Portage has a new mayor. Unofficial results of Tuesday's election show Patricia Randall defeating fellow City Council member Nasim Ansari 4,235 votes to 3,628. Randall must resign her Council seat to take the mayor's position. Ansari will also leave the City Council because his seat was up for election. It will be taken by newcomer Lori Knapp. Incumbents Claudette Reid and Terry Urban won new four terms.
Randall says she's looking forward to cooperating with Portage's neighbor, the City of Kalamazoo. “I want to really make a difference. I want to look at how we can regionally benefit. I don’t want to just say, you know, we’re gonna work with them and then never get together. I want to have regularly scheduled meetings, I want to set up some goals...We are stronger together and I think we can all benefit by working better together.”
Randall outspent Ansari by a margin of two-to-one, according to pre-election campaign finance reports. They showed that Randall spent $19,504 on the race, compared to $8,089 by Ansari. Randall also got nearly three times as much as Ansari in campaign contributions: $28,350 to Ansari's $10,318, making it the most expensive mayoral race in Portage history. Ansari says that's a problem: “That kind of funding—special interests— interferes in the lives of the citizens by pouring money. Because it should be about what the citizens want, what that taxpayers want.”
The issue of medical marijuana emerged late in the Portage mayor race. Randall, herself a cancer survivors, says Portage has a chance to get ahead of the curve on the issue. “I think that patients are entitled to safe product that has been tested and um...It’s between them and their doctor. Portage has a lot of opportunity to invest in this industry and I would like to define it before it defines us, but either way it’s coming.”
Although we won't be mayor, or on the City Council, Ansari says he isn't going away. “Well, I’ll continue to serve my community in whatever capacity I can. I serve on various boards and commissions anyway. For instance, I serve on the board of the Portage Community Center. I’m here to serve my community.”
(WMUK's J. Gabriel Ware and Greyson Steele reported on this story.)