SUTTONS BAY — The Leelanau County Commission has two new faces, and three Republicans who were at the center of a controversy surrounding the passage of a county resolution to condemn racism will keep their seats.
Newly elected commissioners are Republican Rick L. Robbins in District 1, where Anthony Ansorge did not run again, and Democrat Gwenne Allgaier in District 6, where Carolyn Rentenbach also chose not to run.
But just two votes separate Robbins, a court officer for Grand Traverse County, and George H. Bowers, an organic farmer, with Robbins garnering 1,183 votes and Bowers 1,181.
“I knew it was going to be close, but I didn’t expect anything like this,” Robbins said.
Bowers said Thursday he has not decided whether he will request a recount, as he is waiting for results of the election to be certified. He said he people have told him that in past elections recounts have changed the results.
“I trust the process,” Bowers said. “But knowing that kind of makes the case for a recount.”
He said Democratic Party leaders may also want him to ask for the recount.
Robbins said he’ll just wait and see what happens, saying that if there is a recount they’ll know the results fairly quickly — a vast difference from what is going on nationally.
Bowers said that whatever happens, his opponent will do a fine job as commissioner.
“If Rick Robbins ends up prevailing, I wish him all the best,” Bowers said.
Allgaier received 1,425 votes while her opponent, Republican Lana Schaub, received 1,070 votes.
A mostly-retired counselor, Allgaier lives in Maple City.
“I appreciate the votes of the people of Glen Arbor, Empire and Cleveland Township and I look forward to representing them on the county commission,” Allgaier said.
If the vote result changes and Bowers is seated, the board would flip to a make-up of four Democrats and three Republicans, though Ansorge, a Republican, was known for not voting along party lines.
Both Allgaier and District 5 Commissioner Patricia Soutas-Little, who defeated her challenger Jim Houdek on a vote of 1,383 to 1,109, believe the board should be non-partisan.
“At this level politics should not come into play,” said Soutas-Little, who has been on the board for six years.
She does not see the board as Democratic or Republican, but thinks board members should work for the good of all county residents.
“Sometimes when we get into difficulties it’s because some board members choose to go there,” Soutas-Little said. “I don’t want to participate in that.”
In District 2, incumbent Republican Commissioner Debra L. Rushton received 1,316 votes, while her challenger, Democrat John Hunter, received 1,031. Rushton has been on the board for eight years.
William J. Bunek will remain the District 3 commissioner after getting 1,230 votes, defeating Lois Bahle, who got 1,144 votes. Bunek has been on the board for 12 years.
Incumbent Melinda C. Lautner hung on to her District 7 seat with 1,243 votes, defeating Julie A. Morris, who got 944 votes. Lautner has been on the board for 24 years.
Rushton, Bunek and Lautner recently faced a public backlash after the board tried to pass a resolution to condemn racism. The resolution was in response to an elected road commissioner’s use of a racial slur just before the start of a public meeting.
Rushton wanted the words “racism,” “social justice” and “racial equity” removed from the document, while Lautner and Bunek wanted it to include information about Black women receiving abortions, with Bunek also wanting to include police officers being called “pigs” as an example of racism.
All three said they received letters and emails from the community, with Bunek saying some of them were really awful.