Mystery 5th District primary winner lays out platform

James David Dickson
The Detroit News
Betty Jean Alexander, who must still win a general election in November against Republican DeShawn Wilkins, was a guest on the 910 AM Superstationshow of Elena Herrada, a former Detroit Public Schools trustee.

Southfield — Betty Jean Alexander, the Democratic candidate whose stunning, "stealth campaign" sent a state senator packing Tuesday despite no cash or advertising in her primary campaign, said Sunday that she would focus on education and insurance rates. 

More:Michigan Senate winner still shrouded in mystery following primary shocker

Alexander, the 5th District candidate who until recently was shrouded in mystery yet overtook incumbent state Sen. David Knezek, laid out in her platform in her first radio interview Sunday on the 910 AM Superstation show of Elena Herrada. She called for more funding to hire teachers and drive down class sizes, auto insurance rates untethered to ZIP codes, a livable wage of $16/hour and “clean, affordable water.”

Alexander, a 53-year-old single mother, was joined in 910 AM studio by her mentor, brother-in-law and apparent maestro of the campaign, LaMar Lemmons III, a former state lawmaker and current Detroit Public Schools Community District Board trustee.

Lemmons said he pushed Alexander to run and devised the “stealth campaign” strategy that resulted in a 10-point victory over Knezek on Aug. 7.

She said in an interview Sunday on Fox 2 Detroit's "Let it Rip" that she never expected to best Knezek in the primary.

Alexander still must win a general election in November against Republican DeShawn Wilkins. The district includes Detroit, Inkster, Dearborn Heights, Garden City and Redford Township.

As for the out-of-nowhere win, an outright campaign, Lemmons said, would have “alerted” Knezek, who might have been prompted to spend more money in the race. But now that she will be on the ballot in November, Lemmons has said if she wins, she will not be his "puppet" in the state Senate.

"That's ridiculous, he told The Detroit News last week. "Most politicians have their spokesman."

Lemmons said he “absolutely” put up Alexander to target Knezek after he felt snubbed by the lawmaker when he tried to lobby Lansing politicians and received a frosty reception from Knezek.

Others have said Knezek took the district for granted and failed to run an active campaign.

Knezek, whom one Democratic Party district chairman called a "future rising star and leader" in the party, was one of three incumbent state lawmakers who lost in Tuesday's primary. A Marine Corps veteran, Knezek is known for fiery floor speeches and serves as chairman of the Senate Democratic Caucus.

He has not yet conceded as he waits for the Wayne County Board of Canvassers to certify the election results, which they must do within 14 days of the election. Canvassers are set to meet Monday to grill a software firm over election results reporting glitches on Tuesday night.

Asked why she thought people voted for her, Alexander said: “... I can’t even pronounce his name because I’ve never met him or heard of him — (he) hasn’t really done anything for the community, or the district.”

She was born in Arkansas, raised in New Mexico — where she pleaded guilty to check fraud in 2003 — and moved to southeast Michigan 13 years ago, she said in the Fox 2 interview. She works for Wayne County in a clerical position. Other reports tie her to bankruptcy filings and lawsuits over unpaid debts when she was a Detroit school board candidate in 2016.

She said Sunday that she has since made right on it. 

The little-known candidate says she'd be her own woman if elected in November.

“I’m not (Lemmons’) puppet. I took his advice, and he has great advice, but I’ll make my own decisions,” Alexander said.