Michigan county commissioner recall results in party control flip

William Bunek (R) was removed as Leelanau County Commissioner in Michigan through a recall election on May 3, 2022. Bunek lost the seat with 55% of votes cast in favor of the recall. Lois Bahle (D) was elected as the replacement candidate in tandem with the recall. Bahle’s election switched the board majority from Republican to Democratic. 

Recall supporters criticized Bunek for statements he made in a county board meeting on Sept. 14, 2021. In that meeting, Bunek and three other Republicans on the board recommended zeroing out the Early Childhood Services millage passed by voters in Nov. 2019. According to the Traverse City Record Eagle, “Bunek at that time said the United States is a constitutional republic and when voters make a wrong decision, the county board is there to make sure that it doesn’t go on.” Before the recall, Bunek held the seat for 14 years.

Bunek appealed the factual nature of the recall petition in the 13th Circuit Court, stating that he felt his statements were misrepresented. The appeal was denied and recall supporters were able to gather 663 signatures to send the recall to a vote. 

There have been 15 recall efforts against 33 county commissioners in 2022. Of those, nine are underway, 19 did not go to a vote, one resulted in a resignation, two were approved, one was defeated, and one is on the ballot in May 2022.

There have already been more recall efforts against county commissioners in 2022 than in the first half of 2021. Between January and June of 2021, 12 county commissioners were targets of recall efforts. As of May 9, 2022, 33 county commissioners had been the targets of recall efforts. 

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