Next month, Flint voters will decide if they want to recall their mayor.
The unusually large field of candidates may draw an unusually low number of voters to the polls.
Karen Weaver insists she’s done a good job as Flint’s mayor. Her emergency declaration drew national attention to Flint’s tainted drinking water, resulting in hundreds of millions of dollars in state and federal aid. Also on her watch, the city has seen tens of millions of dollars in new corporate investment.
So why is she the subject of a recall? Weaver believes her political opponents have been preparing for a recall since she was elected less than two years ago.
“I know there were people that were not happy with me getting elected. I know I surprised a lot of people by getting elected,” says Weaver. “It just seems like there was a plan in place.”
But there have been questions about her administration, including suggestions of cronyism and abuse of power.
The recall specifically cites Weaver’s support for hiring a new garbage company. The company was later linked to a federal corruption scandal in southeast Michigan.
Scott Kincaid has been on the Flint city council for 32 years. He easily won the August primary for his 9th ward seat. When a judge ruled Kincaid had to choose between running for the council or in the mayoral recall, Kincaid chose the recall.
He sees serious problems in the Weaver administration. In particular, Kincaid points to Flint police officers investigating the recall campaign against the mayor, including questioning people who signed the petition and looking at the criminal record of the person leading in the campaign.
“Now we’ve got the state police investigating the police department. And maybe the federal government for violation of the Hatch Act for having police officers, while they’re on duty, going around passing out literature for the mayor. That’s just absolutely wrong,” says Kincaid. “That’s why I’m running for mayor.”
Kincaid says his top priority as mayor would be to ensure Flint has a reliable source of drinking water. He’s among the city council members fighting a 30-year contract with the Great Lakes Water Authority. A federal judge has ordered the city council to make a decision.
Arthur Woodson is another candidate on the recall ballot. He doesn’t have political experience. Nevertheless, as the guy who led the recall campaign, he has a list of thousands of Flint residents who want change at city hall.
Woodson insists he didn’t plan to run for mayor, until he saw who the other candidates would be.
“Councilman Kincaid put his name in the hat. And Mayor Weaver was there,” Woodson says. “I just felt like neither one would be there for the people.”
Woodson says he wants to fight the corruption he sees at Flint city hall.
Paul Rozycki is a retired Mott Community College political scientist and a long-time observer of the Vehicle City’s political scene. Given the city’s history of recalls (there have been recall campaigns against the city’s last four mayors), Rozycki is not surprised at the success of the latest campaign.
“I just think people are angry about the water issue, about the slowness in repairing pipes,” says Rozycki. “And again I think there’s a frustration at government in a larger sense.”
A change in Michigan law means voters are not simply voting ‘yes-or-no’ on recalling the mayor, but instead deciding a winner-take-all election.
In all, there are 18 candidates (yes, 18 candidates) on the recall ballot. Many of those on the ballot can be generously described as “fringe” or “vanity” candidates unlikely to pick up many votes.
But the size of the field will likely mean the winner will garner less than half the votes cast. Added to that, voter turnout for the November 7th recall is expected to be low, maybe between 12% and 15%.
Paul Rozycki says that could be a problem for whoever wins.
He says the winner will likely not have much of a mandate for the final two years of mayor’s term.