Larry Kestenbaum is Washtenaw County's Clerk and Register of Deeds, a position he's held since Jan. 1, 2005. His current term runs through 2016. He also is a local political scientist and long-time maintainer of The Political Graveyard.
Kestenbaum, a Democrat, was elected to his first four-year term as county clerk in November 2004, taking office on Jan. 1, 2005 after defeating long-time Republican clerk Peggy Haines. He became the first Democrat to hold that office in 72 years. The register of deeds office manages property records for the county, while the clerk’s office maintains all vital records – deaths, births and marriages – as well as oversees elections and manages weapons permits and court records. The office also maintains records for the county board of commissioners and the 22nd Circuit Court.
By virtue of his position as county clerk, Kestenbaum serves on the three-member Washtenaw County election commission, along with the county treasurer and 22nd circuit court judge.
On Saturday, March 22, 2014, following a U.S. District Court ruling that Michigan's ban on same sex marriage was unconstitutional, Kestenbaum was one of four Michigan county clerks to open for special hours while the ruling was in effect. His office issued marriage licenses to 74 gay and lesbian couples.
Earlier in his political career, Kestenbaum served on the Ingham County board of commissioners (where Lansing and East Lansing are located) for six years. Kestenbaum also ran unsuccessfully for two other offices – State Rep. for District 52 in 1998, and Ann Arbor city council Ward 4 in 1999.
In 2000, he was appointed to represent District 4 on the Washtenaw County board of commissioners for a partial term, then was elected to a full two-year term in November 2000. He did not seek re-election in 2002, after redistricting puts him in the same district as fellow incumbent Democrat Leah Gunn.
Before becoming county clerk – a full-time position – Kestenbaum worked as a senior archive specialist for University of Michigan's Survey Research Center at the Institute for Social Research.
Kestenbaum is married to Janice Gutfreund, a psychologist. The couple lives on Ann Arbor's southwest side, in the Eberwhite neighborhood. They have a daughter, Sarah, and are active members of Temple Beth Emeth in Ann Arbor.
March 22, 2014: Issues 74 marriage licenses to gay and lesbian couples following a U.S. District Court ruling that Michigan's ban on same sex marriage was unconstitutional, but before a stay order was issued on the ruling. Is one of only four Michigan county clerks to open their offices for special hours on a Saturday while the ruling was in effect.
Nov. 6, 2012: Wins re-election to a third four-year term as county clerk/register of deeds, defeating Republican Stanley F. Watson. Gets 109,413 votes (68.41%) compared to 49,657 votes (31.05%) for Watson. Kestenbaum ran unopposed in the August 2012 Democratic primary.
Nov. 4, 2008: Wins re-election to a second four-year term as county clerk/register of deeds. He runs unopposed in both the August Democratic primary and November general election.
Nov. 2, 2004: Defeats long-time Republican clerk/register of deeds Peggy Haines, becoming the first Democrat to hold that office in 70 years. Gets 81,380 votes (51.72%) compared to 75,448 votes (47.95%) for Haines. Kestenbaum ran unopposed in the August 2004 Democratic primary.
2002: Decides not to seek re-election as county commissioner after redistricting puts him in the same district as fellow incumbent Democrat Leah Gunn.
2000: Is appointed to serve on the Washtenaw County board of commissioners for a partial term representing District 4, then wins election for a two-year term in November 2000, also in District 4. He was unopposed in both the August 2000 primary and the November general election.
November 1999: Makes unsuccessful bid for Ann Arbor city council to represent Ward 4. Is defeated by Republican Marcia Higgins, who later switches parties and becomes a Democrat.
August 1998: Makes unsuccessful bid for State Representative in the 52nd District, coming in last in a four-way Democratic primary. The primary race was won by John Hansen with 2,020 votes (31.54%), followed by Pam Byrnes with 1,771 votes (27.65%), Rebekah Warren with 1,677 votes (26.18%) and Kestenbaum with 937 votes (14.63%).
1996: Creates the website The Political Graveyard while working at Michigan State University. The site is a free online archive of U.S. political history.
1988-1990: Attends graduate school at Cornell University, studying historic preservation.
November 1986: Wins re-election to a third two-year term as Ingham County commissioner.
November 1984: Wins re-election to a second two-year term as Ingham County commissioner.
November 1982: Is elected to his first two-year term as Ingham County commissioner – the county where Lansing and East Lansing are located.
1982: Earns law degree from Wayne State University.
1979: Earns undergraduate degree in economics from Michigan State University.
In the news
Panel discusses election cycles, term lengths in Ann Arbor – Michigan Daily, April 14, 2015
Homeless advocates set to begin collecting signatures to recall Ann Arbor council member – MLive, Jan. 5, 2015
Clerk grants marriage licenses to 74 gay couples in Washtenaw County – MLive, March 22, 2014
Washtenaw County office to process same-sex marriage licenses Saturday – WDIV Detroit, March 21, 2014
Election Board: AAPS Recall Language Unclear Kestenbaum challenges constitutionality of "factuality" requirement, but election commissioners don't formally weigh in on that issue – The Ann Arbor Chronicle, Aug. 1, 2013
Washtenaw County joins statewide effort to improve absentee ballot access for first-time voters – AnnArbor.com, Oct. 17, 2012
Kestenbaum Flies Solo in Candidate Forum – The Ann Arbor Chronicle, Oct. 9, 2012
No-show at candidate forum gives Washtenaw County clerk chance to reflect – AnnArbor.com, Oct. 9, 2012
Lawrence Kestenbaum, Democratic Candidate for Washtenaw County Clerk – Patch.com, July 29, 2012
County Board Loses 2 Seats in Redistricting – The Ann Arbor Chronicle, May 13, 2011
Washtenaw: Snyder Recall Wording Clear Election board votes 2-1 on clarity of recall petition – The Ann Arbor Chronicle, April 30, 2011
County Clerk Outlines Redistricting Process – The Ann Arbor Chronicle, Feb. 7, 2011
County clerk Larry Kestenbaum: He's bracing for a record turnout – Ann Arbor Observer, October 2008
- Larry Kestenbaum stories on AnnArbor.com
- Larry Kestenbaum stories on Ann Arbor Chronicle
- Larry Kestenbaum stories in Heritage Media newspapers
- Larry Kestenbaum stories in the Google News archives
Wikipedia: Larry Kestenbaum