Democrats battle for Downriver seats of term-limited state representatives
Large numbers of Democrats are competing to replace two term-limited House lawmakers in suburban Wayne County in the Aug. 7 primary as the party seeks to wrest control of the state House from Republicans in the fall.
Although most House primary races in the outer county are uncontested or only have two candidates, District 12 and 16 appear to have the most interest from Democrats. Each Democrat-leaning district has four Democratic candidates vying for the seat with Republicans running unopposed.
Residents in those communities are likely more energized about politics, making the races more competitive, said Lansing-based Target Insyght pollster Ed Sarpolus.
But Sarpolus said the public should not assume that local elected officials have the edge in battles with political outsiders.
"Candidates with name recognition and money are the ones leading the polls," said Sarpolus, adding that heavy grassroots campaigning will also help candidates win the primary. "Also, are they connected to the community that they are in?"
A Romulus lawyer and the leader of the Taylor City Council are among the candidates vying to replace term-limited Rep. Erika Geiss, D-Taylor, in Michigan's House District 12, which covers Romulus, Taylor and part of Van Buren Township.
Republican Michelle Bailey, of Taylor, will face the winner of the Democratic primary in the fall.
Democrat Alexandria Taylor is an attorney who runs her own law firm in downtown Detroit. The former member of the Romulus charter commission said she considers herself a political outsider and could bring a fresh perspective to the state Legislature.
"That's why you don’t have real people in office because you have political establishments," said Taylor, 37. "We need someone from the outside who is not indebted to these corporate interests to really come in and change some things."
Taylor, a mom of three, said public schools are underfunded and wants to reexamine the state's funding formula. The quality of education should not be based on someone's zip code, she said.
Taylor City Council President Alex Garza said his experience in local leadership would allow him to offer insight in the Michigan Capitol on the financial challenges cities face in providing services. He has been endorsed by the United Auto Workers union, Michigan AFL-CIO and Sierra Club.
The 24-year-old Garza said when he first took office in 2013, he was the youngest person elected to the council. He has previously worked as director of constituent relations for the Michigan House of Representatives.
If elected, Garza said he will advocate for repealing the senior pension tax and getting more state revenue-sharing aid for municipalities. He also wants to see more funding for Michigan schools.
"How do we continue to cut dollars for education when we aren’t making the mark with our kids?" Garza said. "We need to get back to the days where Michigan was known as an education powerhouse for people to move their families."
Gov. Rick Snyder has boosted state education aid in recent years to highest mark in history, but Democrats have argued it hasn't been enough to make a different in local districts.
Democrats Lauretha Shelton of Taylor and Tomeko Boles of Romulus are also running for the seat but didn't respond to requests for comment.
A longtime city councilman and a former campaign worker for ex-President Barack Obama are among those competing to replace outgoing Rep. Robert Kosowski, D-Westland. The district covers Wayne and part of Westland.
"Lansing is broken," said Westland City Council member Bill Johnson, 68, a former United Auto Workers building chairman.
The councilman said he wants to see more state funding for schools and contractual rights for teachers, public safety employees and firefighters. He said he objects to the idea of privatizing those services and workers.
"I believe that we are going to start getting what we pay for in those three groups," Johnson said.
He also wants to see auto insurance rates reduced and repeal the retirement tax that affects seniors.
Michigan to fix its crumbling roads and beef up protections for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender residents under state law, said Jacob Johnson, 25, who works for the city of Wayne.
"I believe I’m going to bring someone who has an understanding of how government works," said Johnson, 25, a local program coordinator for the Water Residential Assistance Program. "I understand where the needs are and what the needs are."
If elected, he said he would advocate for more state revenue sharing so Wayne can expand its police force. The city currently has 20 officers, and Johnson said he would like to increase it to at least 30.
State leadership has failed retirees, teachers and middle-class families, said Mike McDermott, a small business recruiter who worked on the presidential campaigns of Obama and Vermont U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders.
If elected, McDermott said he will work to repeal the right-to-work law, protect collective bargaining rights and raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour from the current $9.25. He also wants to use any annual budget surplus to increase per student funding and improve Michigan's roads.
"I have been a committed Democrat for my whole life, working on dozens of Democratic campaigns," McDermott said. “I have detailed knowledge of how state government and policy works.”
Democrat Kevin Coleman, 35, is a lifelong Westland resident and former City Council member. Coleman wants the state to provide more funding for Wayne-Westland Community Schools so they can hire more staff and have smaller class sizes.
He said he also plans to advocate for better access to health care for residents, more investment in fixing Michigan's roads and lowering the cost of auto insurance.
"I have built great relationships with our city, county and state legislators," Coleman said. "And I could hit the ground running in this position."
Republican Jody Rice-White of Westland faces the winner in the fall.
Democratic State Rep. Jewell Jones of Inkster faces Randy Walker of Garden City in the primary. Republican James Townsend faces the winner in the November election.
Democratic State Rep. Frank Liberati of Allen Park faces Asmaa Alhasani of Dearborn Heights. Republican Annie Spencer of Southgate faces the winner in the fall.
Democratic State Rep. Cara Clemente of Lincoln Park faces Mark Joseph Kremer of Wyandotte in the primary. Republican Darrell Stasik of Riverview is unopposed.
Democratic State Rep. Abdullah Hammoud is running unopposed and will face Republican Doug Mitchell of Deaborn in the fall election.
Democrat Dan Centers of Livionia will face Laurie Pohutsky in the primary. Republican Brian Meakin is running unopposed in this GOP-leaning district of term-limited State Rep. Laura Cox, R-Livonia.
Republican State Rep. Jeff Noble of Northville, who is unopposed in the primary, faces Democrat Matt Koleszar of Plymouth in the November election.
Republican Darian Moore of Canton Township will take on Democratic State Rep. Kristy Pagan this fall.
Democratic Sate Rep. Darrin Camilleri of Brownstown Township is unopposed in the primary and will face Republican Michael Frazier of Romulus, also running unopposed, in the November election.