Traverse City Record-Eagle

October 26, 2013

Estes undecided; commission candidate jumps into fray

Traverse City Record-Eagle

---- — TRAVERSE CITY — Mayor Michael Estes remains undecided about his political future following his drunken driving arrest, but one would-be city commissioner will take advantage of an opportunity to run as a write-in mayoral candidate.

Commission candidate John Reid filed Thursday as a write-in candidate for mayor. He was joined Friday by George Golubovskis, a homeless man who is not a registered voter in the city, so votes for Golubovskis won’t count.

No other candidate, sitting city commissioner, nor resident filed before Friday’s 4 p.m. deadline. Commission candidates can run concurrently for both the commission and as a write-in candidate for mayor, city Clerk Benjamin Marentette determined after consulting with state election officials and the city attorney.

“I hope the mayor decides not to run,” Reid said. “Do you want somebody who has done that to be the tiebreaker on a big vote in the city? I don’t. Not with his moral record.”

Estes was arrested Wednesday around 9 p.m. near Eighth and Rose streets for first offense drunken driving. He was heading home from a candidate forum at Central Elementary School and told the Record-Eagle he had been drinking prior to the forum, where he showed up late at about 8:15 p.m.

His preliminary blood alcohol level tested at the scene was 0.10 percent. Tests at the county jail shortly before 10 p.m. indicated his blood-alcohol level was 0.12 percent. State law defines drunken driving as 0.08 percent or above.

Estes said in a statement to the Record-Eagle Friday that he was “shocked at the positive responses from so many people,” who strongly encouraged him to continue as mayor.

“My ultimate decision will be a family decision that will be made soon,” Estes wrote. “The results of the election may eliminate any need for decisions.”

Estes’ name will remain on the ballot regardless of whether he decides to resign or withdraw from the race. He told the Record-Eagle on Thursday he planned to take a couple of days to consider his future.

Several other commission candidates considered or were asked to run as write-in candidates, but rejected the idea. Candidate Ross Richardson said it doesn’t make practical sense with 11 days left before the election and a significant number of absentee ballots already cast.

Absentee ballots typically make up about 40 percent of the ballots cast in a city general election, Marentette said. The city already received over 55 percent of the absentee ballots, or about 22 percent of the votes likely to be cast in the Nov. 5 election.

Voters can ask to recast their absentee ballots, but just one person requested a new ballot for an unknown reason since news of Estes’ arrest broke Thursday morning, Marentette said.

City Commissioner Jim Carruthers said he has monitored social media and news websites and said the overwhelming sentiment on those venues is for Estes to resign.

But many such commentators don’t live in the city, and many who do are already mad at Estes because of efforts to disband the current city fire department or because of his oft-brusque manner in running meetings, Carruthers said.

Estes wants to replace the city fire department with Grand Traverse Metro Fire Department as a cost-saving measure.

“If people don’t like him because he’s rude; if people don’t like him because of the fire department thing; or people don’t like him because they think he’s a drunk, they can decide his future (Nov. 5),” Carruthers said.

Carruthers said he’s also amused at the number of people who think Estes is receiving special treatment because he is mayor.

“The only special treatment we get as public officials is we get the front page of the paper when we mess up,” Carruthers said.

Estes is scheduled to be arraigned on the misdemeanor charge Nov. 4, at 9:45 a.m. in 86th District Court before Judge Michael Stepka.