In three weeks, voters will determine who will occupy 20 elected positions in Ingham County for the next two to four years. Democrats are expected dominate the county-wide contests which include county clerk, treasurer and register of deeds. WKAR’s Mark Bashore sat down with Kyle Melinn--the editor of the Michigan Information and Research Service, MIRS--to take a closer look.
MARK BASHORE: In the county clerk election, outgoing Democratic state rep Barb Byrum faces Republican Barry Damon. In this predominantly blue county, Melinn says that in this race, as well as the other two, Democrats enjoy a decided advantage. He says any GOP victory would be an upset.
KYLE MELINN: We haven’t had a Republican represent county office since Don Martin back in 1996, so the Democrats are at a huge advantage here. And Barb Byrum comes at this after being a state representative for three terms—six years. She’s got a very strong name and it’s very tough hill for Barry Damon to climb.
But Barry Damon has got a very interesting resume. He’s a lifelong Ingham County resident, which helps. He’s from the rural part of the area. And he’s been in Ingham County government for more than 30 years. He’s also worked in the Sheriff’s Department, Friend of the Court and the 30th Circuit Court, so he knows his way around county government, which is a positive. The problem is, though, he’s a Republican and so that makes things very difficult for him in this race.
BASHORE: As considerable as Byrum’s experience has been, does it translate into a good fit as a county clerk?
MELINN: Well I think she’s been preparing herself for this seat for a little while. She’s the ranking Democrat on the House Elections Committee. And she’s been taking strong positions on issues like no-reason absentee ballots. She was very vocal during the redistricting process last year. I think she’s tried to get herself up to speed and as knowledgeable on clerk’s responsibilities as she can. So, it’s been a little bit of a training process, but I think that she’s getting herself prepared for this position.
BASHORE: Incumbent county treasurer Eric Schertzing is being challenged by a slightly higher-profile Republican. He was on the cover of City Pulse last week—Jake Davison. He calls himself one of a ‘new generation’ of Republicans. Who is this guy?
MELINN: Well Jake Davison is formerly a spokesperson for the organization that is behind Proposal 5--the two-thirds legislative initiative. He’s since broken off from that and is now an entrepreneur. He’s a political consultant for a firm called Advantage Associates. He’s been involved in house races. He’s been employed to try and get Republicans elected. He is a fiscal conservative and more moderate on some social issues.
BASHORE: Davison supports same sex marriage.
MELINN: That’s really interesting, isn’t it? But I think that you may see that from younger Republicans going forward, because this is a new generation of folks. I mean they’re not stuck in old ways and old stereotypes about gay and lesbian people.
But Jake Davison is trying to get himself out there as one of these ‘new age’ Republicans as we talked about earlier. He’s a member of a board of directors and the treasurer of the Plymouth Scholars Charter Academy and he serves on the REO Town Commercial Association’s economic development committee. So he’s getting involved here in the community. He’s lived in Ingham County for 14 years, so he does know the process a little bit. He’s just trying to make a name for himself and be a good soldier. These races for Republicans are very, very difficult and they just want to have names on the ballot in some cases.
BASHORE: But again, no realistic chance against Eric Schertzing?
MELINN: No. I don’t think that he’s got any trouble right now.
BASHORE: Jake Davison’s also running a couple of other republican campaigns. One of them is for another of these “new generation” republicans, Kate Mortensen, who is the challenger to Curtis Hertel Jr. for Register of Deeds. She’s calling to merge the Register of Deeds’ position with the clerk’s office.
MELINN: And that’s a good position to take right now because if you look at the Register of Deeds, there’s not a lot that folks really know about it. I would say that Curtis Hertel, like Eric Schertzing, has done quite a bit with the position. However, when you’re talking about foreclosures, he’s trying to speak up for residents in these kinds of proceedings where they feel that these big banks are just rolling over them. So I think Curtis Hertel has been very up front in the media.
But Kate Mortensen, I think, is taking a good position here because in many counties, the register of deeds office and the clerk’s offices are combined. Is there some savings that can be wrought from that? And I think from the Republican standpoint, it’s one less Democratic county-wide official that would be elected.
Kate Mortensen is a Cooley Law student right now. She went to Michigan State. She’s a younger person. But again, I think she’s more just bringing up the issue than really posing much of a threat to Curtis Hertel.