A Reflection on the Dearborn 2017 Primary Election Results: The keyword is “base”


The Yemeni American News

This year’s Dearborn political races is one of the most intriguing, and in many cases close, collection of races we’ve seen in a long time. Due to the relatively low voter turnout, the difference between finishing in 7th place and 8th place in the city council primary was a shockingly low 72 votes! As natural data analysts, we must say this Dearborn Primary reaffirmed the wise notion lawn signs don’t vote, nor do over-reaching promises, and name recognition plays a vital role in local elections. For the outcome tables below, please note the top 2 Mayoral and City Clerk candidates and the top 14 City Council candidates move on to the full election in November.


Dearborn Primary Election – Mayoral Outcome:

Candidate Name

Votes Percentage of Total

John B. OReilly Jr.

6,018 44.47%

Thomas Patrick Tafelski



Jim Parrelly 1,725


Hakim Fakhoury 454


Edward John Binkley 71



Dearborn Primary Election – City Council Outcome:

Candidate Name


Percentage of Total A

Susan A. Dabaja

7,053 51.41%

Michael T. Sareini



Regan Ford 5,943


Brian C. O’Donnell 5,815


Robert A. Abraham

5,670 41.33%

Leslie Herrick



David W. Bazzy



Erin Byrnes



Ken Paris

5,025 36.63%
Sharon Dulmage 4,768


Sean Green



Nada Al-Hanooti



Fayrouz Bazzi



Ramez Haidar



Ziad Abdulmalik



Rifaat Hacham 1,139


A Percentage of Total calculated using the total number of votes along with the total number of votes cast in the city council election.

Dearborn Primary Election – City Clerk Outcome:

Candidate Name


Percentage of Total

George Thomas Darany 7,022 55.34%
Nofila Haidar 2,744 21.63%
John Joseph Schimizzi 2,229 17.57%
Ameer Yousef Abusalah 387 3.05%
Adam Alee 307 2.42%


The Mayor’s Race

For the first time since 1985, Dearborn had a “real” mayoral race where our current mayor, Jack B. O’Reilly got a run for his money in a heated primary that witnessed some ugly mudslinging against challenger and current President Pro Tem Thomas Tafelski. Results wise, the mayor maintained his lead among many precincts in the east but suffered some loses in the west to his arch nemesis, Tafelski. Jim Parrelly, the “underdog” had a disappointing showing despite his hardcore marketing toward Arab American voters. His endorsement by AAPAC surely did not help at all while the AMPAC’s endorsement for the mayor did bring its fruit for the mayor in East Dearborn. The Arab American candidate Hakim Fakhoury didn’t have traction either and didn’t do well even with Arab Americans. The November elections will be a heated one between the O’Reilly and Tafelski and it may come down to double digits of votes!


The City’s Divide

The primary election demonstrated, yet again, why the city is divided into “West” and “East” ends; anyone who doesn’t believe the divide exists is simply living in denial. For example, look at the City Clerk Race where Nofila Haidar received 1st place in all East precincts (with the exception of St. Katri & Henry Ford Village) while George Darany swept all West precincts. Race and ethnicity are still serious, yet scary factors, when it comes to elections in the city of Dearborn.


Primary Keyword – Fire Up Your “Base”

Every candidate has a demographic their policies resonate with, and a location they have lived in or are currently living in, called their “base”. If there were any doubts about the importance of firing up your base, this primary election definitely proved how significant it can be! Regan Ford managed to get his base to vote in mass, resulting in his dominance in West Dearborn neighborhoods. While his name gave him an edge, it was clear that Snow, Whitmore, and Long neighborhoods were receptive to his campaign message on “less talk, more action”; giving him advantage in these areas over incumbents including current President Susan Dabaja! Aside from name recognition community involvement played a key role in the primary election; as an example, look at how well Candidate Leslie Herrick did in the following precincts; Howard, Lindbergh, Duvall and Whitmore-Bolls. Her activism and organization of the Homecoming might have played a huge role in getting a good grasp in the race.


The Young Candidates

There were 4 candidates for city council under the age of 35: Rifaat Hacham, Nada Al-Hanooti, Ziad Abdulmalik and Erin Byrnes. Byrnes was involved in the city’s affairs as City Beautiful Commission Chairwoman prior to her running the campaign which gave her an edge. She also mobilized her base in her own precinct, O.L. Smith, and got 2nd place there. Candidates Abdulmalik and Hacham did not have a great showing, with exception of their home districts where Abdulmalik got 1st at one of Salina’s precincts and Hacham finished 3rd in the Becker precinct.


The Arab American Candidates

Incumbents who self-identify as Arab Americans, Susan Dabaja and Michael Sareini, performed well coming in 1st and 2nd place respectively. The younger Arab American challengers did not fare as well however, finishing between 12th-16th place. Nada Al-Hanooti, the youngest female running, had the best showing of the non-incumbent Arab Americans coming in at 12th place. Candidates Abdulmalik and Hacham exited the race placing 15th and 16th place respectively; which unfortunately means they will not advance to the Full Election in November.


Absentee Votes, the ‘Wild Card’!

We broke down the votes using his analytical skills and it showed absentee votes really matter in a low-turnout election. Sharon Dulmage had 35%, 1,691 of her total 4,768 votes, come from absentee ballots, whereas Erin Byrnes had 26%, 1,256 of her total 5,158 votes, come from absentee ballots. In the mayoral race, challenger Tafelski had a razor thin win with 135 absentee votes, 1,577 to 1,442, but looking at the percentage of votes: Tafelski had 30% of his votes coming from absentee whereas O’Reilly had 24%.