On the election trail

hamtramck review


By Charles Sercombe
As usual, every election has its moments and interesting tidbits.
Last Tuesday’s General Election was no exception.
Let’s start off with Mayor Karen Majewski’s whopping win with 61 percent of the vote total. It begged the question: When was the last time a Hamtramck mayor won by such a large margin?
Majewski has been squeaking by, relatively speaking, since running. She isn’t alone in this category. We can go back to her predecessor, Tom Jankowski, who beat the then-incumbent, Gary Zych, by a small margin.
Majewski, in turn, beat Jankowski at a later date by a small margin.
Zych kept winning, when terms for the mayor were only two years, by the tiniest of tiny margins – sometime by a mere handful of votes. Those contentious elections usually ended up in recounts, which never changed the results in any significant way.
We would have to go back to the days of Mayor Robert Kozaren — who for many years rarely faced a serious challenger – to see such a significant victory. In his prime, he would slaughter his rival by a vote margin of at least 90 percent if not more.
Kozaren is still the longest serving mayor in the city’s history, serving for 18 years. But near the end of his political career, the challenges he faced became more serious – and heated.
Gary Zych finally pushed over the top, but barely so.
The election results on Tuesday were nothing short of strange. The Bengali and Yemeni communities are now the population majority in the city, and both communities are political powerhouses.
But in a turn of events no one could forecast, not one of their candidates won either as mayor (Mohammed Hassan) or on city council.
What happened?
There are a number of theories out there. One is that the mayor and her council candidates were wise to run as a slate.
Slates have a long history of proving to be highly effective. Not every candidate on a slate may win, but it sure is likely most will.
That old political strategy came up a winner for Majewski and her team. So the question is, why didn’t Hassan, who was running for mayor, form a slate?
Is it because he never thought of it, or is it because the field of Bengali and Yemeni candidates was too fractured?
There was also plenty of bellyaching that this election was marred by the state police investigation into absentee ballot voter fraud, which is still ongoing. The thinking is the investigation had a chilling effect on certain voters.
There could be some truth to that. A couple of weeks ago over 1,400 absentee ballots were issued. That was about twice as many compared to the last mayoral election in 2013.
City Clerk August Gitschlag told The Review that typically most of the AV ballots issued are returned.
Not so in Tuesday’s election. A little over 300 AV ballots were never returned.
Was that because some voters held back their AV ballots for fear of being swept up in the investigation and possibly charged with a crime?
And in the age of Trump, did some worry that it could lead to something worse? Like deportation?
We’re not just talking about legitimate immigrant voters who are also citizens. Could it be that there were some people who were going to vote illegally in some manner and feared being caught?
This is an issue folks will be looking at for some time.
We also couldn’t help but notice a peculiar voting pattern for Hassan, Nayeem Leon Choudhury, Monzural Karim and Mohammed Al-Somiri.
All of them got about 500 AV votes, with Hassan at about 600, and all topped out with almost 700 votes on election day.
Maybe there was another slate after all.
Here’s a question we posed last week: Now that Hassan will be out of the city council at the end of December, will Mayor Majewski be able to have the upper hand on council with her slate mates?
While there could be a rash of 3-3 votes, it’s the mayor who gets to break the tie. So far, Councilmembers Anam Miah, Saad Almasmari and Abu Musa have teamed up to oppose the mayor on a number of issues in the past year.
One key issue has been whether to keep on former city manager Katrina Powell, who left her job at the end of June when her employment contract was not extended.
Majewski and councilmembers Andrea Karpinski and Ian Perrotta wanted to keep Powell.
Powell is still in the area, and recently applied to be the head of the DDA in Traverse City. She didn’t get that job, but now with supporters lined up in January, would it be surprising to see her return to Hamtramck?
In Hamtramck, anything is possible.

Published November 17, 2017

2 Responses to On the election trail

  1. Stan Zelmanski

    November 18, 2017 at 2:12 pm

    What is shocking about the extent of Majewski’s victory is that there were highly controversial events during her term which appeared to possibly be factors in the election that could have militated against her:

    (A) her failure to influence City Council to vote to renew Katrina Powell’s contract as CM;

    (B) the abrupt departure of City Attorney J. Travis Mihelick – the youngest city attorney in Hamtramck’s history;

    (C) the public outcry over the performance of police leadership in addressing the White Star Nightclub shootings and the spate of reckless and hit-and-run driving incidents in the city;

    (D) the Tekla Vintage water controversy;

    (E) the highly-publicized pending federal civil rights lawsuits against the city due to allegations against the now-disbanded COBRA auto insurance fraud unit;

    (F) the ongoing lack of police and fire union contracts that only recently have been resolved.

    There had been discussions about her failure to effectively lead Hamtramck and an ensuing crisis of confidence that should have led to her being voted out of office. It is certainly possible that the voters felt that Mr. Hassan was not a viable alternative to Mayor Majewski.

  2. Resident

    November 20, 2017 at 4:14 pm

    Stan – “not a viable alternative” – no doubt about it.

    People voted for the better of these two candidates. Outcome could have been different if it were between Karen M and Tom J.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *