New county commission districts set up possibility of two GOP primaries; splits Hamburg, Oceola, Genoa townships into three districts each

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The new district map for the Livingston County Board of Commissioners — adopted on Wednesday — is setting up two possible Republican primary battles, and is drawing criticism for how it splits some townships.

In the new District 5, Mitchell Zajac and Jay Drick will be pitted against each other in the upcoming Republican primary if they both decide to seek the seat. And in the new District 9, Jay Gross and Brenda Plank will face off if they both decide to run.

If a primary between Drick and Zajac for the newly drawn District 5 takes place, it will be one of the more interesting contests in Livingston County. Make no mistake: Drick and Zajac are both lawyers and conservative Republicans; but what makes this possible primary interesting is that Zajac has shown some voting independence from Wes Nakagiri, the board’s controversial, uber-right wing chairperson, while Drick has not.

On a recent controversial issue, both Drick and Plank voted with Nakagiri to forego $1.5 MILLION in funding for the Livingston County Health Department to support its efforts fighting COVID. Because the health department needed that funding to keep doing its work, it was taken from the one-time-only $37.5 MILLION American Rescue Plan windfall received by the county, money that could be used for a variety of projects, including community-wide broadband internet service. (You can click here to read all our broadband coverage.)

Zajac also broke with Nakagiri in voting to re-appoint former commissioner Steve Williams to the Huron Clinton Metroparks Authority Board, rather than Nakagiri’s hand-picked representative, Pastor Bill Bolin of Floodgate Renewal Church. Bolin went on to receive the appointment. (Click here to read our coverage of the appointment.)

And before taking his seat in January, Zajac expressed his opposition to the 5% raise (down from an original 8.4%) the commissioners voted themselves, a raise that Drick vocally supported and voted to accept. (You can read about the contentious meeting at which the raises were approved in a 5-4 vote by clicking here.) The increase raised a lot of eyebrows and got a lot of push back in the community — most interestingly by the chairs of both the county Republican and Democratic parties — for poor optics and inappropriateness in the middle of the pandemic’s poor economic climate that sees small business owners in the community struggling to this day.

If Zajac and Drick face off in the primary, the differences between the two could make it one of Livingston County’s most interesting races to watch.

The new districts were adopted by the Livingston County Apportionment Commission — which includes the county’s clerk (Elizabeth Hundley), treasurer (Jennifer Nash), prosecuting attorney (David Reader), and the chairs of the local Republican (Meghan Reckling) and Democratic (Judy Daubenmier) parties.

The map selected by the commission was submitted by Clerk Hundley, and the one dissenting vote on its adoption was cast by Daubenmier.

“The decision to adopt a map that splits up Oceola and Genoa townships into three separate districts is grossly unfair to voters,” Daubenmier said in a release. “It will lead to confusion about who their county commissioner is, making it more difficult for them to have a voice in county government and creating frustration and cynicism. The multiple splits also will make it harder for township clerks to administer elections, requiring multiple different ballots. It was totally unnecessary because better maps were available”

Hundley’s map splits 5 townships — with Hamburg, Oceola and Genoa townships segmented into 3 districts — and was rated 90 out of 100 for compactness by the redistricting software; the map drawn by county resident and professional cartographer Anna Santa Maria split 4 townships, had no triple splits, and scored a perfect 100 out of 100 by the redistricting software, but did not get support from the Republicans on the commission, Daubenmier said. She also pointed out that Hundley’s map splits Livingston County’s most populous municipality — Hamburg Township — thus denying it the chance to elect its own commissioner; under the current map, Hamburg Township is represented by Commissioner Jay Gross, who lives in Green Oak Township.

Here is the current county commission district map:

Here is the new county commission district map:

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