Tuesday, January 25, 2022

Trustees retain seats in close contest

November 9, 2000

Scott Romney and Dorothy Gonzales will continue their tenures as MSU trustees.

With 99 percent of the precincts reported Wednesday, Democrat Gonzales led with 25 percent of the vote and Republican Romney had garnered 24 percent in the race for two seats.

Former Lt. Gov. Connie Binsfeld and Cal Rapson, a Flint-based regional director for the United Auto Workers, lost out. They each received 23 percent of the vote.

Gonzales, who won her second term, said she found out about her win early Wednesday morning.

“I was elated to think that the electorate again believed I need a second term,” she said.

“I don’t really take anything for granted. I focused on the fact that people know that I definitely put my time in for my trusteeship.”

Still, the results were bittersweet forGonzales, the only East Lansing resident serving on the board.

Fellow Democrat Rapson was defeated. But that came as little surprise - though the race was close - because he was up against two incumbents and some high-profile names.

Romney, the son of former Gov. George Romney, was also in good spirits about his victory.

“I’m very pleased,” he said Wednesday. “I was disappointed that (Binsfeld) didn’t win.”

The Board of Trustees is MSU’s highest governing body.

It’s made up of eight trustees who serve eight-year, unpaid tenures and oversee the budget and implement university policy.

The days leading up to the election weren’t easy for anyone, as the race was consistently close between all four candidates.

But Romney said he enjoyed meeting members of the MSU community and hearing their views.

“It’s not been a full-time campaign but it’s been interesting and an educational experience and it’s been a lot of fun,” said Romney, who was appointed to the board by fellow Republican Gov. John Engler to fill the unexpected vacancy left by Democrat Bob Traxler.

He said he’s confident that, despite party differences, he will work well with Gonzales.

But the losers in the race are upset over the outcome.

Rapson said although he congratulated the winners, he still felt an injustice had occurred.

“It was a situation that I just feel because of back room politics that the governor was able to appoint Scott Romney, so he could run as an incumbent,” he said, referring to Engler replacing Democrat Traxler with Republican Romney.

“Newspapers endorsed the incumbent and they took the easy way out as far as I’m concerned.”

Democrats held a 5-3 majority until Traxler resigned to head the Mackinac Island State Parks Commission. Romney’s appointment split the board 4-4 among the GOP and Democrats.

Rapson said he’s not sure if he’ll seek a seat on the board again.

Colleen McNamara, who chairs the board, said she wasn’t surprised to hear of Gonzales’ victory.

“I really thought that Cal Rapson would also win,” she said. “It would be nice if the Democrats had gotten a majority on the board.”

But McNamara said she wasn’t sure if having an evenly split board will be of significance.

“I don’t think there are a lot of partisan issues that come before the board,” she said. “So 99 percent of the time it will have no partisan effect, but on occasion there are.”

Connie Binsfeld, who has served as a county commissioner, a state representative and a state senator, lost her first election ever Tuesday. She said she has no plans to run for the board again.

“I think that this was a good experience and I had looked forward to serving,” she said. “But I think that the people have spoken.”

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