August elections: Flint mayor race set, Fouts romps in Warren mayoral primary

Karen Weaver (left) and Sheldon Neeley (right) | Wikimedia Commons, Derek Robertson

Elections were held across the state Tuesday for key mayoral and City Council primaries and a handful of ballot measures, setting the table for this fall’s city elections.

In Flint, incumbent Mayor Karen Weaver edged out primary challenger and state Rep. Sheldon Neeley (D-Flint) by fewer than 300 votes. Under Flint’s election rules, Weaver and Neeley — as the top vote-getters — will go on to face each other in November’s general election.

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Earlier this year in an interview with the Advance, Neeley attributed a “felonious outlook” to Weaver’s administration and accused her of being a “ceremonial mayor,” to which Weaver responded by saying, “In order for Flint to get funding and stay on the national radar, as well as have a seat at the national table, I have had to go and actually work with others.”

Overall, a spokesperson for the Secretary of State said that the elections served as another welcome trial run for the new voting laws passed as part of last year’s Proposal 3, including same-day voter registration and no-reason absentee voting.

“This election was a small one, with only 49 of state’s 83 counties taking part, and things went quite smoothly,” said Mike Doyle, communications manager for the Secretary of State’s office. “Clerks across Michigan seem to be implementing the voting changes well, and these smaller elections are helping prepare for the large elections on the way in 2020.”

Doyle did note that there were a few polling stations where elections officials arrived to find the facilities closed, including one in Genesee County and one in Ottawa County. Ottawa County Clerk Justin Roebuck tweeted an image of officials in Holland who set up an impromptu voting booth in front of their closed station until the facility opened.

In the mayoral primary in Warren, Michigan’s third-largest city, longtime incumbent Mayor Jim Fouts beat his closest challenger, Warren City Council Member Kelly Colegio, by almost 6,000 votes. Fouts and Colegio will compete against each other in November’s general election. 

Jim Fouts | Facebook

Fouts has been embroiled in controversy over the past several years for audio tapes where he can be heard using language derogatory to women, African Americans, LGBTQs and disabled people. He has repeatedly claimed the tapes were falsified.

Kristina Lodovisi, a former state Senate candidate who had the endorsement of the Progressive Women’s Caucus, came in third place with only 6.4% of the vote. 

In another Warren election, the field for the at-large City Council seat was narrowed to four candidates, with the Victory Fund-endorsed Connor Berdy failing to make the cut. Berdy would have been the city’s first openly LGBTQ council member.

In one of the state’s most high-profile summer ballot initiatives, Birmingham voters overwhelmingly defeated a bond measure for an almost $60 million construction project in the city’s downtown area. David Bloom, a co-founder of Birmingham Citizens for Responsible Government, told the Detroit Free Press it was a victory for the “little people.”

Bloomfield Township rejected a millage by more than 2,500 votes that would have increased funding for its police and fire departments, with opponents arguing that the funding increase should be offset by spending cuts.

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A number of communities across the state also voted on whether or not to allow recreational marijuana businesses in their communities, with the small towns of Crystal Lake and Vanderbilt, along with the Southeast Michigan city of Highland Park rejecting them. More than 500 communities across the state have opted out of the legal pot business.

Grand Rapids had a primary for the 2nd Ward of its City Commission, in which nonprofit activist Milinda Ysasi and former Grand Rapids Public Schools board member Wendy VerHage Falb will advance to November’s election.

Derek Robertson
Derek Robertson is a former reporter for the Advance. Previously, he wrote for Politico Magazine in Washington. He is a Genesee County native and graduate of both Wayne State University, where he studied history, and the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University.

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