Stephen Kunselman celebrates six-vote victory in Ann Arbor City Council race; Leigh Greden calls for recount
In between high fives and handshakes, Stephen Kunselman clanked jars of beer with friends and campaign supporters as he celebrated victory at Casa Dominick's bar Tuesday night.
The former 3rd Ward Ann Arbor city councilman will most likely return to office after beating incumbent Leigh Greden by six votes in Tuesday's Democratic primary, according to unofficial results from the City Clerk's Office. LuAnne Bullington, another contender for the 3rd Ward seat, finished last.
The total vote count was Kunselman 511, Greden 505 and Bullington 379.
In the city's 5th Ward, voters picked incumbent Democrat Mike Anglin over challenger Scott Rosencrans by a margin of nearly 2-to-1.
“I'm very overwhelmed. It was a very close vote, but we've taken down the incumbent,” said Kunselman, an energy management liaison for the University of Michigan, who waged a campaign that was heavily critical of Greden and e-mails he sent at City Council meetings.
“This vote is reflective of where people want to take our City Council and that's in a new direction,” Kunselman said. “This was about who the incumbent really is, and when you're a politician, it's all about your character, being trusted. And I think that's what this election is about.”
Greden said he plans to request a recount.
“Initial results indicate that Mr. Kunselman is ahead by six votes. I believe strongly in the democratic process, but with a margin of less than one-half of 1 percent, it's appropriate to request a recount,” he said, declining to comment further on the election.
Kunselman spoke out against Greden's use of a city-provided laptop to exchange e-mails with fellow council members during city meetings.
Several voters said after leaving polls they were voting Greden out of office because they considered the e-mails unprofessional and rude. Some of the e-mails poked fun at others, and some of them discussed city business and upcoming agenda items outside the public eye.
“I'd never vote for anybody who sat there and sent e-mails like that,” city resident Marjorie Barnett said of her reasons for voting against Greden and supporting Bullington.
Other residents said they voted against Greden because he supports putting a city income tax question on the November ballot.
Kunselman said his first priority in office is to restore public trust in city government and listen to the concerns of residents. He said he'll work hard to push for a city budget that maintains services for working class residents and fixes roads and infrastructure.
“I want to bring back the ice rinks I had when I was a kid,” added Kunselman, reminiscing on outdoor skating rinks the city used to provide, one of which was in Burns Park.
Greden was one of the leading proponents of putting a city income tax proposal on the November ballot for voters to consider. Because he won't officially step down from his council position until after the November general election, he'll still be able to push the issue, which Kunselman opposes.
Kunselman, currently unopposed as he advances to the November general election, would take office at the first City Council meeting after the November general election, assuming he doesn't lose to a write-in or independent candidate.
Tim Colenback, former chairman of the Ann Arbor City Democrats, called Kunselman's victory the biggest upset in Ann Arbor city politics in the last 30 years.
“I supported LuAnne, but I'm very happy Steve won,” he said while celebrating at Dominick's after the election results came in. “I think we need a change on the City Council.”
Bullington, though she lost, joined Anglin's reelection celebration at the Firefly Club, 637 S. Main St. She said she's just glad Greden is out of office.
“I hoped I won, but if I couldn't win, I wanted Steve to win, so I'm very happy for the city. Steve is a good, honest man and he'll do right,” she said. “I hope we see a change on City Council, such as spending more time attending to the business than e-mailing each other.”
About 11 percent of the 30,631 registered voters in the two wards with contested races cast ballots.Anglin said he'll continue to be an advocate for residents on issues like trees, housing, the environment, transportation and other neighborhood concerns. He said he had more than 100 people helping him on his campaign, which he believes led him to victory.
“It was a big group effort. We had a platform that spoke to so many people that they responded to it,” he said. “What resonated in the community most was fiscal responsibility.”
Anglin said he's leaning against supporting a city income tax, but he hasn't made up his mind. He also continues to oppose the planned construction of a $55 million parking structure near the Ann Arbor District Library downtown. He said such spending doesn't seem prudent while talks of closing city parks, laying off firefighters and other service cuts are happening.
Anglin, who as of now is unopposed in November, said his primary focus in the next two years will be the city's budget, including looking for ways to improve the budget process and involving all council members.
Photos by Lon Horwedel of Ann Arbor.com:
Top, Dana Barton, right, congratulates Stephen Kunselman at Dominick's in Ann Arbor during his victory party.
Bottom: Mike Anglin celebrates with his supporters at the Firefly Club in Ann Arbor.
Ryan Stanton covers government for AnnArbor.com. He can be reached at (734) 623-2529 or email@example.com.