Kunselman beats two challengers in 3rd Ward primary race for Ann Arbor City Council
Ryan J. Stanton | AnnArbor.com
Kunselman, D-3rd Ward, successfully fended off two political opponents — Ault, executive director of Think Local First; and Marwan Issa, technology director at Global Education Excellence — to win the Democratic primary in his ward.
Kunselman now goes on to compete against Republican David Parker in November for a chance to keep his seat on the Ann Arbor City Council for two more years.
"It's a bigger victory than I had expected," Kunselman said, celebrating at Dominick's. "I've always had nothing but close races and this one was a lot more in my favor than I expected. Now we have to get past the politics and get back to governing."
The chances of a Republican beating Kunselman in November are slim. If he wins, it will mark the third time he's been elected to the City Council in the last five years.
He first was elected in 2006, was ousted in 2008, and returned in 2009 after beating incumbent Leigh Greden.
Kunselman, a 48-year-old Ann Arbor native, holds a bachelor's degree in natural resources and master's degrees in urban planning and landscape architecture from the University of Michigan. He works as U-M's energy conservation liaison and has a long track record of involvement in city government, including a stint as a planning commissioner from 2004 to 2006.
Ault criticized Kunselman during the campaign, saying "pretty much chickens" is what he's known for — a reference to a backyard chicken ordinance Kunselman championed about three years ago. Ault suggested Kunselman has been ineffective in representing the 3rd Ward.
Ault was gracious in defeat. "I just want to congratulate Steve on a great race," she said while gathered at Arbor Brewing Co. after the election.
Kunselman is known for going against the grain and taking positions that conflict with the majority opinion on council.
That's been evident recently with the proposed Fuller Road Station project, which Kunselman has expressed doubts about. Ault, who is much more supportive of the project, had political backing from known allies of the council majority that Kunselman is sometimes at odds with.
Kunselman and Ault also differed on their opinion of the Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority, with Kunselman taking a much more skeptical view of the DDA and its finances. Kunselman said he thinks differences in stances on the DDA decided the election and that it only hurt Ault that she had DDA officials supporting her.
Issa ran a quieter campaign and didn't have the same political forces driving his candidacy. Rather, he ran on a platform that hammered home the message that the city of Ann Arbor has cut too far into police and fire services — cuts that Kunselman voted for, Issa pointed out.
"It was my first time running," Issa said after the election results came in. "I made a lot of mistakes from the beginning."
On the positive side, Issa said, he "got a lot more used to the issues of Ann Arbor." He said he's now thinking seriously about running against Christopher Taylor, the other 3rd Ward representative on council, in next year's Democratic primary.