By Charles Sercombe
These are indeed historical times for Hamtramck politics.
The Bangladeshi community has proven beyond a doubt that it is a political powerhouse, one capable of electing and apparently removing candidates and elected officials of their choice.
Tuesday’s General Election was a nail-biter. Mayor Karen Majewski won the political fight of her life, but just barely. Hamtramck’s first female mayor will keep her position for another four years. She edged out her challenger, Abdul Algazali, a Yemeni-American, by just 123 votes. Algazali won the support of the Bangladeshi community as well as the Yemeni, and to a certain extent, the Bosnian communities.
Two out of the three Bengali city council candidates, Kazi Miah and Mohammed Hassan, were elected.
Former Hamtramck mayor, Tom Jankowski also won a seat on council.
Majewski’s running mate, City Councilmember Alan Shulgon, was not so lucky. He lost his re-election bid by 100 votes.
On Wednesday, the day after the election, Mayor Majewski sounded tired and perhaps a bit frustrated. She said it was disheartening that her challenger, Abdul Algazali, won the support he did with “so little to back up his four years on council. He was supported along ethnic lines, but that is not unusual.”
Majewski, who has a doctorate degree in history and ethnic studies, said the election has been interesting on a personal and professional level to “watch the city evolve and how it changes, the transformation of ethnic communities.”
Until Algazali’s election to City Council, he had been regarded among political observers as a fringe player in local politics. He could not be reached for comment.
Majewski and her campaign volunteers had hoped for a higher turnout. Some 3,341 voters participated, which is higher than usual for elections featuring mostly local positions. Majewski’s supporters had hoped at least 3,500 voters would participate.
Also on the ballot were two school board seats, which incumbents Elizabeth Zwolak and Hedy Shulgon, wife of Alan Shulgon, won easily. However, newcomer Carol Pinckney, who finished about 300 votes behind Shulgon, may have a future in local politics judging by the high number of votes she received.
Alan Shulgon said he wasn’t upset or bitter about being tossed out of council. He said he will continue to focus on his role as chairman of the Hamtramck Housing Commission. He added that it’s possible he would consider another run at City Council.
“I always leave my options open,” he said.
Another running mate of Majewski, Councilmember Scott Klein, lost his re-election bid in the August Primary Election.
That leaves Majewski and Councilmembers Catrina Stackpoole and Shahab Ahmed as the last remnants of the Solidarity slate.
Majewski said she looks forward to working with the three new councilmembers, none of whom came out in support of her re-election. Majewski said she’s able to put the election behind her and greet the new term, which starts Jan. 1, as a “new day.”
As for what candidates-elect Miah and Hassan have to look forward to, Majewski said they will soon learn “what it’s like to be on the other side of the desk.”
Miah could not be reached for comment, but Hassan said after hearing the news he won that he’s ready “to help city government.”
In what many voters considered a minor footnote in the election, a Wayne County bond issue to continue a wide-range of services, including county park maintenance and public safety, easily passed in Hamtramck as well as in the county.