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Local primary voters speak

Ontonagon millages, Stanton Twp. planning commission vote fail; Keranen wins Houghton County primary

HOUGHTON — A proposal to create a township planning commission in Stanton Township failed, as did two millage proposals to help the Village of Ontonagon pay down pension liabilities in Tuesday’s primary. 

Several contested primary races were also decided in the Copper Country.

Baraga County

Baraga County had two primary challenges on the county board. In District 2, incumbent Brad Dakota beat Michael Koskinen in the Republican primary, 106-45. In District 3’s Republican primary, Craig Kent (100) beat Linda Rajala (94) and Kent Thomas (35). District 1’s Gale Eilola (169) and District 4’s William Menge (246) ran unopposed in their Republican primaries; aside from Dakota, Eilola is the only current commissioner running for another term. In District 5, Judy Bozicevich (91) and Allan Dantes, Jr. (175) ran unopposed in the Democratic and Republican primaries, respectively.

Baraga Township voters approved two millage proposals. A two-year, 1.5-mill proposal for ambulance operation and equipment passed 365-137. A four-year, 1.5-mill proposal for fire operating and equipment passed 339-163.

In Spurr Township, Tammy Marier (40) ran unopposed in the treasurer race on the Democratic ballot, while the Republican ballot had Jason Killoran (46) for supervisor and Jessica Omernick (47) for clerk.

Houghton County

Joel Keranen won 30.2% of the vote in a four-way Republican primary for District 2, which was held by the late Board Chair Al Koskela and is being held by interim Commissioner Kevin Codere for the rest of the year. Keranen (571) beat out Lou Ambuehl (341), Richard Nye (128) and Glenn Schuldt (89). Dan Watrous is also running as a Democratic write-in candidate; 206 write-in votes were reported in the district.

Sheriff Joshua Saaranen (3,530) was unopposed in the Republican primary for a partial term ending Dec. 31, 2024. 

In District 1, Chair Tom Tikkanen (637) ran unopposed in the Republican primary. In District 3, Democratic Commissioner Glenn Anderson (471) and Republican challenger Dan Holcomb (546) ran unopposed in their respective primaries. In District 4, Commissioner Gretchen Janssen (260) ran unopposed in the Democratic primary. In District 5, Commissioner Roy Britz (980 ran unopposed in the Republican primary. (Challenger Daniel Niemela is not on the August ballot, but is running as a non-partisan candidate in November.)

By a 55%-45% vote, Stanton Township voters decided not to create a township planning commission, which township officials had discussed as a prerequisite for creating a zoning ordinance that would impose stronger restrictions on potential wind farm projects. The ballot measure, rejected 259-316, said the ordinance would establish the commission “for the purpose of having planning and zoning in Stanton Township, to create, organize, enumerate powers and duties, and to provide for the regulation and subdivision of land.” In the Republican primary for supervisor, current Supervisor Marty Rajala defeated Michael Pionke 217-164 for a partial term ending Nov. 20, 2024. 

In Calumet Township, an eight year, 1.5-mill proposal for road repair and road maintenance passed 347-190. Also in the township, Lana Hyrkas (549) ran unopposed in the Republican primary for a partial treasurer term ending Nov. 20, 2024.

In Laird Township, Patrick McLaren (75) ran unopposed in the Republican primary for a partial term ending Nov. 20, 2024.

Osceola Township voters approved a renewal of its road, sidewalk and drainage millage for 3 mills over five years by a 231-141 vote.

In Quincy Township, Dennis Raasio (27) and Michael Galetto (25) ran unopposed in the Republican primary for township supervisor and trustee, respectively, for partial terms ending Nov. 20, 2024.

Schoolcraft Township approved two road millages. A renewal of 1.5 mills over 10 years passed 165-70, while an additional 10-year, 1.5-mill road millage passed 137-99. 

Keweenaw County

Gary Bracco defeated Kenneth Rowe 303-167 in the Republican primary for county road commissioner.

All county commission candidates — District 1’s Donald Piche (69), District 2’s James Vivian (50), District 3’s Del Rajala (60), District 4’s Bob DeMarois (27) and District 5’s Randy Eckloff (87) — were unopposed.

By a 474-196 vote, county voters approved separate tax limitation millage rates for four years, not to exceed 15 mills. The allocation is as follows: 6.25 mills for Keweenaw County, 1.3 mills each for Allouez, Eagle Harbor and Houghton townships; 2.35 mills for Grant Township; 1.35 mills for Sherman Township; and 0.4 mills for the Copper Country Intermediate School District. 

In Allouez Township, Rebecca Butala (259) ran unopposed in the Republican primary for a partial clerk term expiring Nov. 20, 2024.

In Houghton Township, Thomas Hall (18) ran unopposed for a Republican primary for a partial trustee term expiring Nov. 20, 2024.

Eagle Harbor Township voters approved a four-year, 1-mill renewal of the millage for emergency services by a 93-28 vote. 

Sherman Township voters approved a six-year renewal of 2 mills for fire protection and emergency medical service 24-17. 

