The big fight for Ann Arbor city council seats was in August’s Democratic primary: in Ward 3, Steve Kunselman edged out veteran rep Leigh Greden, while Mike Anglin convincingly defended his Fifth Ward seat. Kunselman, Anglin, and Ward 3 incumbent Stephen Rapundalo, a onetime Republican turned Democrat, will coast through the Nov. 3 election unopposed. But in Wards 1 and 4, Democratic incumbents Sabra Briere and Marcia Higgins face challengers running as independents. Both are political newcomers, and both declined to talk to the Observer in person or on the phone, insisting on answering questions only by email.

In north-side Ward One, Briere, fifty-eight, emphasizes her responsiveness to constituents and her cooperative attitude on council. Identified with a small group critical of mayor John Hieftje, she questions whether some council business is conducted “away from the public eye.” But Briere, who works at Ypsilanti’s Corner Health Center, says she works well with Hieftje–most recently on homelessness–and sees herself as an independent thinker. “I’m me,” she stresses. She is dubious about a possible city income tax and supports retaining Argo Dam.

Her challenger, Polish-born Mitchell Ozog, fifty, writes that he was briefly imprisoned in the early 1980s for his support of the Solidarity movement. He moved to Ann Arbor in 1989 and now edits a Masonic magazine. A former Republican First Ward precinct delegate, Ozog lists his “major city concerns” as limiting the use of eminent domain and reducing “unnecessary business operation regulations.” He opposes a city income tax and sees no need to remove Argo Dam.

Elected first as a Republican, Marcia Higgins, fifty-nine, switched parties in 2005 and is now seeking her sixth term in Ward 4. Despite the hard times, she says, the city must both maintain strong core services and continue funding human services to protect “vulnerable populations.” Higgins opposes any expansion of the Ann Arbor Airport, which adjoins her south-side ward, and says the city needs to study the airport’s environmental impact, particularly on nearby city water wells. She thinks voters should decide the fate of an income tax and supports maintaining Argo Dam.

Hatim Elhady, a twenty-three-year-old U-M undergrad, says that no one asked him to run against Higgins, but he’s endorsed by Mike Anglin, and Elhady’s campaign manager, Pat Lesko, and treasurer, Karen Sidney, also are outspoken critics of Mayor Hieftje and the council majority. Elhady writes that he, “along with other fellow Fourth ward neighbors and residents of other wards in Ann Arbor are quite frankly fed up with being neglected and our issues ignored.” He singles out zoning changes that have “negatively affected our welfare, and the failing Stadium Bridges.” As for Argo Pond, he writes vehemently, “DAM IN!”

Without party backing, Ozog and Elhady have to be regarded as long shots. But at least they’re keeping the council races interesting.