The Macomb Daily
  Wednesday, May 12, 2010

  Justin Riberas, center, a first-time candidate, filed Tuesday to run for the county Board of Commissioners in Sterling Heights’ District 4. Riberas, 26, a Republican, is flanked by Macomb GOP Chairman Jared Maynard, left, and Michael Rix, foreground, an employee at the county Clerk’s Office Elections Department.  

Justin Riberas, center, a first-time candidate, filed Tuesday to run for the county Board of Commissioners in Sterling Heights’ District 4. Riberas, 26, a Republican, is flanked by Macomb GOP Chairman Jared Maynard, left, and Michael Rix, foreground, an employee at the county Clerk’s Office Elections Department.

-- Macomb Daily staff photo by Craig Gaffield

 
 

129 local candidates file 2010 elections

 

By Chad Selweski, Macomb Daily Staff Writer

Tuesday’s 2010 candidate filing deadline produced a field of 129 candidates across Macomb County for federal, state and county offices, with nine county commissioners stepping aside rather than run for re-election to the slimmed-down 13-member county board.

With the field set for 2010, hotly contested races shape up in Macomb’s three state Senate races and a crowded pack of 42 contenders are competing for the county’s nine state House seats.

The county commissioners not in the running for the board include three Democrats seeking higher office: board Chairman Paul Gieleghem of Clinton Township, a Senate candidate; Frank Accavitti of Eastpointe, also a Senate hopeful; and Ken Lampar of Sterling Heights, a contender for a House seat.

With the 26 board districts redrawn into 13 election battlegrounds, three veteran Republican commissioners are retiring: Keith Rengert of Richmond Township, Ed Szczepanski of Shelby Township and Sue Rocca of Sterling Heights. While Rengert and Szczepanski made their intentions known weeks ago, Rocca’s curtain call was a bit of a surprise. She could not be reached for comment.

With incumbents pitted against each other in the Aug. 3 primary and Nov. 2 general election due to the redistricting process, other Democratic commissioners bowing out are Ed Bruley of Clinton Township, Irene Kepler of Roseville and Susan Doherty of Warren.

Doherty, an 8-year commissioner, said she will pull out today, choosing to pursue a master’s degree while putting in more hours in her profession as a consultant who administers employee benefits programs for corporations.

She was pitted against fellow Democratic Commissioner Marv Sauger of Center Line in the newly drawn District 2.

Kepler, a freshman commissioner, said she will withdraw Thursday.

Democratic dissension

An angry Kepler said she was forced out of the District 11 race after talking with Bruley, the Macomb Democratic Party chairman, and Commissioner Kathy Tocco of Fraser, the other incumbent in the race.

“I’ve talked with my opponent from Fraser and with Ed (Bruley) and they’re going dirty, and I don’t want to participate in a campaign like that,” Kepler said. “I don’t want to put myself and my family through that kind of ridicule and emotional torment just because I want to serve my community.”

Kepler said she will back Roseville Councilwoman Jan Haggerty, wife of the late county commissioner Leonard Haggerty, in the Democratic primary.

The redistricting process, required by the voter-approved county charter that halved the board to 13 members, also attracted some former commissioners into the 2010 election fray.

The biggest surprise was the re-emergence of Jim Perna, a Democrat-turned-Republican from Clinton Township who looks forward to a November matchup in District 12 with Democrat Robert Smith, brother of county Prosecutor Eric Smith and a fire inspector for the Clinton Township Fire Department.

Perna, who lost to Gieleghem in 2009, said he’s grown disturbed by the recurring county budget deficits and chose to follow his political instincts.

“It’s in your blood. I’ve got some support. I’ve got a couple fundraisers scheduled, so why not?” said Perna, who’s had a long career in the financial industry as a credit union executive. “I didn’t get in it not to win it.”

Gillett comeback?

Another former commissioner trying to make a political comeback is Road Commissioner Fran Gillett, a Shelby Township Republican. The road agency will become the responsibility of the new county executive in 2011 and Gillett, at age 81, said she is still healthy and energetic.

“I’ve been thinking about this for a while,” said Gillett, who has been active in politics since 1976 and has served 10 years at the Road Commission. “I bring experience. I don’t have a personal agenda. I … think I can be a calming force” on the county commission.

Her main opponent will be GOP incumbent Jim Carabelli.

