House panel OKs moving Oakland executive election

Jim Lynch
The Detroit News

A House committee approved legislation Wednesday that is riling some Democrats because it would mean moving the election for the Oakland County executive from the presidential election cycle to gubernatorial election years.

Members of the Elections Committee voted Wednesday to recommend a Senate-approved bill to the full House that would give Oakland and Bay counties the option of sending residents to the polls to choose their executives during gubernatorial elections starting in 2018.

The proposal has been challenged by Democrats who describe it as political maneuvering to help Oakland County Republicans elect a successor to 76-year-old Executive L. Brooks Patterson, who has served since 1993. Democrats have been making gains in the former GOP stronghold of Oakland County, where they now hold the clerk and treasurer posts.

Last month, the Senate approved the bill, mostly along party lines, by a vote of 25-11. The House panel similarly approved the measure in a 5-3 vote over opposition from Democrats.

“The governor talks about us working together as a region,” said Erika Farley, an aide to Sen. Dave Robertson, R-Grand Blanc, who appeared before the committee on his behalf. “This is another way to do that.”

The move would put the Wayne, Macomb and Oakland executives on the same election cycle. Patterson, a longtime Republican who said in June 2014 he would run for re-election, supports the legislation.

Commissioners in Oakland and Bay counties would have to approve the election switch before it is finalized. Longtime Bay County Executive Thomas Hickner is a Democrat.

Under the legislation, the executives would still stand for election for a two-year term in 2016, a presidential year. The next election would be held in 2018.