Yancey credits Banks, others in House primary victory

Michael Gerstein
The Detroit News

Lansing — Harper Woods school board member Tenisha Yancey is likely headed to the state House in November and credits in part former state Rep. Brian Banks – who resigned from office in a February plea deal – for playing a big role in her Democratic primary victory.

Banks was convicted of eight felonies before winning election in 2012 and resigned in a plea deal with the Attorney General’s office over felony charges stemming from bank loan fraud years ago, leaving the seat vacant for six months. But Banks has since been politically active, including personal visits in the district to convince his still-loyal constituents to vote for Yancey.

She also got help from five state House Democrats who campaigned for her.

Now Yancey faces Republican Mark Corcoran of Grosse Pointe Woods in a heavily Democratic district where Corcoran openly admits to spending little time campaigning and has received no campaign contributions. She was endorsed by the Wayne County executive, prosecutor, sheriff and treasurer.

“He volunteered a lot,” Yancey said of Banks. Without him, “I think it would have been more difficult -- lot more difficult.”

Although he did not officially endorse her, the ex-lawmaker kicked into overdrive for Yancey, 41, when a story emerged about her criminal past as a teenager – a disclosure that she says actually boosted her campaign as people sympathized with her story of redemption.

“I truly feel that after the news story came out I got more support from Brian for sure as well as constituents in my area who just felt that I was being … and not to play victim, but they felt it was just such an unfair story … to go back 20 years ago into someone’s teenage life is just unfair,” she said.

Banks said he was so sickened with news coverage detailing Yancey’s past that he “decided to get out there and pound the pavement, and I went to my supporters.”

Records show Yancey pleaded guilty to stalking in August 1995 and served two years’ probation. She was also found guilty of retail fraud in Calhoun County in March 1995. The court did not immediately have access to files showing what the judge’s sentence was.

Yancey had felony firearm charges dismissed by the Wayne County Circuit Court in 1995, when the court also dismissed charges for aggravated stalking and discharge of a firearm in or at a building.

Later, in 1997, she was found guilty for failing to stop at the scene of a property damage accident by the same Wayne County court and sentenced to one year of probation.

Banks has remained active with a political action committee formed in September 2016 called Bank on Banks named after his old campaign slogan.

The PAC has raised at least $58,530 between its formation last year and April 2017 but did not file its latest report due in July.

This year, it received $10,000 from the Michigan Regional Council of Carpenters and Millwrights PAC and $2,500 from the Operating Engineers PAC. The committee donated $1,000 to Detroit City Council President Brenda Jones’ campaign and paid nearly $900 to Sinbad’s Restaurant in Detroit where a fundraiser was held.

Detroit Rep. Sherry Gay-Dagnogo, Grand Rapids Rep. David LaGrand, Ann Arbor Rep. Adam Zemke, Southfield Rep. Jeremy Moss and Auburn Hills Rep. Tim Greimel -- the former House minority leader -- also helped Yancey knock on doors during the campaign. Yancey is the niece of United Auto Workers Vice President Jimmy Settles and got the UAW endorsement.

“I just think this is a great story that is representative of someone who has had a second chance that really has done the due diligence to turn their life around,” Gay-Dagnogo said.

LaGrand said Yancey’s campaign was well-organized and he was drawn to her past as a former assistant county prosecutor.

Her criminal record fits the “narrative of someone who understands how to move forward,” LaGrand said. “And I certainly want to live in a society where we welcome people back who have made mistakes in their past.”