IRON COUNTY— More than six in 10 registered voters in Iron County cast their ballots in the Nov. 3 election. Locally, all five millage requests passed, while county voters preferred President Donald Trump to former Vice President Joe Biden by a wide margin in the main event of the general election.
Contrasted with the last two president elections, the 2020 turnout was a bit higher. This year, 6,839 of voters 10,499 cast their ballots (65.14 percent), compared to 62.3 percent in 2016 and 63.9 percent in 2012.
The County Board of Canvassers certified the election tally on Nov. 4.
“Everything went good” said county clerk/register of deeds Julie Kezerle.
Four of five of the millage requests passed by wide margins; only the Healthcare Benefits Assistance Millage count was close (3,454 yes to 2,612 no). The Iron County Road millage renewal passed 4,732 to 1,385, the advanced life support ambulance maintenance renewal millage passed 4,916 to 1,123, the senior center’s millage renewal was approved 4,845 to 1,275 and the county meals on wheels program millage was approved 4,704 to 1,431.
In the race for president, Iron County voters preferred Trump to Biden by a 4,216 to 2,493 margin. Other candidates accounted for the remaining 80 votes cast. All in all, a bit more than 62 percent of county voters chose Trump.
The big changes in the county came on the Iron County Board of Commissioners, where three seats will change. In District 3 (Caspian, south half of Iron River) Mark Stauber (496) unseated incumbent Ray Coates (221). The other candidate for the post was Keith Hamel (142). Stauber is currently on the Caspian City Commission.
The other two new county commissioners will be Jeff Ofsdahl in District 4 (city of Crystal Falls and Mastodon Township) and Jacob Conery in District 5 (Hematite Township, Crystal Falls Township and Mansfield Township). Incumbents Sharon Leonoff and Timothy Aho, in District 4 and 5 respectively, did not run for reelection.
The other two commissioners will remain the same, having run unopposed - Patti Peretto in District 1 (Iron River Township, Stambaugh Township and Gaastra) and Mike Stafford in District 2 (Bates Township and the northern half of the city of Iron River).
All county commissioners are elected to a two-year term.
Six incumbent county candidates retained their positions after running unopposed – prosecuting attorney Melissa Powell (D) (4,408), sheriff Mark Valesano (D) (4,556), county clerk/register of deeds Julie Kezerle (R) (5,109), treasurer Melanie Camps (D) (4,348), mine inspector Thomas Karvala (D) (4,307) and road commissioner Ernest Schmidt (D) (4,298).
In Caspian, four candidates ran for the three open city commission seats. Robert Ketchum will be the new commissioner having gathered 192 votes to 186 for incumbent Gary Sabol. The other two seats remain the same with Robert Remondini (265) and mayor Matthew Jacks (212) securing their places.
In Crystal Falls, the city council will see one change as Nathaniel Kudwa (471) joins the board after receiving the most votes in the race for the two seats open. Incumbent Chris Nocerini (406) remains while Blair Anderson (373) finished third.
Also in Crystal Falls, incumbent Mike McCarthy ran unopposed and garnered 575 votes, while the library millage proposal renewal passed 599 to 171.
Candidates in Gaastra also ran unopposed. Thomas Place received 146 votes for another one-year term as mayor, while winning two-year terms as commissioners were Mari Kay McNamara (123) and Ashley Ingram Schober (119).
The village of Alpha elected Sharon Eaton as village clerk with 60 votes and Gene Byrge as treasurer with 58 votes. No one filed for either village president or village trustee.
At Forest Park, two incumbents ran unopposed for new six-year terms: Mike Bjork (1,691) and William Leonoff (1,360).
At West Iron County, four incumbent candidates ran unopposed. Winning four-year terms at West Iron were Gary Pisoni (2,232), Dennis Tousignant (2,068), Ryan Meske (2,066) and Ian Gill (1,875).
Federal, state races
In the presidential race, count voters’ support for Trump and Pence increased slightly in 2020, from 61.7 percent in the 2016 race to 62.1 percent in 2020. Biden also received more support (36.7 percent) than Democratic challenger Hillary Clinton did in 2016 (33.6 percent).
The remainder of votes cast for president included Jo Jorgensen (Libertarian, 54), Don Blankenship (U.S. Taxpayers, 8), Howie Hawkins (Green Party, 14), Rocky De La Fuente (National Labor Party, 4).
In Congressional and Legislative votes in the county, incumbent Gary Peters (D) will return as U.S. Senator, but challenger John James did carry Iron County easily. James secured 4,063 votes (60.5 percent) compared to Peters 2,554 (38 percent).
Statewide, incumbent Jack Bergman won reelection as 1st District Congressman over challenger Dana Ferguson and he won Iron County handily as well. Bergman (R) captured 4,318 (64.4 percent) of county votes, while Ferguson received 2,306 (34.4 percent).
Finally, Gregory Markkanen (R) will return as 110th District State Legislature and secured 4,055 (60.9 percent) of county votes compared to challenger Janet Metsa, who received 2,508 (37.7 percent).
Two state proposals were on the ballot and both were supported in the county. Statewide ballot proposal 20-1 (Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund) produced 4,964 yes votes to 1,086 opposed. The proposed amendment to the Michigan Constitution is to change the disposition and allowable uses of future revenue generated from oil and gas bonuses, rentals, and royalties from state-owned land. The proposal passed statewide with an 84 percent approval.
Also, ballot proposal 20-2 (Protection of Electronic Data and Communications) was supported statewide and locally. In Iron County, the proposal garnered 5,382 votes compared to 785 against. Statewide, the proposal passed resoundingly with 89 percent support.
Results of other races are listed below; some races show top four:
--State Supreme Court (2, non-partisan): Bridget Mary McCormack, 2,268; Mary Kelly, 1,586; Brock Swartzle, 1,356; Elizabeth Welch, 1,252.
--Appeals Court 4th District Incumbent (2): Michael Kelly 3,405; Amy Ronayne Krause, 3.068.
--Appeals Court 4th District non-incumbent (1): Michelle Rick, 3,657.
--District 41 Circuit Court: Christopher Ninomiya, 3,883.
--District 95B District Court: Julie LaCost, 3,908.
--State Board of Education (2): Tami Carlone (R), 3,453; Michelle A. Frederick (R), 3,444; Ellen Cogen Lipton (D), 2,196; Jason Strayhorn (D), 2,097.
--University of Michigan regent (2): Sarah Hubbard (R), 3,579; Carl Meyers (R), 3,413; Mark Bernstein (D), 2,146; Shauna Ryder Diggs (D), 2,116.
--Michigan State University trustee (2): Pat O’Keefe (R), 3,530; Tonya Schuitmaker (R), 3,449; Rema Ella Vassar (D) 2,149; Brian Mosallam (D) 2,085.
--Wayne State University governor (2): Don Gates (R), 3,480; Terri Lynn Land (R), 3,474; Shirley Stancato (D), 2,117; Eva Garza Dewaelsche (D) 2,055.
Results show that 2,220 voted a straight party Republican ticket, 1,231 voted straight Democratic. The remainder of the straight vote was as follows: Working Class (22), Libertarian (15), Green (9), U.S. Taxpayers (7), and Natural Law (5)
Note: Township results are published in a separate story.