In deep-blue Ann Arbor, the biggest city council contest comes in August’s Democratic primary. This year, eight candidates chased four seats. The winners enter the November 3 election without ballot opposition, though in west-side Ward 5, Kevin Leeser is running as a write-in against primary winner Chip Smith.

The only two-party ballot is in east-side Ward 2, but that one’s a doozy: incumbent independent Jane Lumm versus her former council ally, Democrat Sally Hart Petersen.

The candidates have a lot in common, starting with what brought them to Ann Arbor. Lumm moved here in 1977 when her husband started business school at the U-M–and Petersen arrived in 1996 when her husband did the same thing.

Ward 2 stretches from M-14 in the north to Washtenaw Ave. in the south and from US-23 on the east to the U-M Hospital on the west. But both candidates live in homes abutting the city’s Huron Hills Golf Course. That means they’re aligned on one wedge issue. Not only do both support continuing to operate the golf course, both previously won council seats by beating less-than-supportive incumbents.

There are notable differences. Lumm’s a seasoned politician, having served two terms on council in the Nineties as a Republican before coming back in 2011 as an independent. “I didn’t leave the party; the party left me” is how she explains the change.

Petersen is fairly fresh to politics, having won her first council race in 2012. She chose not to run for reelection in 2014 in order to run for mayor, but came in fourth in a four-way race.

Her central theme this year–more aggressive economic development–is unchanged. But she also has a new issue: questioning the city’s plan to cull its growing urban deer population.

And this year, she’s got powerful new allies. Mayor Christopher Taylor has endorsed her, and his former campaign manager is running her campaign.

Lumm has announced this will be her last council campaign (her husband recently retired as EMU’s chief financial officer). But the determined sixty-two-year-old says she wants one more term because “I like to work on issues that matter, [on] fiscal responsibility to make sure our tax dollars are spent wisely and efficiently, and focus on core services [and on] more transparency and accountability, safer downtown and neighborhoods, and maintaining the character and charm of the city.”

Petersen says she wants to be back on council because “there’s a niche that isn’t being addressed: economic development strategy. People didn’t quite understand my message last year. When I was talking about economic development, some people interpreted that as being pro-high-rise development downtown. That’s not the same thing. Development downtown is part of an economic development strategy.”

If Petersen wins, the feisty fifty-one-year-old says she won’t be so quick to try for higher office. “I got ahead of myself. I wish I’d run for reelection again [last year]. But then I might have been running against Kirk [Westphal, Ward 2’s other rep]. He agrees with my priorities.”

“I was surprised she was running,” says Lumm. “I certainly expected there to be a Democratic challenger, but I didn’t expect it to be Sally. I helped get her elected.” The independent contributed $150 to the Democrat’s first campaign.

They were on the same side then. In 2012, Petersen ran with the support of Lumm and other members of council’s “back-to-basics” caucus, which opposed many initiatives of then-mayor John Hieftje’s activist coalition. But, depending on whom you talk to, once in office Petersen either was nonaligned or switched sides entirely.

“Sally calls herself ‘Swing Vote Sally’ and says she’s not part of either faction,” says Lumm. “Not really. The only major vote that I can recall where she differed from Mayor Hieftje was on the pedestrian crosswalk [ordinance]. Mayor Taylor supports Sally because she falls into the more activist category, as the former mayor did. And I’m more back to basics.”

Petersen says she can think of “quite a few” times she voted differently from Hieftje. “Jane and I voted against sending the environmental commission recommendations to the pension board for them to divest from fossil fuel companies, because it didn’t make good economic sense. And I did not vote for the bike-share program, because I didn’t think we had the infrastructure in the parks to support a thousand more bikes.”

There’s no question, though, which side Petersen is on in this year’s election. “She’s supported by the same people who supported Kirk [Westphal] and Stephen Rapundalo against me” in 2012 and 2010, Lumm says. And “she has the mayor’s campaign manager, so she comes with that support.”

That would be Brad O’Conner, who’s previously managed campaigns for state rep Adam Zemke, councilmember Sabra Briere, and circuit court judge Carol Kuhnke. Petersen says that in January, when she was still weighing whether to run, O’Conner “approached me, and he said, ‘I think we can win.'”

“I approached Sally because I’ve always admired her dedication to community service,” O’Conner confirms. “And I felt we needed to have a better voice for the community on council.” Though Taylor is the only current city officeholder who’s endorsed her, Petersen is also supported by Zemke and county commissioner Andy LaBarre.

Lumm’s backers include former Republican mayor Ingrid Sheldon, former Democratic county commissioner Barbara Bergman, and independent activist Kathy Griswold. And she’s endorsed by her back-to-basics allies: Mike Anglin, Jack Eaton, Sumi Kailasapathy, and Steve Kunselman.

O’Conner says it was his own idea to encourage Petersen to run, but challenging Lumm fits perfectly with Mayor Taylor’s cheerfully aggressive campaign to shape a supportive council. In the August primary, Taylor backed candidates running against Anglin, Eaton, and Kunselman. Only Eaton survived. If Lumm, too, goes down, the activist coalition will hold an even more impregnable 9-2 supermajority.

Asked to rank five city issues–downtown development, housing, public safety, infrastructure, and transportation–Petersen replies, “I can’t, because they’re all the building blocks of an economic development strategy.”

