Until he went to Jack Eaton’s mayoral kickoff party in late April, Joe Hood was running in the August council primary as a Democrat. Instead, Hood’s now gathering signatures to run in the November general election as an independent.

Hood says he first met Eaton at the councilmember’s coffee hour. He was incensed about potholes, and found a sympathetic ear in the three-term Ward Four rep. He came away encouraged to run against the ward’s other rep, Graydon Krapohl. Krapohl, who’s seeking a third council term, is an ally of Eaton’s opponent, mayor Christopher Taylor.

Hood filed petitions and appeared alongside Eaton at an April candidates’ debate. But at Eaton’s kickoff party, there was another Fourth Ward candidate, Elizabeth Nelson. Hood says that First Ward councilmember Sumi Kailasapathy told him “that in a three-way race Graydon would win, so it should only be a two-way race–one of us should jump out.”

Hood did–but afterwards felt “a little manipulated. Everything makes logical sense except I don’t get to run.”

First elected in 2012, Kailasapathy has been a stalwart of the faction the Observer calls the “Back to Basics Caucus.” She beat back challenges from the “Activist Coalition”–Taylor and his allies–in 2014 and 2016. When independent Sabra Briere retired that year, the Activists briefly claimed the other First Ward seat by appointing Kailasapathy’s most recent opponent.

The victory was short-lived: “Basics” candidate Anne Bannister reclaimed it last August. That apparently left little appetite among the Activists for further challenges because they have no candidate in Ward 1 this year.

People might have been more willing to run had they known Kailasapathy was retiring. But the incumbent was cagey about her plans till the last minute. Asked in March if she was running, she emailed “I am not sure yet.” Asked again a week before the April filing deadline, she replied “yes.”

Yet the deadline passed, and Kailasapathy didn’t file. “I was under a lot of pressure to run,” she explained in another email. “So I was quite undecided. I wanted to keep my options open.”

The First Ward has swung back and forth between the council factions for a decade, but with Kailasapathy’s late withdrawal, neither has a candidate in the race this year. Instead, voters will choose between Jeff Hayner, a frequent council critic who ran against Briere as an independent in 2013, and Ron Ginyard, an Ann Arbor native who moved back to town four years ago to care for his mother.

Hayner says he decided to pull petitions at the last minute, after hearing that Kailasapathy hadn’t turned hers in. But when he showed up Eaton’s party, he says, he felt “a lot of hostility.” And when he met Ginyard there, Hayner says, the other candidate “said essentially ‘Are you really running? Why are you running? I’m running!’

“I said, ‘The more the merrier. It’s a democracy.’ So I went home, did a few more [nominating petition signatures] that night before dark, got a handful Monday morning, and that was it. And then I heard that Sumi didn’t [file]. Now it’s me and Ron.”

Ginyard says he decided to run in February after “a reliable source” told him that Kailasapathy wouldn’t: “I was one of the first to pull petitions.” He says he discussed running with “70 percent of council,” including Eaton, and “didn’t get a lot of pushback.” Asked about his conversation with Hayner at Eaton’s party, Ginyard remembers it slightly differently: “I asked him ‘what are you in the race for?’ He couldn’t answer it.”

Hood thinks Eaton and his allies favored Ginyard, who is black, “to show a little diversity.” Ginyard says he belongs to neither faction–he says his model is famously independent Briere. But if anything, he says, he’s “more on the mayor’s end” of council’s political spectrum.

This article has been edited since it was published in the June 2018 Ann Arbor Observer. The attribution of the quote about “a little diversity” has been corrected.