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This primary election features a slew of races for newly defined districts, courtesy of statewide redistricting in 2021.

Michigan is an open primary state, meaning that voters do not need to declare a party to vote. 

Primary races are taking place in Grand Traverse County (5), in Antrim County (5), Kalkaska County (3) and Leelanau County (3), with none in Benzie County since no candidates there face opposition.

Grand Traverse County

The county’s population grew by nearly 10 percent over the last 10 years, from about 87,000 to 95,000, according to U.S. Census Bureau, prompting an apportionment commission to increase the number of county commission districts from seven to nine. The increase changed the district map across the entire county, putting commissioners in new districts and giving some candidates the ability to run for office without facing an incumbent.

District 2

Lauren Flynn: Democrat, 42

Political experience: Never held office

Occupation: Director of party operations, Grand Traverse County Democrats

Why running: “It’s time for a changing of the guard.”

Melissa Hogan: Democrat, 53

Political experience: Ran for District 3 county seat in 2020

Occupation: Physician assistant

Why running: “Many issues in the county are bordering on becoming crises and the board needs people who are willing to work together.”

District 3

Bryce Hundley: Democrat, 49

Political experience: Serving second term on the county board

Occupation: Finance director at Child & Family Services

Why running: To pursue his liberal values while maintaining relationships with fellow board members with the goal of bringing them to his side.

Ashlea Walter: Democrat, 45

Occupation: Marketing director for Honor Bank

Political experience: Traverse City Commission for three years; Empire Village Council several years ago

Why running: To better represent the people of District 3.

District 4

Brad Jewett: Republican, 52

Political experience: Serving his second term on the county board

Occupation: Co-owner of Culver Meadows Senior Living

Why running: To continue being a part of making Grand Traverse County great.

Scott C. Hardy: Republican, 68

Political experience: Served five years on the Traverse City Commission, eight years on the TCAPS board of education

Occupation: Real estate agent for Coldwell Banker

Why running: The county board has become too political and veered off course.

District 5

Rob Hentschel: Republican, 43

Political experience: Serving his third term on the county board, nearly four years as chair

Occupation: Co-owner of Roy’s General Store

Why running: “We’ve had a lot of progress at the county that I’m proud to have been a part of,” and that he wants to continue.

Carol Crawford: Republican, 54

Political experience: Served two terms on the county board, two years as chair

Occupation: Tax accountant for Intuit

Why running: “In the past four years, I’ve seen the county board go in a direction I don’t like.”

District 8

Charles Jetter: Republican, 44

Political experience: Serving his 14th year on Mayfield Township board, serves on township planning commission.

Occupation: Owner of Jetts Lawn Care

Why running: Redistricting and the lack of an incumbent presented a good opportunity to run.

Scott Sieffert: Republican, 51

Political experience: Two years on the Kingsley Village Council, ran for GTC sheriff in the 2020 primary

Occupation: Bus driver for Dean Transportation

Why running: “Now that there’s a new district, I thought it was a good opportunity to represent those communities that have been largely unrepresented in the county commission.”

Leelanau County

Two long-term commissioners in the county opted not to run again. They are Republican Debra Rushton from District 2 and Democrat Patricia Soutas-Little from District 5. With an increase in county population of about 600 people over the last 10 years, there were no significant changes in the district map.

District 2

James S. O’Rourke: Republican, 71

Political experience: Serves on the Elmwood Township Board, on the board for more than 25 years

Occupation: Retired from the Leelanau County Sheriff’s Department and from Homeland Security at the Cherry Capital Airport.

Why running: “There’s been a lot of friction on the board. I think I can do better. I think I can make a change.”

Mark Walter: Republican, 58

Political experience: District 2 commissioner from 2002 to 2008

Occupation: Campus security at Interlochen, retired from Michigan Department of Corrections

Why running: “I’m a political conservative. We need to have a conservative, experienced voice on the board.”

District 5

Alan Campbell: Republican, 66

Political experience: Never held office

Occupation: Writer, retired owner and publisher of the Leelanau Enterprise

Why running: “I’m a big believer in public service. I’ve watched and offered opinions on local government for a long time. I believe in the efficiency of local government and I’d like to be a part of that.”

Mike Taylor: Republican, 70

Political Experience: Never held office

Occupation: Retired urban planner for City of Sarasota, Fla.

Why running: “I have what I think is a good skill set and I’d like to offer that to Leelanau.”

District 7

Nancy Flanagan: Democrat, 70

Political experience: Never held office

Occupation: Retired music teacher

Why running: “I think that the county could do a much better job of addressing the things they do have jurisdiction over — affordable housing, clean water and internet.”

Julie Kradel: Democrat, 63

Political experience: Never held office

Occupation: Artist

Why running: “It’s time for change right now, especially in Leelanau County. Melinda Lautner has held that office for 26 years and she has become stagnant.”

