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Posted on Tue, Nov 22, 2011 : 2:08 p.m.

Two Democrats emerge in race for the state House's 55th District

By Tom Perkins

Two Democrats announced their candidacy for the Michigan House of Representatives in the 55th District.

Ann Arbor residents Adam Zemke and Bob Davidow both made the announcements late last week and are running for a seat held by first-term incumbent Rick Olson, R-York Township.

The Democratic primary is in August 2012.

Democrats believe Olson is vulnerable after this year’s redistricting. The 55th District now includes Augusta Township, York Township, Pittsfield Township, Ann Arbor Township and part of the city of Ann Arbor.

The first candidates are different in background and age. Zemke is 28 years old, while Davidow is 73. Neither candidate has previous experience in public office, but they both say they would use their professional background and experience working in the community in Lansing.


Adam Zemke


Bob Davidow

Zemke is an auto industry engineer whose family has deep roots in Washtenaw County. He graduated from Pioneer High School before earning his bachelor's and master’s degrees in mechanical engineering from Michigan State University.

He is involved with the Washtenaw County Community Action Board, is a past chair of the Western Washtenaw Democratic Club, worked for former 55th District Rep. Kathy Angerer and is active with the Society of Automotive Engineers Foundation to promote science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education.

“I’m running for the Legislature to use my experience in the community and as an engineer to craft common-sense solutions to create good-paying jobs and move Michigan forward,” Zemke said in a written statement. “We need to start investing in Michigan residents because history has proven that we cannot cut our way to prosperity.”

He said Michigan’s future lies in a technology-driven economy that will require greater investment in its public schools. But the Republican-controlled Legislature has “turned its back" on public education, and he said Olson has voted with Republicans to further cut funding to Michigan schools.

“The current legislature decided their approach was to provide tax breaks to corporations and pull funding out of education funding, which is backwards,” he said. “The best way of spurring economic development and attracting business is developing a source of talent.”

Zemke emphasized his support for the state’s transportation infrastructure and mass transit. He said roads and bridges in particular have a “very clear way of creating jobs immediately and enhancing economic development on a long term scale.”

Businesses have been affected by the crumbling infrastructure, he said, and it works against the state in its effort to spur economic growth. Zemke said it's also a concern he regularly hears when meeting with voters.

“Developing the economy is the number one thing we have to work on because that’s going to make lives better throughout the state, and transportation network is a vital part of the economy," he said. "It’s a good way to create jobs on an immediate scale and very good to use as a long-term economic development tool.”

Zemke said he is pro-choice, pro-stem cell research and he supports civil rights for all Michigan residents, which he said stands in contrast to Olson.

Zemke already has a long list of endorsements, including former U.S. Rep. Mark Schauer; Washtenaw County Commissioners Barbara Levin Bergman, Felicia Brabec, Leah Gunn, and Yousef Rabhi; former Washtenaw County Commissioner Kristin Judge; Washtenaw County Water Resources Commissioner Janis Bobrin; Ann Arbor Township Supervisor Michael Moran; State of Michigan Board of Education President John Austin; Ann Arbor City Council Members Carsten Hohnke, Tony Derezinski, Sandi Smith and Sabra Briere; the Michigan Democratic Party LGBT Caucus; and many community leaders in the 55th District, including Martha Darling, Doug Kelley, Sumi Kailasapathy and Amy Seetoo.

Davidow, a University of Michigan Law School graduate, is a retired criminal defense lawyer who has also taught law at several universities. He ran unsuccessfully for the Pittsfield Township county commissioner's seat in 2006.

He said his experience in his career, which has included work in law reform, would help him serve in the Legislature, and he highlighted his support for greater funding of education at all levels to provide Michigan with a more skilled and well-educated work force.

“Michigan cannot hope to attract new business, including clean energy projects, if those outside Michigan see that education is inadequately supported,” he said in a written statement.

Revenue for funding education can come from a graduated income tax and by reducing the number of repeat offenders in the prison system by supporting programs such as the Michigan Prison Re-Entry Initiative, Davidow said.

He labeled the state's tax structure “fundamentally unfair" and questioned measures the current Republican Legislature has taken to generate new revenue, such as taxing pensions and "otherwise placing a financial burden on those least able to afford it."

Other recent legislation he opposed includes the “right to work” laws because, Davidow said, they weaken unions.

“Everyone recognizes the need for jobs, but jobs cannot be created … by firing state employees, including teachers, which will only decrease demand and further weaken the economy,” he said.

Davidow called the current political climate under Republican control disturbing and said Republicans endorse “social Darwinism” in which everyone is on their own.

“I believe we are in it together, that we are a community and we have a responsibility for one another,” he said.


joe baublis

Thu, Nov 24, 2011 : 5:54 p.m.

People should be advised that the local democrats who have found employment, pension, salaries, and health care in government have created a massive budget debt for the county and the city, and the State. The local democrats have recently attempted to circumvent the people's right to vote - on the road commission tax proposal, and on the City Sidewalk public improvement plan. Although they may circle their wagons to promote more corruption, the democrat party paradigm is a failure and the party name should not be associated with the principle of democracy.