Others who have been away from the board for several years but filed for election are Republican-turned-Democrat Kurt Kramer of Chesterfield Township, and Democrat-turned-Republican Roland Fraschetti of St. Clair Shores.

While candidates have until 4 p.m. Friday to withdraw, it appears that four of the 13 commissioner districts will feature battles between two Democratic incumbents fighting for political survival.

Bruley, who played a key behind-the-scenes role in sculpting the new districts, conceded the process has created friction within the Democratic Party, which holds a commanding 22-6 advantage over the GOP in seats on the current board.

“It was not pleasant,” Bruley said. “There’s all kinds of angst ahead of time. But I don’t think it’s quite as bad as people thought it would be.”

The bloodiest battle among the Democrats for a board seat may be waged between Commissioner Dana Camphous-Peterson of Harrison Township and term-limited state Rep. Fred Miller of Mount Clemens — the favorite among Bruley’s allies.

In a statement released just before Tuesday’s deadline, Camphous-Peterson came out with guns blazing, saying: “Voters will have a real choice in the August primary election. They will be able to choose between an independent Democrat with real-world experience, or a term-limited legislator looking for his next paycheck after wrecking Michigan financially.”

The race that had been anticipated as the biggest of 2010 — for Macomb’s first elected executive, a post created by the charter — has turned into a low-key event. On the Democratic side, Sheriff Mark Hackel faces Public Works Commissioner Anthony Marrocco, but many political observers expect Marrocco to drop out.

On the Republican side, small business owner Simon Haddad is the GOP’s longshot candidate, but he now faces a primary challenge. In an unanticipated move, Randell Shafer, a St. Clair Shores Republican, filed for the post just minutes before the deadline.

Shafer, who ran twice against Congressman Sander Levin in 2004 and 2006, said, “I have a fair following and I’m just going to run hard. I’ve only seen him (Haddad) around for the last few months.”

Senate battles

Beyond the county offices, much of the attention of voters in the coming months will focus on three wide open Senate campaigns:

  • In south Macomb’s 9th District, three former Democratic state representatives will fight it out for their party’s nomination. The top contenders in the heavily Democratic territory are Warren City Clerk Paul Wojno, county Commissioner Accavitti and Steve Bieda, who represented northern Warren and southern Sterling Heights for six years.
  • In central Macomb’s 10th District, the contest took shape just as expected, with Gieleghem and former county prosecutor Carl Marlinga of Sterling Heights vying for the Democratic bid, and term-limited GOP state Rep. Tory Rocca awaiting the winner. Rocca, also a Sterling Heights resident, is the son of outgoing Commissioner Sue Rocca and former longtime representative Sal Rocca.
  • In north Macomb’s 11th District, the field unexpectedly grew to seven candidates on filing day, but the contest in this solidly GOP landscape still centers on a faceoff between three prominent Republicans: former state representative Jack Brandenburg of Harrison Township, Rep. Kim Meltzer of Macomb Township and anti-tax activist Leon Drolet, also of Macomb Township.

In all three Senate districts, the sitting senators are term-limited.

The crowded roster of contenders for Macomb County’s nine House seats includes six incumbents hoping to survive the tumultuous political atmosphere of 2010: Democrats Sarah Roberts of St. Clair Shores, Lesia Liss of Warren, Jon Switalski of Warren, Jennifer Haase of Richmond, and Harold Haugh of Roseville; and Republican Pete Lund of Shelby Township.

One of the most unusual House races pits Harrison Township Supervisor Anthony Forlini against his township board colleague, Clerk Jan Jorgensen, for the Republican nomination in the 24th District. The GOP winner will face freshman Rep. Roberts.

In other action on Tuesday, Macomb’s two congressional races shaped up as expected.

In the 12th District, veteran Democratic Rep. Sander Levin, a Royal Oak Democrat who represents most of Macomb County, faces a primary challenge from term-limited state Sen. Michael “Mickey” Switalski of Roseville. Small businessman Don Volaric of Clinton Township, who works in the insurance industry, is the lone Republican in the race.

In the 10th District, which stretches from northern Sterling Heights to the tip of the Thumb Area, incumbent GOP Rep. Candice Miller will face off against Henry Yanez, chairman of the 10th District Democrats and a Sterling Heights firefighter.