2018-04-26 / Front Page

Quiet county Primary

Candidates won’t be challenged in August
By Eric Carlson
Of The Enterprise staff

Races for seats on the Leelanau County Board of Commissioners this election season appear to be anything but hot.

The deadline for filing to run for party nominations in the Aug. 7 Primary Election was Tuesday. None of those running for a Republican or Democratic nomination in the primary are facing a challenge within their own party.

And only four of those commissioners will face a partisan opponent in the General Election on Nov. 6. Candidates running without party affiliation — “independents” — in the General Election have until July 19 to file.

Republican incumbents representing Districts No. 1 and No. 2, Anthony Ansorge and Debra Rushton respectively, will run without Democratic challengers.

District No. 1 falls entirely within Elmwood Township in the southeast corner of Leelanau County. District No. 2 includes the northern portion of Elmwood Township and the southern portion of neighboring Bingham Township.

“We just couldn’t find anyone to run against Tony (Ansorge) or Deb (Rushton),” said Gwenne Allgaier, chair of the Leelanau County Democratic Party.

“I wish somebody would tell me where all the Democrats are down in Elmwood,” she added.

Meanwhile, in Leelanau Township, incumbent District No. 4 Commissioner Ty Wessell, a Democrat, is alone on the ballot for his party’s nomination and will not face a Republican challenger in November either.

“We asked around if somebody wanted to run in District 4,” said Steve Yoder, vice chairman of the Leelanau County Republican Party. “But it appears that no Republican in Leelanau Township is quite ready to step up to that challenge this year.”

One Democratic incumbent on the County Board and three incumbent Republicans will face challenges from candidates of the opposing party in November, however.

District No. 5 Commission Patricia Soutas-Little, a Democrat, will again be opposed by Republican Dale T. Schaub in November. District No. 5 includes Leland and Centerville townships.

Soutas-Little and Schaub faced off in a tight race two years ago, with Soutas-Little prevailing by about one percentage point.

District No. 6 Commissioner Casey Noonan, a Republican, will face a challenge from former County Board Chairman Carolyn “Peachy” Rentenbach in November. A Democrat, Rentenbach lost her seat to Noonan in 2016 by just two percentage points. At the time she pledged to run in two years.

District No. 6 includes Cleveland, Empire and Glen Arbor townships.

The County Board’s longest serving commissioner, District No. 7 Commissioner Melinda C. Lautner, a Republican, will face a challenge from political newcomer Julie Morris in November. Democrat Morris is a retired schoolteacher and an Army veteran.

Long considered the board’s most conservative Republican, Lautner has won re-election to her post every two years since 1996. District No. 7 includes Solon and Kasson townships.

Quiet commissioner primaries are not unusual in Leelanau County, in 2016, Schaub easily overcame a bid for the Republican nomination by Mike Taylor, 324-186. However, it’s the first time in recent memory that Republicans did not provide a candidate for all seven commissioner seats. Former County Board chair Tom Van Pelt, however, was defeated by Wessell in the General Election.

That year Democrats offered candidates for six of seven commissioner races, with Ansorge running unopposed.

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