primaries, all voters receive the same ballot with all the candidates listed, but are only allowed to vote in the column of the party they choose. So, this means if you choose a Democratic ballot, you will not be eligible to vote for your township representatives. This can create quite a conundrum for Independent or Democratic leaning voters. With that in mind, we want to break down your ballot and help you decide what the right choice is for you to make on August 4th. For voters in Bruce and Washington Township, there will be thirteen and fourteen separate races or initiatives on the ballots, respectively. Nine of them are identical. Two National primaries, one for U.S. Senator, where John James (R) and incumbent Gary Peters (D) are both running unopposed. The other National race is for the U.S. House of Representatives 10th District of Michigan. There, two-term Representative Paul Mitchell is retiring and there are competitive primaries on both sides of the ballot. More on that below. There are also four county wide races; for Prosecutor, Clerk, Treasurer and Sheriff, and one statewide race for Michigan House District 36. The Michigan House of representatives race is already set, just as the U.S. Senate one is. Incumbent Doug Wozniak R) will face-off in November against challenger Robert Murphy (D). The County races are a little bit of a different story, we will also touch on those below. Finally there are the ballot initiatives. Both Bruce and Washington will be voting on a Parks and Recreation millage renewal and a STAR senior citizen transportation millage renewal. Additionally, Washington has a Fire, Rescue and Maintenance special assessment renewal unique to it’s ballot. The ballot initiatives will be featured in a separate, “no-partisan” section, meaning all voters will have a say, regardless of which party column they vote in.

The final four items on the ballot are the same, but different. Each township will be selecting a Supervisor, Treasurer and Clerk as well as Trustees (two in Bruce, four in Washington) who will all serve four year terms. As mentioned at the onset, nearly all of these candidates are running as Republicans. (The lone exception is Susan Hier for Trustee in Washington Township) Still, these people often have a much greater impact on your everyday life than County, State and National representatives. So what to do, what to do? If you’re a Republican voter, your choice is easy. Brush up on which Republican candidates you like in the County races and start deciding who you want to represent your township over the next four years. If you are an Independent or Democratic voter the choice is much more difficult. Do you vote for Democratic candidates you want to see on the general election ballot or do you leave that choice to the rest of the blue voters and opt instead to cast a Republican ballot and weigh in on the township races? Here is a breakdown of each County-wide race and the U.S. House of Representatives contest, where there is a choice either between multiple Democrat and/or Republican candidates to help you make your decision.

Macomb County Prosecuting Attorney (One, Four Year Term)

With former County prosecutor Eric Smith having just been convicted on charges of embezzlement and corruption, both parties have contested primaries as restoring the public trust and confidence in the office emerges as the central issue of the race. On the Republican side, state Senator and Majority Leader Peter Lucido is the leading candidate, but long-time Romeo/Washington/Bruce resident and challenger Richard Goodman has three decades of experience in the Prosecutors office and unlike Lucido, who many expect to run for governor in 2022, has no future political aspirations.


On the Democratic side, five candidates are duking it out led by experienced judges Mary Chrznowski and Jodi Switalski. Progressive attorney Saima Khalil, State Bar President Tom Rombach and attorney Eva Tkaczyk are also in the race and all are very qualified choices. If you are a voter who feels strongly about one these five Democrats being on the November ballot to face Lucido or Goodman, you can only vote for that person if you forego your right to vote in township races.

Macomb County Sheriff (One, Four Year Term)

Anthony Wickersham is the Democratic incumbent here and, running unopposed in the primary as he awaits either Terrence Mekoski or Michael Wrathall in November, whichever one wins the Republican primary.

Macomb County Treasurer (One, Four Year Term)

In an interesting race, Conservative incumbent Larry Rocca is actually being contested by a pair from his own party. Retired Deputy Treasurer Sherri Murphy and Entrepreneur Erin Stahl are both aiming for the Republican nomination. Meanwhile the lone Democrat on the primary ballot is Lorie Barnwell, currently the City of Warren Treasurer. She, like Sheriff Wickersham, will not be contested until the November General election.

Macomb County Clerk/Register of Deeds (One, Four Year Term)

The most wide open race might be that of the Clerk/Register of Deeds position. Democratic Incumbent Fred Miller is running unopposed in the primary, he won a narrow victory in a 2018 special election to replace disgraced former-Clerk Faren Spranger who was removed from office. Four Republicans, Anthony Forlini, Daniel Russell, Jackie Ryan and Julie Williams are competing to square-off with Miller in November.

U.S. House of Representatives, District 10 (One, Two Year Term)

The choice for Democrats is between Kelly Noland and Kim Bizon. Bizon was the nominee in 2018 and was defeated by Paul Mitchell. The departing Mitchell will leave three Republicans to vie for the seat in the heavily conservative district. Local resident Lisa McClain and Port Huron’s Shane Hernandez are at the top of the polls right now and retired brigadier general Doug Slocum is also vying for the nomination.


To recap, if you are a Bruce or Washington Township resident and you choose a Democratic ballot, you are giving up a say in your local elections to have a say as to which Democrat will be on the November ballot in the U.S. House District Ten race and Macomb County Prosecutor Race. And in Washington, a chance to vote for Democratic Trustee candidate Susan Hier. There is no right or wrong choice, but it is important to be informed and to understand the consequences of your choices. Over the course of this week, 32 & Main will continue to look at your ballot and help everyone feel empowered to exercise their civic rights and do their American duty.


Article by Joe Malburg for 32andMain.com

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