What that strategy should be remains undefined. “I don’t have a specific economic development policy or strategy in mind,” Peter-sen says. “We need a vibrant downtown and strong neighborhoods. The path to get there is not high-rises downtown, and it’s not saying no to development. There’s a middle ground where we need an economic development strategy that guides us.”

She does have some specific steps she’d like to take. “We need to restart the Economic Development Task Force. We need to bring all the other stakeholders to the table: the U-M, the public schools, and members of the private sector. One strategy could be redeveloping underdeveloped commercial corridors like North Main from the NEW Center to M-14 through rezoning and tax incentives.”

Petersen charges that Lumm “tried to eliminate” the city’s $75,000 contract with the economic development group SPARK. And she says Ann Arbor is “toxic to developers. That needs to change.”

Lumm says she’s not against economic development in general or SPARK in particular: “To contract out with SPARK makes sense, but we can expect better transparency and accountability.” But she sees no urgent need for other economic development programs. “We are thriving economically. There’s lots and lots of development activity going on. That’s obvious.”

As for being toxic to developers, “The only project I’ve not supported in all my years on council was 413” East Huron, the student high-rise now called Foundry Lofts. “That was used as an example of how I was against development. But 413 is next to the city’s most historic district, and I think we can do development so it complements the neighborhoods.”

Asked to rank the city’s top issues, Lumm has no trouble. “Safety one; infrastructure two; housing and development [together because they] are in some ways parallel issues; [and] transportation.”

While she acknowledges crime rates are at historic lows, the incumbent says “there are neighborhood concerns: vehicles and houses are being broken into; also traffic enforcement. And we need downtown cops.”

Every year since her return to council, Lumm’s tried to add more cops though budget amendments. None passed–and, she points out, Petersen tipped the balance. “In the ’14 budget debate, there was a 6-5 vote, and Sally voted no.”

Petersen says she voted no because Ann Arbor is a safe town. “We have heard over and over we don’t need more police because [serious] Part 1 crimes are at the lowest they’ve ever been.”

The wild card may be the deer cull. Urged on by a group of naturalists and gardeners calling themselves Washtenaw Citizens for Ecological Balance, Lumm introduced an ordinance last year to investigate options for managing the city’s resident herd. It passed unanimously, as did a subsequent vote to hire a consultant “to develop a community-endorsed deer management plan.” This August, when the recommendation came back to use “lethal methods” to thin the herd, only Mayor Taylor voted no.

Petersen left council soon after the consultant’s work began, and so was spared months of public hearings and presentations. And after the culling vote, as the Humane Society of Huron Valley mobilized opposition, she distanced herself from the decision. She told the Ann Arbor News’ Ryan Stanton that she “personally” opposed the cull, and would support delaying the shooting for a year “to see if there’s a solution out there that would gain a broader consensus.” In a statement to the Observer, she adds that she has “many questions about the implementation of the cull,” including why the U-M isn’t participating; whether it could be effective without the university’s participation; and council’s plan to temporarily suspend, rather than repeal, a ban on discharging guns in city parks.

“Deciding on a cull was a difficult, emotional, sad conclusion to reach for me and I’m sure [for] my colleagues and city staff as well,” Lumm emails. “The issue was exhaustively researched and studied, and the city also held community meetings and conducted a survey to obtain citizen and other stakeholder feedback, and based on the research and community input, a decision was made. Postponing that decision would not serve the best interests of Ann Arbor.”

“If there was a viable, effective non-lethal option, we would have chosen that–but unfortunately, there isn’t.”

Which candidate ultimately wins depends not just on the candidates’ stands on the issues but on their ability to get out the vote–and that depends on people, money, and hard work.

Lumm’s got two campaign co-chairs and ten volunteers to Petersen’s paid manager, O’Conner, and dozen volunteers. The challenger has way more money. By early October Petersen had raised $26,000–$10,000 of it her own–and was aiming at $30,000. If she reaches it, it’ll be more than anyone’s ever spent for a council race in Ann Arbor.

By the end of September, Lumm had raised $10,000. She says she doesn’t plan to match Petersen’s goal: “This is crazy. This is city council.” She says she raised over $20,000 in 2013 but doesn’t know if she’ll get that much this time: “I’m not self-financed.”

Both candidates know their money will be spent on very few votes. Petersen says she needs to get 2,100 to win, though she admits that might be “ambitious. If I could get 1,800, that might be good.” Lumm hopes to win with “over 2,000,” matching her total against Westphal two years ago. If 4,000 people vote and the candidates spend $50,000, that will work out to $12.50 per vote.

They both say they’re working hard and are looking well beyond their own neighborhood. “I need to bring more voters to the polls,” Petersen says, “so the first precinct I hit was north of the river.” By the end of September, Lumm says, she’d knocked on many doors north of the river, but “not too many south.”

Petersen characterizes the race as one between Ann Arbor’s future and its past–with her as the candidate for the future and Lumm as the candidate for the past.

“I don’t think fiscal responsibility or basic services are passe,” Lumm retorts. But she suspects that when she bird-dogs the budget or questions the activists’ initiatives, “maybe people think I’m being difficult or obstructionist.”

Some may–though some might also welcome obstruction when the alternative is Foundry Lofts.

Petersen has the mayor’s campaign manager, but Lumm’s got almost forty years of friends in town and more than twenty years in local politics.

O’Conner predicts, “It’s going to be close.”

This article has been edited since it was published in the December 2015 Ann Arbor Observer. The spelling of Brad O’Conner’s name has been corrected.