Next Tuesday, residents of the Third Ward of Grand Rapids — a large chunk of the central city, covering everything south of Wealthy and east of Jefferson (east of Eastern, after you hit Fuller) — vote in a city commission primary.
Of the three declared contenders, only two are viable; Annette Ries has no visibility and her campaign site is merely a skeleton. The real contest is between Michael Tuffelmire and Senita Lenear.
As one lonely member of the slim remnant of Republicans in the Third Ward, the primary race intrigues me because I have no real skin in the game. Neither Lenear nor Tuffelmire sit in my ideological cohort, so neither one will represent me on policy. At all. The question, then, is whether either might do a decent job of nevertheless being a non-ideological, service-driven leader who puts constituents first. Herewith some thoughts about each.
- Served ably on the G.R. School Board (pro).
- Endorsed by former Mayor John Logie and former school-board member Jane Gietzen (pro).
- Vague, aspirational platform with no details (con).
- Former UAW steward/negotiator (con).
- Left personal message on campaign material left in my mailbox (pro).
- Endorsed by Wealthy Street business leaders (pro).
- Endorsed by MI National Organization for Women (con).
- Leader of DecriminalizeGR (con).
I’d love to say that either Lenear or Tuffelmire would represent me despite our ideological differences, but I’m skeptical. I get a sense that Lenear is probably more low-key and savvy, but I have no clue what sort of platform she supports apart from a drumbeat about education. Tuffelmire seems more personable, more gung-ho, but he doesn’t disguise his left-wing activism.
Were I to guess, Lenear would probably be less accessible but also do less violence to my belief system. Tuffelmire would probably be easy to engage but he’d be an activist in government for policies that I oppose.
For me, it’s a coin toss.
The real sadness is that the Kent County Republicans couldn’t muster a viable candidate to compete in the Third Ward. Given the demographics, a solid message of empowerment and renewal could resonate here. The local GOP seems content to write us off — but they do so at their own long-term peril.
UPDATE: Within four hours of this post’s original publication, Michael Tuffelmire contacted me by email to respond to my points in a positive, substantive way. I appreciate his engagement; the scale is tilting in his direction.