Monday, July 25, 2016 | Subscribe

Republicans take Hillsdale

Repub­licans won big on Tuesday night — in Hillsdale, at least.

According to Hillsdale County election returns provided by Election Magic, former Mass­a­chusetts Gov. Mitt Romney won 61 percent of the total pres­i­dential ballots cast in the county. President Barack Obama won 37 percent, with the rest going to going to third-party candidates.

Statewide, President Obama won Michigan’s 16 electoral votes with about 54 percent of the vote, with Romney picking up 45 percent, according to Mlive, a Michigan news website.

Republican sen­a­torial can­didate Pete Hoekstra also fared better in Hillsdale than he did statewide, losing the election but  winning 52 percent to incumbent Senator Debbie Stabenow’s 44 percent in the county.

But one Republican running for national office in Michigan did win both locally and statewide: Tim Wahlberg, the rep­re­sen­tative of Michigan’s 7th con­gres­sional district. The district includes Hillsdale and nearby Jackson and Branch counties.

Wahlberg defeated Demo­cratic chal­lenger Kurt Haskell by a 66 percent of the vote in Hillsdale County to Haskell’s 30 percent — greater than his 53 – 43 percent victory over Haskell in the whole district.

In an open letter to the Branch County Republican Party, Wahlberg said that the voters of the 7th district have put him in office for a reason.

“The people of the 7th district have spoken — less gov­ernment spending, lower taxes, and more freedom — and I have heard them loud and clear,” Wahlberg wrote.

“I will continue to carry on this fight for you in Washington.”

In addition to voting exclu­sively for Republican can­didates, Hillsdale voters also rejected the two most con­tentious statewide ballot issues.

Proposal 2, which would have strengthened col­lective bar­gaining for public employees, lost in Hillsdale County, 69 – 31 percent. Proposal 2 lost statewide, 52 – 48 percent, according to Mlive.

Proposal 3, which would have mandated that 25 percent of all Michigan energy pro­duction came from renewable sources, lost in Hillsdale County by a 74 – 36 margin. The proposal lost 58 – 42 percent statewide, according to MLive.

But voters in Hillsdale County also voted on issues and can­didates at the local level.

In the county race for probate judge, Hillsdale County res­idents elected probate attorney Michelle Bianchi over Chief Assistant Pros­e­cuting Attorney Valerie White, with 51 percent of the vote to White’s 49 percent.

Bianchi campaign manager Heather Tritcha said that she had to combat some con­fusion to win the unex­pectedly close race.

“I was amazed when I went out there and heard people say things like ‘I hear she’s never been in court,’” Tritcha said.

“We needed to do more edu­cation — some of these things just weren’t spelled out clearly enough.”

Tritcha said that her relative political expe­rience put her on a steep learning curve for this campaign.

“I came in as one of Michelle’s friends,” she said. “I’m not a political person really — there was a lot of learning as went along,”

“It was such a huge learning expe­rience — but we weren’t always learning good things.”

Voters in the city of Hillsdale also voted on a city-wide income tax proposal. The revenue from the tax would be used for the repair and main­tenance of local res­i­dential roads.

Voters rejected the proposal deci­sively, voting 70 – 29 percent against.

Bethany Miller, a local lawyer who founded the “Citizens Against the Hillsdale Income Tax” Political Action Com­mittee, said that she was pleased with the result.

“The main reason I started the PAC is just that we’re living in tough times,” she said. “The money we have is just enough for expenses — and we’ve got a hard year coming up next year with the possible expi­ration of the Bush tax cuts.”

“It was just unfeasible for our family.”

While Miller was opti­mistic that one of the ideas she and PAC co-founder Jaminda Springer would gain traction, coun­cilperson Mary Wolfram said that no other ideas are likely to work.

“People against the income tax have no plans what­soever,” she said. “There is no alter­native means.”

“For a city like Hillsdale, you have three choices: institute an income tax, raise the property tax millage, or cut the budget.”

Wolfram also said that political and fiscal realities make the other two choices impossible.

“The budget just isn’t big enough,” she said. “It’s just pretty clear that you won’t get $1 million a year out of it for roads. And if people reject an income tax, then they’re probably going to reject a property tax increase too.”

In addition, Wolfram said the income tax’s failure makes her pes­simistic about Hillsdale’s future.

“Prop­erties and roads will decay, and high income people will move out because they want nice things,” she said. “The roads will dete­riorate, city services will go down even more — the city will just dry up and go away.”