Doris Preston wins handily in Fifth Ward
By OWEN ESHENRODER
CITY GOVERNMENT REPORTER
Democrat Doris Preston scored a lopsided win Monday in Ann Arbor’s only contested primary for City Council.
Preston, a veteran behind-the-scenes party worker, moved to center stage by taking 62 percent of the Democratic vote in the Fifth Ward to defeat Barbara Rachelson, a newcomer to local politics.
Unofficial returns from the city clerk’s office gave Preston 736 votes to Rachelson’s 453 Republican Sally Pennington, running unopposed, received 51 votes and will oppose Preston in the April 2 general election for the council seat being vacated by GOP incumbent Joyce Chesbrough.
Preston, a 40-year-old University of Michigan librarian, said during a victory party Monday night that she was not surprised by her winning margin. She attributed it to her network of volunteers and campaign organization within the ward, which encompasses Ann Arbor’s west side.
The almost 2-1 margin, she said, “is what I was hoping for.''
Preston won in 10 of the ward’s 13 precincts, as well as in absentee ballots. She topped her opponent even in Rachelson’s own precinct, the area around Bach School.
Rachelson, 26, executive director of the Lansing-based Michigan Network of Runaway and Youth Services, was a gracious loser. She appeared at Preston’s victory party about an hour after the polls closed to concede defeat and pledge her support in the April election.
Rachelson said later that she had no regrets and would have done nothing differently in her campaign.
“I expected it to be closer,” she said, “but it’s important that we get a sixth Democrat on council.”
Should Preston defeat Pennington, a Realtor, in April, and Democratic incumbent Raphael Ezekiel hang onto his Third Ward seat, Democrats will grab a majority on the 11-member council for the first time since 1971. The only other Democratic incumbent up for re-election this spring, Larry Hunter in the First Ward, is unopposed.
The turnout was higher than expected. A total of 1,189 Democratic votes was cast, compared to the 968 cast in the Fifth Ward during last year’s primary contest between Leslie Morris and Thomas Blessing for the Democratic mayoral nomination.
There are 16,976 registered voters in the Fifth Ward, and 7.3 percent of them voted Monday.
Preston said the turnout is an indication that the Democratic base is growing in the Fifth Ward. That, she said, bodes well for her chances in the spring election.
She also said that having run a primary campaign should help her in April, because it means her volunteer organization is already established and her name recognition among voters may be greater than Pennington’s.
Preston said she “knows very little” about Pennington, but plans to emphasize her experience in politics and city government in her race against the Republican candidate.
Preston is the lone Democrat on the Ann Arbor Planning Commission and a member of both the Mayor’s Energy Advisory Commission and the Washtenaw County Metropolitan Planning Commission. She is a former Democratic chairwoman in the Fifth Ward and managed Council woman Kathy Edgren’s successful campaign last year.
Primary winner Doris Preston, at right in the photo at left, celebrates Monday night with her friend Mary Jo Gord. At right, her opponent Barbara Rachelson gets a consolation kiss from supporter Roger Kerson.
NEWS PHOTOS • RICK LIEDER
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