Voters recall far-right Ottawa Impact member from West Michigan county commission

A crack in the Ottawa Impact facade became a hole in the dike Tuesday, as a prominent member of the right-wing evangelical coalition was defeated at the polls.

An anti-Ottawa Impact sign in Grand Haven. (Anna Gustafson/Michigan Advance)

By Michigan Advance

May 9, 2024


MICHIGAN—A crack in the Ottawa Impact facade became a hole in the dike Tuesday, as a prominent member of the right-wing evangelical coalition was defeated at the polls.

Incumbent Ottawa County Commissioner Lucy Ebel, a Republican, was defeated on Tuesday by Democrat Chris Kleinjans in a recall election in the West Michigan county. Unofficial results show Kleinjans winning by a 20-point margin, 2,502 to 1,665. Voter turnout was 20%, according to the website of the Elections Division of the Ottawa County Clerk.

“I am grateful and humbled that the hardworking people of this district have put their trust and confidence in me,” said Kleinjans. “The voters of District 2 made it clear that they reject the chaos, fiscal irresponsibility, and disrespect for county employees that exemplify Lucy Ebel and Ottawa Impact’s style of government, and I will work every day to turn that around.”

The recall effort began in July when a petition seeking to remove Ebel from office was filed, citing her vote to effectively fire Adeline Hambley, the county health officer without cause. The board then voted to offer the position instead to Nathaniel Kelly, a safety manager for an HVAC business who railed against masking to stop the spread of COVID-19.

It was one of several actions the board took in January 2023, the very first meeting after nine members endorsed by Ottawa Impact, including Ebel, won election to the 11-member county commission in November 2022.

Among the changes were substituting Ottawa County’s vision statement from “Where you belong” to “Where freedom rings,” eliminating the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Department, and firing the former county administrator and hiring former GOP U.S. House candidate John Gibbs as a replacement. Gibbs was later terminated by the board for “gross misconduct” and has since filed a lawsuit against the county.

Hambley also filed suit against the county for “termination in violation of public policy,” which eventually resulted in a settlement this past February, keeping her and Marcia Mansaray, her deputy, on the job.

Ebel will continue in her role until the results of the election are certified, and then Kleinjans will serve out the remainder of 2024. Both he and Ebel have filed for the August primary election for an opportunity to run in November for a four-year term.

“I look forward to working with many people of good will to restore responsible government to Ottawa County,” said Kleinjans, who said his election to the board was a referendum on Ottawa Impact.

“We got buy-in from people throughout the county who had a vested interest in our success, because a win in May for responsible government is a harbinger for August and November,” said Kleinjans.

Meanwhile, voters in Delta County in the Upper Peninsula also recalled three of five county commissioners Tuesday for their votes last year to fire County Administrator Emily DeSalvo.

According to unofficial results, incumbents Robert Barron, David Moyle and Robert Petersen were defeated by Myra Croasdell, Kelli van Ginhoven and Matthew Jensen, who will serve through the end of the year. However, WLUC TV-6 reports all six are running for the board this fall.

“There was very poor voter turnout. The general public doesn’t realize the woke agenda that the newly elected have, which will be put into play very quickly,” Barron said in a statement to WLUC. “I’ll be running in the August primary, and we’ll see if the people of Delta County want that mob-rule type of governance or do they want the constitutional representative republic, which is the rule of God’s law.”

READ MORE: West Michigan residents join forces to combat right-wing extremism in local government

This coverage was republished from Michigan Advance pursuant to a Creative Commons license.



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