Ex-Detroit police chief Godbee to join 13th Congressional District race

Mark Hicks
The Detroit News

Former Detroit police Chief Ralph Godbee will launch a campaign for Michigan's new 13th Congressional District following U.S. Rep. Rashida Tlaib's announcement to run for reelection in the neighboring 12th Congressional District.

Godbee, a city native, is scheduled to announce his run Thursday during an event with faith and community leaders at New Bethel Missionary Baptist Church.

Since 2020, Godbee, an ordained minister who is chief of staff at Triumph Church in Detroit, "has been fully devoting his time, energy and talents to the ministry of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and social justice advocacy in his role with the church," an advisory for the event said.

"This experience, coupled with his 33 years of service in law enforcement, has given Godbee the depth and experience sorely needed in congress to stand up for everyday people struggling to make ends meet in the richest country in the world."

He joins two others who have formally declared runs: entrepreneur Shri Thanedar, who announced his campaign in December, and attorney and educator Michael Griffie, who announced his campaign Wednesday.

Former Detroit Police Chief Ralph Godbee

Godbee was a Detroit police officer for 25 years until he resigned amid a sex scandal in 2012. He was accused of having an extramarital affair with an internal affairs officer in the department.

In his retirement, Godbee worked as an adjunct professor at Wayne County Community College District in law enforcement administration and criminal justice. He also had a brief stint on AM radio.

In 2018, he became the new top cop for the Detroit Public Schools Community District, the district announced Thursday.

He was appointed by Superintendent Nikolai Vitti, who at the time said Godbee had made some "unfortunate personal mistakes" but deserved another chance and his "previous service to the city warrants that opportunity."

Godbee is not the only one seeking to lead the 13th Congressional District, which covers much of Detroit and nearby Wayne County communities. It was newly drawn and adopted by the Michigan's Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission last month.

Michael Griffie

Michael Griffie, an attorney who serves as senior managing director of external affairs at Detroit's Teach for America's Detroit chapter, also announced his bid Wednesday.

“District 13 is a special place to me," he said in a statement. "My Grandfather arrived here to Ecorse, Michigan in December of 1948 and lived here for the rest of his life. My mother was raised here, and I live here and want to be a voice in Washington for the community I love.”

He and Godbee join former gubernatorial hopeful Shri Thanedar, who recently announced his campaign for the district.

Shri Thanedar at Seven Mile Road and Mound in July 2020 when he ran for state representative.

Thanedar, a chemist and millionaire, can self-fund his campaign and committed $5 million toward his effort to start.

He served a single term in Lansing as a state representative from Detroit for the 3rd District, whose boundaries fall within the new 12th Congressional District.

Thanedar in 2018 narrowly won Detroit but finished third out of three candidates in the statewide gubernatorial primary after spending nearly $10 million of his fortune on the race.

The 13th District, which leans Democratic, is currently represented by Rashida Tlaib, one of the first two Muslim women elected to the U.S. House.

Tlaib, who replaced U.S. Rep. John Conyers, announced this month she intends to move and run for reelection in the new 12th District that includes Dearborn, Southfield and part of Detroit.

Her decision followed U.S. Rep. Brenda Lawrence, D-Southfield, planning to retire at the end of her term and not seek the seat in the 12th.