Debriefing The Lansing And East Lansing City Council Elections

Nov 7, 2019

Two incumbents were ousted from the Lansing and East Lansing City Councils in Tuesday’s election. The upsets were part of a trend of progressive and anti-establishment newcomers, unseating well-financed and widely recognized incumbents. WKAR’s Abigail Censky talked to Lansing State Journal Reporter Sarah Lehr about the results. Below are highlights of their conversation. 

Interview Highlights

Betz Boots Washington Off Council

“He took 54% of the vote according to unofficial results, which is pretty significant, I would say, particularly when he's unseating an incumbent who fundraised him more than two to one prior to the election.”

Washington far outraised Betz in advance of Tuesday, flooding Northeast Lansing with mailers. Betz, an economist with the Michigan League, pitched himself to voters as the progressive foil to Washington’s establishment presence on the council. Their most notable campaign differences were over business and marijuana. Betz wanted to raise the cap on recreational marijuana businesses, and invest in small cannabis entrepreneurs and vocally opposed Washington’s ‘no’ vote on a social equity provision defeated on the council several weeks before the election.

Wood Wins Final Term, Spitzley Keeps Seat

“I was not surprised that Carol would hung on to her seat. I mean, she's a five-term incumbent. Anytime she runs for city council pretty much in the last 20 years, she's kept her seat pretty handily. And as for Patricia Spitzley, I mean, her margin was not as comfortable as Carol Wood’s. But I mean, Patricia Spitzley did not raise as much money as Carol Wood, but she had endorsements of a lot of establishment groups, including labor unions, the Chamber of Commerce.”

Wood and Spitzley claimed the two At-Large seats, defeating challengers Yanice Jackson-Long and Julee Rodocker.

Newcomers Win The Day In East Lansing

“I mean, some could say that's a vote against the political establishment in East Lansing. Mark Meadows is a longtime political figure. He served for years on the East Lansing city council before serving in the state legislature back on the council now and according to unofficial results, he beat Eric Altmann by only two votes.”

Newcomers Lisa Babcock and Jessy Gregg earned the highest share of votes in East Lansing on Tuesday. Their nearly 25 % margins, edged mayor pro tempore Eric Altmann off of the council. However, current Mayor Mark Meadows, bested Altmann by just two votes. While the results are unofficial, Altmann said he does not plan to request a recount.

Follow Abigail on Twitter: @AbigailCensky 

Follow Sarah on Twitter: @SarahGLehr