Mary O’Neill: Democrat, 64

Political experience: Never held office

Occupation: Retired from writing, marketing, advertising field

Why running: “There are many people in District 7 who are just frustrated by our current commissioner who has been serving for 26 years. It’s my opinion that she’s holding Leelanau back. We need new ideas and new perspectives.”

Allison Zimpfer: Democrat, 40

She did not respond to a request for comment.

Antrim County

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Antrim County’s population increased by just under 300 people between 2010 and 2021, but the county’s districts have been shaken up. After this election, the county will go from having nine districts to five. Six of the nine current commissioners are running again in newly sectioned districts are: Jarris Rubingh, Terry VanAlstine, Brenda Ricksgers, Dawn LaVanway, Jason Helwig and Christian Marcus.

District 1

William Hefferan: Republican, 55

Political Experience: Never held office

Occupation: Retired administrator with the Antrim County Probate Court

Why running: “For 26 years I worked for the folks in the county and enjoyed that, and when the current commissioners decided not to run, I thought, well, maybe folks will think I still have something I can give.”

Caleb Pero: Republican, 33

Political Experience: Never held office

Occupation: Excavator with Mel’s Excavating

Why running: Can bring conservative values back to Antrim County and make a better future for forthcoming generations as a combat veteran and political outsider.

District 2

Jarris Rubingh: Republican, 38

Political Experience: Serving first term on the Antrim County Commission, served three terms as a Precinct Delegate in Banks Township.

Occupation: Dairy farmer

Why running: “My goal is to make things better and more efficient.”

Melissa Zelenak: Republican, 56

Political Experience: Served one term as a Central Lake village trustee, served one term as an Antrim County Commissioner

Occupation: Executive Director for Antrim Conservation District

Why running: “I’m worried about the future of our county and I think that we need to have some solid, experienced and educated people in office.”

District 3

Terry VanAlstine: Republican, 64

Political Experience: Serving second term as an Antrim County Commissioner, one as chair, served 11 years on the Bellaire village council.

Occupation: Retired from selling auto parts

Why running: “To make Antrim County a better place to live, work and vacation.”

Gary Lockwood: Republican, 75

Lockwood’s name will appear on the ballot, but he attempted to withdraw from the election in June for personal reasons and an interest in helping the county by means other than politics, he said. If he gets more votes than his opponent, he would technically be elected, but said he would step down from the position.

District 4

Brenda Ricksgers: Republican, 76

Political Experience: Serving her fourth term on the Antrim County Commission

Occupation: Farmer raising Rocky Mountain horses

Why running: “I like doing what I can in the county, I like knowing what’s going on in the area where I live and helping.”

Jason Helwig: Republican, 46

Political Experience: Serving second term on the Antrim County Commission

Occupation: Works at a machine shop in Antrim County

Why running: “I feel like I have a voice that helps stick up for the area at the county level.”

District 5

Dawn LaVanway: Republican, 58

Political Experience: Serving third term as Antrim County Commissioner

Occupation: Library director of the Jordan Valley District Library

Why running: To continue to represent her community

Christian Marcus: Republican, 50

Marcus is a current Antrim County Commissioner. He did not respond to a request for comment.

Kalkaska County

Recent redistricting in Kalkaska County left minimal changes; the county’s population increased by about 800 residents in the last decade, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Kalkaska will have the same number of commissioners, with the only change being that a piece of Orange Township flipped from District 3 to District 5, said Kalkaska County Clerk Deborah Hill.

Six of the seven current county commissioners are running again this election cycle: Truman Bicum, Bob Baldwin, Kohn Fisher, James Sweet, David Comai and Craig Crambell.

District 1

Truman Bicum: Republican, 84

Political Experience: Serving his second term as county commissioner

Occupation: Retired automotive sales agent

Why running: “I just like helping people.”

John West: Republican, 58

Political Experience: Served one term as Kalkaska County Commissioner

Occupation: Business owner, teaches classes on firearms at Cabela’s, Bass Pro Shops and Sportsman’s Warehouse

Why running: Wants to look out for the best interests of the people as commissioner

District 4

James Sweet: Republican, 82

Political Experience: Serving his third term on the Kalkaska County Commission, served two terms on Garfield Township Commission

Occupation: Retired operations manager of shopping centers at Rouse Company

Why running: Still has more work to do on developing a new program and review process for county employees

Derek Schollenberger: Republican, 50

Schollenberger did not respond to a request for comment.

District 6

Craig Crambell: Republican, 68

Political Experience: Serving his seventh year on the Kalkaska County Commission

Occupation: Electrician

Why running: “I think I’m getting pretty good at what I do” and wants to continue current projects at the county level.

Todd Harger: Republican, 50

Political Experience: Never held office

Occupation: Compliance officer for the village of Kalkaska

Why running: “I think we need to focus on employee retention and reprioritize the budget expenditures.

Editor's note: This story was updated 07/26/22 to correct an incorrect term in defining Michigan's primaries. 

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