The February primary election remained low key right up until it was over. The defeat of the Human Right Party's favored candidate Frank Shoichet by three votes has pushed the Second Ward campaign to a prominence which could ultimately hurt an election with serious potential consequences for Ann Arbor.
Shoichet lost the primary to non-candidate Richard Ankli, when low turnout gave the HRP final totals of 44-47. Ankli, who was running as a "fool," pulled out of the race several days before the election, but city laws prohibit withdrawal. With most voters unaware Shoichet would lose the election if Ankli received more votes, the Second Ward was lulled into ignoring the primary. Failure by Shoichet to get even a minimal number of supporters to the polls February 17 proved fatal to Shoichet's changes.
"I'm willing to admit I made a mistake," said Shoichet after the election.
The problems arose when evidence pointed to a Democratic crossover vote padding Ankli's returns. Several sources within the Democratic party admitted an effort existed "to get" Frank, and combined with low turnout, the ploy succeeded.
"It's absurd to blame the Democrats," claimed Tom Weider, campaign manager for Shoichet's Democratic opponent Carol Jones," when Frank couldn't even get 100 people out to vote for him. You just don't let that happen in a contested primary."
At a mass meeting, the HRP voted to support Shoichet over Ankli, and Ankli agreed to the move. Shoichet most likely will not appear on the official ballot but can run as a write-in candidate. Attempts are currently underway to find some way around city regulations which seem to make it impossible for a candidate to withdraw. One suggestion is a city ordinance allowing Shoichet's name to be placed on the ballot, but chances such a move would receive Council support seem dim.
In the two other contested primaries, Democrat Elizabeth Taylor easily defeated opponent Bob Elton for the First Ward nomination, and incumbent Republican Robert Henry wiped out challenger Paul Wensel.