CHICAGO — Michigan voters approved a slew of local borrowing and millage-increase proposals in Tuesday’s primary election, supporting a range of capital projects and funding transportation, library, and public safety budgets.
On the political front, voters delivered a few surprises. Longtime Democratic U.S. Rep. Carolyn Cheeks Kilpatrick, who represented the 13th District in the Detroit metro area, lost her seventh re-election bid to state Sen. Hansen Clarke.
Most observers attribute her loss to Detroit’s fiscal woes and the ongoing legal problems of her son, former Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick, now serving time for violating his probation. Kwame Kilpatrick was initially imprisoned for perjury and obstruction of justice charges. He also faces federal tax and fraud charges.
Clarke’s campaign challenge focused on ending an era of corrupt Detroit politicians and attracting new jobs to the area.
Little-known Ann Arbor businessman Rick Snyder, a former president of Gateway Computers, defeated a bevy of well-known Republican opponents to win the right to represent that party in the gubernatorial race. A self-titled “tough nerd,” Snyder was considered the most moderate Republican in the race and faces Democratic challenger and Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero in the November general election. Bernero beat House Speaker Andy Dillon in the primary.
Detroit-area voters approved a series of millage increase proposals, including one many people consider crucial to regional public transportation. Voters in Macomb, Oakland, and Wayne counties overwhelmingly approved renewal of a property tax supporting the Suburban Mobility Authority for Regional Transportation bus system.
The sprawling system covers the suburbs and connects them to the Detroit bus system. Proponents ran a costly marketing campaign urging renewal of the SMART tax.
Oakland County voters also approved a tax increase to help fund the county’s parks and recreation department and the Oakland Community College.
The Avondale School District won approval to borrow $28 million for various capital projects. Voters in Oak Park approved a $13.5 million, 25-year borrowing to construct several new city buildings, including a new city hall.
Genesee County voters approved six millage proposals, including tax increases for the Flint Public Schools and the Flint Public Library. Van Buren County voters also approved a number of millage increase proposals to finance public transit, ambulance services, and public safety.
Voters across the state approved several millage increases to support public safety. A handful of municipalities, however, lost their bids, including Clarkston. Officials there said they would disband the city’s police force after the defeat and contract with a neighboring township for public safety services.
Michigan candidates now head into a hotly contested November general election featuring an unusually large number of open seats, which will determine control of the state Legislature. A new term-limit law that took full effect this year is forcing the turnover of nearly all legislative seats.
In Missouri, St. Louis voters overwhelmingly approved Proposition S, permitting the city’s school system to issue $155 million of bonds to finance improvements at its 74 schools.
“Proposition S funds will be used to improve academic performance of students, ensure a safe and secure environment in all schools, and promote a healthy lifestyle for students,” according to the district’s website.
The new borrowing won’t require a tax hike although an existing levy that is repaying bonds with a final maturity in 2018 will be extended to repay the new bonding, which will be retired in 2025.
In nearby suburban St. Peters, voters approved $40 million in bonding to develop a master plan for storm-water management and to finance improvements over the next 20 years.
Statewide, voters approved Proposition C that states no rule or law can force individuals or businesses to buy health insurance as required under federal health care reform or penalize them for not doing so. Many believe the vote is symbolic, given federal law’s primacy over state law.
Michigan voters will weigh in on a similar health care question in November.
Yvette Shields contributed to this story.