Detroit — The challenger hoping to unseat southwest Detroit’s incumbent council member is focusing on the condition of her home and voting record as he tries to derail her re-election bid.
Retired Wayne County sheriff Lt. Tyrone Carter is taking on Detroit’s first Latina council member, Raquel Castaneda-Lopez, in Detroit’s Council District 6.
The battle has grown more contentious in recent weeks as Carter’s campaign committee has disseminated literature criticizing the councilwoman over her historic home on Clark that’s in disrepair and accusing the Democrat of failing to vote for former President Barack Obama in 2008 and 2012.
City records show Detroit’s property maintenance division inspected Castaneda-Lopez’s family home in the fall of 2011 and noted violations including missing gutters, peeling paint and a defective front porch, stairs and rails.
The property was inspected again in September following a report on WJBK Fox 2 and a similar violation notice was given. Castaneda-Lopez has since submitted a work plan to the city’s building department that calls for about $10,000 in repairs, she said.
“A leader is responsible for their environment. How can you say you are addressing blight and you go home to that every night or you want to turn a blind eye?” Carter said. “To a reasonable person, it doesn’t make sense.”
Castaneda-Lopez doesn’t deny the house needs repairs and said she requested the latest inspection herself.
“The house reflects my family’s experiences,” said Castaneda-Lopez, who said she grew up in poverty. “It’s not anything I’ve ever tried to hide. I, as an elected official, more than welcome the scrutiny and transparency in being held accountable.”
The original notice, she contends, was sent to the home in the name of her long-deceased father. When she inquired about it last month, Castaneda-Lopez said she first was told by the city department that oversees the violations that there was no record of a problem.
She also has owned another property on the same street for several years. It too is in need of multiple repairs that she said she expects will get underway in the coming months.
Castaneda-Lopez, who makes $78,000-plus a year, said she’s unable to cover all of the costs at once.
In her first term, Castaneda-Lopez helped get approved an ordinance she proposed to regulate handling and storage of controversial petroleum coke and other bulk solid materials in the city, and helped negotiate benefits for Delray residents in the footprint of the planned Gordie Howe International Bridge.
The 36-year-old council member alsofounded the city’s Immigration Task Force and launched the Detroit ID, an identification card that gives residents access to services regardless of immigration or housing status, criminal record or gender identification.
Earlier this month, she introduced a resolution that gained council’s support to establish an Indigenous People’s Day in Detroit in place of Columbus Day.
But Carter has gone after Castaneda-Lopez for her personal voting record, arguing the Obama supporter failed to cast ballots.
Castaneda-Lopez, who volunteered on Obama’s campaign, denied the claim. She added the city’s elections office doesn’t keep records prior to 2009 and despite the fact state records show she didn’t vote in 2012, she contended she voted absentee and turned in her ballot and those of her relatives herself.
Further, Castaneda-Lopez takes issue with a flier from Carter’s campaign that lists her home address that she contends has made her family a target.
“We deserve better as a city than somebody who is willing to subject another family to that type of harassment,” she said.
Carter countered the fliers are based on information found in the public record and “if you are an elected official, your constituents know where you live.”
“Stop playing victim card and take responsibility,” he said.
Target Insyght pollster Ed Sarpolus said Carter has far less name recognition in the community than Castaneda-Lopez and he doesn’t expect criticism of her house will hurt her much at the polls.
“She cares, she’s involved and I don’t think people would fault her for that,” Sarpolus said.
In the August primary Castaneda-Lopez earned 59 percent of the vote and Carter placed second with 33 percent.
Carter said if elected he will work to address the two major problems in the district; crime and blight. Carter added he’s a supporter of the comeback in the city’s downtown, but wants some equity for the neighborhoods.
“People are losing hope that their neighborhood is going to thrive,” said Carter, who made a prior bid for the seat in the last election cycle. “I’m trying to do the best on behalf of the people who have no voice.”
Carter, who owns his own security company, said he also has experience fighting for community benefits for residents and contract negotiations during his time with the sheriff’s office.
“It’s time to get someone at the table who will advocate on behalf of the everyday working people,” he said.
Castaneda-Lopez said she doesn’t have a typical politician’s background and a lot of residents “see themselves in me.”
“For me, leadership is about sticking to your values when things get tough,” she said.
Staff Writer Nicquel Terry contributed