Washington wins Wayne County sheriff Democratic primary

George Hunter
The Detroit News

Wayne County Sheriff Raphael Washington will remain Wayne County sheriff and complete a partial term after he won Tuesday's Democratic primary against challengers Walter Epps, a former Wayne County sheriff's lieutenant, and former Detroit police officer Joan Merriweather.

Washington got 47% of the vote. Merriweather, who also worked for the Wayne County Sheriff's Office, had 28% and Epps 24% with all Wayne County precincts reporting.

Sheriff Raphael Washington, center, with Wayne County Undersheriff Mike Jaafar and Wayne County Sheriff's Captain Rachael Moore, announces recruiting efforts, including a new video, to fill more than 100 positions - from jail security and operations to road patrol and narcotics enforcement at a press conference in Detroit, Michigan on January 19, 2022.

Washington will fill a partial term that ends at the finish of 2024 since there is no Republican running.

Washington was appointed by the county commission in January 2021, a month after longtime Sheriff Benny Napoleon died from COVID-19. Epps also sought the sheriff's position left vacant by Napoleon's death.

Both Wayne County sheriff candidates said if elected, they would focus on the challenge of recruiting during a severe staffing shortage. 

Washington said he's seen an uptick in applicants since starting recruiting. "Full disclosure, not all of them are eligible, but we are seeing more people applying," he said.

Epps said he would try to address problems by emulating how Detroit got out of its 2013 municipal bankruptcy.

"There was a time when the city of Detroit was not competitive, but it's come a long way since the bankruptcy," Epps said. "We can look at what Detroit did and apply that. We don't have to reinvent the wheel."

Wayne County Sheriff Candidate Walter Epps on Friday July 22nd 2022 in Plymouth, Michigan.

In other races, Wayne County Executive Warren Evans beat challenger Mohammed Alam 85%-14.5% in the Democratic primary and will face Republican Mark Ashley Price of Highland Park in the November election.

But the county is a Democratic stronghold. Evans, a former Wayne County sheriff and Detroit police chief, has been county executive since 2015 and is seeking a third, four-year term. 

In a highly anticipated county commission District 1 Democratic primary, Commissioner Tim Killeen of Detroit defeated former state Rep. Brian Banks of Harper Woods, 62%-38%. Killeen will face Republican John Barry Anderson of Grosse Pointe Woods in the fall election.

This commission primary drew attention because Banks argued his well-documented legal problems make him an ideal candidate for a Wayne County commissioner's seat because "I share the experiences of the underprivileged and disadvantaged." The 1st District includes Detroit, Harper Woods and the Grosse Pointes.

Banks had eight felony convictions for writing bad checks and credit card fraud when he was elected to the state House in 2012. He resigned in 2017 after pleading guilty in a bank loan forgery case that resulted in a misdemeanor conviction and no additional jail time.

In an email to The Detroit News, Banks said he's learned from his mistakes. He said if he's elected, his history of legal problems would help him relate to many of his constituents.

Killeen ran on his 16-year record and plans to strengthen the county's ethics ordinance.

Killeen said his top priorities are getting more primary care doctors into inner-city health clinics and strengthening ethics rules for county employees. 

"I was on committee that drafted the first ethics ordinance for how public servants in Wayne County have to play the game, and it’s time to update that and strengthen it," he said.

In a countywide ballot measure, the effort to pass Proposition J passed 61%-39%. With the passage of the measure, the county's jail millage of 0.94 mills renews for 10 years.

The millage, which is expected to generate $45 million this year, finances the county jail operations and construction costs.