Source: Sherman Publications

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51st house seat up for grabs in February primary

by David Fleet

January 25, 2012

Atlas Twp.- It's been about three months since local voters narrowly recalled State Representative Paul Scott from office.

The Nov. 8 election ousted Scott by a vote of 12,284 to 12,087. In the township, 33.5 percent of registered voters turned out, with 972 votes to recall Scott and 1,035 votes to keep him in office.

Now voters will head to the polls on Feb. 28 to choose a candidate from among three parties to fulfill a partial term for the 51st district that will end Jan.1, 2013.

Democratic candidate Steven Losey, Republican candidate Joseph Graves and Independent candidate Cary Neuville-Justice of the Green Party will vie for the remainder of the four-year term. The 51st District covers Atlas, Argentine, Grand Blanc, Fenton and Mundy townships and includes the cities of Grand Blanc, Linden, and Fenton, in addition to the villages of Argentine and Goodrich.

In addition, voters will choose a presidential nominee at the primary and must request either a Republican or Democratic ballot.

"It's a closed primary," said Tere Onica, township clerk. "People can request to vote Democrat or Republican. The 51st House seat will be on both ballots. They can also select a non-presidential ballot and vote for just the House seat. We are not expecting a high voter turnout. Typically, people do not like to declare one party or the other."

Corwin D. Smidt, an assistant professor in the department of political science at Michigan State University, said the upcoming election will be unique for the voters of the 51st district.

"There are a lot of dynamics around the Paul Scott recall," said Smidt. "Although it will be a short term house seat—about eight months—there's a lot of money that went into the recall, from the MEA and others that pushed for that recall. Moreover, I would consider the advantage to the Republican house candidate since the GOP is still battling over who will run for president."

The Green Party candidate will impact the 51st House race, added Smidt.

"There is some evidence that the Green Party would support the Democrats," he said. "But they (Green Party supporters) would have to show up to make a big impact. In general they would show up as a protest vote. It's not all about winning for a third party—it's more about expression."