Democrats compete for open Michigan House seats in Detroit
Democratic primaries are the de facto general elections in Detroit state House races as candidates compete to replace incumbent lawmakers who are term-limited out of office.
Auto insurance reform and school funding are among the issues promoted by candidates in the Democratic-dominated districts.
The incumbent's son, a young voting activist and a local housing non-profit leader are among the 14 Democratic hopefuls vying to replace term-limited Rep. Rose Mary Robinson, D-Detroit, in Michigan's House District 4. The district covers Hamtramck and a portion of Detroit that includes the Midtown and New Center neighborhoods.
Republican Howard Weathington of Detroit is unopposed.
Rico Razo, former Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan campaign manager, has the best chance of winning because of his political savvy, volunteer work and roots in the community, said Detroit political consultant Mario Morrow.
Razo, 33 served as a district manager for Detroit's District 6 from 2014-2017. Razo said he believes the top issues are the high cost of auto insurance and the need for permanent infrastructure fixes.
"I believe if you're going to be a servant leader you need to serve everyone, not just one group," Razo said.
Isaac Robinson, Rep. Robinson's son, is an attorney who once worked as an aide for Detroit City Council and a legislative assistant in the Michigan House.
Robinson, 42, said he wants to use his legislative knowledge to fight for environmental justice and advocate for fair and affordable car insurance. He has been endorsed by the powerful United Auto Workers union.
Michele Oberholtzer, director of the Tax Foreclosure Prevention Project for the United Community Housing Coalition, released a TV ad in July for her District 4 campaign.
Oberholtzer, 33 of Hamtramck, said she believes public schools need more funding so they can pay teachers more and increase resources for students.
"There is an urgent need to end self-destructive policies that put profit over people, such as emergency management, water shutoffs, mandatory school closures and tax foreclosure," Oberholtzer said.
Myya Jones, 23, is the vice chair of Detroit Young Democrats. Jones said some of the biggest issues facing Michigan are underfunded public education, poor infrastructure and roads, human sex trafficking, expensive health insurance and job access.
"I want to show young people of color that creating change is possible, and that we can do so through elected office," Jones said.
Jeffrey Nolish is a senior airman for the Michigan Air National Guard and U.S. Air Force. He formerly served as a mobility specialist for the City of Detroit Planning and Development Department.
Nolish, 37 of Detroit, says he is committed to fighting for more funding for the Detroit school system. "When power and resources are distributed inequitably, residents are excluded from opportunities," Nolish said.
Other candidates include Diane McMillan, a part-time faculty member for the School of Social Work at Wayne State University; Matt Friedrichs, a community organizer for the MOSES Project; MD Rabbi Alam, a former high school math teacher; Derek Boston of Detroit, a U.S. Navy veteran; Saad A. Almasmari; Chris Collins; Justin Jessop; Ernest Little, and Syed Rob.
Ten Democrats are running to replace State Rep. Stephanie Chang, the Detroit Democrat who is running for state Senate.
Former Wayne County Sheriff's lieutenant Tyrone Carter said reforming auto insurance is his No. 1 priority.
"The residents in District 6 understand that we are being discriminated against and want equality with the other cities in Wayne County and the state, and then we will address the other issues causing higher insurance," said Carter, who is endorsed by the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Council 25 union.
Willie Burton, a Detroit police commissioner, said mental health reform is paramount.
"It's our time to open back up the mental facilities and undo what Gov. John Engler has done 21 years ago," said Burton, who said he's endorsed by the Detroit Police Officers Association. "We believe the time is now to address Michigan mental health crisis."
Tom Choske said restoring the public's trust in elected representatives is the most pressing need. "The biggest issue facing us as a community is the lack of trust and faith that we have in our elected leaders," said Choske, a former legislative aide for former U.S. Rep. Hanson Clarke.
Ricardo White, a former legislative assistant in the state House, said he'd like to strengthen the senior safety net by ensuring they aren't pushed out of their homes by taxes.
"I would like to introduce legislation which would cap property and/or rent for residents who have reached retirement age for the length of their time in the residence," said White, who added his endorsements include the 13th Congressional District Democratic Party.
Samantha Magdaleno,who described herself as an "unapologetic community organizer," said immigration would be her focus.
