Republican Dave Pagel, the chairman of the Berrien County Board of Commissioners, cleared one hurdle Tuesday in his bid to succeed Sharon Tyler in her 78th District state House seat as he handily defeated two challengers in Michigan's primary election.
With nearly half the precincts reporting in Berrien County, Pagel had 2,100 votes to 517 for Brian Savage and 317 for Niles' David Mann. And in the areas of Cass County also included in the district, Pagel had 943 votes to 450 for Savage and 376 for Mann, with just one precinct still out.
The founder of Dave Pagel Produce in Berrien Springs, Pagel touted his exprience both as a business owner and county government official. Also, he served 14 years on the Berrien Springs Board of Education.
On the Democratic side, Jack Arbanas appeared headed to victory over Niles' Gerry Welling, although his lead at 10 pm. was much smaller than Pagel's. Whether the nominee is Arbanas or Welling, Pagel will be the favorite in the fall election as no Democrat has filled the 78th district seat since at least the 1950s.
Tyler is leaving the post at the end of the year to seek the Berrien County clerk post. The current term is her second.
At the Morris Farms Precinct 5 voting site in Niles Township, several voters said they had supported Pagel. Rather than because of his position on various issues, however, their votes had more to do with their association with him.
"I taught school in Berrien Springs for over 30 years and I had his kids,'' said Bill Schrader, who voted for Pagel as did his wife, Jan. "I know him, and he's a farmer.''
Bill Schrader said he, too, is a former farmer.
Deanna Delmuro said she voted for Pagel as well but had no particular reason for doing so. One voter who opted for Savage was Scott Banke.
"He seems like he's a pretty conservative candidate,'' he said.
Deb Smith said she voted for Mann and laughed when asked the reason.
"I know his dad,'' she said.
Staff writer Lou Mumford: