The Dearborn Primary: New faces challenging the status quo

BY: ADEL A. MOZIP & STEPHEN YOUNG – The Yemeni American News


The municipal primary elections are just around the corner, and lawn signs have flooded neighborhoods around Michigan where cities are holding elections for candidates running for office. Most of the cities have their municipal posts up for election, which include mayor, city council, and city clerk positions.

Dearborn is one of the most unique cities in not only in Michigan, but in the entire United States. A diverse suburb of Detroit, and the hometown of the legendary Henry Ford, the city is home to the largest Arab American community outside of the Middle East. The city is more segregated than desirable, yet in the Dearborn elections candidates are selected based on popular vote rather than districts within the city. It will surely be a hot summer this year, both in weather and in politics, with 16 candidates vying for 7 seats on the city council, 5 candidates vying for the non-incumbent city clerk position, and 5 candidates running for city mayor; including the incumbent mayor.


The Mayoral Race:

The mayoral race is the most important and potentially contested positions in Dearborn this year. Many residents concur that this is perhaps the first real contested mayoral election since 1985. Mayor O’Reilly is seeking a third term as mayor, but this time, he has four challengers. Incumbents in Dearborn have a great advantage and rarely, if ever, get voted out. This term, Council President Pro Tem Thomas Tafelski is vying for the mayor’s seat. In addition two businessmen Hakim Fakhoury and Jim Parrelly are seeking to unseat the current mayor. Resident Edward Binkley is also on the ballot for mayor.


The Council Race:

Five incumbents are seeking re-election and the confidence of the Dearborn voters for the City Council. The two council members not seeking re-election, Councilman President Pro Tem Tom Tafelski, is instead running for the mayor’s seat, and Councilman Mark Shooshanian, who has decided to retire from the council. The five incumbents seeking re-election are President Susan Dabaja, Council members Mike Sareini, David Bazzy Brian O’Donnell, and Robert Abraham. Council members David Bazzy and Mike Sareini were first elected in 2013. Bazzy is the CEO of Kenwal Steel while Sareini is an attorney and top salesman at Village Ford Dealership. O’Donnell is the District Business Manager for Immuno-Oncology while Robert Abraham is the CEO of General Filters Inc. Susan Dabaja is a practicing attorney with Farhat Law. Susan Dabaja first ran in 2013 and had the highest votes in November making her President Council.

There are 11 challengers for the 7 seats and they are: Ziad Abdulmalik, Nada Al-Hanooti, Fayrouz Bazzi, Erin Byrnes, Sharon Dulmage, Regan Ford, Sean Green, Rifaat Hachem, Ramez Haidar, Leslie Herrick, and Kenneth Paris. Ziad Abdulmalik is the COO of a local logistics Company and a southend native and currently lives in the east side of Dearborn. Nada Al-Hanooti is a substitute teacher, a community activist, and currently resides in the east side of the city. Fayrouz Bazzi is a registered ICU nurse and currently lives in the west side of the city. Erin Byrnes is a lead at the Democratic Engagement and America Reads at the University of Michigan. She is the chair of the City Beautification Commission and resides in the west side of the city. Sharon Dulmage is a registered nurse who has more than 22 years of experience on the Dearborn School Board and currently resides in the west side of the city.

Sean Green is a retired veteran and sits on the Housing Commission. He lives in the west side of the city. Regan Ford is the CEO of Vivid Landscape and former President of the Rotary Club and South Outer Drive Neighborhood Association. He lives in the west side of the city. Ramez Haidar is a senior electrical engineer and lead volunteer for the Wayne County Sheriff. He lives in the east side of the city. Rifaat Hacham is the president of Hacham Consulting. He lives in the east side of the city. Leslie Herrick is a communications specialists for the Dearborn Public Schools and the Dearborn Community Fund non-profit. In addition, she heads the fundraising for the Dearborn Homecoming. She lives in the west side of the city. Kenneth Paris is a retired Dearborn Police Officer and University of Michigan-Dearborn Campus Safety Officer; he currently is the chair of the Traffic Commission. He resides in the west side of the city.

The Clerk Race:

There was a huge scandal  last year regarding the Clerk’s office following the embezzlement charge by the State Police on the former elected clerk, Kathy Buda. Five candidates are vying for the seat and they are: former State Representative George Darany, Dearborn Public Schools PTA Council President Nofila Haidar, international financial advisor Adam Alee, former United Airlines manager John Schimizzi, and college student Ameer Abusalah. This race is very competitive, as is the case with every other Dearborn municipal election this year.