July 17, 2014 at 1:00 am

District 7 House seat draws large, diverse field of Democrats

Wells Stallworth )

Detroit — The wife of the outgoing state House member, a school board vice president, insurance agent and author are among the Democratic candidates vying to represent state House District 7 in the Aug. 5 primary election.

The six contestants include an attorney and union-backed candidate in the Democratic-leaning district race focused on issues involving families, education and roads. Republican David Bradley is running unopposed in the district that covers Highland park and northwest Detroit.

Lansing native Nicole Wells Stallworth, making her first run for public office, is seeking to replace her husband, Rep. Thomas Stallworth III, who is leaving to pursue the state Senate District 5 Detroit seat.

Wells Stallworth, a child and family advocate, says her work and her husband’s are “very much aligned.”

“We are a pair. ... We are here to serve the people, and that’s what we do,” she said.

Wells Stallworth, who moved to Detroit at age 22 with her then-4-year-old daughter to attend college at Wayne State University, said her desire to help young people and families was fueled by her own struggles.

The community engagement director for the Detroit-based Children’s Center is focused on raising awareness about issues that affect families and advocating for a stronger public education system.

“I see this as an opportunity to broaden those issues and get more people engaged in the political process,” she said.

Wells Stallworth says state roads need fixes, adding she’s eager to further research the issue and areas where there is an opportunity to create revenue. She supports the grand bargain money and legislation to shore up Detroit pensions and protect Detroit Institute of Arts masterpieces.

Candidate Jeanette Brown Williams is waging her second bid for the district seat with a focus on families, prison reform and foster care. The Highland Park resident previously lost in the 2012 Democratic primary.

“I want to be the voice of the people that these laws affect,” said Brown Williams, a freelance writer and literacy tutor. “What’s important is that we have a better city, community, neighborhood and a better world for our children.”

Brown Williams says she opposes tax increases and alternatives should be explored for key issues, including much-needed road repairs and education. Another goal, she added, is to pursue legislation that will ensure good citizens who have a criminal past are not discriminated against.

Brown Williams, who has a felony drug possession conviction from more than two decades ago, says the mistake she made when she was young is still a hindrance that “doesn’t define me.”

LaTanya Garrett of Detroit is endorsed by the United Auto Workers union and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Council 25, but she declined repeated requests for an interview.

Highland Park Board of Education Vice President Kurt Swanson said he is running to help re-establish a fair and equitable system of government, expanding jobs and opportunities for needy and young families.

“I want to work to restore the public trust in government,” Swanson wrote in an email to The News, adding he has the drive, fresh perspective and passion for the job. “I am not about political overtones and rhetoric. I want to restore the power to the people for the 7th District and beyond.”

Swanson added he’s concerned with crime, the erosion of public education, blighted neighborhoods and ensuring the rights of the people are maintained. He suggests the Legislature look to eliminate “corporate welfare” subsidies and pork-barrel spending to redirect tax dollars to road repairs and education.

Other candidates include litigator James Cole Jr. and businessman Bernard Thompson, both of Detroit.

Thompson, who previously ran for state representative in the same district and was narrowly defeated in 2009 for a seat on the Detroit Public Schools Board of Education, says he’s concentrating on legislative changes to enhance social mobility and economic development.

He vows to try to restructure the state income tax code and State Lottery Commission’s profit allocation for K-12 funding. He also argues new and increased taxes will be necessary to rebuild state roads and bridges.

“It really doesn’t make sense for our roads to be in the condition that they are in,” Thompson said about the Motor City.


Brown Williams