Press enter after choosing selection

Campaign Hot In Ypsilanti Township

Campaign Hot In Ypsilanti Township image Campaign Hot In Ypsilanti Township image
Parent Issue
Copyright Protected
Rights Held By
Donated by the Ann Arbor News. © The Ann Arbor News.
OCR Text

Three "big-name" Democrats will compete with one "no-name" Democrat in the Aug. 6 primary election for nomination to the post of Ypsilanti Township supervisor. The race is among the most hotly-contested political fracases in the county. Incumbent William L. Gagnon is running hard to stave off a challenge for his job by two former chairmen of the Washtenaw County Board of Commissioners, William E. Winters and James M. Cregar. Also in the race is a virtual unknown, Edward F. Freeman. Gagnon, Winters and Cregar áll claim publicly that they expect to win. Freeman admits that he harbors little hope of victory. Whichever Democratie contender takes the primary is sure to be rated the favorite over Republican candidate Charles Conklin in the November general election. Conklin is unopposed in his party. Ypsilanti Township, ëasily the most popülous township in the county with a resident total approaching 50,000, is considered a Democratie stronghold. The battle among Gagnon, Winters and Cregar - who at one time were all political allies - is indicative of the factionalism which has recently split township Democrats. Gagnon earlier this year had a fallingout with Township Clerk Anna Stepp and Township Treasurer Frank Daniels Jr. Both of them are now aligned with Cregar, who reportedly has the support of Tilden R. Stumbo, a former Gagnon backer. Stumbo, one-time township clerk and now a land developer, has for years been reputed to be the power behind the scènes in Ypsilanti Township Democratie politics. And he is running for a seat on the county Board of Commissioners this fall, seeking to replace Cregar. Cregar's bid for the supervisor's post carne as a surprise. His authority as chairman of the Board of Commissioners was under fire, but he was quoted in April aspraising the job done in the township'by Gagnon. He now attacks Gagnon as an ineffective. leader. Winters, meanwhile, replaced Gagnon on the county's powerful Public Works Board last year, much to Gagnon's consternation. The appointment of Winters widened an already-developing rift. Nor have Winters and Cregar gotten along altogether swimmingly during their terms as county commissioners. "They took turns chopping the legs out from one another while each was chairman of the board," according to one observer close to the situation. So the battle lines are drawn. Cregar has the apparent backing of Stumbo's political machine, and his campaign is being directed by Township Attorney Henry Ritchie. Winters portrays himself as a "straight talker" and has unión support stemming from nis job as president of United Auto Workers Local 38 at the Associated Spring Corp. in Ann Arbor. And Gagnon, as head of the "friendly four" slate of candidates, is out to prove that his record of past public service in the township is enough to convince voters to re-elect him. In contrast to those three professional politicians, Freeman, a 28-year-old medical photographer at University Hospital, is running what he calis a do-it-yourself campaign. He concedes that his topping Gagnon, Winters and Cregar at the polls would constitute an upset of mammoth proportions. 'Tm offering my services," he said. "I'm not out hustling for the job like everybody else seems to be doing . . . I've received no support from any group, and I don't owe anybody anything." Freeman explained that he decided to run after receiving what he considered an unfair assessment on his home for tax purposes. "I kept thinking, 'There's nothing I can do about it.' But then I thought, 'Well, maybe there is something I can do about it after all.' That's enough." While admitting that he's "not up on all the issues," Freeman claims to be civic-minded and opposed to the kind of "cut-throat" politics he sees in Ypsilanti Township. "I don't rule myself out completely, because my name is on the ballot," he noted. 'Tve got to be ready, if I do win.l I don't see any major changes coming. Itl will basically be just a fair and honestl government for everybody." Cregar, 38, Winters, 47, and Gagnon, I 45, are not particularly reluctant about I trading accusations. For example, each I charges that the other two, if elected, I will be at the mercy of special interest I groups demanding favors from the I supervisor's office. Yet each of the three denies that he I personally caters to any influence 1 dlers in exchange for votes. Winters and Cregar both criticize 1 gnon for allegedly inept property 1 ing practices in the township resulting in I taxation inequities. Gagnon responds by accusing Cregar and Winters of "teaming up with county Equalization Director George Kostishak," who Gagnon believes has singled out Ypsilanti Township for unfair treatment. "Mr. Kostishak is not all to blame for the situation in Ypsilanti Township," said Winters, who last fall indicated that he would cali for Kostishak's I tion, but never publicly did so. "Ypsilanti needs a full-time, qüalified assessor. Some taxpayers are getting a break and others are paying through the nose," said Cregar, who last fall demanded that Kostishak apologize to the township for what he ternied discriminatory equalization methods. Issues in the primary campaign are not hard to find. They include planned rather than uncontrolled growth in the township, better pólice protection, the need for more recreational sites, accounting of public funds, and road imDrovements. But at the core of the campaign is the I central issue of which candidate can provide the township with responsible and responsive leadership for the next two years. "Mr. Gagnon's leadership has left a heil of a lot to be desired," said Winters. "I don't think Mr. Gagnon even understands how to chair a meeting in regards to letting the public speak." "I think the people of the township are searching for new leadership," said Cregar. "There's a lot of discontent because there's been a lack of response to the people's problems . . . I don't think the present supervisor has made any attempt at public relations with the citizens." "Cregar and Winters didn't get one thing done for this township while they were chairmen of the Board of Commissioners," retaliated Gagnon. "It was like a three-ring circus over there. I don't think the people in this township want the kind of things going on over here that they've engaged in on the board." Gagnon is seeking his third term as supervisor and knows full well that he's in for a tussle this time around. He views Winters and Cregar as representatives of the county government he has (OVSH PLEaSE) ally fought with in the past. "I am going to resist the county coming in here to take over Ypsilanti Township," he emphasized. Cregar points out, "I'm not running in this race because I'm mad at anybody. I'm running to get a job done." He said nis alignment with Stepp and Daniels is important because "the other township officers need the feeling that they can work with the supervisor." Winters brims with confidence and has advertised his candidacy heavily. He sees many things wrong in township government and proposes many changes. "We have to get our own house in order. That's our first priority," he said. A few days from now, the trio of "bigname" Democrats will learn which of their well-known names will appear on the November ballot opposite that of Republican Conklin's. That is, unless a "no-name" pulls off a colossal political upset. CAMPAIGN HOT ...