LaBarre vs. Montague
Ann Arbor's county commission race
The Washtenaw County Board of Commissioners shrinks this year from eleven members to nine. In the redistricting, Ann Arbor lost one seat, going from four to three. This might've set one-term commissioner Yousef Rahbi against eight-termer Leah Gunn in this August's primary--except both Gunn and ten-termer Barbara Bergman decided to retire at the end of their current terms.
But while Rahbi, like board chair Conan Smith, is unopposed in the August primary, Bergman's seat in the new District 7 on Ann Arbor's east side is up for grabs. And two Democrats want it: Andy LaBarre, a thirty-year-old former aide to U.S. Congressman John Dingell who's currently the Ann Arbor Ypsilanti Regional Chamber of Commerce's VP for governmental relationships, and Christina Montague, a sixty-one-year-old former five-term county commissioner and board chair who's employed as a social worker in the Ann Arbor Public Schools.
"The six years with Mr. Dingell have been good learning experience," Andy LaBarre says, "and I think I've got a good set of skills for the job. I have a good mix of experience and enthusiasm, and I've got a great work ethic. I'll do the grunt work, which is what a lot of government work is. Plus I'm good at working with people. I've got good relationships with Barbara, Leah, Yousef, and Conan because I've already worked with them through Mr. Dingell's office and at the Chamber. But mostly I try to listen and learn."
Bergman is all for LaBarre. "I asked him to run! He's great! Not only is he knowledgeable about government but he's a humble, polite young man." John Dingell is equally positive. "Andy LaBarre is one of the hardest working people I know, and his drive and passion for the community will serve him well as a County Commissioner."
Christina Montague says she's been concentrating on national politics--she was state coordinator of Michiganders for Obama in 2008--but was drawn back to the local level after being invited to sit in on a county
"I got elected to the county commission in 1990, and I was elected five straight times until I was redistricted out of office in 2000," Montague says. "I ran two or three more times [in the primaries] after that because Barbara Bergman kept saying she'd retire. The last time was in 2006." Montague got 23 percent of the vote against Bergman that year.
Asked why she wants to return to the commission, Montague answers by quoting her press statement: "Today more than ever there is a need for experienced and committed community leaders focused on the community." Asked why voters should pick her, she replies, "There's a need for people with diverse thoughts and diverse experiences who know the community. I know the needs confronting families every day, and I bring that kind of vision, being a fiscal conservative and socially liberal, to the table."
[Originally published in August, 2012.]