Incumbent woes

Polling could signal problems for Councilwomen Dunbar, Houghton

Without rallying their troops and turning out voters to cast ballots for them on Aug. 8, incumbent Lansing City Councilwomen Tina Houghton and Kathie Dunbar could stumble in the primary. That’s the conclusion political consultant and pollster Dennis Denno has drawn from a survey of 600 likely voters his firm, Denno Research, conducted June 20 and 21.

“As we learned in the presidential election, the campaign that gets their people to the polls to vote is the team that wins,” Denno said Tuesday. “If I were one of the incumbents, I’d be worried right now.”

The survey was commissioned by Michigan Citizens for a Better Tomorrow. It’s a new political group being run by Democratic party activist Jim Lancaster. He did not return calls seeking comment.

It found a tight race among Dunbar, an at-large City Councilwoman since 2006 who is seeking a fourth term, and two Lansing school board members, Guillermo Lopez and Peter Spadafore. Kyle Bowman, a Michigan State Police officer is a distant fourth.

Dunbar leads with 17 percent, followed by Lopez at 13 percent and Spadafore at 10 percent, Denno said. That puts Lopez within the 6 percent margin of error from Dunbar and Spadafore within striking distance.

A whopping 58 percent of citywide voters in the survey were undecided in the at-large race. Denno noted that Spadafore’s strength was in the 4th Ward, where he polled at 19 percent.

There are 12 candidates on the ballot for two at-large seats. The top four in the primary will move on to the general election in November. The top two in November will take office in January. At-large incumbent Judi Brown Clarke is giving up her seat to run for mayor.

Denno also surveyed the Second Ward, where he found Jeremy Garza is leading Houghton, a two-term incumbent. The numbers for the survey are small — only 98 people.

“It’s a small ward,” Denno said. “So I think these results will be reflective of the turnout,” which he predicted will be small.”

Garza had a double-digit lead, 20 voters to 10 voters, over Houghton. A former Lansing City Council auditor, Jim DeLine, scored five votes. But the vast majority of voters in the 2nd Ward survey, 63, were uncommitted. The survey did not ask voters if they were intending to vote for Julee Rodocker, a neighborhood activist, or college student Jaron Green. The top two in the August primary move on to the general.

Garza’s strength is in older, white voters, the survey results show. That’s a group most likely to vote in the August primary.


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