Primary winners (top, from left): Aric Nesbitt, Myrene Koch, Mark Ludwig, (bottom) Dean Kapenga, Max Thiele, Rick Cain. (File photos)

Allegan County voters turn out for 2018 Aug. 7 primary

Recount requested for Dorr’s recycling surcharge
Ryan Lewis, Editor

Voter turnout for the Aug. 7 primary was larger than expected as several polling locations ran out of ballots.

Countywide, turnout was 28.52 percent, with 25,504 citizens casting ballots out of the 89,422 registered voters.

Otsego Township clerk Joan Squibbs said voting there didn’t let up all day instead of the usual slump during business hours. Voting in Precinct 1 there was 15 percent, but it jumped to 53.9 percent in Precinct 2, the highest percentage in the entire county; that’s 1,132 ballots.

Squibbs said they followed the protocols of providing ballot photocopies for voters and then hand-counting them after polls closed.

“It was a busy day, but I think it’s important to note that everyone who came in was able to vote and had their vote counted,” she said.

The City of Saugatuck came in a close second, with 415 ballots cast for a 51.7-percent turnout. Other standouts included Saugatuck Township at 44.98 percent, the City of the Village of Douglas at 48.06 percent, Leighton Township at 42.28 percent and Casco Township at 41.57 percent.

In local contested races, appointed Allegan County Prosecuting Attorney Myrene Koch won the GOP nomination with a 7,498-to-6,676-vote win over Allegan attorney Michael Villar. Koch has no Democrat opposition on the November ballot.

Allegan County Board of Commissioners Chair Dean Kapenga won his primary challenge over Anthony Brown; board vice chair Max Thiele also fended off William Sorensen for the GOP nod.

Rick Cain won the GOP nomination for the opening for the District 7 seat. Incumbent Commissioner Don Black announced late last year he intended to step down at the end of his term this year. Cain won out over Nathaniel Sherman.

Notably, each seat on the county board will be challenged on the November ballot by Democratic nominees. This is how those races will look:

District 1: Incumbent Republican Dean Kapenga will face off against Democrat Christi Allen

District 2: Incumbent Republican Jim Storey will face Democrat Kenneth Whitcomb

District 3: Incumbent Republican Max Thiele will face Democrat Kathryn Bamberg

District 4: Incumbent Republican D. Mark DeYoung will face Democrat Mike Salisbury

District 5: Incumbent Republican Tom Jessup will face Democrat Don Doggendorf

District 6: Incumbent Republican Gale Dugan will face Democrat Ben Snape

District 7: Republican Rick Cain will face Democrat Rachel Colingsworth

Looking to state-level offices, Democrat Mark Ludwig won his party’s nomination over Eric Almquist for the District 80 state representative seat. Ludwig will meet incumbent Republican nominee Rep. Mary Whiteford (who ran unopposed in the primary) in November.

In the GOP primary for House District 72, with 75.6 percent of the vote, incumbent Rep. Steven Johnson won his primary challenge against Wayland City Council member Jennifer Antel. Johnson will face Democrat Ron Draayer and Libertarian Jamie Lewis on the November ballot.

Aric Nesbitt won the GOP nomination to succeed term-limited Sen. Tonya Schuitmaker with 51 percent of the vote. That cut short Allegan County Clerk and Register of Deeds Bob Genetski’s bid to return to the state legislature. The former state representative won the most votes in Allegan County, but lost the overall race with 28.9 percent of the Republican vote. Political newcomer Don Wickstra gathered 19.2 percent of the vote.

The Senate District 26 includes all of Allegan and Van Buren counties, along with Gaines Township and the City of Kentwood in Kent County in November for the four-year term.

Nesbitt, also a former state representative, will now face Saugatuck Democrat Garnet Lewis and Kentwood Libertarian Erwin Haas.

(Editor's note: This article has been corrected to reflect the correct spelling of Sen. Schuitmaker's name and the district number.)


Proposals and a recount

All but two millage proposals passed.

The three countywide proposals received overwhelming voter support with the 911 surcharge maximum passing with 75-percent support and millages for both road work and senior citizen services passing with more than 72 percent of the vote.

Voters in Dorr Township resoundingly rejected a request for a millage to improve and maintain parks in the township. The five-year, 0.34-mill levy would have raised a projected $85,328 in its first year (2018), but the question failed by a nearly two-to-one margin.

Dorr’s vote on a new, mandatory surcharge to increase funds for recycling services passed 863 to 848. Resident and former township board member Patty Senneker filed Tuesday for a recount on the grounds that the vote-tallying machines in the township’s three precincts may not have totaled the votes correctly. Recounts with a margin this small cost only $25 per precinct to request.

Voters in Leighton had five questions specific to their township. They okayed an airstrip development plan and also renewed police/fire protection and road millages. They even passed an additional half-mill levy for police/fire protection, adding to the nearly 1-mill tax renewal.

They rejected, however, the new 1-mill road tax by a vote of 815 to 909 votes.

Leighton wasn’t the only place that renewed road millages. Others included Allegan (two), Cheshire, Overisel, Valley and Watson.

Leighton also wasn’t alone in having police and/or fire millages passed; joining them were Allegan, Hopkins and Otsego Township.

School operating millages were also among those that voters passed, including Allegan, Hamilton and Hopkins. The school millages were unique in that they were each non-homestead taxes, which mean they tax properties that are not an owner’s primary residence. It affects properties such as vacation homes and some agricultural land along with commercial and industrial properties.

They are also unique in that each of the three districts raised the rate above 18 mills; that number is the state-set maximum on which they are allowed to collect. Setting the taxes above 18 mills helps insulate the districts against lost revenue if the rates are lowered by the Headlee Amendment, as they typically have been in recent decades.

In addition to all that, library construction bonds passed in both Plainwell and Saugatuck.

Wording for ballot proposals for the November election was expected to be finalized by Tuesday, Aug. 14; The Allegan County News will report on any measures that were filed later this month.

Contact Ryan Lewis at or (269) 673-5534.


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