Democrats battle for key Detroit, Downriver state Senate seats
Two Michigan Senate districts representing parts of Detroit and another one representing parts of Downriver are facing heated Democratic primaries since the current senators are leaving office.
The fields in the three races are diverse and include current and former state representatives as well as political newcomers. Since the districts are overwhelmingly Democratic, the primaries effectively decide who will be representing residents next year.
In Michigan's 1st District, state Rep. Stephanie Chang and ex-Reps. Bettie Cook Scott and Alberta Tinsley-Talabi are competing for the seat held by Sen. Coleman Young II, who is term-limited. The district covers parts of Detroit and Downriver, including Ecorse, Wyandotte and Trenton.
Chang is considered the front-runner with endorsements from most unions including the United Auto Workers and Democratic elected officials. The two-term representative is running on a record of getting things done, and has been the minority vice chair on the House Committee on Law and Justice, which passed sexual misconduct reforms in the wake of the Larry Nassar scandal at Michigan State University.
Scott wants to reform the state's expensive auto insurance system and restore collective bargaining rights for workers, according to her campaign website. Tinsley-Talabi, who is also a former Detroit City Council member, is running on her experience.
Other candidates are Nicholas Rivera, an admission counselor for Wayne State University, who also is a Michigan Army National Guard member who grew up on Detroit's southwest side, and James Cole Jr.
The winner will face Republican Pauline Montie of Trenton in the fall election.
The race to succeed Sen. Morris Hood III, D-Detroit, features a state representative and an experienced Wayne County commissioner.
Rep. Sylvia Santana of Detroit is touting her work on the House Appropriations Committee. Santana, 37, also said she has been "successful at passing bipartisan legislation that addressed loopholes in Michigan’s Personal Protection Orders and the elimination of Driver's Responsibility Fees."
She said she would champion reforms to lower Michigan's high insurance rates, which are even more expensive in Detroit.
"The out of control auto insurance rates in Michigan has been, is, and will continue to be the single biggest issue facing legislators across Michigan," Santana said. "It’s terrifying. My plan to address auto insurance begins with one simple word. Courage."
She noted she was one of four Detroit Democrats to vote for a legislative package she said would lower auto insurance rates. She has been endorsed by the UAW and Detroit Regional Chamber.
Wayne County Commission chairman Gary Woronchak is a former Republican who served as Dearborn's state representative from 1999-2004. He has served on the commission since 2005.
Woronchak says two dominant issues are the condition of Michigan's roads and auto insurance.
"As a county official, I can attest that the problem with our roads can be boiled down to under-investment. The state needs to either find new revenues, or needs to amend Act 51 for a more equitable distribution of gas tax and car registration monies," he said.
On auto insurance rates, he said he would fight discriminatory practices, such as using zip codes and credit scores to set rates.
"It's not as simple as the plan that was attempted last year in the Legislature. And it needs to go beyond offering lesser coverage to poorer people," Woronchak said, referring to a reform plan backed by Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan.
Terry Burrell, 46, an Eastern Michigan University student from Dearborn, said he wants to tackle justice system issues, including reducing what he considers harsh criminal sentences.
Burrell adds: "I am willing to deal with things like legalizing pot, ways of fixing our roads. ... making education available even for the people who can not read and write."
Community activist and former Green Party candidate Anita Belle of Detroit wants to push for a state referendum allowing for slavery reparations. It would be a way of promoting "racial reconciliation" as America makes the transition from whites being the majority to being in the minority.
The winner will face Dearborn Republican Kathy Stecker in November.
Democratic Reps. Erika Geiss of Taylor and Robert Kosowski of Westland are facing off to see who will replace term-limited Sen. Hoon-Yung Hopgood, D-Taylor.
Geiss, who is backed by the UAW and Emily's List, said she would continue to work on closing the wage gap for under-represented groups.
"I have always made it my goal to make sure that everyone, regardless of their race, sex or socioeconomic status, have equal access to opportunities that allow them to dream, aspire and achieve their goals," she said.
Kosowski is pushing for “adequate revenue sharing, local project investment and clean drinking water,” according to his campaign website. He is endorsed by the Detroit Regional Chamber and the Police Officers Association of Michigan, among others.