Tuesday, April 19, 2022

2022 Kalamazoo County Commission Races

This post was last updated April 19, 2022.

Democrats won a 7-4 majority on the Kalamazoo County Commission in 2020, which was a bad year for Republicans.  For 2022, there is a new map drawn by the Kalamazoo redistricting commission, which is dominated by D countywide elected officials.  They eliminated two seats.  The new map is a soft D gerrymander, which is likely to produce 6 D and 3 R seats in most years.  There are three districts that contain two incumbents, and one district with no incumbent.  Six of 11 commissioners are retiring this year.

The following post has detailed descriptions of the districts and their political leanings. The numbers given are the percentages for Trump (2016), O'Brien (2018), Trump (2020), and Balkema (2020).  Incumbents are marked below with asterisks.


List of Kalamazoo County Candidates

District 1 [N Kalamazoo] Safe Democrat
T16 20.3, O18 21.3, T20 21.5, B20 28.6
Democrat: Tami Rey*, Michael Seals
Republican: none
This is the majority minority district, which adds parts of old district 4 (most of eastern Kalamazoo Township) for population.  Property manager Tami Rey won this seat after Stephanie Moore vacated it for an unsuccessful race for state house.  Seals was a county commissioner (10-20) representing most of Kalamazoo Township until he lost to Jen Strebs in 2020.

District 2 [Westwood, WMU] Safe Democrat
T16 30.3, O18 30.2, T20 26.7, B20 34.5
Democrat: Jen Strebs*, Brian Johnson
Republican: none
This has parts of old districts 3, 4, and 5, covering most of western Kalamazoo Township, and the WMU area of Kalamazoo.  Kalamazoo Township Board member Jen Strebs defeated longtime commissioner Michael Seals (10-20) in the 2020 D primary.  Brian Johnson was a longtime county commissioner until he lost a race for county clerk in 2012.  Commissioner (20-22) Veronica McKissack also lives here, but did not seek reelection.

District 3 [SW, SE Kalamazoo] Safe Democrat
T16 24.7, O18 25.2, T20 22, B20 31.4
Democrat: Monteze Morales*
Republican: none
This seat adds the majority of old district 2 in SE Kalamazoo and loses the WMU area to new district 2.  Tracy Hall was elected here in 2016, replacing John Taylor.  She aborted a state house race in 2020, and is retiring this year.  Monteze Morales was appointed in June 2021 to replace Zac Bauer, who resigned after being appointed in 2019.  She previously lost the 2020 D primary to Bauer.  

District 4 [W Portage] Lean Democrat
T16 44.7, O18 47, T20 39.9, B20 49.5
Democrat: Abigail Wheeler
Republican: Charley Coss
This district succeeds the old district 10 in western Portage, adding two precincts from old 11 for population.  Portage used to be R territory, but it moved left under President Trump.  Commissioner Michael Quinn (08-10, 16-22) is retiring.  Abigail Wheeler was a Mattawan trustee who lost a race for state house in 2020, and then moved to Portage.  Coss, a businessman, lost bids for county commission in Kalamazoo in 2016 and Portage in 2020.

District 5 [E Portage] Lean Democrat
T16 43.3, O18 45.1, T20 39.9, B20 48.3
Democrat: John Patrick Taylor
Republican: Peter Strazdas
This seat added precincts from old districts 2, 3, and 11, moving it a few points left.  Portage used to be R territory, but it moved left under President Trump.  Meredith Place (D), the wife of longtime commissioner John Patrick Taylor (02-16), was elected to the commission in 2018 and was elected Kalamazoo County Clerk in 2020.  Fran Melgar was elected in 2020 and is retiring this year.  Taylor is running here, after previously representing the city of Kalamazoo.  Strazdas was mayor of Portage (05-17).

District 6 [Comstock, Pavilion, Brady, Climax, Wakeshma] Safe Republican
T16 56.2, O18 57.2, T20 53.4, B20 61.1
Democrat: Anthony Bates
Republican: John Gisler*, Christopher Daniels
This succeeds old district 7, losing Charleston Township and Galesburg, while gaining Pavilion and Brady Townships.  This district contains the homes of two commissioners.  One is Roger Tuinier, who is retiring after serving since 2012.  The other is commissioner John Gisler (10-12, 14-P), who is running for reelection.  Bates is a teacher who lost by about 12% to Tuinier in 2020.

District 7 [Cooper, Richland, Ross, Charleston, Galesburg, and Parchment] Safe Republican
T16 58.3, O18 58.4, T20 55.8, B20 62.2
Democrat: Luke Howell
Republican: Jeff Heppler*
This succeeds old district 6, adding Charleston Township, Galesburg, and Parchment.  Heppler (02-16) was previously a commissioner who lost a race for sheriff.  He defeated appointed incumbent Jen Aniano (D) to return in 2020.

District 8 [Texas, Schoolcraft, Prairie Ronde] Safe Republican
T16 56.3, O18 58.3, T20 51.2, B20 61.1
Democrat: Stephanie Willoughby
Republican: Wendy Mazer, Brian Kovacik
This merges parts of old districts 8 and 9 together.  Neither incumbent John Gisler or Dale Shugars live here, however.  Texas Township Trustee Wendy Mazer, a solid conservative, is running.   Kovacik lost bids for this seat to Shugars in 2014, 2016, and 2020.

District 9 [Oshtemo, Alamo] Lean Democrat
T16 43.7, O18 45.9, T20 41.5, B20 50.0
Democrat: Dale Deleeuw
Republican: Tom Graham
This succeeds old district 5.  It loses part of Kalamazoo Township to new 2 and adds the rest of Oshtemo from old 9.  Commissioner (14-18, 20-22) Dale Shugars, a conservative former state senator (94-02) and state rep (90-94), will not seek reelection.  Veronica McKissack (D) was elected to represent old 5 in 2020, but does not live here and is not seeking reelection.  Dale Deleeuw is a police officer.  IT specialist Tom Graham lost an R primary for state house in 2020.

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