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Posted on Wed, May 12, 2010 : 11:28 a.m.

Alicia Ping files to run in place of sister in Washtenaw County's 3rd District commissioner race

By Ryan J. Stanton

In the final hour before Tuesday's candidate filing deadline elapsed, Washtenaw County Commissioner Jessica Ping withdrew her name from the running, deciding not to seek reelection to her seat in the county's 3rd District.

In her place, her sister Alicia Ping, a longtime member of the Saline City Council, filed to run instead.

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It's a move that's drawing criticism from members of the Democratic Party. The Ping sisters are both Republican.

Jessica Ping, who was elected in 2006 and reelected in 2008, said in an interview on Tuesday she thought long and hard about running for a third term and decided to put her political career on hold - at least for now.

"I have been torn all day today," she said. "What it comes down to is that I've had to prioritize my life, and my family is my No. 1 priority."

She said it wasn't until Mother's Day when she was sitting with her 5-year-old son Sullivan that she made the decision. She noted that she's recently married, expecting her second child in August, and trying to balance a full-time job with family commitments.

"I love being a county commissioner, I love what I do, but the reality is I love being a mom and a wife, too," she said.

Democrats say the fact that the Ping sisters waited until the last minute to make the switch without telling anyone was disingenuous. They argue other 3rd District candidates might have come forward if they had known it was going to be an open seat, and they wouldn't have to face an incumbent. Alicia Ping is the only candidate on the ballot now.


Jessica Ping

"I don't think that's playing fair. It's gamesmanship," said Stuart Dowty, chairman of the Washtenaw County Democratic Party. "It's not a principled way to operate in the political system. I think it also reflects on the character of a person involved who chooses to engage in politics in that way."

Frank Parkinson, a Democrat who has eyed the 3rd District seat in the past and lost to Jessica Ping in 2008, said he assumed she was running again and hadn't considered whether he would run if she didn't.

"I don't know that it would have made a big difference to me, but it might have made a difference to other prospective candidates had they known they weren't running against an incumbent," Parkinson said.

Jessica Ping, who originally filed paperwork in January to seek reelection, said she expected criticism for her late decision to not run. She said she didn't want to let down her party, which is why she approached her sister.

"I just felt this huge relief that I wasn't going to stick the party with nobody, and that somebody would step in, and we believe in a lot of the same issues," she said. "I think there's a great person that's going to be able to be in this spot and she's very qualified."

Mark Boonstra, chairman of the Washtenaw County Republican Committee, said he didn't have advance knowledge of the decision.

"I understand it was a late decision, that Jessica decided for personal reasons that she had to step aside," he said. "I respect that, I had no advance notice of that, and I'm confident that, if she's elected, Alicia will serve the county well."


Alicia Ping

Alicia Ping is a lifelong resident of Washtenaw County and longtime member of the Saline City Council. She is a board member of the Foundation for Saline Area Schools, Saline Area Senior Center, Saline Environmental Commission as well as many other local, state, and national organizations.

“I am stepping up to run for county commissioner to continue serving my community," she said. "My background in finance, along with my common sense approach to budgeting and management, will be valuable in the effort to keep Washtenaw County on solid financial footing.”

A personal financial representative with the Northwestern Mutual Financial Network, Alicia Ping said she believes she is in a strong position to provide county taxpayers with the leadership they deserve.

Jessica Ping said she'll miss being on the county board.

"I feel like I've always made sure that I've put my constituents first, making sure I represented the county and my constituents, and making sure that the western side of the county was heard," she said. "There were certain things I brought forth and I feel like I've done well. I'm not saying my political career is over, just the timing right now is not right for me."

Boonstra said he's encouraged to see so many Republicans turn out to run in this year's races. GOP candidates have lined up in 10 of the 11 county commissioner districts.

The only race where there isn't a Republican is in the 10th District, where Chase Ingersoll decided not to run against Conan Smith to instead seek the 53rd District state House seat being vacated by Smith's wife, Rebekah Warren.

Washtenaw County’s 3rd District includes Saline and Manchester and the townships of Bridgewater, Freedom, Lodi, Manchester, Saline, Sharon and a portion of Scio.

Ryan J. Stanton covers government for Reach him at or 734-623-2529.



Wed, May 19, 2010 : 8:48 a.m.

I couldn't disagree more. If you run against a relatively popular incumbent, especially in GOP, you risk alienating the party. Why is this bad? First, you'll lose the election. Second, you'll lose any party support in the future. You might as well kiss your political future good-bye. How can you say nepotism isn't alive and well in politics? The Dean of the House, John Dingell, took over his father's seat. Monica and John Conyers; Carl and Sandy Levin; George & George Bush; Bill and Hillary. Yes, it's a little different from the corporate world in that you must be elected, but the only GOP candidate in a solid GOP district is almost guaranteed to win, so to me, it's basically giving the seat to your sister (who may be well qualified and might be an exceptional Commissioner...but so are a lot of other people who don't happen to be related to the incumbent.) If this isn't nepotism, please tell me what it is.


