NewsRoom
12:00 am
Mon August 6, 2012

Election 2012: Incumbent Ingham County Commissioners Facing Primary Challenges

Michigan voters go to the polls tomorrow to cast their votes in the state primary election.  WKAR has been bringing you reports on a number of Lansing area political races and ballot questions.

Today, we conclude our series with an examination of contested races for the Ingham County board of commissioners.

WKAR’s Scott Pohl spoke with news editor Kyle Melinn of MIRS, the Michigan Information and Research Service, about the reasons why primary challenges are being waged against several board members.

KYLE MELINN: For one, there’s this controversial mowing contract that the county has with the city (of Lansing), and labor doesn’t like how Virg Bernero, the Lansing Mayor, has handled that. They think that laying off organized labor folks was not a good way to go in that front. They also don’t like the changes in the pension. There is a move to try and make some changes to try and make the county pension system a little bit more economically viable. They didn’t like the direction they took on that, so that was another vote. And of course, the third one was the vote to dissolve the Road Commission, and that was kind of a late one, and I think that one kind of centers around the former road commissioner Jim Dravenstatt-Moceri, who is also running for the county commission now.

SCOTT POHL: In the interest of full disclosure, commissioner Brian McGrain is my nephew.

Do you know whether the incumbents are facing this in any special way aside from what they normally might have been planning for the pre-primary election season?

MELINN: Well, yeah, they’ve got to take this very seriously, and if they want to continue holding onto the post, getting out and meeting people and actually doing something that they maybe normally wouldn’t. If they didn’t have a primary, they could basically take the summer off.

All these districts, I guess with the exception of Deb Nolan, are Democrat districts, and they would not face a real Republican challenge. Deb Nolan being in Okemos, you could argue, that could go either way in a presidential (election). It’s kind of hard to say. It kind of depends on which way the wind blows. She may have had to campaign anyway. But for the other two, Brian McGrain and Carol Koenig, yeah, if they want to keep their seat, they’re going to have to spend a couple weekends getting around neighborhoods, knocking doors, and just reminding people hey, I’m your county commissioner, just in case you didn’t know. How many people know their county commissioner, right? I know mine; she lives right next door!

ARE ANY INCUMBENTS REALLY AT RISK?

POHL:Do you think any of these incumbent Democrats are in any serious danger of losing their seat?

MELINN:At first you would say no. Again, it just depends on how aggressive these folks are. I don’t know with any certainty how aggressive they have been.

I think Carol Koenig vs. Irene Cahill could be the most competitive, but again, James Ramey in the Okemos-based 12th district, he has been around for a while and has some connections. Again, unless you get out and actually meet folks and knock the doors, as a challenger, it’s really hard to really make an impact and win these things.

A NOTABLE REPUBLICAN PRIMARY, TOO

POHL:We do have one Republican primary to talk about.

MELINN:Yeah, we do, and that one is in that south Lansing-Holt area, where we have Renee Sumerix and Randy Maiville going at it for the right to face former road commissioner Jim Dravenstatt-Moceri. This one is significant because when you look ahead to the general election, I think that one will be the most competitive. It is an open seat, and the numbers are as competitive as they can be in this kind of election. It’s going to be important to see which one emerges from that, and how willing they are and how committed they are to the general election, because Dravenstatt-Moceri is going to be formidable competition.