David Cahill

Wed, Nov 23, 2011 : 5:01 p.m.

I am friends with both candidates. I am supporting Zemke because he is already familiar with the ways of Lansing, since he worked for former State Rep. Angerer. The new 55th District is overwhelmingly Democratic. Whoever wins the Democratic primary will be our new state representative.

Lac Court Orilles

Wed, Nov 23, 2011 : 2:09 p.m.

Olson doesn't even need to show up to work because everyone knows that he'll just vote along with the rest of the Republicans without even knowing what he's voting for or against. He should just stay at home in his million dollar Saline home and forget driving his TOYOTA to Lansing. Would someone out there please inform Rick Olson who he represents as I am sure he doesn't remember? Who wouldn't want a job like Olson's with no one to hold him accountable and no work to do?

Basic Bob

Wed, Nov 23, 2011 : 12:01 p.m.

Zemke seems like a bright energetic candidate, but his endorsements disqualify him from serious consideration. He is unlikely to represent his constituents in his district, instead serving special interests and further polarizing and crippling government in Lansing. The Democratic Party has failed to deliver an electable candidate. You make Rick Olson look deserving of reelection.

Debra Adams

Wed, Nov 23, 2011 : 11:06 a.m.

I have known Adam all his life. Whenever I try to put the Republican's down to him, he reminds me that we all have to work together to turn this State/Country around. Adam is aware of the need for teamwork to move forward in an endeavor. Adam has learned a lot about compromise, negotiations and team work from began with his work on the MSU Formula SAE team. What impresses me most is the encouragement that he received to work as a team at Michigan State. I have seen him bring this foundation into his political career and it makes me proud that he can be so open minded and supportive of others. In addition, Adam has excellent values. Foremost, he is willing to let people lead the lives they choose. And, he is willing to put aside "polarities" to get the job done. This is the example we want in our House of Representatives.


Wed, Nov 23, 2011 : 3:41 a.m.

Davidow was previously endorsed and closely supported by Christina Lirones and her gang of township underlings. That fact alone rules out Davidow since that taint will stick for a long time. Wonder how far he will try to distance himself from her? Me thinks miles...

Basic Bob

Wed, Nov 23, 2011 : 1:20 p.m.

Still grinding that axe?


Wed, Nov 23, 2011 : 1:15 a.m.

Thank you to both candidates for throwing your hats in the game. I believe either would be WORLDS better than Olson, who is a disaster.


Wed, Nov 23, 2011 : 12:31 a.m.

Mr. Zemke unsuccessfully ran for Washtenaw County Commissioner in the 1st District in 2010, filling out of Dexter. The 1st district had included the city of Chelsea, the village of Dexter, Lyndon, Dexter, Sylvan, and Lima Townships, along with significant portions of Scio and Webster townships. The new 55th House District contains parts of the cities of Ann Arbor and Milan, along with Pittsfield, Augusta, York and Ann Arbor Townships. I wonder how long it took for Mr. Zemke to switch his residency after the 52nd House District (where he would've resided in 2010) became more Republican and the 55th House District became more Democratic after redistricting?

Philip Zazove

Wed, Nov 23, 2011 : 12:36 a.m.

I'm really impressed with Adam Zemke and his background - he's done amazingly well and carries himself very nicely for someone his age. He'd be great in the House and will bring some much needed insight for all Michiganders.

Lifelong A2

Tue, Nov 22, 2011 : 11:58 p.m.

Mr. Davidow seems like as nice guy, but he's clearly in over his head by running for the legislature. He doesn't appear to have any endorsements. He doesn't appear to have any significant relevant experience. And his primary issue is prisoner re-entry? Newsflash, Mr. Davidow: that's not a huge issue for the average voter. Zemke's endorsements are impressive: he appears to have "both sides" of the local Democratic Party, which is a good sign.

Kristin Judge

Tue, Nov 22, 2011 : 11:20 p.m.

Adam will serve our county well in Lansing. He is smart, honest and hard working with a passion to serve the people instead of himself. We need legislators who believe in representing the people they serve. Adam will do that with a professionalism Lansing needs!


Tue, Nov 22, 2011 : 9:39 p.m.

I guess the old is correct after reading this article " What is good for Democrats is bad for America"


Tue, Nov 22, 2011 : 8:10 p.m.

Adam Zemke has an impressive background and list of supporters --- I hope he continues a strong campaign and captures a seat from a tea drinking republican, to help restore some sanity and balance in Lansing.

David Briegel

Tue, Nov 22, 2011 : 9:31 p.m.

Yeah, The Mad Hatters had a party with tea!


Tue, Nov 22, 2011 : 8:51 p.m.

I am confused. What is wrong with drinking tea?


Tue, Nov 22, 2011 : 7:42 p.m.

Just a couple LEFTY's paddling upstream and will feel the fall out from Obama's failure. Olson by 6 against either of these guys.


Wed, Nov 23, 2011 : 5:56 p.m.

Have you seen the breakdown of the new 55th district? It's about 65% Democrat. There is no way a conservative like Rick Olson wins this one.