Mon, May 17, 2010 : 4:18 p.m.

Brad: Timing is everything and always has been. If someone was serious about challenging Jessica, whether they were Rep. or Dem, they should've acted upon their wishes. Can't win if you don't run. Nepotism is usually only an issue in corporate america, not politics...the basis of nepotism is the reason we have different political parties. Look at your definition of nepotism.


Fri, May 14, 2010 : 12:39 p.m.

They both might be great Commissioners, but I agree with skeptics. It looks bad for two reasons: Timing - Leaves little time for other highly-qualified GOP challengers to get signatures (sorry dems, you have no shot at winning), and the hasty choice makes me wonder about her decision-making skills. Nepotism - Since Ping's victory is almost guaranteed, Ping basically gave her seat to her sister. Will her sister use this political position as a springboard to further her career? On her political CV, will she add an asterisk that her sister gave her the job?

Steve the Wookiee

Thu, May 13, 2010 : 9:04 a.m.

@ salinemama - You are probably right, District 3 hasn't elected a Democrat before. Prior to 2008 this country had never elected an African-American president, that doesn't mean you stop trying. @ Susan Niethammer - You're right (at least about me) I don't live in District 3 and District 3 can elect whom ever they like but they should be given the best possible candidate (which may or may not be one of the Ping sisters). The District 3 seat on the county Board of Commissioners is not the province of the Ping sisters, it belongs to the residents.


Thu, May 13, 2010 : 8:32 a.m.

I'm completely with A2Law. Dems asleep at the wheel!!! Anyone in politics know that one must be PROACTIVE, never REACTIVE!! It really comes down to this rather simple concept.

susan niethammer

Thu, May 13, 2010 : 8:04 a.m.

It would be interesting to know how many, IF ANY of these folks that are upset live in the District 3. You question their integrity but you don't identify yourself. I would have to ask who the shallow and shameless ones are.


Thu, May 13, 2010 : 7:36 a.m.

@Dems - Stop your whining! Alicia will be great for the county...its just an added bonus shes fiscally responsible.


Wed, May 12, 2010 : 9:17 p.m.

Agreed that local Democrats were asleep at the wheel. And neither Ping sister dare deny experiencing that adrenaline rush and twinge of deceit when the bait & switch paperwork was pushed over the counter in the final hour. Can't recall a single campaign initiative that was navigated to fruition over the last four years. The county Republican Party is a tight little clique that endorsed Ping in the '06 primary without precedent and has systemically excluded newcomers and fresh ideas. They need only look in the mirror to realize why the Democratic Party has a stranglehold over Washtenaw County.

Jimmy Olsen

Wed, May 12, 2010 : 8:57 p.m.

@salinemama Well, the write in is still an option for you. Why don't you toss your hat into the ring and prove us all wrong. From the "wind of change" in Washington to the "can't balance" a budget bunch in Lansing, politicians are proving your statement so accurate. "We should just continue to let shallow, dishonest, ineffective politicians run our county (and country) into the ground."


Wed, May 12, 2010 : 8:44 p.m.

@Stevethewookie: I doubt that anyone was asleep over in the Dem camp. To the best of my knowledge, the 3rd district has NEVER elected a democratic commissioner. As a matter of fact, they could run a Dem on the general election ticket by entering a candidate as a primary write-in. IMHO, the Dems aren't the losers here, the citizens of the 3rd district are...

Steve the Wookiee

Wed, May 12, 2010 : 8 p.m.

I agree with many of the commenters that this does seem a bit fishy on the part of the Ping sisters - great representatives of Saline and District 3 or not. But I also have to agree with those that question Dowty and Zemke. You guys awake over there? You need to have a horse in the race even if it's a long shot.

Lifelong A2

Wed, May 12, 2010 : 7:39 p.m.

Let's focus on what matters: can anyone name even one substantive thing that Jessica Ping accomplished during her four years on the County Commission? The perception around town is that she missed many committee meetings and, when she did show up, said little and did little. Moreover, she should not have waited until the last minute to sneak her sister onto the ballot. That action cannot be defended, and it will haunt her sister's service on the Commission.

Chrysta Cherrie

Wed, May 12, 2010 : 7:35 p.m.

Comments containing personal attacks have been removed.


Wed, May 12, 2010 : 7:23 p.m.

Adam Zemke, you're the chair of the Western Washtenaw Dems. How could you let this happen?! Do you not understand the first thing about chairing a party? Rule#1: Never, never, never let a seat go uncontested. A direct reflection of your political and leadership skills. How embarrassing! And you want to be a county commissioner. OOF!

mike from saline

Wed, May 12, 2010 : 7:21 p.m.

