Macomb: Miller defeats Sinclair in close clerk's race
Democrat Fred Miller defeated Republican Lisa Sinclair in a hard-fought race to replace the ousted Karen Spranger as Macomb County clerk/register of deeds.
With 100 percent of precincts reporting, Miller won 51.3 percent to 48.7 percent, according to unofficial results.
County Democrats tried to paint Sinclair as “another Karen Spranger” and unfit to hold the $109,000-a-year job for the next two years.
Sinclair's opponent, Miller, 44, said he was not responsible for the attacks but believed Macomb County voters were entitled to know everything about candidates for office, especially after Spranger's controversy-filled tenure.
Spranger, a Republican, was removed earlier this year by a judge who ruled she did not live at the Warren address she listed as her home when she filed to run for office in 2016. While clerk, Spranger clashed repeatedly with members of her staff and other county officials over the location of her office, work rules and policies.
"The specter of Karen Spranger hangs over this more than anything in any other race I have ever been in," Miller said last month. “If nothing else, it pointed out why we need to fully vet the candidates for all offices.”
During this fall's campaign, Macomb County Democrats publicized several of Sinclair’s run-ins with the law since 1999, including a drunken driving arrest, her financial difficulties and spotty voting record.
“I have never even met Karen Spranger,” said Sinclair, 42, of Chesterfield Township. “I have taken full responsibility for mistakes I have made."
The clerk's office has a $4.5 million annual budget and its 85-member staff handles and maintains records and personal business for the county's 870,000-plus residents. After Spranger's removal, Kathy Smith became interim clerk; she did not seek the permanent post.
County Democrats said Sinclair had “demonstrated serious problems managing her own records and finances” and cite court records and a 2013 bankruptcy filing.
Lastly, the Democrats said Sinclair’s voting records show she has not voted in 73 percent of elections since 2010.
In her only other foray for political office, Sinclair ran for Lansing city clerk in 2001 and lost by one vote.
She characterized the negative campaign against her as “desperate” on Miller’s behalf, especially on the heels of his surprise loss to Spranger by more than 600 votes in 2016.
Sinclair and Miller surfaced out of a field of 17 candidates — six Democrats and 11 Republicans — who faced off in the August primary.
Miller, who is an Oakland County deputy treasurer, also served two terms in the state House of Representatives and also as a Macomb County commissioner.
Sinclair is a registered nurse who has past experience as a legislative aide in Lansing.
Not all county Democrats backed Miller. Last month, county Executive Mark Hackel called Miller "definitely the wrong person" for the clerk's job and said he would vote for Sinclair.
Hackel said Miller attempted to “rig” the primary election in 2016 by being the only Democratic candidate and that the former state lawmaker had inside knowledge that longtime county clerk Carmella Sabaugh had no intention of running for re-election.
Hackel also was on Tuesday's ballot, cruising to a third term as county executive over Republican challenger Joe Hunt, who was Spranger’s 2016 campaign manager. Hackel received 67.1 percent of the vote to 32.9 percent for Hunt.
Macomb County voters also were deciding on ballot issues, including school funding requests.
A $97 million bond proposal in the Chippewa Valley school district passed by a 58.3 percent to 41.7 percent margin.
In the Utica Community Schools, voters overwhelmingly approving a $155 million bond proposal by a 61.3 percent to 38.7 percent margin.