Ontonagon County 

Ontonagon County voters passed one county-wide millage while rejecting another. More than two-thirds of voters were against a six-year, 2-mill levy that would have raised funds towards meeting the Village of Ontonagon’s pension obligation stemming from the sale of the Ontonagon Memorial Hospital in 2007. The millage received 32.8% of the vote, failing 731-1,497. 

Village residents in Ontonagon also voted down another millage related to the MERS pension obligation. The six-year, 20-mill levy garnered 29.7% of the vote, failing 147-348. 

Village Manager William DuPont said he was disappointed, but not surprised by their failure to pass. He thought the county-wide millage probably had a 50-50 shot of passage prior to the inclusion of $3.1 million in aid in the recent state budget. 

“I love that the state helped out, but it definitely hurt our chances,” he said. 

The millages had been one part of a three-pronged approach for the village. Another, talking to state representatives, paid dividends in the money recently approved by the state. A separate House bill for the pension bailout didn’t pass, but was incorporated into the budget.

A third path is a grant opportunity that will be available next year, DuPont said. 

The village will have other chances at a millage proposal. DuPont said another proposal could show up on the November ballot, as well as in 2024.

“Ultimately, I think our MERS issue isn’t over, but we took some huge steps, and we’re not done,” he said.

A four-year, 0.5-mill renewal of the Ontonagon County Commission on Aging’s millage for maintenance and expansion of its programs passed 1,572-636. 

In county commission races, District 1’s John Cane (137), District’s 2 Richard Bourdeau (135), District 3’s Robert Nousiainen (239), District 4’s Carl Nykanen (142) and District 5’s Marlene Broemer (148) ran unopposed.

In Bergland Township, a four-year, 3-mill levy for the Bergland Volunteer Fire Department passed 107-57. Two mills go towards fire truck replacement, 0.5 mill would be used for equipment/training, and 0.25 mill each go towards operation costs and the planning and design of a future fire hall. 

Also in Bergland Township, Shawna Lundwall (77) ran unopposed in the Republican primary for a partial treasurer term ending Nov. 20, 2024. 

In Bohemia Township, Brian Taavola (14) ran unopposed in the Democratic primary for a partial township trustee term ending Nov. 20, 2024.

Carp Lake Township voters approved several millages. Three four-year, 0.5-mill renewals would restore millage that had been reduced to 0.48 mills through Headlee rollbacks: one for the Carp Lake Township library (148-53), one for the fire department operating expenses and equipment replacement reserves (166-34), and one for the operation of street lighting within Carp Lake Township (140-61). They would raise an estimated $17,000 in its first year.

Greenland Township voters OK’d adult-use marijuana establishments in the township by a 127-108 vote.

Interior Township will consider four millages. A five-year, 0.5 mill levy over five years to fund fire department equipment and expenses, passed 77-26. A four-year, 0.30-mill renewal for township park mowing and maintenance passed 72-31. A 0.25-mill, four-year renewal for township cemetery mowing and maintenance passed 74-28. A five-year, 1-mill levy for fire operating and maintenance passed 74-29. 

In the narrowest vote locally, Matchwood Township voters approved a two-year, 2-mill millage for the general fund 23-22.

Ontonagon Township voters approved a four-year, .25-mill renewal for operational expenses of the township park 522-342.

State races

In contested state races, Copper Country counties mostly favored the overall winners. 

Tudor Dixon, who won the Republican nomination for governor, received just over 40% of the vote in the four-county area, close to her 40.6% share of the vote statewide.

The Copper Country voters departed from statewide voters on runners-up. Second-place finisher Kevin Rinke, who got 22% of the vote statewide, only drew 14.1% of Copper Country primary voters.  He was eclipsed by Garrett Soldano (21.7% locally, 17.9% statewide) and Ryan Kelley (21.1% locally, 15.4% statewide). Ralph Rebandt finished in single digits, earning 3.1% of the vote in the four-county area versus 4.2% with all Republican voters in Michigan.

In the Republican primary for the 38th District, incumbent Ed McBroom easily defeated challengers Matthew Furyk and Kayla Wikstrom. In the Copper Country, he got 76.9%, slightly under his district-wide percentage of 77.4%. Wikstrom was also slightly under her numbers across the 38th, getting 12.7% in the Copper Country rather than 13.2%. Furyk’s 10.5% in the Copper Country was more than a percentage point ahead of his 9.4% overall. 

The most recent round of redistricting moved Baraga County into the 109th House District. Both parties had competitive primaries to find the successor to Rep. Sara Cambensy, who is term-limited. 

In the Republican primary, Melody Wagner won the nomination with 53.4% of the vote, despite losing the Baraga County vote. There, runner-up Joe Hill beat her 57.3%-43.3%.

In the Democratic primary, Jenn Hill outperformed her district-wide total in Baraga County, getting 60.2% of the vote, while Joe Boogren got 39.8%. Across the 110th, Hill won 55.4%-44.6%. 

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