If the name's Ping, I'm voteing for them, period. I've Known Jessica since she was in middle school. Great student, incredible athlete, beautiful girl. Best of luck in every thing you do!


Wed, May 12, 2010 : 6:47 p.m.

linda fiegel: So you're not a proud resident of Washtenaw County now? Jessica did not make you proud, so its going to take Alicia to make you a proud resident of Washtenaw County. I don't get it myself.

John Q

Wed, May 12, 2010 : 6:45 p.m.

From all the boosters here, why even bother having an election? Let's crown her Commissioner and call it good!


Wed, May 12, 2010 : 6:32 p.m.

@jimmyolsen: sigh, you're right. We should just continue to let shallow, dishonest, ineffective politicians run our county into the ground.

Jimmy Olsen

Wed, May 12, 2010 : 6:01 p.m.

@Salinemama How naive are you? This is the way politics is done these days. There is no honor among them. You are whining like a "hanging chad" democrat. Accept it and move on. They both do a fine job, no different than any other on the Saline council or county commission.


Wed, May 12, 2010 : 5:50 p.m.

LOL. The Ping sisters must be patting themselves on the back. How naive do they think we are that a "bait and switch" at the 11th hour is anything but a calculated move to manipulate the electoral process? And since when does Jessica get to decide who runs on behalf of the Republican party "I wasn't going to stick the party with nobody, and that somebody would step in..." Wow, thanks! As a Saline republican I would have appreciated the ability to make my own decisions about who runs on behalf of our party. In regard to the suggestions of "stewardship" and "commitment", from what I've seen, both sisters show up for meetings and photo ops and have had minimal impact on the city of Saline or the county. The unabashed entitlement is palpable.

John of Saline

Wed, May 12, 2010 : 5:23 p.m.

I wonder if anyplace has tried a rule that implements an automatic deadline extension for filing for candidacy in cases like this? One could imagine a week's extension or something.


Wed, May 12, 2010 : 5:20 p.m.

Objectively, it simply smells fishy. Such last minute shenanigans don't reflect well on either individual....

linda fiegel

Wed, May 12, 2010 : 5:06 p.m.

Alicia and Jessica both have outstanding credentials and dedication to their community. I support both of these ladies in their decision and feel strongly that Alicia make us all proud residents of Washtenaw County


Wed, May 12, 2010 : 4:25 p.m.

"...other people may have stepped up..." Simply put, they didn't. Nobody else considered running because how do you oppose such stewardship? Alicia has served the City of Saline with great distinction and I see stability and continued progress as a Washtenaw County Commissioner.


Wed, May 12, 2010 : 3:28 p.m.

Stuart Dowty, chairman of the Washtenaw County Democratic Party and Frank Parkinson, Western Washtenaw Democratic Party official -- asleep at the switch! Politics 101: Never leave a seat uncontested; always file a candidate. Just for reasons like this. You have failed the party. Look in the mirror and feel shame.

susan niethammer

Wed, May 12, 2010 : 3:05 p.m.

I live in Saline and work in the area. Alicia has done an excellent job for the City of Saline. She has dedicated many years to our community. I support her 100% and commend her on her continued dedication to our community.

Beth Maybee

Wed, May 12, 2010 : 1:47 p.m.

It's sad to see Jessica Ping leave the position, because she represented our district so well. But who can fault her for putting her family first? She won't regret that decision. Alicia Ping has an honorable record of public service, and I'm sure our district will continue to be well-represented by her.


Wed, May 12, 2010 : 1:39 p.m.

Jessica & Alicia have been great for their communities and the county. If the Dems had someone worthwhile to run against them, they would do so...rather than whine.

Mary Hipsher

Wed, May 12, 2010 : 1:34 p.m.

There is no Dynasty. They are two bright woman who share the same interests. I think that Jessica did an amazing job and Alicia will do the same.

David Cahill

Wed, May 12, 2010 : 1:15 p.m.

It's not a good idea to have offices passed around within a family. Who needs dynasties?


Wed, May 12, 2010 : 12:42 p.m.

The Ping sisters have done a great job serving our community. Alicia's experience with the City of Saline will bring great value to the County Commission. My husband and I will miss her on the Council, but know she will be working hard to represent us at the County level.


Wed, May 12, 2010 : 11:20 a.m.

Alicia has been great for the City of Saline and she will be great for the county.


Wed, May 12, 2010 : 11:20 a.m.

Alicia has been great for the City of Saline and she will be great for the county.


Wed, May 12, 2010 : 11:11 a.m.

Lets not make this any more than it is. Alicia and Jessica both have outstanding credentials and unmatched dedication. Time has proven that, just review what they've both done. Alicia has a bit more experience because she's older. Both women are strong and I am proud to have them represent the Republican Party.


Wed, May 12, 2010 : 10:47 a.m.

This doesn't surprise me at all. That's how they roll and always have.