"I'll be the strongest champion for immigrant rights, and have over 10 years of direct community organizing experience and activism that is needed to hold establishment democrats accountable in Lansing," said Magdaleno.
Education reform is Aghogho Edevbie's No. 1 priority. "I want to create a framework for community resources to be based in our schools and ensure we have a curriculum that properly prepares students to compete in an increasingly competitive job market," Edevbie said.
Southwest Detroit activist David Sanchez said he has a host of issues he'd like to tackle, including auto insurance reform, education funding and water shutoffs.
Paula Humphries, a former 36th District judge and assistant attorney general; Terra DeFoe, former director of the Michigan Legislative Black Caucus; and labor activist Charlesetta Wilson round out the field. DeFoe is endorsed by the UAW.
Political consultant Steve Hood said DeFoe is the "odds-on favorite, because she's got the most money behind her." Carter and Burton are expected to be DeFoe's main competition, Hood said.
The winner will face Republican Linda Sawyer in the fall election.
Seven Democrats are vying to replace term-limited state Rep. Bettie Cook Scott, D-Detroit.
Willie Bell, a retired police officer who chairs the Detroit Police Commission, seeks to make auto insurance affordable for Detroiters and rebuild roads and bridge. But he said he also wants see "healing the wounds that divide Detroit and the Grosse Pointes" to be an importance issue to address as well.
"For me, public service is a calling," said Bell, who is endorsed by the UAW.
Detroit Economic Growth Corporation project manager Joe Tate, a graduate of the University of Michigan's Ross School of Business, said he would work to deliver high-quality education, youth service programs and job opprotunities.
"It's critical that all children across Michigan, but especially in District 2, have access to a high-quality school option as well as youth service programs in their neighborhood," said Tate, who is backed by the Detroit Regional Chamber.
Kinda Makini Anderson, a community service advocate, said she wants to protect retirees' pensions, public education and reform Michigan's auto insurance system.
"I am the best candidate for District 2 because I am a product of the district I am running to represent," she said. "
Latisha Johnson, who runs a non-profit community development corporation, said she wants to "work on creating equitable solutions to address systemically oppressive policies." Among her priorities are closing the leaning gaps for low-income youngsters and making early childhood learning centers more equitable.
Carla Tinsley-Smith said she wants to "improve the quality of life for District 2 residents starting with expanding educational and economic opportunities."
"As a wife and mother, I will be that united voice for common sense solutions that improve our communities and help families get ahead," she said.
The other candidates are Carol Banks and Regina Jones. The victor faces Republican John Palffy of Grosse Pointe Park in the November election.
Six Democrats including local attorney Cliff Woodards II and Rita Ross, the sister of legendary Motown singer Diana Ross, are vying to replace State Rep. Fred Durhal III, who is running for state Senate.
Ross is endorsed by the Detroit Regional Chamber.
Woodards says he sees auto insurance rates reductions, infrastructure and education as key issues.
"There may be times when I will have to stand and fight for my constituency or all Michiganders," he said. "I’m battle tested in court. I’m battle ready for Lansing."
Other candidates are Cynthia Johnson, Mark Anthony Murphy Jr., Mark C. Payne Jr. and Jermaine Tobey. The winner faces Republican Dorothy Patterson of Detroit in the fall.
Three Democrats are competing to replace Rep. Sylvia Santana, D-Detroit, who is running for the Michigan Senate.
Among them is Karen Whitsett, a community activist who said the Legislature must address auto insurance rates.
"People need relief and they need it now! Not in five years down the road," Whitsett said. " I live in 48227 — the highest zip code in the ENTIRE nation" for insurance rates.
Whitsett said if elected she would also work on battling tax foreclosure.
"Our seniors need and deserve relief from property taxes. At some point, you simply deserve to own your home," she said.
For Donald Stuckey, an educational paraprofessional in Dearborn, the top issues are auto insurance and expanding public transportation. He said he would offer a new generation of leadership as well.
"I'm the only candidate in this race who has worked in both Detroit and Dearborn schools, and I will provide the best perspective on education," Stuckey said.
The other candidate is Gary Pollard of Detroit. The winner faces Republican James Stephens of Dearborn in the fall election.