Coulter says he'll run for Oakland County exec in 2020

Mike Martindale
The Detroit News
Oakland County Executive Dave Coulter

Ferndale — Oakland County Executive Dave Coulter said Thursday he will run for a full four-year term next year, promising "stability and forward progress." 

Coulter, a Democrat named to the county's top office after L. Brooks Patterson died in August, said he announced his campaign at the urging of advisers.

Coulter, 59, resigned as Ferndale’s mayor Aug. 19 and was sworn in as county executive that day after a contentious battle between Oakland County Democrats and Republicans over who would replace Patterson, a Republican who had been in office since 1992.

At the time he was appointed by the Oakland County Board of Commissioners to complete Patterson's term, which expires in December 2020, Coulter said he was undecided if he would run for a full term.

Coulter cleared that up on Thursday at a press conference at Brass Aluminum Forging in Ferndale, speaking of “bright possibilities” he was eager to pursue on behalf of the county.

“As I talk to residents, community leaders and business owners, they are eager for both stability and forward progress,” Coulter said, surrounded by warehouse workers and several county commissioners.

“We have an historic opportunity to leverage the tremendous strengths within our county to create the next and best version of Oakland County,” said Coulter. “To build on this momentum, I have decided to seek the full term for county executive next year.”

Coulter said he is proud to have reached agreement with the county board on a new three-year budget but has several priorities he plans to tackle in the months ahead, including a regional transit plan and a new economic strategy that “that boosts opportunity for everyone in all parts of the county.”

He also wants county employment to reflect the county’s diversity and hopes for a plan to improve access to health care services for citizens.

Commissioner David T. Woodward

One of those present at Coulter's announcement, Board of Commissioners Chairman David Woodward, D-Royal Oak, had previously expressed interest in the county executive job. Woodward hugged and congratulated Coulter, pledging his support.

“I stand here with Dave Coulter and proud to endorse him in 2020,” Woodward told reporters.

Another Democrat with eyes on the executive's seat, county Treasurer Andy Meisner, issued a press release reiterating his desire for the job and saying Coulter was “changing course and deciding to run for office next year after being in the position two months and endorsing Meisner for the position on June 20, 2019.”

“I’m running for Oakland County Executive with real plans to protect what we love about Oakland County while making our county stronger by building regional transit, embracing diversity, and moving forward on a 9-point equity agenda tackling health care, education and the environment,” said Meisner, who announced his bid in March. “My candidacy offers a proven track record on the job and at the ballot box, and I trust the voters to do the right thing.”

Meisner said Coulter had been selected as a “caretaker,” had not expressed any interest in running for the county executive's job and had told Meisner he did not plan to run for the office.

Meisner noted it was Coulter’s second political appointment — the first being as Ferndale’s mayor.

Andy Meisner

When he was elected county treasurer in 2008, Meisner became the first Democrat elected countywide in 40 years and has been the top Democratic vote-getter in Oakland County for the past three cycles. Since announcing his candidacy for county executive, Meisner has raised nearly $600,000 for his campaign fund.

Coulter said Thursday he has respect for Meisner but is confident he is the best person for the executive's job.

“I feel like I’m the right guy at the right time,” Coulter said. “I’ve known Andy for a long time and respect him very much. Politics is a funny business … I still respect him (though) we are competing for the same job.

“I don’t know who else might run in the race,” Coulter said. “I’m going to run like a challenger for every vote.”

When asked about Meisner’s sizable campaign war chest, Coulter admitted that it is shaping up to be a very expensive campaign.

“I expect I will have to raise a half-million (dollars) or more and if I didn’t think I was capable of doing that, I wouldn’t be announcing,” he said. “This is likely going to be a million-dollar race before it’s over.”

When asked if there was any special significance to making his announcement on Halloween, Coulter laughed and said, “No."

"My advisers have told me that it was important to state my plans before the end of this year and to get out and start raising money," he said. “And that’s what I plan to do.”

Patterson was he county's most well-known and popular elected official for decades, repeatedly returned to office by large margins. His death, and a change to a Democratic majority on the county board, led to Coulter's appointment.

 Well-known county Republicans whose names have often come up as possible candidates for the office in GOP circles include Sheriff Michael Bouchard, Rochester Hills Mayor Bryan Barnett, former U.S. Rep. Mike Bishop of Rochester and former State Sen. Mike Kowall of White Lake. None have announced plans to run.

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